Truck or SUV for towing a horse trailer

I will be buying a truck (or maybe an SUV) sometime in the next 6 months… I will be using it mostly for towing a horse trailer. The current trailers I have access to are actually stock trailers. I’m estimating I need something that can happily tow 6000 lbs.

I am absolutely clueless about what to look for and whether or not I should choose diesel or gasoline. One friend says go for a half-ton… another says go for a three-quarter ton. Yet another says that trucks with tow packages usually have automatic transmission. But I was thinking that I would prefer manual… and diesel. But I’m told that the diesel only comes in the heavy-duty 3/5 ton option and there’s not much difference on the gas mileage… its so confusing!

Then - I see that some of the full-size SUVs might be an option (like a Ford Expedition or a Chevvie Suburban) - but these aren’t so convenient for moving hay!

I would appreciate any advice from those in the know. It will have to be an older truck/SUV because I only have $10k or thereabouts to spend.
Thank you,

I have an '01Toyota Sequoia that works great as a tow vehicle for my 2 horse bumper pull trailer. We took out the 3rd row seats and put a “weatherguard” mat in the back so plenty of room for gear, even hay, and it is lockable therefore secure. Current value should be in the 10K range for an '01 to '03 Sequoia.

You will likely need a electric brake controller for whatever you buy.

Wow! IT does look good! I hadn’t considered a Sequoia. Better on safety too :slight_smile:

If you’re looking for a dedicated vehicle for the sole purpose of towing 6,000 pound loads (and in reality, people underestimate loaded trailer weights), I’d be looking at a 3/4 ton diesel truck. Since you prefer manual, an early 2000s Dodge Cummins or a Ford Powerstroke are your choices. You’re maxing out the towing capacities of most SUVs except for the Suburban.

Someone with a great deal of experience hauling livestock might feel comfortable making an occasional short trip driving a 1/2 ton pulling a bumper hitch trailer but you sound as though this will be a new experience for you. When you don’t have experience to keep you out of trouble an extra 1/2 ton of capacity and double the braking power comes in handy. And also, for the inexperienced, an automatic transmission can do wonders for a drivers talent. If you’ve been doing this all your life please ignore.

My family has owned horses and the best vehicle for towing horse trailers are pick up trucks. Diesels are even better. Also the newer pickup trucks like the Dodge Cummins and The Ford F-250’s have mirrors that stick out further than SUV’s and smaller pickup trucks so you have fewer blindspots while towing.

I like Uncle’s overall suggestion. If it’s comfort for both the horse(s) and the driver/ passengers, it’s hard to beat large truck based SUV. It seems that the Expedition, Envoy , Sequoia crowd was made for it. A small utrailer can handle moving hay at different times.
Notable exceptions are the pick ups with crew and extended cabs which might meet your needs the best… I don’t think that weight less then 10 k deserves a diesel. Just look into the broad category and go with the best bang for the buck. In general, the larger the towing vehicle, the more stable and easy the tow will be.

Besides the Sequoia…the Nissan Armada is a good choice.

Towing capacity of up to 7500lbs. Great comfort. Nice to drive and can haul 7 people also.

But if you’re looking for a dedicated tow vehicle that’s going to be used a LOT…then you can’t beat a large Diesel found in the domestic trucks.

A couple more thoughts on your vehicle choice. I voted for a 3/4 ton or higher rated crew cab with a topper for the room and cargo capacity. If you are using a stock trailer to haul your horses, then most likely you don’t have a tack storage area. That means all your gear has to go in the rear of the vehicle. When we travel. we have to carry hay, bales of bedding and saddles, etc. Additionally I carry a small compressor, hydraulic jack and tools in case I have a flat or some other breakdown.

While the tack area handles most of the tack and feed storage requirements, we still use up a good part of the truck cargo space. In particular, the bedding and hay can get all over the place, and I am happy to confine any mess to the truck bed.

I also went with gas engine because the premium for a diesel engine is far too expensive for me to retrieve its value economically, considering higher diesel initial and fuel costs. I got a good deal on a used one ton crew short bed with V10 eingine during a gas price crisis in 2006 and have been happy with the choice…

Your $10,000 limit will make finding a diesel powered truck difficult. You could find a 2005 F-250 XL regular cab wit the V-10 for less than $9000, but if you get the diesel instead it will cost upwards of $13,000. You could get a 2003 with a diesel priced similarly to the 2005 with the V-10 gas engine. It’s only 2 years, but expect mileage to be 20,000 to 40,000 more. If you don’t mind the mileage, a diesel might work for you. Expect similar differences wit a Dodge.

I got my Diesel Truck for free lol…1997 Ford F-250 with 108k miles on it. The only problem with it when it was given to me were the glow plugs. Got those replaced and the truck runs like new.

For most newer tow vehicles, the towing capacity is higher for an automatic than a manual.

If you can, take your loaded trailer to a weigh station and have it weighed. If it weighs 6k pounds, something with 7500-8k rating would be the minimum you’d want to look for.

We had a horse in the family and I would move it from my wife’s parents’ farm and board the horse so my wife could ride in the summer when we were in graduate school and then move it back in the winter. The distance was about 175 miles. I used my father-in-law’s 1/2 ton pickup for one of the moves. After that, I decided it was better to rent a 3/4 ton pick-up truck from U-Haul.
Towing capacity is one thing, but a horse or horses will shift around the trailer during transit. The weight of the 3/4 ton pickup is helpful here. From my experience, which was more than 40 years ago, I would not recommend an SUV or a 1/2 ton truck. You won’t get very good mileage no matter what you use, but safety is the most important consideration.
If you need to haul hay, you most definitely want a truck. Even when we were no longer moving the horse and had our own acreage, I bought hay out of the field to save money. I had a 1 ton pickup and could, by stacking the bales carefully, haul about 50 bales with each load.
I have towed trailers with both 4 speed manual transmissions and automatics. The automatic is better–you get a continuous flow of power with the automatic as opposed to a manual where you have to shift gears. With the manual, you get a bumping motion from the trailer as you shift.

We had horses as well and the first truck my Dad purchased for hauling the horsey’s around was a 1990 Dodge W250 3/4 ton truck but it wasn’t a diesel. It towed just fine but lacked the torque you get with the Cummins Turbo diesels. Finally Daddy decided to part with his old Dodge in 2009 and bought himself a brandnew Dodge Truck, this time a Cummins Turbo Diesel. My Dad is definitely a Chrysler Man. He also has a Jeep too and he wants to go camping in the spring but his Jeep has a small coolant leak in it and I refuse to drive out to the middle of nowhere to go camping in a vehicle that’s leaking! I’ve been stranded out in the middle of the desert before when one of the work trucks of my former employers broke down. I had to walk 14 miles back to the compound I worked at and I was not a happy camper! If you want something for towing definitely get a diesel. If you want to keep it under 20K you’d be looking for a truck that’s about 8 - 10 years old. But it also depends on where you live. Here in Rural Nevada, 4x4 trucks and diesels are way more expensive than in South Carolina where I used to live. In South Carolina, Ford, Chevy, and Dodge dealerships practically had to pay people to get those big trucks off their lot’s because there’s not a huge demand for Big Trucks in the Charleston Area. People out there preferred SUV’s.

I have pulled a horse trailer using a 1961 F-250 with the 223 cubic inch 6 cylinder engine and a 4 speed manual transmission. Later, I used a 1968 F-250 with the 300 cubic inch 6 cylinder engine and the automatic transmission. In both cases, some of the driving was on the interstate. Now while a 3/4 ton with a diesel would have been great, I had no real problems moving with the traffic.
My question for the OP would be this: “How often are you transporting the horses and will you be doing a lot of highway or interstate driving?” If you are on the road all the time with your horses and have the money, you might want a one ton with a turbo diesel and a “goose neck” 5th wheel trailer. On the other hand, if you aren’t traveling great distances and not making the horse show or racing circuit, you probably don’t need to make a big investment. I still recommend the 3/4 ton or one ton truck, however.

I agree with Triedag. It’s one thing to tow static weight, but weight that can shift, even slightly during the most inopportuned times can be tough. It’s doubtful a horse will sit (stand) still, even confined during an emergency maneuver. I have never towed a horse and defer expertice in these matters to others, but having towed about everything else, non living, the bigger the better. Once you get to a certain weight, you would be surprised how much more economical both long and short term a bigger vehicle can be.

Some larger SUVs are nearly 3/4 ton rated, but big bad 3/4 ton heavy crew cab pick ups would be my first choice. Horses are really expensive animals to own especially considering the man hours involved. The truck size would not be of concern in protecting that investment. Like Triedag implies, motor type would be the least of my worries. You should be towing conservatively regardless.

Dagosa–you are right–horses do not stand still. Even using a 3/4 ton truck to tow the horse trailer, every time the horse moved, I felt it in the cab. It has been more than 40 years ago that I pulled a horse trailer, but if I had a horse today, I don’t think I would want to pull a horse trailer with the horse with our Toyota 4Runner.
When I did pull a horse trailer, complete with horse, the more difficult manuever was to enter the interstate. However, semi truckes do this every day and I don’t think most accelerate any better than the 3/4 ton Ford pickups with the 6 cylinder engine and the horse trailer.

“I don’t think I would want to pull a horse trailer with a horse with our Toyota 4runner”

How about a Shetland Pony ? I would guess, and it’s just a guess, that accelerating would be the least of your worries towing a horse. I can’t imagine feeling secure while standing in a trailer while it was accelerating beyond freight train capability…even if I had 4 legs.

Can we assume that the OP is familiar with using stanchions to confine livestock in a trailer?

Towing horses can’t get tricky. Some load easily, others don’t like going into a trailer and need training. Once inside a good horse trailer has dividers and padding so the horse can move, but not too much. A stock trailer without partitions and padding isn’t the best and/or safest trailer for moving a horse.

As far as vehicle it needs to have enough weight, power, and braking capacity to handle the “load” when pulling a loaded horse trailer. Driving a bit slower, and more gentle acceleration and braking are “norms” for me when the horses are in the trailer behind me. I can feel the horses shifting in the trailer a bit, but in my set up (Sequoia, and Trailet brand 2 horse bumper pull trailer) that movement doesn’t affect ride or safety. On a 70 mph interstate, my max is 65 when towing horses and I’m happy maintaining a cruising speed of anywhere from 60 to 65.

A break down on the road; flat trailer tire, or whatever is more “urgent” when you have horses to deal with and get the problem fixed. I take a hydralic jack and a good breaker bar along just in case of a tire problem. And, always make sure the trailer spare is full of air. If you are moving horses any significant distance you need to make sure your tow vehicle is in good shape to minimize potential on road breakdowns. Gas or diesel is a matter of preference, but gas does fine for me.