If you only had $3000 to spend

Okay, so here’s a quick poll I’m doing to help me decide what I should do. Lets start with a hypothetical…

Lets say you were moving to the semi-arid climate of west texas to go to grad school and lets say you had $3000 to spend on a used vehicle and lets say you don’t care too much about aesthetics but you’ve always wanted a dependable 2WD pickup truck.

Where would your money go?.. to the classic Ford or Chevy from the 70’s or 80’s or to the Toyota or Nissan from the mid 90’s? I realize I’m not mentioning mileage and thats because I wouldn’t know where to begin in leveling these two options with mileage as a factor. So please take that in consideration when expressing your opinion of which is a better investment for a mature student who simply needs a vehicle for average city traveling and occasional weekend road trips to neighboring states for the next 4 to 6 years (I plan to take my sweet time with my dissertation).

Thanks for all the help!

I think I would go with a Toyota/Nissan from the late 1990s, but finding one in either category that hasn’t been abused and neglected will be a real challenge.

I would start looking in the want ads in the local newspaper. You might get lucky and find one what was owned and meticulously maintained. If you are lucky to find a well maintained truck in your price range, be prepared for the possibility you might not be able to haggle. Anyone who owns a truck that old and kept it in good shape knows her/his stuff, and will know what the truck is worth. You might need to pay a little more then you expected in order to get something reliable.

In the $3000 range, if you’re fortunate enough to find any used truck in good and safe shape when confirmed by a thorough inspectin by a good mechanic, buy it. Pay no attention to the name behind the tailgate. And if the area you’re going to has emissions testing, make an emissions test part of that “going over”.

I would say 1988 up 4.3 V6 Chevy/GMC. You will see mid 20’s for mpg. Ex cab Short Box would be a good truck. Easy to work on too. The 305/5L in 2 wheel DR will get low 20’s mpg. If you can drive a stick , the 5 speed is the way I would go.

I am still driving an 85 toy pu, with the 22r engine. If you can find one that is not beat up, it is a great old truck and you can now usually find parts in the junk yard for most important things like say a tranny or stearing linkage. You dont say where you are, but out here in Calif. the price for an 85 to 95 is in your range. I count small pickups, and these are the most popular still running and working trucks in So. Cal. In other parts of the country there is the rust issue, so be aware, and do get it checked out before you buy it. a smog test, and a pressure test are advised.

In west Texas the truck bodies and frames should be solid (little to no rust) but the motors and transmissions could be toast. I’d look for an old (late '60’s to early '70’s) classic Ford or Chevy pickup. In that era these were basic trucks, no extra cab, no extra frills, behaps even no AC. If you find one it should be easy to work on, cheap parts, and you’ll sell it for about what you paid for it in 6 years.

That’s easy. Been there, done that and opted for used Toyota/Mazda(before they were Fords) short bed 2wd manual transmission. My kids drove them in high school too…my hand me downs.

For $3000, I would go with a 87-96 F-150 with the 300 straight 6. I would aviod the trucks from the 70’s and early 80’s unless you enjoy working with carbs.

A Ford Ranger may be a good option. They’re good reliable trucks, as plentiful as fleas on a cur dog, and parts/service is readily available anywhere if needed.

Going to Texas Tech, huh? That’s some pretty miserable and hot country down there so I would try to find a vehicle that has a good working A/C in it.

Or, if you find one with a broken AC unit, offer them $500 for the truck and pay to have it fixed/replaced

If you find a few promising prospects and post them I feel sure you till get some good advice on separating the pearls from the trash. And grad school implies minimal mileage but that may not be the case, so what will you expect of the vehicle?

Gentlemen and Scholars,

Thank you for your time and effort. These responses were more than I had hoped for. Yep, I’m moving to Lubbock and I’ve become somewhat concerned of the trend in people’s less than uplifting descriptions of the environment. Nonetheless, Its a good school and I’m sure the town has plenty of distinctive charm from having to exist in such an extreme climate.

I’ll take Rod’s advice and post a few prospects just to keep the fun moving along. Let me know what you think of these options… (all the toys and nissans I’ve been watching are gone, and I got nothing against Fords, just couldn’t find any).

72 chevy

87 GMC

70 chevy

personal fav…71 GMC (crazy green)

92 chevy stepside

74 Harvester flatbed

69 GMC

If you see “needs some work” - and especially if you see “A/C needs work,” expect to spend another $3000 after you’ve bought it for $3000. This will be worse if that A/C system is still on R12 since it will need to be converted to newer refrigerant in addition to having whatever else fixed. (I only looked at your personal fav).

I think ok4450 is about right on the Ranger. You can easily get something newer than these where everything does work. At $3K most anything will need work of some kind - so get a shop manual when you get a truck.

Start with the 1987 GMC. It looks like it has had a lot of work done recently. But you need a close look to see what it needs. The seat will be easy to install.

I’d keep looking. I’ve seen newer trucks in better condition sell for less. Just last year my brother sold his 1996 F150 4x4 with 180k on it (with 30k on a new, not rebuilt, crate motor) for $2500. The truck had A/C, power windows/locks/cruise control/CD player/keyless entry, etc. The trucks you’ve listed are overpriced IMHO, especially for 2WD models.

The ad for the 87 GMC looks like it was written by a 2nd grader, not a good sign.

All good But the 74 INTL. The 69 GMC is over priced by a $1500. The rest are in the ballpark. I would offer $500 to $1000 less to start on anyone of these. All are easy to work on for a DIY. Drive down the price the best you can and have some fun!

If it was me I would have hard time between the 71GMC and the 92 Chevy. Remember Those old chevy’s and GMC’s 67-72 will stay priced at about what there asking now for at least the next few years. Not a bad deal if pay $3000. and dive it a few years and sale it for say $2500-$3500.

I would avoid a vehicle that has an ad written by someone who doesn’t know what punctuation or half decent grammar is. I hate to stereotype but that kind of smacks of a heap that’s been sitting on concrete blocks and has been worked on by someone with a hammer and pipewrench.

Phrases like TLC, needs work, needs a “little” work, has potential, etc, etc, are also a reason to not get too enamored with the vehicle in question.

Is fuel mileage not an issue here? Those trucks you mention are for the most part not very good when it comes to fuel economy.

Once again, you have all provided so much invaluable information. There are so many of us out there that have little or no inside knowledge to the subtleties and nuances of the logistics behind doing this. For that, I certainly thank you all.

I’m reading the gist here as suggesting that I should, without a doubt, haggle down to a drastically cheaper price. Is this standard business when comes to this? Are these guys expecting someone who knows what they are doing to bid a price thats one third less than the stated price? It just seems like they would just laugh at me and hang up.

As for fuel mileage, not an issue. Most of the driving will be confined to a distance just outside of walking distance for things such as groceries. The occasional road trip will be a hit on the wallet but it’ll still be worth having (i think).

On a side note…I totally agree with all the comments about poor spelling. Its sad to judge…but its almost impossible not to. It just makes you wonder…really?

Finally, question for CIGROLLER; what does the first half of your 2nd paragraph mean? I don’t remember a Ranger being in the list? Are you suggesting that vehicles just above the $3000 mark show a drastic improvement in what works and what doesn’t and what needs maintance?

Several posts above mine ok4450 has written: “A Ford Ranger may be a good option. They’re good reliable trucks, as plentiful as fleas on a cur dog, and parts/service is readily available anywhere if needed.”

I was just agreeing with him.

The $3000 mark isn’t magic. Its just that when you’re not spending much $$ you’ll end up with something fairly old with fairly high miles. It will probably need some things when you buy it & will probably need some fairly regular attention.

Ah, now I get it. Thanks for clarifying.

One last question for anyone still checking up… Many of you suggested having the vehicle inspected by someone before purchasing. Because I have almost no experience buying cars, this seems strange (inner-city life lends itself to mass transit). I imagine these vehicle owners not being too pleased with or interested in letting me take their vehicle to someone to get it inspected. Or is that standard practice? Also, since I’m moving to lubbock I don’t already know a good mechanic in the area. Other than word-of-mouth, is there a reliable way of finding a reliable mechanic?

Thanks again,