Here are the latest Reader Qs – along with my answers:
I’m going to be retiring in a few years to the family farm in central VA, and saw your “What to Look for in a Drive it Forever Car”. Well, I want a drive-it-forever truck that can be maintained economically forever (at least forever as far as I’m going to be alive). You had mentioned in one of your other articles that getting a used vehicle with a small block chevy engine was a good thing as there are re-manufactured engines and transmissions available at a reasonable price, plus they contain a minimum of technology that can go wrong. So, what are some good candidates/years for Chevy, Ford, Toyota, etc in your opinion? I need/want 4WD by the way.
The key thing is to avoid any truck made recently. You want one without a direct-injected/turbocharged engine; without a transmission that will cost you $5,000 to replace if it breaks. One with a minimum of air bags and electronic systems.
So – how far back?
The ’90s through the early 2000s were a kind of golden age for vehicles generally. They were fuel injected, but port fuel (or TBI) injected. These systems are generally very trouble-free and easy to service. They had overdrive transmissions – but four or five-speed overdrive transmissions that were relatively simple, durable – and (if they failed) not cost-prohibitive to rebuild/replace.
They had air bags – but generally just two (maybe four, in some case). Not six or eight, as now. They tended to not have LCD touchscreens or climate control air conditioning and other expensive-to-fix electronics.
I personally really like the ’90s-era/through early 2000s GM 1500s; the older models have throttle-body (TBI) injected 350 V8s and these are as close to unkillable (and easy to revive if that ever happens) as it gets. They have four-speed overdrive automatics (or five-speed manuals) and minimal extraneous crap to break and cost you money.
The Ford F-150 with the 5.0/5.8 (302 and 351 V8) and the straight six is also a great choice, for the same reasons.
Nothing wrong with same-era Dodge trucks, either – except they have bodies and frames that seem to be more rust-prone. But that’s easier to fix than air bags!
If you are open to something smaller, the Nissan “truck” (not named) which later became the Frontier is a great choice, too – up to the 2004 models, after which they got bigger and more complicated. I have owned two of these and vouch for them personally.
The Toyota T100 is another good truck.
Just restrict your search to stuff built before the mid-2000s and you should be fine!
Hope this helps…