I'm thinking about buying a used ambulance to convert to a tow vehicle for a TT. Good/bad idea? Has anyone done this? Any idea about insurance? We would also want to use the ambulance for short overnight trips - bed ideas?
Please respond with your opinions - I'd like to hear them all!
Well if the price is right,you have time and money anything is possible. Saw one in WI that did it. Had a bed,sink with a water pump for water from a 5 gallon jug under the sink that drained into a 5 gallon bucket with the drain pipe through the lid. He pulled about a 25' camper behind it. Was a nice mod he did with it.
I know a lot of race car drivers in this part of the country like to buy them and pull their race trailers. Many ambulances may need a new rear end gear because they are not often equipped with a gear ration designed for towing. If you can find the right rig, it could make a very good setup for your needs.
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Is this ambulance a high-top van, a box on a cutaway van, or a box on a Class 5 truck? Assuming all the heavy medical equipment is gone, and you have just an empty box, the useful towing capacity might be:
3500 to 9000 pounds for the van depending on drive train (assuming at least 3/4 ton).
3500 to 12,000 pounds for the cutaway, depending on Chevy vs Ford, 1 ton vs Class 4 (i.e. E-450) and engine, and weight of what is left of the ambulance box. Original GCWRs for these cutaway vans ranged from 14,000 to 22,000 pounds, you subtract weight of chassis and box and what's in the box.
8000 to 16,000 pounds, maybe more, for a Class 4 to Class 5 conventional truck carrying an empty ambulance box, again depending on weight of what's left of the box. Original GCWRs for these two classes were usually 18,000 to 26,000 pounds.
What you usually get with an ambulance package is a heavier duty cooling system to cope with long periods of idling and sustained runs at close to full engine output, and either a high output alternator, or a second alternator, to cope with electrical loads of the medical and emergency equipment, particularly at engine idle speeds.
These are usually better than old RVs for towing, because ambulances are not often built with frame extensions and oversize boxes.
The bed would be easy for me, I can sleep on a camp cot or a single-size foldaway, which would not be hard to anchor to the floor.
If you want seating too, it is not too difficult to find a jack knife sofa from a conversion van, at a garage sale or second hand store. My kids picked one up at Goodwill for $20 and after using it in their guest room for a year, left it behind for me. It is going into a van when I find the one I want to convert into a tow vehicle.
If you are thinking about an ambulance built on a beefed up luxury car or SUV chassis, it may already be overloaded by the ambulance coachwork, and would not be a good candidate for towing its own weight or more.
Once it is no longer in use as an ambulance, it should license and insure the same as any other truck of that size, and that would depend on the state and the insurance company. For example, the company I use for my personal vehicles does not sell policies for commercial trucks, so I would probably have to find a different insurer for an old ambulance.