Reliability & Economy '80's Ford Ranger vs Toyota/Nissan little trucks


I have narrowed down my vehicle search. It’s gonna be an older vehicle as I don’t have much to spend. Plus as a child of the 80’s I find that I am drawn to older vehicles for nostalgic reasons. I was thinking a wagon would be good, but my last two volvos had gas mileage similar to a full size pickup of the same era, and comparing different wagons at it seems that they all get pretty bad gas mileage. Therefore I’d like to get a small truck that gets pretty good gas mileage. At that same website, it seems like early to mid 80’s ford rangers have comparable gas mileage to little toyota and nissan trucks (about 19-26 mpg). Toyotas in particular have a reputation for reliability, so I am wondering how an '80’s Ford Ranger would compare? Did Chevy also make a small truck in the '80’s, and if so, what is the model and how reliable are they? Or should I just get the full size '83 Chevy Diesel that I am ga-ga over, regardless of gas mileage :smiley: Oh, I will be using this truck solely for road trips and occasionally hauling stuff. Maybe even pulling a travel trailer if it’s big/strong enough, that’ll depend entirely on the vehicle I get. It’ll sit parked during the winter.

Thanks for helping me out with info! I googled and googled but there really isnt much info available online about older (pre-90’s) vehicles.

If you don’t have much money stay away from any Chevy (S10?) or GMC small truck; they were very unreliable.

The Ford Ranger has a good reputation; cheap to fix, and long lived. In a recent long vehicle life article Consumer Reports has a 428,000 miles owner with a Ranger.

Both Toyota and Nissan small trucks, as well as Mazdas have a good reputation. As with every older vehicle, the most important thing is the maintenance history.

I would also stay away from any older diesel, any Volvo, Volkswagen and other expensive to maintain vehicle.

You’ll be better off with the Nissan or Toyota.

I used to buy only Fords. Bought a 1990 Ford Probe new in 1991. Complete POS. Bought a new 1993 Escort in 1994. Another POS. Bought a new Ranger in 1997. Another huge POS.

Then I saw the light!! Sold the Ranger a year later and I purchased a USED 1994 Nissan 4x4 pickup with 2.4L engine and 5spd manual transmission in 1998 with 48k miles on it. Bought it from the original owner. It’s been the best vehicle I’ve ever owned. I did recently replace the motor and transmission, but it was expected after 280k miles. Before the engine and trans swap, I never did a thing to that truck except regular maintenance.

My brother is the person who talked me into buying a foreign vehicle. He has owned Hondas since 1984 and thats all he’s ever driven. He used to laugh at me when my POS Ford would break down AGAIN. I finally took his advice and bought the Nissan truck and I have absolutely ZERO complaints. Bought a 1998 Honda Civic LX for my wife in 2001 with 24k miles and thats also been a great car. It now has 143k miles and all I’ve done is replace the timing belt at 105k miles. The Honda has NEVER broke. It’s always started. It gets 50mpg (highway) if you keep the engine under 3000RPM on the highway (thats no joke)

I wouldn’t waste your money on an American car of that vintage. You want an 80’s vintage. I will take this opportunity to remind you American car manufacturers had their LOWEST ratings in the 80’s and early 90’s. Don’t buy a Ranger – unless you want to lie on your back and work on it all the time.

I’ve owned several Nissan and Toyota small trucks since the early 80’s…BIG fan…Many of hundreds of thousand miles on those vehicles.

I do know a couple people who own Ford Rangers…and are very very happy with them. One guy I know has over 450k miles on it. He’s been saying he’ll probably have to buy a new one next year…been saying that for over 5 years now.

The serious issue with Nissan/Toyota of the 80’s is they turn to dust. They have poor rust protection. Make sure it is okay otherwise you bought junkyard fodder.

If you can find a Nissan or Toyota in decent shape in your area for a good price, go for it, but…

At least where I live, the market for old Toyotas in particular is absurd. I recently sold my old absolutely bare-bones, very rusty, very beat up '89 Toyota 4x4 with around 200k miles for 2 grand. If that had been any other kind of truck (except maybe a Nissan) it would have been a $500 truck.

There is definitely something too it, since especially the 4-cylinder 22RE Toyota trucks are remarkably reliable and get decent mileage. But Rangers and other mini-trucks aren’t that much worse and I’m really not convinced that there’s enough of a difference reliability or otherwise to justify the huge price difference. Especially considering that you are going to be able to buy a much newer Ranger, etc that is in much better condition than the Toyota that you could get for the same price. Also, the parts are flippin’ expensive for the Toyotas, and you’d better believe that if you’re buying a 1980’s vintage one it’s going to need at least some repairs.

I would stay away from the later Chevy S10/GMC S15’s, but the old ones with the single-point injection motors are reasonably decent trucks (although lousy off-road). There’s also the other oddball import trucks you can consider like the Isuzus, Mitsubishis (a.k.a. Dodge D50), and Mazdas all of which are decent, though they also have pricier parts.

If you’re going to tow anything substantial, I would definitely go for a full-size with a V8. There are some mini-trucks that come with big enough engines to do some very light towing, but these don’t really get much better mileage than a full-size so IMHO, what’s the point? A full-size diesel is probably overkill for a smallish travel trailer, and it will cost more to maintain.

I’d just establish what your budget is and see what the nicest truck you can buy with it. An important caveat to all of this discussion is that really by the time any vehicle gets this old, how it has been maintained and treated is far more important than what particular brand it is. Just get whatever you find checked over by a mechanic.

I’ve had two Toyotas, a 1979 and a 1989. Both were bought new. My '79 rotted out, but the junkyard man was still using it to haul parts around the yard the last time I checked. The '89 ran for 338,000 miles until it got totalled. It was still running great with no major work.

I ran into a fella who was washing his early-'90’s Toyota pickup and I asked him how much he’d take for it. He said he gets offers often…and it’s not for sale.

I miss my Toyota pickup. If my back wasn’t shot I’d probably get another.

I am a Toyota fan, to understate the issue. But, do not imagine a 20 or 30 year old Toyota, any model, is going to be repair free like a new one. Depending upon maintenance, and quality of any parts used over the years, there can be quite a variation between individual vehicles even greater than the difference between makes.

The Ranger is just a good a truck as the Nissan and Toyota.
Back in the 80s I worked for Nissan and I stayed very busy repairing those trucks.
Head gaskets, secondary ignition faults, etc. and one of the quirky faults; the abrupt locking of a manual transmission between 2 gears due to an improperly tightened mainshaft nut on the manual transmissions. This would lead to the truck staying right where it was at until it was dragged kicking and screaming onto a tow truck.)

When you’re dealing with 20 year old vehicles there is no right answer. It all depends on how it was driven and maintained.

It’s always “next year” with a lot of things, isn’t it? :stuck_out_tongue:

Road trips and 80’s anything does not mix unless you know how to fix and carry lots of tools. It adds adventure at least.

Can’t say much for suggestions of what to buy, but definately can suggest you stay away from S-10/S-15.

I had two S-10’s, both with the loud 2.5L motor. Both had plenty of room under the hood, and the older one was pretty easy to work on. Once they went to serpentine belts however, that changed.

The first, a hand me down 1985 was great until it pretty much self destructed around 200,000 miles (clutch rebuils around 175K, speedo quit working, fuel pump went our on highway/blew the fuse and left me stranded, failed emissions testing). Not bad for the era, but I am not inclned to get another.

I later cought a 1991 - sold it a few months later because I was allergic to something in it (I think the decomposing seat-stuffing - I had the same issue with my 1985) and it had this desire to randomly just not start and leave me stranded at the store or wherever I had gone. Before it could be fixed however, it usually would start if it sat for hours to days at a time. While I had AAA, I was dangerously close to using up my annual tow quota. Thanks to this POS.