What type of used pickup truck to buy to trailer a car across the country


Hello there, Thanks in advance for any advice you all can give. I am moving to California in July for a one year fellowship. I drive a rather unreliable 2000 Saturn LW wagon (that just crested 100000 miles). I am getting married in April. I anticipate we will have somewhere around $6000 to spend on a used car/truck after we finish paying for the wedding (we could probably go as high as 8000 if we had to). Instead of trying to pull a trailer all the way to LA (from Charleston, SC) with my unreliable car (We would then need to buy a second car once we get to LA to have the two cars we will both need for work).

I came up with this genus idea to go ahead and buy a pick-up truck, rent a car-trailer (the kind that raises the front two tires off the ground only), and then we can load the car on the trailer with stuff. We are selling almost everything and have very little to take other than clothes, a few surfboards and things of that nature, no furniture, no bed, etc. Having the second car on a trailer would allow us to ride together which is a bonus. Rental Trucks and Rental cars are both over 1000 each way and aren’t really an option. Any advice for what kind of truck would be best for my situation would be really appreciated. Thanks, Dave


As an intellectual exercise, Your fully loaded car could weigh over 2800 lbs. I don’t think I’d put more than 200 lbs in the car (2600+200) or only what’s left after filling the truck with the most weight. Stay as light as possible for the car AND AS FAR FORWARD on the front wheel carrier. I wouldn’t depend upon it for much weight, just light high volume stuff…bedding etc.

I would get a truck that could handle at least 5000 lbs with ease, which to me would be a full size Ford/Chevy v8. 2wd, Be sure and load the truck bed with sufficient weight to balance your towing. I would add a cap for security…old used Aluminum would do if it’s regular not extended cab. Other than that, there seem to be few restrictions. I think $8k could get you a serviceable truck (2000 to 2004 range w/o 4wd) that I would buy early enough to drive a thousand miles or two before I left.

Have check by a mechanic prior to purchase. When you get there, you’ll have an unreliable car and a gas hog. Not the best choice in cars…but you will have two serviceable vehicles for the year. I do like your idea of one driven vehicle and this does seem reasonable unless I’m missing something.

The very best to you and your new bride…have a safe trip


I suggest:




If you were moving anywhere but California, I’d say this was a great idea (well, at least a fun idea). The trouble is that there is a good chance that if you buy a cheap (read: older) truck in South Carolina it won’t conform to the California emissions standards. Most newer trucks conform to all 50 states standards, but in the $6,000 range, I dunno. Maybe a $6000 domestic 2wd truck would be new enough. Plus does SC have emissions tests? There’s always a chance that even if you do find a 50-state truck that it still won’t pass!