Latest Reader Question (Feb. 10, 2018)

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Here is the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Scott asks: What type of used truck would you recommend? The main use would be for hauling gardening supplies and other hobby/household tasks in this precarious world. Perhaps pulling a small trailer. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

My reply: To narrow this down a little, let’s consider a few factors such as whether you need a full size (e.g., 1500 series) truck such as a Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, Nissan Titan or Toyota Tundra . . . or a smaller (compact or mid-sized) truck such as a Nissan Frontier (20005-up models are mid-sized; older models – like my 2002 – are compact) or Ford Ranger (compact) or Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon (mid-sized) and so on.

Your choice will probably come down to how much stuff you need to haul in one load at one time. A 1500 series pick-up with an eight-foot bed not only has more room (such as for a laying a 4×8 sheet of OSB flat in the bed) it has more load capacity; i.e., you can put more weight in the bed. The 1500 will have heavier-duty underpinnings and will also have a bigger/stronger engine, heavier duty transmission, etc.

It is also easier to find a 1500 series truck with an eight foot bed; most mid-sized and compact trucks have “short” beds – especially if they have extended/crew cabs.

If your trailer is 3,500 lbs. or less, a compact or mid-sized truck should be able to handle it. If you need to pull more weight, you will probably need a 1500. Technically, my ’02 Frontier is rated to pull as much as 3,500 lbs., but the four cylinder engine (a V6 was available) is on the marginal side for towing anything heavier than about 1,500 lbs.

The next big issue is whether you need – or just want – 4WD.

I used to have a 4WD Frontier ( a ’98) essentially identical to my current (’02) which is 2WD. While 4WD is certainly nice to have every now and then, I find I can easily live without it. The upside is a 2WD truck will probably cost you much less than an otherwise similar truck with 4WD. The downside, of course, is that the 2WD truck will be next to useless on snow days and even on wet grass – which could be an issue for the uses you have in mind.

As far as specific recommendations:

I really like – and would consider buying, if I were looking – the Toyota Tacoma with the V6 and either 2WD or 4WD, if you are leaning toward a mid-sized truck. These are very rugged, capable trucks and were/are offered in a wide variety of configurations. Excellent rep for durability and reliability.

I am also a big fan of the 2004 and prior Nissan Frontier (obviously) and recommend this model if you are interested in a compact-sized truck. If you go back to model year 2000 or before, you can get 4WD with the four cylinder engine and the regular cab/long bed configuration. This is a combo that’s impossible to find in the newer trucks.

Full-size trucks: I think the Chevy Silverado is the pick of the litter due to its excellent drivetrains (especially its overhead valve V8s, as opposed to Ford’s OHC V8s) and its V6 that is basically a V8 less two cylinders. Also, GM’s automatic transmissions are probably the best in terms of operation/reliability/durability – and the bodies are less prone to rust.

Dodge Rams are basically good trucks but the bodies appear to be prone to rust sooner and “little things” such as trim and paint quality seem not as good as the others.

Ford trucks are good trucks overall but their 4.6/5.4 V8s are a bit down on power (torque) vs. the GM and Dodge V8s and also much more complex, being OHC designs. When they need to be fixed, the fix is often expensive. I would never consider buying one of the recent F-150s with any of the turbocharged engines or the aluminum body.

The Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra are both good choices, with the main detraction being limited cab/bed choices vs. the domestic 1500s. It will probably be hard to find a regular cab version with an eight foot bed. But they both come with wonderful V8s, standard.

Hope this is helpful – and please let us know what you end up with!

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