CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Should I take a chance?

I need a vehicle and I like driving my Uncle’s Ford Ranger PU Truck with a cap. I found one almost the same, except this is a year older, a '96 Ford Ranger with the extended cab. This was a roofers truck who probably carried a lot of weight & equipment on jobs, which is a concern. It is a 6 cylinder automatic with 157,000 miles on it. The body has some dents but no rust, Interior in good shape and I am waiting for more information on the maintenance records. It needs tires & a new radiator. The engine sounds smooth but I do detect a smell that I think is coming from the radiator. I priced a new radiator at approx.$300 dollars. I was already told by some people to stay away from these trucks as they have Engine problems. They are aking $1500 OBO, so I can probably get it for less. I am not sure what to do, my hsb is telling me to get a car but I really want a small truck. He says I will crash it in the winter because there is no weight in the back… among other things he doesn’t like about the truck. I figure it’s nothing a few bags of sand can’t cure. I would appreciate any advice. I should also mention that I probably have only 2 grand at the most to spend, which don’t buy you much these days. I would hate to have to turn around and put big repairs & more money into it soon after getting it. Thanks!

I would not worry about the engine so much (Ford builds good engines) but the part about needing tires and a radiator coupled with the fact it’s 12+ years old and well into the 6 digits on mileage would make me hesitate before wading into this one.

Considering it’s history as a roofer’s truck (and considering one square of shingles can weigh from 240 to 300 pounds odds are this truck has been doing some heavy hauling.

JMHO, but before even considering it I’d want a fairly lengthy test drive of at least 40 miles (forget that 2 mile hop, that means nothing) just to make sure there are no overheating issues or a pesky “low oil pressure light” flashing on at an idle along with making sure there are no transmission shifting issues.
Even if it drove out well I’d want to knock a chunk off because of the tires and radiator; at least 300 dollars.

It’s a well used vehicle and I’ve never seen a used vehicle yet that did not need something.

This is a $500 truck at best given its a commercial vehicle and has problems that you detect and likely many more. Hopefully getting it into road worth condition won’t exceed $1500 dollars.

I would look for a home owner’s small truck that has not had more than a few bags of mulch for load or bunch of leaves. Your prospect has been overloaded numerous times.

The company for which I work has been using Ranger pickups since they were first introduced. We’ve never had any trouble with the engines.

The vehicle you’re looking at has been used hard and put away wet. I suggest you look for a truck that has led an easier life. You could easily spend twice the asking price in a short time if there’s work needed.

2WD Rangers are not very good in snow, unless you put chains on the rear tires. Weight will help a LITTLE, but not much.

I think that would be a good price for this truck if it’s a 4wd, but if it’s a 2wd you might be able to find a nicer one for the money. I would also defintely have it checked out by a mechanic to confirm your diagnosis before you buy because a coolant-y smell could just as easily be a head gasket.

Contrary to what you’ve heard, Rangers are actually quite good little trucks. There were a few little issues with some of the engine and transmission combinations, but those were back in the mid-80’s model years-- they’ve been rock solid through the 90’s and on. They are an excellent value for your money especially in markets where the import trucks are heavily over-valued. I’d say the Toyotas are a little bit better, but you’ll pay twice as much for one this age and you’ll still probably pay more for a Nissan, Mitsubishi or an Isuzu even though IMHO the Ranger is just as nice of a truck of any of those.

If the roofer is selling it, it’s probably used up. Roofing material weighs a lot and most trades people run their trucks in to the ground before getting a new(er) one. Aside from that, there is really nothing wrong with Ford Rangers. I’d stick with with a 2WD model.

So, pickup yes, this particular pickup no. Keep looking and you should find one for that price that hasn’t been a commercial truck. By the way, Mazda B series pickups are the same trucks with different badges as the Ford Rangers.