First truck, I'm cheap and a grad student

I’m looking to buy an inexpensive work truck or SUV for hauling lumber, steel, and other heavy studio stuff. My budget is around $10,000 but the cheaper the better. I’ve seen a lot of Ford Rangers on the lots and wonder what you all think of them? (And why are so many of them for sale, is that a bad sign?) Any other models which you’ve had good experience with would be helpful as this will be my first car period. The only features that are a must have are ABS, dual air bags, and air conditioning, anything else would just be icing on the cake. Gas millage is not a huge issue for me since in the 4 months in Michigan when it isn’t below freezing I drive a Kymco people 150 scooter and I think that would balance out a gas guzzler. My husband and I collectively have the car knowledge of a hamster so any help would be greatly appreciated!

A Ford Ranger wouldn’t be a bad vehicle to look at for this use. If you drive it and like it, you can probably find a good one for a good price. There are lots of them for sale because there were lots of them made. They are very common, which is good for getting them serviced. Parts are cheap and easy to get, and it’s easy to find someone who can work on one of them.

Rangers are your best value for a used small truck. You’ll pay a lot more for a used Japanese truck, but IMHO only the Toyotas are really better trucks and not enough to justify the premium paid for them used. GM never really quite got the compact truck right, so I’d avoid the S10/S15 or Colorado/Canyons. Dodge’s take on the compact truck is the Dakota which is a decent truck, but only small compared to their huge full-size trucks.

I have a 1995 Ranger (109K miles) that I rarely drive anymore, except to haul stuff around. Assuming the bed and capacity are up to what you need. A full size will have a larger bed and higher weight capacity, so you may want to investigate.

That said, I often haul well above the published ratings (not fast and not far, but when I need to…)

I bought an 03 ranger new for 10.5 grand, 16k list price, 3k ford rebate, 2k off sticker and 1k local resident rebate. Sure it was a manual, and sure I had to upgrade the stereo system and sure they tried to sell me a used one that would have been more expensive, but you may find going new is not a sacrifice when you figure no new brakes, tires, maintenance or other worries. Then you can also gamble on 800 bucks for extended warranty if your mileage makes it worthwile.

If this is your first truck and you don’t need 4wd, I suggest a 4 cyl Tacoma extended cab. In that price range, you should be able to get one with the features you want and just a few years old and less than 50 K miles. Don’t be lulled into the Ranger cheap price if this is your main vehicle. It has a POOR satisfaction rating by people who owned them according to CR . In general, people like their Toyota compact trucks very much.

What kind of studio ?
TV and Film sets ?
Sound and light production ?
Artist ?

Will you need to lay in 4x8 sheets of plywood or sheetrock ?
A ranger is only 39" between the wheel wells on the bed floor. It is however 54" between side rails and a ‘second level’ can easily be made with some 2x4s accross.

A full size 1/2 ton will allow you to lay those sheets flat.

When you narrow down some choices, take a tape measure to some of your equipment and gear then look closely at the buisiness end of the trucks.

Bed length may also be an important aspect. Tailgate up or down -vs- the equipment you’ll be hauling.

My short 6’ bed truck will only take full sheets with the tailgate down so I really need to match my shopping list to the truck I use.
But it’s a step side so speaker cabinets fit like a glove.

Depending on how much the stuff weighs, you might be better off looking at F-150s or Silverados. In this median time between model years is a great time to shop. They’re looking to move old inventory to make room for next model year’s inventory. Also, in some cases, it may be cheaper to buy new than used, depending on the vehicle.

There are so many Rangers because so many were sold. Fleets love them because they are cheap, reliable, and utilitarian.

Rear wheel drive wouldn’t be very good in winter, so make sure the 4 wheel drive works.