Most reliable 4x4 truck?

Hi! First of all thank you to the Car Talk community for helping me make decisions with my vehicles in the past. You guys ROCK!

I recently started a beekeeping business. I found that my 1986 Toyota 2wd pickup was getting stuck in the beeyards (muddy farm fields!) so I sold it and I want to get a 4x4 replacement.

The vehicle MUST be 4x4. I also need it to be able to carry some weight (I’m not sure exactly how much, but let’s say 1000 lbs, so I probably need at least a 1/2 ton pickup.) I want the most reliable vehicle I can get for my budget (2000-4000). I also hope that it is something that doesn’t break the bank to repair (ie no rare parts). I prefer manual transmission and manual windows/locks etc. A flatbed would be ideal but I’m not set on that. Probably a v6 or i6 for a balance of power and gas mileage.

I am thinking maybe something like a Mitsubishi Mighty Max (like this: )

Or a Toyota Tacoma ( like this: )

I would be open to American made but I’m afraid it won’t be reliable-if anyone knows of a reliable American made…

Does anyone have any advice of vehicles to look for and to avoid?

Thank you so much!


I also recently saw this ad:
My first vehicle ever, that I bought for 500 dollars when I was 16 and sold when I was 23, was a 1972 Jeep wagoneer three on the tree that I LOVED. This jeep is tempting to me because of that and because Jeeps are easy to work on… but I wonder: Would it be reliable? Would it really get 18-20 mpg? Could it hold enough weight? Is it worth the price he is asking or would it be fair to offer less?

With that limited budget…FORGET about who makes it…

The biggest determining factor for reliability was how it was maintained and how little rust it may have.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the little Toyota 4wd . . . the Ranger 4wd and my friend has the little Chevy 4wd (S-10?). All good stories. Your problem will be your budget. Mike is correct . . . check it out before your buy it, especially rust. I don’t know anyone who has a Jeep who hasn’t had to throw all kinds of $$ into their Jeep. OTOH . . . didja happen to see that TV show about what is the most reliabel 4wd truck driven through Alsaka? Seems that nothing beats a mid-80s Chevy smallblock V-8 with an automatic. Make certain that you check it out before buying. Rocketman


LOL, but this is a loaded question especially with this group.

I had a jeep just like the Wagoneer you see, it was an ANIMAL !! that straght 6 is near bulit proof as is the trans… I think the MPG is a stretch, and a long one at that but no truck with the aerodinamics of a brick wall is going to get good MPG so put that out of your head. I think the Wagoneer is a great choice, except I am unsure if its will carry the 1000 lbs you want it to carry. It may get close and you can alway change out the rear leaf springs or add a add-a-leaf to the pack and get its weight up (at the expence of ride)…

Mike is dead on though, for that price its going to be more a matter of finding a well taken care of truck rather then a certian type of truck. I would stay away from the Mitzu though…

HONESTLY if you are looking for a pickup you cant beat an american truck, cheap parts, easy to fix, and its the one thing they have ALWAYS been good a building… AN older chevy with a GEN 1 Small block, or a Dodge with a 318 or 360 would be great.

Hey guys thanks for your advice! I’ve heard not so good things about the American made pickups-that the clutches go out quickly in the v6, that in the Ford Ranger you have to remove the transmission to fix the master cylinder in the clutch, that kind of thing…

Just out of curiosity, why stay away from the Mitsu? They got great reviews online…

Toyota’s would be my top choice but even old high mileage ones are so expensive!

The Jeep is where my heart is, but not sure it’s the most practical…but with the back seats taken out it would haul a lot I think. I wonder if I could put the old, huge steering wheel on it? '82 they had put a much smaller one on…

I have good credit and could also but 4000 down and finance for a much newer truck, but with a new business in agriculture, I am reluctant to take on payments…

PS what do you mean “at the expense of ride…”?

If you had leafs to the sping pack, the ride is going to get rougher… I know I have seen many rangers with well over 200K, they made basically the same darn truck for over 20 years so they got all of its “bugs” well worked out :slight_smile:

I have not heard about clutches going out fast… why not the mighty max, its been out of production for almost 20 years now… Parts can be hard to come by in the US, and while it has a following it is not supported by the aftermarket. It also has rust issues from what I know of them.

Ah…very good point about the parts being hard to come by…that could be hard to deal with in Southern Oregon where I work…

I don’t mind a rough ride. Do you think the Jeep seller is asking a reasonable price?

What years of Ranger would you recommend?

Thanks so much for taking the time to give advice!

For what it is, ehh… At this point in its life its a matter of what someone will pay. Nothing says you cant offer $2500 for it. Plus compaired to a wagonmaster jeep yeah its a good price :slight_smile:

For the Ranger as new as possible, I would ONLY look at extended cabs though, trust me single cabs are hard to live with on a day to day especially if you are working out of it. . Also the 3.0 V6/4.0 V6 are better I think then the older 4-cyls. Although the newer 4-cyls are supposed to be ok.

Older full size trucks are good (70’s-80’s), parts are easily found, some are already flat beds, and they are cheap. The best part, you can learn to fix them yourself.

Whatever you buy, remember that any truck you buy will get stuck. There are times you just will not be able to go into a field without getting stuck. The key is to know the environment that you are driving in, being prepared by equipping the vehicle properly, learning the proper driving techniques for the conditions, and knowing the vehicle’s and your limits so you can avoid the getting stuck to start with. The later is the most important because if you don’t know the vehicle’s limits and your own limits you will break something and be stuck (hopefully with someway of recovery or repair).

You might look at what trucks the farmers are driving around their fields and how they are equipped.

Hope that helps.

Also, if your buying a work truck, a 6 cylinder will get closest to the mpg you want, but the 8 cylinder will probably have the most torque to move through heavy mud. (hee hee…I said torque)

Your SAME TRUCK in 4X4 is Phenomenal…almost ALL the Toyota 4X4 pickups are bulletproof. I favor the older ones (80’-90’s) due to price…price no issue? Any Toyotie 4X4 has my stamp of approval…and MANY many others would agree.

Toyota’s quality, reliability and reputation are what has kept those prices higher for the 4X4’s…ALL that money went into the trucks moving parts and HW…they are TOP NOTCH and built like tanks… Toyota truck quality is hard to ignore or refute.


I will agree with blackbird, but throw in a caviott about T-100’s they dont seem to hold up as well as other Toyotas

I with blackbird and gsragtop, too. Toyotas are bulletproof. My family owned a 1980 2wd 4 cylinder 1/2 ton truck that my father would regularly use to pull 50-60 foot trees out of the woods, cut and haul them. I was always amazed that the little truck would zip down the road and up a steep gravel grades with a ton of wood piled on it and the springs bending backwards. We never had any major engine or drivetrain issues, just coast cancer from living on the Oregon coast.

Can’t go wrong with a Toyota Tacoma/Hilux. As long as the basics check out, and the body looks solid, it should give you plenty of service. They are more expensive for a reason basically.

I own a 94 Pickup (or Tacoma) And I have had GREAT luck out of it. It is a 4x4 3.0 V6 Xtracab. And I have almost 300,000 on it. I LOVE my truck.

Toyota V6 in your vintage are prone to blowing headgaskets.

The 22RE was a decent motor except plastic timing chain guides that wore out.

The demise of my 89 Toyota around 2000 was severe New England salt rust.

The Ford F-150 is the best selling vehicle in the world and for a reason. You’ve “heard” that American vehicles are not as reliable and therein lies the problem. One story starts and after being passed around the internet campfire it’s often blown up far bigger than its beginning.
Many internet complaints, when read by a mechanic, easily reveal the problem is the person behind the wheel not the vehicle itself. Believe me, there’s a pretty sizeable share of that type who appear on this forum.

I’m in the middle of truck country here in OK and everyone around me on the farm, the oil patch, and so on uses Ford, Chevy, and Dodge for the most part with a scattering of other makes. The conditions here are pretty brutal and if those trucks did not do the job reliably they would not be popular; period. It’s all about the bottom line.

You’re also considering buying a used vehicle. Any used vehicle is a roll of the dice and having a certain badge on the tailgate doesn’t add one atom to it’s reliability rating.
The only thing you can do is perform a thorough inspection, show up in church on Sunday and pray to a higher power that you made a good (a.k.a. lucky) decision because even a thorough inspection is not a guarantee of a trouble free vehicle. It helps your odds a bit is all.

Many parts of this country…you’ll find people who are very closed minded when it comes to their vehicles. It was “Common-Sense” who said that where he lived everyone is conservative and they all drive American made trucks.

Well - every conservative I know here in New England all buy foreign because they HATE the unions.

Being the TOP seller doesn’t mean it’s the BEST or most RELIABLE. Top sales has NOTHING to do with it. Can you imagine living in the mid-west and being the first on you block to own a Toyota pickup??? Not too sure of the welcome you’ll receive from your neighbors.

Also have to remember that Toyota and Nissan are both fairly early into the game of the full-size pickup. So people are use to their Ford’s and GM’s. They don’t know if their vehicle is MORE reliable or LESS reliable then a Toyota because they’ve never owned one. And based on their thinking…they won’t.

I’m NOT saying one is more reliable then the other…I have my opinion…not here to debate that…But looking for a vehicle that’s in the 2-3k price range…the biggest determining factor is going to be how well it was maintained. If I had a choice between a Toyota that’s 10 years old but wasn’t well maintained and a 15yo Ford F-150 that was well maintained…Both had the same mileage…I’d take the Ford.