We have a 7x14 tandem axle trailer with standing room height inside and a fold down ramp in the back. It’s very worth it. So much easier to haul things and big things around. Everything rolls in. We don’t have to lift anything. 7x14 is about the biggest I’d go if you want to maneuver it in most parking lots.
We don’t tow with a bus. First, I don’t think we can, and second, I don’t think we’d want to. It’s a good idea to have a second vehicle to go get lunch or take a student to a hospital if needed.
We’ve been towing with a 1996 Chevrolet Suburban C2500 with the 7.4L Vortec gas engine, and it has worked out okay. I towed from SoCal to IRI and back in 2013. Loaded, we estimate the trailer is at about 6,000 lbs.
The nice thing about the Suburban is you can carry 7 people in it, or you can take the back seat out and fit a ton of stuff in there, such as a full 4x8 sheet of plywood. You can also fit 12’ bar stock completely inside the vehicle. So, it’s not a bad vehicle. Back when we bought it, it was easier to find SUVs in better condition and at cheaper prices than pickup trucks. At least around here, the used pickup truck market is still nuts today. Everybody keeps them for work, and the prices are through the roof, and the ones that are for sale have a ton of miles or are all beat up. We also had our eyes on Ford Expeditions and Excursions. Excursions have come down in price lately, and I hear the V10 gas and 7.3L diesel are both good engines. If you’re looking for used, a 1999-2005 Avalanche 2500 or a 2000-2006 Suburban 2500 with the 8.1L engine would be an affordable beast, but, these days, all of them are still 13-17 year old vehicles with >100,000 miles. Also, just about anything else will be easier to find than a 2500 Suburban.
The downside of our Suburban is it’s 22 years old now, and it has needed some major things done to it in the 6 years and 20k miles we’ve owned it: fuel pump, distributor, transmission, shocks, a/c compressor, hydro-booster, tie rods and ball joints, etc. Thankfully the engine still runs like a top, now with 120,000 miles, which is low mileage for its age.
When doing things like a “Super Pit” you really have to watch your tongue weight of your trailer. We have air assist leveling springs in addition to the heavy duty 3/4 ton leaf springs and they have helped. You also want the heaviest duty most load rated tires you can find.
If we had the budget to do it over again, I’d go with a new F-250 with the 6.7L Diesel. Keep in mind, when we got the Suburban used, it cost about the same as a Macbook Pro. We towed to Houston and Fresno with a rented new diesel F-250 and it was a night and day difference. It is just a bigger better truck and it’s almost like the trailer isn’t even there when towing. The “tow mode” feature with engine braking and trans downshifting works really really well on this truck. The Suburban gets about 7-8mpg. The diesel F-250 gets about 12-13 mpg, and just has almost infinite torque and power up grades and while accelerating.
Whatever you get, make sure it has a “tow package” which often includes a factory hitch, and most importantly a larger trans cooler. Sometimes the tow package will have a different trans altogether and/or a different rear axle, springs, shocks, and/or axle ratio.
For our setup, I wouldn’t tow it with a 1/2 ton truck. Some of the new 1/2 ton trucks are quite capable, but 3/4 ton (F-250 or chevy or ram 2500) are really the way to go. In addition to bigger better springs, you get bigger better brakes which is equally as important.
Moral of the story is, don’t tow 6,000lbs with a truck rated to tow 6000 lbs, and diesel is better than gas.