Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Ernest asks: You have said the sweet spot for a used vehicle is about 10 years old. What medium truck and what configuration do you recommend for purchase since the rulers are going to make gas and diesel triple the cost?
My reply: There are only a handful of choice that fit this bill but the standouts are the Toyota Tacoma, the Nissan Frontier and the Honda Ridgeline – which isn’t technically a truck because it’s not built on a rear-drive layout and only has AWD (not 4WD, with a two-speed transfer case and 4WD Low range gearing) but has the body – and the bed – to meet most “truck” needs.
As far as the configuration: That is a subjective and so a decision for you to make. Do you need four full-size doors, for instance – i.e., a crew or quad cab configuration? Or is a regular/extended cab plenty? Bed length is usually another variable. In the size class we’re discussing, you generally have the option of a five or six foot bed.
I’m assuming, of course, that by “medium” truck you mean medium (mid) sized. If you meant a 2500 series full-sized truck (in between a 1500 “light” truck and a 3500/4500 series “heavy” truck) then I’d steer you toward either a Chevy Silverado or a Ram 2500 (especially if you’re willing to consider a slightly older Ram with the mechanically injected Cummins diesel).
Chevy and Ram V8s are generally very good – in that they are very long-term durable OHV designs that can take hard work for a long time without failing and even showing evidence of wear. I know people with 250,000-plus miles on their pickups; the main thing that takes them off the road eventually tends to be rust rather than mechanical issues.
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Go with a Frontier. They’re not as popular as the Tacoma, so used prices are pretty reasonable. Early ones had trouble with brakes and rear ends, then up to I think 2009 they had issues with bad transmission coolers, where the coolant would mix with the tranny fluid and cook the tranny. After 09 though, they’re pretty much bullet proof, and a hell of a lot cheaper than any other truck. Also, pretty simple vehicle. Not a lot of electronics, gizmos or complicated stuff. Just a basic truck the way they were meant to be. That’s my 2 cents.
I’d say you have to consider what you’re going to do with that truck. If you really want a workhorse you need to go back to 98 where the last of the heavy 1500 trucks were built or even go to a 3500.
While the dashes in the Rams of that year literally collapsed into a pile of crud, you can find good dashes or maybe an aftermarket. I had a friend that saw a 98 Ram at auction and being a mechanic, he noticed immediately the 4 wheel drive was one of the few that had lockers front and rear and he stole it for $1200. It was gas but it ran good and when you needed 4wheel drive you had actual 4WD instead of 2 axle drive. It got decent mileage too with no niggling problems of this and that. Oh, eventually you’ll replace the alternator and water pump but that goes without saying on any brand. My 2000 Z71 only got a little less than 18 years on the original alternator. My 93 Turbo Diesel needed a new one 10 years down the road. The a/c compressor had an unusual failure of having the center gasket between the front and back just disintegrate one day. I stopped with it freezing me out and started it later with no cooling at all.
Those 90’s pickups are easily repaired and used parts aren’t hard to find, often it’s that one sitting out in the pasture someone tortured the engine or transmission to death or worked them to death. Generally if you’re making a living with a pickup that negates using a small one but hauling the lawn mower and something less than heavy trailers eric is mostly correct. Even back in the 90’s I’d avoid an S 10 like the plague it was. If you want to remove everything that makes them go and replace it with a 383 and a 700R4 you might have the fastest ride in town but you won’t need a big bumper but maybe a big roll cage. I never see a Ridgeline these days. The sold well here but like most Asian pickups, we’re up to the heat and speeds to stay out of the way.
I saw another old man at the store recently with a 10 or more year old Chevy K2500 with 400,000 miles. I don’t think you’ll find another engine that will do that. I told him my experience of using Amsoil to extend engine and transmission life. To my surprise he said he used Amsoil a lot when he was racing. He said his small block Chevy engines would go and go on Amsoil. He said his brother who always ran big blocks was blowing up one after the other. A sure sign he was trying to get too many revs out of it and this guy agreed.