Reader Question: New Old Truck Recommend?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

David asks: I have a 1997 Nissan pickup truck.  It has nearly 395,000 miles on the engine.  I need to replace the truck with something of similar size but fewer miles. I use it for house painting and power washing. I looked at a 1997 Ford Ranger the other night with 254,000 miles on it.  My mechanic told me to avoid it because everything starts going wrong with Ford Rangers with that many miles. Any recommendations on what year, kind, type, brand of truck I should be looking for?

My reply: If the Ranger has the 2.3 liter four/manual/2WD combo and was well-maintained, it might not be a bad choice. Apparently, models with the V6/automatic are less durable – and so, less desirable.

You got nearly 400,000 miles out of your ’97 – which is proof of the soundness of these little Nissan pick-ups. I can vouch for them, too – as I own one (2002) and have owned another (1998) and both were (and are) great trucks that never gave me any serious trouble. Finding another of these could be the thing to do.

The Toyota Tacoma is another great little truck, by the way. And you might also be open to considering a full-size (1500) pick-up from the late ’80s-through-the-mid-late’90s. These are not that big – relative to the new 1500s – and they were built to last (unlike the new trucks). My favorite of the lot is the C/K1500 Chevy with the 305/350 and TBI – with the Ford F150 with the inline six or small V8 a close number two.

It may also be well-worth putting a new/rebuilt/good used engine in your ’97, if the rest of the truck is basically sound.

Especially in view of the crazy prices used trucks are commanding.

Let’s say/assume your ’97 is sound – other than its engine. Would it make sense to spend say $5k on a new engine and having the tranny gone through/rebuilt? Parts and labor? (I priced a new/rebuilt four cylinder engine for my ’02, which is the same basic truck as your ’97 – and it’s about $2k for the engine; anyone who can do brake work can install an engine, given patience and some time).

You’d probably be able to do both for less than $5k – and now your truck should be good to go for another ten years or so, easily.

Keep us posted!

. . .

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