Small landscaping vehicle

I am starting a native landscaping and ecological consulting company ( and I need a relatively small, fuel efficient vehicle to both work for long drives doing consulting work and shorter distances hauling landscaping material. I won’t have any largest equipment, the largest tools I will use will be weed whips and chain saws, but at times I will be carrying small trees, shrubs, soil, stone etc. Currently I own a Chevy Prism.

I have settled on two options. First sell my car and buy a Subaru Outback and a trailer. Second, keep my car and buy a small/mid-sized truck as a second vehicle (with a trailer).

At first I thought the truck option would be less expensive, but 4WD trucks, even used ones aren’t as cheap as I thought. Then there is the increased insurance costs for owning two vehicles (not to mention maintenance, decal’s etc.)

Anyone else been here? Any other vehicle options I’m missing? I am leaning towards the Subaru option for the one-vehicle simplicity and the image.

I would suggest a used Ford Ranger (2wd) with 4 cylinder engine. They get mileage in the middle 20’s and are dirt cheap due to excessive depreciation.

If winter is a concern buy four quality winter tires.

Have you considered an older Toyota Scion?
It’s boxy, but the flat-surface back end can carry quite a bit.

A base Range has LESS towing capacity then the Outback. Larger engines give more towing capacity but cost more and lower fuel efficiency. 2WD, I just don’t think it would be an option for some of the places I will work, especially off-road in the winter. In my experience RWD is totally useless off-road.

I don’t have any problems with my 2wd 4cyl Ranger and I am constantly on gas-well access roads and the always-bad-condition dirt roads for where I camp. Buy some snow tires in the winter.

The base Ranger may have less towing capacity then an Outback, but it will also cost much less. With the money you save rent something bigger when you need too.

Plus, how many times to you want to put cans of gas (for your chainsaw) into the back of the Outback? Also, do you plan on carrying a trailer behind you all of the time? I would much rather have a 2wd truck with a few shrubs or a couple yards of soil/mulch off of the road than an AWD vehicle pulling a trailer. A Ranger or other small truck will be much more useful for what you are doing.

So many people already have the dream of the vehicle they want in there heads before they post on this site and want everyone here to give them vindication. When the reply is “well this would be better” or “you don’t really need all of that” we get lots of “what about in this seldom happening instance?”

I hear what you are saying about having an idea in your head before hand. I am trying to get out of that rut, looking for better ideas then the Outback.

But really, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable in a vehicle that is only RWD. I have had too many bad experiences with crappy work trucks in the past getting stuck in cinders or snow or slipping on icy or even just wet pavement. Also, I should have mentioned that I am doing ecological restoration work. Which means I will spend a fair amount of time in the winter off in “remote” locations in southern Wisconsin cutting invasive brush, and I will have to drive on crappy gravel/dirt/snow roads to do that. I have driven my little Prism in some nasty conditions (see attached) very similar to those you described with your Ranger. It is amazing what you can do in a small car if you are careful, but there are many places I will need to go that I wouldn’t dare try with my car or a small RWD truck, they are just too easy to get stuck (though I agree proper tires make a huge difference).

No I’m not sure the outback is the right answer. Saw fuel can go on the roof rack and most/all of the towing will be on paved roads, but strangely the reviews I am reading are all over the place on the actual towing capacity. Light truck would be easier to work with, but I am not sure I could hall much in a Ranger then I could with a trailer and roof rack on my Prism. Certainly I would not to replace my prism with a ranger since they get no where near the fuel mileage.

I think that for now I will continue to apply the Prism to tasks it was not designed for with a cargo rack on the roof and a trailer behind when needed. I can probably make it through year one of my business like this, and then spend some time in late winter next year picking out a more reasonable vehicle. I am still open to more suggestions though.

A Toyota Tacoma sounds perfect for you. If you opt for a 4 cylinder engine it will be very good on gas in a 2wd configuration and not bad in 4wd either. It’s a superior vehicle to the Mazda B2300/Ford Ranger in build quality and reliability, though not in gas mileage where they are similar. Good resale too.

If it helps the image thing, I know a PHD candidate in Environmental Science who uses a Toyota Pickup as her sole vehicle :slight_smile: