How old a truck for 18 year old gearhead?



My son’s hot to buy a 1970 Ford truck. It would be his only vehicle, and he needs to drive on a ranch, then cross-country. How new a model should he buy to a) be safe, and b) be able to work on the engine himself? Worried Mom.


Is it a specific 1970 Ford truck? The possible problem is that older vehicles could need a lot of work to make them reliable transportation again. And how much can you afford? It might be that the truck he wants is also the one you can afford.


This truck qualifies as an antique. Its reliability must be presumed to be down around zero. People don’t buy antiques for daily drivers, particularly for the rough driving on a ranch.

Let him have it anyway. He will learn valuable lessons of maintenance and repair. He will then be well positioned to choose his next vehicle.


There are many pros and cons of older vehicles. First, theyre cheap. If something goes wrong with them, theyre fairly cheap to fix. And also fairly easy to work on. Most of the time they have plenty of room under the hoods to work on. Some of the cons of having an older vehicle is the way they drive, handle, mileage, economic. For someone who will be driving cross country, i wouldnt recomend something this old. He will probably get the vehicle for fairly cheap. You get what you pay for.


They’re good trucks but can be a bit rough on the gas pump. Mileage is usually not too good.

My son’s best friend had a '69 Ford truck (a nice one) that he drove every day until he sold it about 7-8 years ago. That truck is still on the road.
I used to do a fair bit of service work on this era of Ford truck and most of it was pretty cut and dried.

Maintenance is also easy and parts are pretty cheap.
If he has any mechanical ability, anything short of a catastrophic explosion should not leave him stranded.
These can be fixed on the side of the road instead of calling AAA.
As to safety, they’re like any other vehicle. They’re as safe as the owner/driver allows it to be.


My cousin’s first truck was an early 70s (71/72) Ford. I remember it took a lot of wrenching to keep it running back in the early 80s. A friend bought an 83 Ford F150 new and this was a much better truck. I had a 95 Dodge Dakota for 8 years and it was an easy truck to work on, plenty of room under the hood and everything is accessible. Other than oil, trans, and antifreeze changes, brakes, and tune up, I never had to do much the time I owned it. If I was looking for an older truck, I would look at an early 90s Chevy truck with a 305 or 350 motor with Throttle Body Injection (TBI), I have a 305 TBI in my Caprice and it is not the most powerful motor, but it is dependable, economical, and fairly cheap to maintain (unlike my 2000 Blazer).

Good luck,

Ed B.


Thanks. He’s spotted one for sale for $5,000. If it were $2,000 I wouldn’t worry. But I’ve found a number of much newer trucks for $5,000. He does want the chance to work on it, but how about availability of parts? He hasn’t seen it yet, just talked to the seller., so we don’t really know its condition.


I agree about letting him learn from experience, except this truck costs $5,000 which he’s thinking of borrowing at 15%+. He does need a vehicle for daily travel. This would be a VERY BIG lesson, wouldn’t it?


Well, I think the first lesson is never, ever borrow money to buy a vehicle (especially not at 15%). If he can’t afford it, he shouldn’t buy it. He needs to find something he can actually afford and pay cash, then he can start saving up for this truck. See if he still wants it when he has to pay for it with real money.


Even though I previously suggested he ought to have this truck anyway, that advice was offered before you told us the price was $5000! And he was borrowing! At 15% interest!!

You are correct to be a worried mom. Your son may know his wrenches but he has a lot to learn about money and value. Try to find someone who can talk to him and bring him back into the real world.


Another thing to consider: a 1970 probably requires leaded gas, or he’ll ruin the valves in short order (if they’re not ruined already by running on unleaded). How much does a bottle of lead-additive cost at each fill-up?

I have to agree with the others – something this old is going to be too delicate for bouncing around on a ranch and too unreliable for long trips. Not to mention unsafe when he hits something (and he’s only 18, and inexperienced). If he absolutely insists on it, have a good mechanic thoroughly check it over from bumper to bumper. $5k seems like an awful lot for a 37 year old truck…


The good points of a 1970 Ford truck: it’s simple to work on, parts should not be hard to get, and don’t worry about that lead in the gasoline thing. That is mostly myth. A few older engines, mostly GM, had some valve recession problems, but new valve seats will fix that if it ever becomes a problem, which it most likely won’t.

The bad points: $5000 and 15% interest is foolish to spend on a daily driver that old. For that kind of money I’m guessing this truck has been “restored” and/or had modifications. If not, then it’s a showroom stock without a scratch on it and suitable only for antique car shows, not driving around on a ranch.

I’d look for a late '80s or early '90s 2WD pickup for about $1500 to $2000 (pay cash). Brand is not critical compared to condition. It should be used but not beat up. I.E. if the bed has a bunch of dents and the rear bumper is falling off from a lot of heavy hauling, walk away. Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Isuzu, Chevy, Dodge, Mazda and probably a few more all made pickup trucks around 1990. Any of them might be worth looking at. They will at least have better seat belts than that old Ford.