The Affordable Almost Full-Sized Truck We Can’t Buy

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Here’s a weird thing.

Ford sells – in Europe – a regular cab version of the mid-sized Ranger pick-up you can only buy in crew cab form here, which is why the latter’s only available with a short (five foot) bed here. Over there – in Europe – the regular cab Ranger comes standard with an almost eight-foot bed

And here’s the interesting thing.

A “mid-sized” regular cab Ranger with an almost-eight-foot bed (7.6 feet, to be exact) is almost exactly the same size as a full-size, regular cab pick-up with an eight foot bed used to be back in the ’90s and into the early 2000s, even – before “full size” got super-sized, as they are now.

A look at the specs tells the tale.

In 1990, a full-sized, regular cab F-150 with an eight foot bed was 210.2 inches long and rode on a 133 inch wheelbase. It weighed 4,118 lbs. and was 69.9 inches tall. In 2024, a “mid-sized” Ranger is 210.6 inches long, rides on a 128.7 inch wheelbase, weighs 4,203 lbs. and stands 73.9 inches tall.

So – no – you’re not imaging things.

Today’s “mid-sized” trucks are about the same-sized as full-sized trucks used to be. They seem bigger – due to their jacked-up ride height and bed walls and blunderbuss styling.

But they’re less practical. The full-sized – by 1990’s standards – ’24 Ranger can’t carry very much in its five-foot bed, which is smaller than the six-foot beds that used to be standard in compact-sized trucks, such as the previous generation Ranger, which you can’t buy here anymore, either.

And there’s probably a reason for that, too.

It is to push those who need a full-sized truck’s bed into a super-sized “full-size” truck. These being the only new trucks that are still available with eight-foot beds.

Excepting the European Ranger with the regular cab and the almost-eight-foot bed you can’t get here, either. This one is also as long as a 1990 F-150. And its 7.6 foot long bed is effectively an eight foot bed.

But why is Ford selling it over there – and not here?

For two reasons, one of them already mentioned. The first is that Ford wants Americans to buy super-sized trucks like the current F-150, which is 231.7 inches long and rides on a 145.4 inch wheelbase. Probably because it stickers for $36,570 to start – and typically “transacts” for closer to $50k when optioned out. In other words, there’s more money to be made selling – and financing – “$50k (and up) super-sized trucks than there is to be made selling “mid-sized” trucks that are the same size as the full-size trucks of the ’90s that cost buyers less and so generate less profit for Ford.

And it’s not just Ford; Toyota does the same with the “mid-sized” Tacoma that’s a big as a Tundra used to be, just as Chevy does the same with the “mid-sized” Canyon that’s as big as a full-sized Silverado 1500 used to be.

Might as well buy the Tundra. Assuming you need the bed rather than the cab.

Okay, but why does Ford offer what amounts to a full-sized (by ’90s standards) version of the Ranger, with an almost full-sized bed, in Europe – but not here?

Probably because super-sized trucks are a harder sell over there.

Europe is a place where extortionate gas taxes have made filling up the 36 gallon tank of a super-sized truck such as the ’24 F-150 something very few Europeans can afford – on top of what it costs to buy the truck, itself. The current (January, 2024) EU average cost of a gallon of gas is just shy of $8.

That times 36 equals just shy of $300 for one fill-up.

And that tells you why not many Europeans are driving around in super-sized trucks, as Americans commonly do. Americans can finance the $50k cost of the truck itself, even if they can’t really afford it. But there’s no financing almost-$8-per-gallon gas. If you can’t pay for it each time you fill up – or at the end of the month, when your credit card bill arrives – you can’t pretend you can afford it.

But there are lots of Europeans who do need a useful truck. As well as one they can still afford to buy – and feed. The almost-full-sized Ranger with the regular cab and the nearly eight-foot bed fits that bill. It is also priced about $2k less than the crew-cab (and short-bed) only Ranger that’s the only Ranger you can buy here.

Oh, yes. Almost forgot.

There’s one other thing Ford is selling over there that it won’t over here. This time, because it can’t . That thing being the European-spec regular cab Ranger’s 2.0 liter diesel engine. The crew cab (and short-bed) only Ranger that’s the only Ranger Americans are allowed to buy comes only with a 2.3 liter turbocharged gas-burning engine. One that doesn’t get especially good gas mileage (21 city, 25 highway). This is about the same mileage you’d have gotten out of a ’90s-era full-sized truck with a six – or even a V8.

The European-spec diesel powered Ranger gets much better mileage – but it’s not compliant with the EPA’s current emissions regime, which imposes standards so extreme that it is effectively impossible to offer a diesel engine in a vehicle sold in America, trucks included. The measures necessary to achieve compliance add so much cost (and also reduce efficiency while decreasing reliability) that a compliant diesel isn’t appealing to buyers, who can’t afford it anyhow.

In this regard, note that Chevy has stopped offering the diesel engine that used to be available with the Canyon and Colorado “mid-sized” trucks that are also as full-sized as trucks used to be back in the ’90s.

The few that remain available cost so much – in order to be compliant – that they’re not worth buying. And that’s why they’re no longer worth offering . . . here, that is.

It’s a shame we can’t buy a nearly full-sized truck with a nearly full-sized bed with a standard diesel engine for less than it costs to buy a “mid-sized” truck with a bed that’s smaller than a compact truck’s bed and a gas-guzzling gas engine.

And now you know why.

. . .

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41 COMMENTS

  1. Super-sized trucks are not popular in Europe not only because of high gas, but also because of lack of space. Try parking a huge truck in a European city. Everything is teeny-weeny in Europe because of that.

    • spent some time in Amsterdam, years ago.
      The ‘trucks’ there were about the size of an electric kiddie car you might see in the yard next door.

  2. I want a reliable, low-cost, no-frills, 2-seater, *used* truck. What do I look for? I want at least a 6′ bed but it doesn’t have to be bigger than that and I just want it to lug around random shit from Lowes or to the dump, etc. Maybe the occasional piece of furniture or appliance or whatever.

    • I can only speak from personal experience. Both of my daughters bought, as their first vehicle, used pickup trucks. My oldest daughter “inherited” grandpa’s 1994 Dodge Dakota with the Magnum V6. It’s an extended cab with a long bed (6ft?). It had low miles (120,000 or so) for it’s age. It’s been relatively low maintenance and reliable for her.

      I helped my younger daughter to find a used Dodge Ram 1500 extended cab 4×4 for $8000. Again, well taken care of and low miles for its age. It too has been a great truck so far.

      I think the main thing is to find a used truck that’s been well loved (one owner). I’m sure there are 2 seaters out there in good condition like Ford Rangers or Dodge Dakotas.

    • Look for a ford ranger, chevy s10 or nissan hardbody made any time from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Toyota and Mazda had little trucks too. I’d focus on either the ford or the chevy (for the ease of finding parts).

      • Ditto that, Joe –

        I currently own an ’02 Nissan Frontier and used to own a ’98 (same basic truck). They are superb little units that are extremely reliable, very long-lived, easy to service and rarely need service. I have close to 150k on my ’02 and it runs as well as it did when I bought it some 15 years ago when it had 50,000-ish miles on it. These trucks regularly go 250k before they need major engine/drivetrain work.

      • Avoid the S-10 with the 2.2L four cylinder engine. I went thru 3 engines in the 300k miles that I had my truck. The 4.3L six, with a 5 speed, gets damn near the same MPG’s b/c it doesn’t have to work so hard! At 70mph, I was turning 3000rpm’s, so gas mileage was not that great for how small the engine was.

    • 1. Get a trailer hitch for the biggest sturdiest vehicle you own.
      2. Buy an 8 or 10 foot tailer with short/collapsible/removable walls and a drop tailgate. Add brakes if needed.
      3. Problem solved and much cheaper than buying a pickup truck for “occasional use”.

      I’ve done this for decades and saved major bux

  3. I had to laugh at the posted pic of the Ford Truck and the guy with the Stihl chainsaw, looks like the 066, now the 660. Having been a wood cutter as a profession, I can tell you the quickest way to destroy a new truck is to take it wood cutting. You have to be a fool to take a new truck off road into the woods. Take 10 grand off the value the first time you chunk some heavy rounds into the bed. Wood getting with a modern truck is like taking a sledge hammer to it.

    Trucks are way the hell overpriced. Sales are way down, year after year Amerikans are choosing not to buy new:

    Imagine a red line sloping down toward zero in this FRED chart of Domestic Auto production: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/DAUPSA

    Production is falling with the population rising, the situation is comical, the government is spending trillions on war, wasting huge sums blowing up expensive hardware while domestic production suffers. We are being screwed royal.

    Biden just blew over 200 BILLION on Ukraine, for what? It would of been cheaper to take all that military hardware and dumped it in the center of the Atlantic than ship it to the front line. What did the demon Biden achieve?

    500,000 dead Ukrainian boys

    2.3 million wounded

    14 million (half of Ukraine) fled

    That is what the Jewish control of Amerika just did to Ukraine, they destroyed it, yet that gay demon Jew Zelensky still lives, no one gave him the Ceaușescu treatment, up against the wall and shot dead by his own army.

  4. Being a Mopar man, if Chrysler (Stellantis?) chose to build another Dakota, I would buy one in a minute.
    Chrysler (Stellantis?)…are you listening?

  5. I think a big part of the reason trucks are so big is because of all the crash test safety aspects going into their design. For example, my F-150 has at least 24″ from the front bumper to the front of the engine. All of that room to absorb a front end collision, I guess. I mean, it’s a lottttt of space. Engine is crammed all the way back to inside where the windshield comes down. Also, lots of distance from the outer skin of the door to the inner skin of the door trim. It pisses me off how damn high these trucks are. They all need to have running boards installed just to get in teh damn cab. I really do miss my ’02 S-10 in that regard. It was very easy to get in and out of the cab, and to put stuff in the bed. Every once in a while I will see an old Tacoma 2wd that has a really low bed height and be somewhat jealous.

  6. It still amazes me that regular people are able to afford any new pickup available in the U.S. market in 2024, especially considering that there are no inexpensive bare-bones offerings now. I earn above-average income (and live a fairly simple lifestyle) and there is no way I could reasonably afford such a new truck. I simply don’t see this market as being sustainable; unless you’re quite well off, buying such a new truck for regular people means having to pay insanely high payments for many years. Again, I don’t see how this is sustainable; I’d imagine something is going to have to “give”, such as one or more manufacturers eventually offering much simpler “work truck”-type of trucks

    • Totally agree. We would love to replace our 17 year old F-150 King Ranch (330K miles), but when I look at what it would cost to replace it, I’m resigned that it may be our last truck. It runs and drives like new, so that may not be such a bad thing. Like you, we are at an income level where we would expect to be able to buy a decent vehicle. Can’t imagine dropping $90K on one though.

  7. I picked up my Ford Maverick a few weeks ago which is the smallest truck Ford sells. It barely fit in my garage – in fact it’s an inch longer than the 2016 Chrysler 300 I had! Case in point of how ridiculously large pickup trucks have become.

  8. Nice looking truck…. too bad Americans will never afford one. But maybe if Traitor Joe can work it out the illegals can have one each to tour the country and throw popcorn to the poor natives.

    With their free debit cards, free lodging, free food and free medical that even US vets don’t get.The 53 million free fed bucks Traitor Joe just gave NYC (with moar to come) they are truly living the dream true Americans can only dream about when high on fentanyl. The IRS has just transferred 4000 more goons to pick what’s left on the citizens carcass.

    • ‘free debit cards, free lodging, free food and free medical that even US vets don’t get.’ — ken

      I hear you, ken. But those bennies for migrants are pocket change compared to what happened in the Senate today, on the so-called national security supplemental bill (HR 815).

      The ridiculous border proposals (5,000 migrants a day, okay!) were stripped from the bill. Now it’s just a straight-up giveaway of $60 billion to the Ukies; $16 billion for Israel; $10 billion for ‘war victims’; and on and on, pork out the wazoo. By a 67-32 cloture vote an hour ago, the Senate now proceeds to debate and entertain amendments to the bill.

      Chuck the Schmuck Schumer was beaming with glee as he announced the plan to finalize this $100 million shakedown. The only group which gets nothing from this bill are actual, you know, Americans. Who cares about them? They are our witless tax cattle — born to serve.

    • 2042. The invader proudly brags to its grandkids :

      “I had to walk all d way from Columbia through dangerous yungle then Honduras Nicaraugua El Salvador and mayhicoh to Border Salvatione. Then I brazenly conquistadored my way against all laws and odds across de Rio grandio acrossa de lazy river. . .to estados uneedus. I know I was unwelcome, despised and that made me mucho mora macho. Then I scammed every last thing I get outa resident free (base) I mean shit and moved in like I own the place.”

      As grandkids eyes sparkle with delite.

      Just my magination runnin away with me. . . .

  9. Interesting about the Europeans, since they have a tradition of making excellent automobiles of all sizes. My dad hated American cars of the day since they were huge and handled like a wheelbarrow. He much prefered any european car, say like a Peugeot, Renault, BMW, Jaguar, etc. It didn’t matter. They were smaller, more maneuverable, etc.

    Interesting about the UK. The only good thing I would say about that is it keeps the roads free of trucks and their excesses. Personally, I’m not a fan of trucks, although it is anyones choice to own one or not. I think the truck craze which took off in the 1980s played a part in eroding car culture here.

    I like the fact that europeans still drive cars with stick shifts. Americans are lazy in that way.

  10. “And its 7.6 foot long bed is effectively an eight foot bed.”

    I’d have to disagree here. A full sheet of plywood is still 4 ft by 8 ft. Which is why I bought a couple of long-bed, regular cab F150s in my career. Shoot, I bought the first one new (!) in 1992, when it was actually affordable … as I recall, I gave about $13K for it. Admittedly, a very basic truck: 5-speed on the floor, inline six-cylinder, crank-operated windows. But a full sheet of plywood would rest flat on the bed, and fit between the wheel wells, too. It had two gas tanks, too, with a switch to go from one to the other. No doubt, they had their reasons for that, but it always bothered me a little bit, from an engineering standpoint.

    I’m driving a ’96 Ranger now, with the extended cab (two miniature fold-down jumpseats behind the two real seats), and the painfully short bed. At my age, I really never have occasion to buy a full sheet of plywood any more, so it gets done what I need done.

    • The difference, of course, is you can’t close the tailgate on a full sheet of plywood. So if you can carry that 8 foot sheet with the tailgate down on a 5.5 or 6 foot bed, why go for the 7.6 foot one? Seems like a miss to me. Most of my construction projects involve a few sheets and or around 20 studs, so a short box suffices and for long stuff there are trailers.

  11. Truck advertising is based on numbers, the biggest, the best, the most, the highest. Madison Avenue sells trucks by the numbers, the voiceover telling you all the numbers and how great they are against the backdrop of box canyons and fording streams and yet somehow the truck never gets muddy.

    Most people have no idea what any of these numbers translate to in the real world. The most cargo hauling, most ground clearance, etc (and yet somehow the best fuel economy (in its narrowly defined class)) but what they do know is that they need running boards to get into the thing and to help counteract it riding like a truck they make it soft and like a luxury car inside.

    Fact is, most people don’t really pay much attention to any of it except maybe towing, and most trucks never tow anything. They just want something that they can talk about at Super Bowl parties.

  12. My brother had a 90s Ford Ranger –Roll Tide Red– with a 5-speed manual and appropriate power for its size. It was a great little truck as both a daily mover and for the odds n ends trips to Lowes. Such a pity the big three don’t tell the USG and the EPA in particular to go to hell. I’m sure Ford sold millions of those little Rangers to a consumer who got what they paid for.

    • The most fun pickup I ever drove was a late 80s ranger with the 2.8 V6 and the 5 speed. It had more zip and tighter handling than anything else I drove at the time.

  13. Cheap money for at least a decade with the Fed buying mortgage and even auto paper in some cases was the difference in the US.

    Very few people in the US can afford a $50,000 truck without a 2% loan as the manufacturers are finding out this year.

  14. DW documentary on Cuba.

    The 1950’s cars are immaculate, impeccably maintained, on Barret-Jackson they would sell for a hundred grand. Incredible, really.

    Evidently, Cuban auto owners can buy some gas. Keeps them going, if it is on the road, it is going to look good for all to see.

    Can’t be that bad there.

  15. ‘Today’s “mid-sized” trucks are about the same-sized as full-sized trucks used to be.’ — eric

    Although it’s based on a car chassis, Ford’s pickup-bodied Maverick is probably the closest equivalent to now-vanished compact pickups when it comes to pricing. Listen up, Jim Farley:

    ‘Sales of the 2024 Ford Maverick are off to a rapid start this year, jumping by 98% compared to January 2023 and placing it easily ahead of the Toyota Tacoma and even the full-size Tundra.

    ‘In the first month of 2024, Ford sold a total of 12,443 examples of the popular Maverick. Demand for the Maverick Hybrid proved to be particularly strong, growing by 118% to 6,092 units.

    I didn’t want a big truck,” Jay Whitehurst said. “When the Maverick came out, I salivated. I test-drove a 2022 model year and walked away thinking, ‘Yeah, I think this is the truck for me.’”

    https://www.carscoops.com/2024/02/ford-maverick-outsells-toyota-tacoma-in-january/

    As RXseven wrote in the comments below the article, ‘The market for a cheap small pickup never went away; the manufacturers just stopped making them. This should have been the 2013 Ranger, the current Ranger should be an F100, and there’s probably room for something even smaller and cheaper below the Maverick.’

    My sentiments exactly. But the US mf-ing fedgov jiggered the CAFE calcs to favor lumbering, muscle-bound, jacked-up elephants … so we can’t have nice things like compact pickups. Effers.

    • My wife’s nephew bought a Maverick last year, but the only way he could get one was buying “used” through a dealer insider. The F&I room even handled the paperwork and loan, but the title came from one of the lot’s employees.

      That’s probably deliberate on Ford’s part.

  16. It is interesting that such a truck is available in Europe where their gas mileage standards are presumably as stringent as ours are. I heard that the 2.0 engine is the top engine size before heavy taxes set in. I heard that the gap between gas and dlesel prices is narrowing although they are not as bad as we are in that regard, where diesel costs $1.00 more than gas.

    It would be interesting to do a european tour and actually drive what they drive over there.

    • Hi swamprat. I have actually driven in many European countries. Lots of car brands that we’ve never heard of, most of them very small. The majority of cars are manual transmission, and tons of diesels. Comparing their truck market to ours, however, is difficult. In the UK for example, “civilians” are not allowed to own a truck. You must be a licensed tradesman, or own a delivery service etc. In other words you need the governments permission. So their market is nothing like ours, since every truck over there is an actual work truck. They also don’t have our car culture, which although dying, still exists. Seemed to me that Europeans view their cars as a tool. They’re not all shiny and clean, they’re banged up and missing hubcaps. No car washes anywhere that I saw. Nobody has a garage. Different mindset and different rules.

      • Interesting about the Europeans, since they have a tradition of making excellent automobiles of all sizes. My dad hated American cars of the day since they were huge and handled like a wheelbarrow. He much prefered any european car, say like a Peugeot, Renault, BMW, Jaguar, etc. It didn’t matter. They were smaller, more maneuverable, etc.

        Interesting about the UK. The only good thing I would say about that is it keeps the roads free of trucks and their excesses. Personally, I’m not a fan of trucks, although it is anyones choice to own one or not. I think the truck craze which took off in the 1980s played a part in eroding car culture here.

        I like the fact that europeans still drive cars with stick shifts. Americans are lazy in that way.

  17. A new truck costs more than what it cost to buy my house and perhaps that’s why I have no desire to buy one. I understand that it’s all relative due to inflation but still.

    Luckily I know people who will loan me theirs and that deals with the few times I need a truck. I was happy with my old truck but the rust got her.

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