Pretty sure I want a pick-up. The bed is so useful and easier to deal with than a trailer. But I'm really not sure what is my best bet. Needs to be at least an extended cab, ideally a crew-cab size. Had a regular cab 2001 Ranger. It was fine at the time as I didn't have any kids until a few years after I bought it. But now I have 4 kids (7-16 years old), so something that I can take a least a couple of them around in and also have space for some groceries or violins or whatever in the cab is a requirement. 4WD is not a requirement per-se but is definitely very high on the list of wants. Between going into the mountains in the winter and being able to drive it around the property when it's not bone dry it'll be hard to see choosing RWD. We already have a minivan for when the whole tribe is going places, and just picked up a 2010 Subaru Forester for the kids to be able to use and as backup to the minivan (though obviously we can't all fit in the Subaru).
It will be used, probably very used. Not a chance of buying new, unless I win the lottery (and I'd have to buy tickets for that to be possible).
I really like the Toyota Tacoma, but prices at least used to be stupidly high around here.
Anyway, a co-worker picked up a 1989 (+-) Mazda B2000 and swapped in a Kia Sportage motor. Apparently those motors are the same block as the original 2.0 and 2.2l Mazda engines. Granted that guy also put on a turbo and had it dyno tested. He's getting 240hp at the rear wheels. Before he put in the limited slip diff he said it was a great 1-tire fire. With the limited slip diff it's a demon on dry pavement. Supposedly the engines are durable to 400hp. I'm not interested in that (well, I am, but I can't afford it). But, with no turbo it's still 140hp, which is huge improvement over the 85hp the stock engine. Given I could buy a truck for $700 (might even be able to drive rather than trailer it home) and a low mileage used Sportage engine for $500-1000 it would make for a decent low starting cost truck. Uprate the suspension and it could haul a ton of hay, at least if it's reasonably local. With good transmission cooling and oil cooling it could probably tow 5000lbs. But, those trucks are definitely not available in crew-cabs, and 4WD is hard to find (and would probably need a lot of other mods to work and be reliable/durable with the engine swap).
Anyway, what are some other good options for something that isn't almost ready for the scrap yard? Figure $7000 as a top end budget, $5000 would be better. So any kind of electrified powertrain vehicle is not going to work within that budget. I can't drive (at least off my own property) until late June assuming no additional seizures. So I have some time to shop around.
I find my dads Ranger to be a lot less truck than the old Toyota he had before it. Mighty comfy, and much faster with the 4.0 V6, but the bed is too darn small with the extended cab, and yet said cab is still quite small.
I have been pretty pleased with my 2nd gen Ram 2500 with the Cummins. The extended cab will in a pinch seat 6 friendly adults. The 8ft bed fits the things you expect to fit. It will tow a heavy trailer with a 50hp tractor on it, or a load of well-rings, or another matching truck on a trailer..
Mine was 6K (Canadian). It has plenty of work coming due, as it wasn't in the greatest shape and has a half million KM.. but it's served me for 2 years without a single issue despite this. If something expensive goes, it's worth around half of what I paid as a parts truck...
If you want 4 proper doors you'll need an 03 and up..
Don't expect the cosmetics to be good, and I have all sorts of annoying minor issues as the interior continues disintegrating.. but if you want serious towing capacity and fuel economy in the same cheap vehicle it's hard to beat.
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