Looking for vehicle recommendations - Interesting story

So my son, in his early 20s, has decided to join the circus. Well, not exactly; but he does plan to travel with a jousting troupe that entertains at various Renaissance Faires around the country. Not exactly the career I’d prefer he embark upon, but at his age, what the heck, have some fun.

He will, of course, need to provide his own housing and transportation. It’s typical for these itinerant folks to simply haul an RV from festival to festival and live on site. He’s broke, and I’m not much better, so the solution must be as inexpensive as possible. Now, we’ve already figured that there are some spacious popup campers that will fit the bill, and a towing capacity of about 3,500 lbs should be adequate; so that leads me to the tow vehicle.

Reliability is paramount. He will have no money for any catastrophic repairs, and even routine problems will be a crisis, so again, reliability is #1. I’ve always been a Toyota fan, so I’m keeping my eye out for a lower mileage Previa as a starting point.

Price is also important. I’ll spend what I have to to get reliability, but I’ll gladly sacrifice frills and appearance to keep the cost down.

So…If you were sending your son on a several month journey pulling an RV, what vehicles/years/mileage range would you recommend to give you peace of mind without breaking the bank? If you need a price range, I’d say as far below $5K as possible. Below $3K would be better.

I wouldn’t try towing a 3500 pound trailer on a regular basis with a twenty year old minivan. I’d be looking an a circa 1995 F-150 with the I6. and 3.55 gears. The 300 I6 is bulletproof. And the F-150 is ubiquitous to the point where any repairs and parts are dirt cheap.

I have never seen a carnie with a popup camper. And I suspect there’s a reason for that - not only is the tent part easier to vandalize, but it’s easier to wear out. Those things are meant to be extended and retracted 5-10 times per year. He’ll be doing it way more than that as a traveling entertainer. Also, a hardshell would be more insulative against the cold, and since I know of at least one ren-fest that goes until almost October in the upper midwest, he faces the possibility of cold nights.

I agree with the bed shell. You can find ones that are taller than the cab, and that would allow him to sit up in under the cap. There are RV inserts for pickup beds, but they might be too expensive at this point. Look for used ones, though. It doesn’t cost much to look.

ford f150 is my recommendation as well. or a ford work e150 van. or a transit van. I would not want a pop up either in his situation. either a small hard camper or a large cap for the truck. or just live in the van.

I think the worst idea of all is jousting. those guys get hurt badly all the time

I think I would drop the idea of towing a camper, Why not just buy a van and live in it? Look on you tube for van living, there are all kinds of setups.

Living the van life. Living in a van down by the river. Van Dwelling.

Call it what you will but its going to be the cheapest most economical way to go.

I had a popup camper several years ago, it was a 1984 rockwood, it was a pain and it was maintenance intensive, granted it was older but thats what you will be dealing with unless you spend alot of cash. A cheap pop up camper will be nothing but trouble.

Well, much as I respect Toyota, the now-ancient Previa would not be in my thoughts. It’s just too old to be able to count on, and even if you get on one that isn’t too bad, it will still need some regular maintenance and repairs, and the Previa was famously difficult to work on, with the engine below the seats. It’s a hair better than its predecessor, but that’s not much of a claim.

I agree with the F150 crowd. They’re all over the place, don’t cost much if you don’t mind some dents, and repairs and maintenance are cheap. I don’t much like the idea of a pop-up trailer, but don’t know what their season is or how often they move. It’s been a while since I knew anyone who worked in that field. The ones I knew stayed in each place for several weeks or more and cold weather wasn’t an issue as they were always in the warmest states for the winter. Still, I’d check on what the other members of his troupe use. They should have good info. If they think a pop-up is adequate, maybe it is. I’d much prefer a camper on a truck or a camper van, but recognize that you’re on a budget.

I think the worst idea of all is jousting. those guys get hurt badly all the time

At most renfests I’ve been to, “jousting” involves trying to stick your lance through a ring that’s hanging from a crosspiece. No one actually tries to unhorse anyone.

“So my son, in his early 20s, has decided to join the circus. Well, not exactly; but he does plan to travel with a jousting troupe that entertains at various Renaissance Faires around the country.”

I have to ask…What type of mount will he be jousting from?? Horses? Who takes care of them? Who pays the hospital bills?

This sounds like a pastime for bored rich kids who have never had a real job and are unlikely to EVER have one…

“And we had fun, fun, fun 'till Daddy took the T-bird away…”

Thanks for all of the recommendations, folks. I’m liking the F-150 idea. As points of some clarification, he won’t be alone, and though his girlfriend is thin, the van life probably won’t cut it. Also, he’s rather experienced with popups, as we had several while he was growing up. With the F-150 though, I’m sure towing weight won’t be as much of a factor; so we can expand our search to smaller hardside RVs if the prices allow. Thanks again to all.

Another possibility is a Grumman van. These are the old style delivery vans that were often used by UPS. They should be inexpensive and he can even stand up in it. As a used vehicle, it should be priced low since it is a niche delivery vehicle. Gas mileage will be lousy, but it’s worth a look.

Here’s a picture of the Grumman van.

Trailblazer has been good to me, I picked a used one after seeing what the most popular vehicle non truck towing boats on the highway was. A few years ago it was, but still got mine. We take 2 dogs and 2 cats maybe another couple on vacation with us, stopped towing the boat to and from but 5500 lbs towing capacity, 16/22 mpg estimated.

I think you’re making a very, very serious mistake in enabling your son this way. He’s 20. It’s time for the free ride to end, or he’ll never grow up. When I was 20 I had already been in the military for two years.

I also think it doesn’t matter what you get him. As soon as the tank runs out of gas, or as soon as the engine stalls, the vehicle will stay right where it is while your son moves on… or you send him money you don’t have.

young jousters often think with their lances…

…and neglect their steeds

@jtsanders I always heard that UPS scrapped their delivery trucks when they hit a certain mileage/age. Do they sell them when they are done with them now?

My vote might be for the Ford F150 which has commonality as a plus but it’s also stated that reliability is paramount. Reliability does not even have a hint of a guarantee with age and miles involved. Towing a ton or so on an aged powertrain is not doing it any favors either.

Best of luck but my feeling is that this will not end well.

3500 lbs is well within the range of a used 2wd Tacoma v6. They aren’t as easy to find as a Ford but I would leave yourself open to one. An old model Nissan Pathfinder are bullet proof tanks as well as older previous gen 4Runners…

I also like the idea of a truck with a slide in camper and avoiding pulling a trailer. An oversized aluminum cap on any pick up could be improvised to fit the bill. I did that for years.

If you consider a F150, leave your self open to a GMC or Chevy and avoid old Dodge trucks. The condition of a truck is important. Likewise, consider a Savannah work van you can convert or Ford or GMC equivalent. Be open to a lot of options and don’t focus on one which will give you more options and bang for the buck. Oh…jousting gets old…medical insurance, coverage are the most importNt factors in this endeavor, not a tow vehicle.

Btw, 3-5 k will be a matter of pure luck as far as reliability is concerned !

@FoDaddy UPS uses them until they’re dangerous, and then scraps them. But that genre of UPS trucks was the same as (or at least very similar to) breadvans other companies used - you can still find them on the used market today, though in some areas it’ll be tough because the food truck craze has a lot of restauranteurs snapping up old delivery trucks to turn into rolling cafeterias.

Where I would advise against the delivery truck is that they’re not meant for highway cruising (fuel efficiency and comfort will suck) and they’re not meant to be lived in, which means no insulation and no capability of climate control with the engine off, which means camping is either going to be miserably hot or miserably cold. OP would be better off getting a used small hardshell camper until he can afford to get something nicer.

Hi my last two cars have been preowned Toyota Camrys which I have absolutely loved. My wife drives a Honda Civic with 275,000 miles on it but it’s on its last legs. I’m thinking about taking a job which is 90 minutes away and I would like to get a small car which is good on mileage. I would give my wife the Toyota Camry and possibly get a preowned Mini Cooper,Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla which would be the best choice for comfort and mileage? The Mini looks like a lot of, but is it practical? Thanks!!! Scott