Small (used) truck

Hi. I’m thinking of buying the smallest used truck possible. I basically need it to haul furniture, mulch, hardware and garden supplies, etc. This would be our family’s second (use only for above stated purposes) car so I’m ok with not great gas mileage and am more interested in reliability – I don’t want to spend a lot of money on repairs. I’m thinking an older truck since all of the more recent ones seem to be on steroids. Can anyone give me some recommendations for trucks that I should look for?

I would highly suggest a Ford Ranger. It has high depreciation(cheap price), okay repair record/reliability and suits your needs fine.

Forget Toyota they are overpriced and sometimes hyped unless the price is really good. If you are in New England that rot into dust.

Aren’t they really large though? I’ve only been driving for a few years and am scared of driving a big truck. I drive a Saturn right now. I thought something the size of the old Tacomas was something i would try. The big trucks make me nervous.

I think you are confusing the Ford Ranger with the Ford F-150. The Ranger is about the size of the Toyota Tacoma. Mazada makes a truck that is essentially the same as the Ford Ranger–I think is is the Mazda B-2000.

The Ford Ranger is a small truck, not as small as some, but pretty small. Not like an F150 which is probably what you are thinking of. I bought a '91 Isuzu pickup (no model name, just pickup) that is very basic and has been very reliable for 7 or 8 years now. Basically, it just gets used for moving stuff and the kind of things you mention.

What you should look for in your local paper is Isuzu pickups, Dadge Ram 50, Chevy S10, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, or Ford Ranger (Mazda “B” series trucks are the same as Ford Rangers). All are pretty small, though you should avoid “extra cab” or “extended cab” and 4WD if you want the smallest and most reliable version. You will mostly see 4WDs for sale, but if it doesn’t say, then it probably isn’t 4WD. Most have long or short bed versions, again, if it doesn’t say, it’s probably short bed. Mine has no power steering and a stick shift. You might want automatic and power steering if you are concerned about handling a pickup. Good luck.

Most of the compact trucks out there come in a 2wd version and a 4wd version. Even though the bodies on them are pretty much the same, the 4wd versions usually ride a lot higher, have bigger tires and a beefier suspension that very much gives them a “bigger” feel. The 2wd versions are usually pretty low to the ground and drive a lot like a car and, at least if you stick to the 4-cylinder, they usually get pretty good gas mileage. They’re sort of the modern version of the old “car-truck” like the El Caminos or Rancheros.

If you’re buying used, I would whole-heartedly agree with Andrew-J. The depreciation on 2wd Rangers usually makes them a bargain, plus they’re pretty nice trucks.

Smallest possible is the Subaru Brat. You can barely haul 2 small children let along bark mulch.

Or one of those strange Asian mini-trucks I’ve been seeing around here lately.

My cousin has a Nissan Frontier Crew Cab with the short bed (long bed available). It’s quite comfortable and can handle even unwieldy loads with the factory-installed tie-down system. Test drive one and see if you like it.

Consumer Reports Used Car Buyers’ Guide, available at your local bookstore, should be your best reference.

Personally I’ve had excellent luck with Toyotas, but you gotta choose based on what you can find available in your local area.

I agree with your comment that most new pickups, including Toyotas, are on steroids. Hopefully someone will begin to make true small trucks again soon.

A Ford Ranger is a decent choice. The older Toyotas and Nissans were great small trucks but are harder to find now and usually very rusty. They stopped making truly small trucks years ago, unfortunately. Stay away from S-10s or Sonomas, unless you enjoy endless repairs.

I would look for a 2003 Toyota Tacoma. Let’s look at a comparison of a used 2003 Toyota Tacoma and a used 2003 Ford Ranger:

2003 Toyota Tacoma:

Purchase Price: $8,787*
Average Cost Per Mile: $0.44
Total Cost of Ownership: $32,824*

2003 Ford Ranger:

Purchase Price: $6,183*
Average Cost Per Mile: $0.42
Total Cost of Ownership: $31,594*

*These are 5-year estimates (based on 15,000 miles per year).

So even though the Tacoma costs $2,604 more than the Ranger, the total cost of ownership is only $1,230 more. That is because you can expect the Tacoma to be more reliable. Sometimes things cost more because you get what you pay for. Also, in my opinion, the overall quality of the Tacoma is nicer.

I would cite the source of my data, but the web site has a competing car forum and I don’t want my post to be deleted.

It could be that the OP was thinking about pick-up trucks in the late 1960’s through the 1970’s. The highest trim line of the full-sized Ford pick-up truck was called the Ranger. The name was then revived for the compact pick-up truck sometime in the 1980’s. I think that the first Ford compact pick-up truck was called the Courier, a name borrowed from the Ford sedan delivery vehicle of the early 1950’s, essentially a Ford station wagon with steel panels instead of windows back of the front doors. GM and Chrysler are just as bad. A Pontiac station wagon in the 1950’s was a Safari. The Safari name was later used on the GMC minivans.

Now GM and Chrysler are naming their trucks after states–the Chevrolet Colorado and the Dodge Dakota. I suppose the colors offered on these trucks (red or blue) will depend on the upcoming election.

I know several people who own a Ford Ranger…and ALL have had GREAT experience with this vehicle.

Um, actually no. Since you don’t cite where it’s from, I can’t say for sure but practically every “cost of ownership” figure on a used car will include repairs, so the difference in reliability (which is probably minuscule) is already factored in.

I’ll admit the Tacoma is probably the slightly nicer truck, but you pay a lot for it. Plus your figure includes the slightly better gas mileage the Tacoma gets in the “cost per mile” figure and as this will be a secondary vehicle for the OP, that’s more or less financially irrelevant. They’ll be much better off with the Ranger IMHO.

The Chevy S-10 is even a couple hundred less than the Ranger in total cost to own. Ford and GM have done a better job with their trucks, especially their full size trucks, than with cars. They used to make a lot more money on trucks and that’s where their development money went. Until this year.

Subaru has not imported the Brat into the US since 1987, so it is not likely that there are many left on the road. Rust problems on Japanese cars from that era tended to take their toll after just a few years.

However, the OP might want to look at the Subaru Baja, which was discontinued a couple of years ago. While not a lot of them were made, they are very solid vehicles and can carry garden supplies or a small piece of furniture with no problem. The Baja was essentially a stretched version of an Outback wagon with an open cargo area.

I suppose I can cite the source in a separate post so the original won’t get flagged as inappropriate. The figures came from

4 cylinder pick-ups are very hard to find if you live within 1000 miles of the Mexican border. These trucks are in high demand in Mexico since they can be imported without paying much duty…A 2wd stick shift compact truck are TREASURED in Mexico so don’t expect to find any bargains in the U.S. There is a regular network of Mexican dealers that gathers these trucks up and exports them…

My friend has a Ford Ranger. He carries all kinds of fluids in it because of all the leaks. I suppose it could just be a rare exception though.