Picking a truck to use for a custom build (1-ton vs. 2-ton, gas vs. diesel)

ReluctantTraveler

Active member
I'm in the planning stages of a custom hard-sided flatbed camper build. I've got answers to a lot of the big "where do I even start" questions, but the one that continues to vex me is which truck to use as the base.

I'm not sure if an F-350 or F-550 (or the Ram 3500/5500) would better meet my needs, and am also not sure if it's worth springing for a diesel or if a gasser would actually be a better fit.

My goals with this build:
  • At least 12' long floor, but 14' preferred
  • King-sized bed cabover
  • Flatbed as a subframe
  • Crew cab pickup with longest wheelbase available
  • Will house a family of 4 plus a small dog
  • I'm looking for more off-grid and 4-season capability (and easier driving than my current travel trailer), NOT an unstoppable overlanding rig. I don't plan to offroad with it.

Considerations:
  • An F-350 would likely get better MPG
  • An F-550 would handle the length and load needed for a family of 4 better
  • Both are comparably priced, if purchased new (I think the lack of refinement or a bed on the F-550 chassis cab is part of that?)
  • I could theoretically tie into a diesel engine's tank to run a diesel heater (though apparently something similar exists for gas engines)
  • I don't plan on towing with it, which is where diesel's shine, so a gasser might make more sense from a cost persepective

This would be my first truck, so I have no idea what I should reasonably expect for MPG with either truck. Our travel trailer is currently hauled with a Toyota Highlander that gets 24 mpg normally, and about 12 mpg when towing. That's my baseline.

Can an F-550 gasser with a camper get close to to that? Can a tuner help improve MPG for highway driving? It would be the no brainer choice if I didn't care about MPG at all (but I do, realizing it will never be as good as just driving a car or whatever).
 

1000arms

Well-known member
If you are still looking at F-350 trucks, remember that Duramag (and other companies) make flatbeds to replace specific model pickup truck beds. The 2017+ F-350 DRW pickup truck frame is stiffer than the 2017+ F-350 DRW chassis cab truck frame. The pickup springs would likely give the better ride (they are different than the chassis cab springs).
 

1000arms

Well-known member
The 2017+ F-350 chassis cab CC DRW is only available with a 60" cab to axle length, but the 2017+ F-450/550 chassis cab CC is available with a 84" CA (cab to axle).
 

1000arms

Well-known member
The current Ford 6.2L gas engine and the 7.3L gas engine would likely both serve you well. The diesel will cut into your payload for a given DRW truck.

The Ford 6.2L is currently available for the F-350 pickup and the F-350 chassis cab (But not the F-450/550/600-pickup/chassis-cab combinations).

Just make sure to get the 4.30s in the pumpkins.

The 7.3L gas would likely serve you "even more well" than the 6.2L gas. :)
 
Last edited:

Mickey Bitsko

Adventurer
Doesn't matter what truck or camper configuration you choose, fuel mileage
Is all relative, join a community/ fiat/ chevy, ford forum and the pose your questions question, VERY FEW people on this forum are going to have your answers.
Its In your best interest to go straight to the source for this type of information.
 

1000arms

Well-known member
Can you make a camper (that makes you happy) light enough to allow a F-350 to safely carry your family and camper? :)
 

ReluctantTraveler

Active member
Doesn't matter what truck or camper configuration you choose, fuel mileage
Is all relative, join a community/ fiat/ chevy, ford forum and the pose your questions question, VERY FEW people on this forum are going to have your answers.
Its In your best interest to go straight to the source for this type of information.
Fair enough. Given that there's a lot of DIYers here, and those are very popular platforms, I figured some folks may have some real world experience to impart. It's at least more likely, IMO, that folks here would have loaded F-350/F-550's up with truck campers than a general Ford forum user might have.
 

ReluctantTraveler

Active member
Can you make a camper (that makes you happy) light enough to allow a F-350 to safely carry your family and camper? :)
Given that I've never done this before, my basis for comparison right now is almost exclusively @IdaSHO's build, which is a bit smaller than what I'm hoping to build.

Going off of our "with stuff weight" in the travel trailer, I think I could, but it'd likely be very close to the max cargo capacity. Is it recommended that trucks stay at 80% of that like they recommend with towing weight?

The bigger challenge might actually be length. I believe you noted that because of the over 2-foot shorter wheelbase on the F-350, it might not be possible to get a bed as long as I want with it.
 

Mickey Bitsko

Adventurer
Fair enough. Given that there's a lot of DIYers here, and those are very popular platforms, I figured some folks may have some real world experience to impart. It's at least more likely, IMO, that folks here would have loaded F-350/F-550's up with truck campers than a general Ford forum user might have.
As an example FTE (fordtruckenthusiasts.com)
Has a truck camper only thread, along with ,tt and 5ers etc.
Anyway, that's been my go to for 15y on all things ford.
There's also a section on pretty much any ford truck, be it the new maverick up to
Commercial OTR trucks.
 

1000arms

Well-known member
Given that I've never done this before, my basis for comparison right now is almost exclusively @IdaSHO's build, which is a bit smaller than what I'm hoping to build.

Going off of our "with stuff weight" in the travel trailer, I think I could, but it'd likely be very close to the max cargo capacity. Is it recommended that trucks stay at 80% of that like they recommend with towing weight?

The bigger challenge might actually be length. I believe you noted that because of the over 2-foot shorter wheelbase on the F-350, it might not be possible to get a bed as long as I want with it.
I know you want a flatbed rather than a pickup truck bed, but, for a visual idea, consider that many slide-in truck campers are designed to stick out the back of a pickup truck bed a considerable distance. Some people won't use those because they want their rear bumper to be able to act as their rear bumper (and/or they want want maximum towing capability while using their truck camper).

You might check with Duramag about a flatbed that extends (far enough) beyond the truck bumper?

For a look at a number of truck campers (for visual ideas) see:



I think a 2017+ F-350 XL CCLB DRW 4x4 (6.2L gas or 7.3L gas) pickup has a maximum payload of about 6500 pounds.

You might not be able to shed enough weight to comfortably keep yourself under that, but, then again, you might.
 

ReluctantTraveler

Active member
Turns out it’s a moot point.

based on the CA length of a crew cab F350, the biggest flatbed Duramag installs is 9 feet long.

with an F550, I could get one 12 feet long. I could also do that on an F450, but that has even less payload than the F350. F550 it is!
 

1000arms

Well-known member
Amazing. Thank you!
Turns out it’s a moot point.

based on the CA length of a crew cab F350, the biggest flatbed Duramag installs is 9 feet long.

with an F550, I could get one 12 feet long. I could also do that on an F450, but that has even less payload than the F350. F550 it is!
You are welcome!

You could build a camper to overhang the flatbed, if you felt the need.

As a note, the 2017+ F-450 pickup only has the diesel available, has heavier running gear than the 350, but still has the same GVWR of 14,000 pounds. The 2017+ F-450 chassis cab has a greater payload than the 2017+ F-350 chassis cab, but, if you are going to go F-450 or F-550 chassis cab, go F-550. :)

The 7.3L gas engine should serve you well! (Ford even uses it in the F-750.)

Something else to start thinking about :cool:. See:

 

ReluctantTraveler

Active member
Something else to start thinking about :cool:. See:

indeed! I never want to deal with a black tank again, so I’m weighing a cassette toilet against composting.
 

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