What kind of pickup truck or vehicle to get for hauling materials



I’d like some advice as to what type of vehicle I should get. I’m looking for a used ? pickup truck (van? SOMEthing) for hauling materials and tools. Means getting wood, shingles, windows, sinks, toilets, flooring - whatever the situation calls for, and to carry the associated tools - saws, drills, toolbox, etc.

I think that anything with the newer computerized stuff in it would cost a LOT to fix if anything went wrong, so I’m thinking of getting an OLDER older truck that I can maybe fix myself if anything goes wrong with it (to the extent I can fix things myself.) However, some people think I’m wrong about that theory. They say get something newer that may cost more, but has everything I would want to suit my needs and hopefully nothing would go wrong with it for a while.

On the “get newer, better” side is going to a dealer or private seller and getting either something brand new or a few years older model, which would cost probably anywhere from $10-12K on up. On the “get older” side is looking for something in the $1500-$4000 range.

Here’s an example of a “newer” choice: 2002 loaded Ford F-150 Lariat Super Cab 5.4 liter 4 door with 85 or 86K miles (?) for $14K that has everything I could possibly want, and some things I don’t really need, but a luxury to have (like the 10 cd changer, leather seats.) Features: all leather interior; domed ? cap - higher in the center -(to protect materials/tools); hood racks (for ladders); A/C; diamond steel bolted-in toolbox runs width of back; bedliner; tow package; 2 different hitches (for towing trailer if needed); power everything; 4x4 off road package; all wheel drive; 10 cd player; keypad entry; past year new tires, brakes and a new battery (as of today, in fact); no rust, one small dent in back; no accidents; oil changes every 3-4K miles, all receipts kept for repairs, etc. Unfortunately, $14K is a lot for me, but it DOES have everything I could possibly need. It’s also a Ford, and I’m told by a number of people that Fords aren’t any good, they break down a lot, and with all the power and computer stuff in it I couldn’t really work on it myself.

Then there’s 4 or 5 pickups in the $1500-$4000 range that I haven’t seen yet, but they’re not Fords. Chevys, mostly. Obviously they don’t have anything like the more expensive newer ones, but at least they have a bed to put materials in and I could probably work on them myself, which I think would be cheaper even if stuff went wrong with it regularly (hopefully not.)

I’m 24 and basically just starting out with trying to do side jobs to make some money to work my way up, but I need something to carry materials and tools so I can get a better truck and equipment down the road, and I just don’t know which way to go. I’d have to get a loan for the newer vehicles and it would mean a real tight budget, but could probably come up with the $$ for the older models and still be able to pay for food and rent :slight_smile:

If anyone has any suggestions for me as to what kind of vehicle to get and what to look for in an older one, I’d very much appreciate it.


Your going to have to a get very old and likely tired pickup if you want to avoid a computer.

Modern vehicles are significantly more reliable and fuel efficient vs their old counterparts.

The money you save fixing it yourself will be consumed in fuel since non-computer vehicles get very poor mileage.


You can buy a nice full size, 2wd pickup or van for 4k. The early to mid 90’s vintage full size Chevy’s are nice because most of them were throttle body fuel injection, very easy to work on, very reliable, and there is an abundance of new and used parts for them. Buy a Hayne’s manual when you buy the truck ($18.00) and you’ll be able to fix most things yourself on these trucks.


The difference in fuel ecomomy between a carb and EFI on full size trucks is small.

I have an 86 fullsize Blazer with a 350 engine that used to average 13mpg with a properly tuned carb. I converted the truck to fuel injection and now I average 14mpg. Not much difference.

Weight, gearing and engine size play a larger roll in fuel ecomomy.


Skip the bells and whistles trucks. A full size pick-up with a tonneau cover is way to go,or a van.


My advice is look for a 2WD pickup or cargo van. You will find the pickups to be scarce, but cheaper than 4WD and less likely to need expensive service. The 2WD versions often have a higher tow rating than 4WD. If you can find a manual transmission, it will be even cheaper.
I think just starting out you want to stay out of debt, but buy the newest/best condition van or truck you can afford without borrowing.

Nice thing about Electronic Fuel Injection is they almost always start and run. The kinds of things you can work on yourself, like brakes, oil changes, changing out plugs, etc. are still doable on newer trucks. You just won’t be able to rebuild a carburetor, and won’t need to. That’s a good thing.

In general, vans are cheaper to buy used than pickups, 2WD pickups are cheaper than 4WD pickups, and manual trannys are cheaper than autos. You won’t find a manual tranny in a full sized van (I don’t think) but plenty of pickups have them. A full sized van will have as much tow rating as a pickup. A van has locked space to store your tools and equipment.

I hope this helps.


Thanks for all advice. Any other recommendations or comments are appreciated.


Considering money is a factor and you’re wanting to avoid complexity and do repair work yourself, then I would advise that you avoid the bells and whistles truck.
Keypad entry, 10 CD changer, and leather seats, etc. just means more to go wrong and is irrelevant to using the truck to earn money IMHO.

I disagree that Ford trucks are bad. Here in OK farm country they’re all over the place and see some hard use in very dusty conditions, along with high miles. If the trucks were bad then I guarantee you that farmers would not be buying them in droves. In fact, when driving by the local Ford dealer here all you will see are pickups on the front row with maybe half a dozen Mustangs or Lincolns. “Normal cars” are consigned to the rear. :slight_smile:

Generally, the newer the vehicle the more expensive it is to repair also. A nice 15 or 20 year old truck is usually much cheaper to keep going and 4 grand should buy a pretty decent one.
The key, as always, is not getting in a hurry and research, research, research.
Find a truck some elderly old man is selling and you can figure it’s probably been babied.

There’s an old retired farmer about 2 blocks from me (he’s about 95) and this guy is STILL driving 2 vehicles he bought brand new; a 65 Chevy BelAir and a 69 GMC pickup. He’s on the road every day with that GMC in spite of his age and the fact he has enough money to go buy a dozen new ones if he chose to.


A van with a couple windows on the right side will help you back out of parking spaces. An 02 E-150 should do. It has comfortable seats and runs great with the 4.6 engine. A van will keep the rain off your stuff.


I think that anything with the newer computerized stuff in it would cost a LOT to fix if anything went wrong

Maybe maybe not. Modern computer equipment is reliable and it can be cheaper to fix since it likes to tell the mechanic what needs fixing. That said most modern vehicles can cost more to maintain and repair, but much of that is due to new features, convenience, pollution and safety.

I would not blame the computers.

I would also consider that as time goes on fewer mechanics with experience with the older mechanical systems are going to be available .


I’ve lately come around to the opinion that computerized fuel injection is more reliable and more efficient and not so bad to fix, but still…

Over the years I’ve owned 3 old 1970’s full-size american 2wd pickups I bought for prices ranging from $300 to $700 and I never had any major issues with them. The best one was actually the $300 one, a 1972 3/4 ton dodge with a 360. I sold it because it sucked the gas and I didn’t really like the automatic, but it was a sweet truck. The last one, I still own, was a '76 chevy that’s absolutely bare-bones-- 250 engine, 3spd, rubber floors, no radio, metal plug where the cigarette lighter goes. I’ve owned it for two years, and put maybe 20k miles on it and I’ve done nothing but changing the oil and I changed the plugs when I got it.

Anyways, perhaps its a regional thing (I’m in western Montana), but there’s a lot of cheap highly functional 1970-85 pickups for sale here for under $1000 bucks. Based on my anecdotal evidence, it seems to me that the full-size pickups are a better bet than other 25-35 year old cars because they’re built with heavier parts and are simpler mechanically.

Another possibly regional thing is that around here you see tons of old forest service trucks. You can get a good well-maintained 10-year old 2wd pickup for about 2,000 bucks. If you’re lucky you get a radio and you can get it in any color you want as long as its bright green!

Also, regarding the Fords, I noticed that the 30-year old fords around here seem to sell for about twice as much as the 30-year old Chevys and Dodges. I attribute this to the fact that there’s more country songs about old Ford trucks than the other makes.


Get an “older” truck or van that you buy for cash. If you are starting up your own business, thats one less payment to keep up with, and you dont have to worry about beating it up, cause it probably will be already.

Maybe a van would be nice though, as you could build your own interior and maybe have tools and stuff accessible in the side door, and use the back doors for your project materials.

Then when you start making money on your projects and get a steady income from it, you can consider upgrading your ride…

Also, if your ride is too nice, customers will think that you charge too much, so spend the money you earn on a second car instead :wink:


For about $200 or a little more, you can buy a trailer kit with a capacity of 750 lbs. I have overloaded mine to 2000 lbs for short distances and one time even more except it blew a tire.

I have hauled a lot of things with my trailer including lumber, drywall, plywood, kitchen cabinets, concrete blocks, riding lawnmower, a motorcycle, refrigerator and more.

Another advantage although the trailer bed is 8 feet long, you can haul some pretty long lumber extending out the front about 3 feet and out the back whatever.
A pickup does not allow extending lumber from the front of the bed.

Yet another advantage of the trailer is that the bed is very low compared to a pickup so loading involves minimal lifting.

Use your car; install a trailer hitch for a hundred bucks or so, buy the trailer and you are good to go for less than $400. This will get you going until later when you might want to afford a pickup.


The mini trailer will also only cost a fraction to title, renew, and insure. I’m almost ready to sell my $100 79 Dodge 2wd pickup . . . the registration alone is $58 in PA., insurance is an added $250 to my base policy, and I only use it to drive to Home Depot once or twice a month, which is less than 5 miles from my house. Last year I put 600 miles on the truck. The other side of this is that I absolutely love to park this beast next to the $35k trucks at Home Depot (with their bed-liners and tonneau covers) who haul their stuff in a little trailer attached to the truck to avoid scratching the new truck bed. Rocketman