Small Truck comparison?

09-29-2012, 01:41 AM
I am looking to buy a small truck. My budget isn't large ($5000) but maybe I am not looking to spend it all.

I am willing to buy older small trucks and I am wondering which people have driven and liked?

Looking at a range

Ford ranger (or Mazda)
Chevy S-10
Dakota < looked into them and not really impressed

For the older gen maybe a classic mazda rotory pickup
There is also a Datsun
VW truck

12-24-2012, 11:59 PM
Ive owned an 86 ranger and a 07 Dakota and would take the ranger over it. Ive never heard anything good about an s10 so I would stay away from those. If you want it for light work use I would go with a ranger but if its just to be a daily driver I would go with the toyota because they are good trucks, just not for work use. If you are going to use the truck for work you might want to think about a half ton just because the smaller trucks are dissapointing if you need to tow with them or put anything over a couple hundred pounds in them.

12-25-2012, 10:41 AM
I have had two S-10, (both just 2 wheel drive) and found them to be excellent.

'84 S-10, 5 spd, 2.8 V6 with a carb, extended cab.

'91 GMC Sonoma (same as S-10) 2.8 V6 EFI , 5 spd, standard cab. This truck had 410,000 km on the original driveline and ran very well.

Of the two, the extended cab version is very handy. The extension is small, at about 18 inches, but makes for a big improvement for comfort and utility. It also had bucket seats and a console, which is a big improvement over the '91's bench seat.

Both trucks handled well, with a decent ride. They felt like an 80's era RWD GM car, with reasonably sporty handling for the time. They were like driving a sports car compared with a full size truck. Easy to handle, manoeverable, low to the ground and have a (sort of) sports-car like precise feeling of control. But some may say there is not quite enough road vibration isolation.

Dispite this, they could work. I would regularly load the S-10 up with 1500 lbs, and sometimes pull a trailer. The heaviest load was 2500 lbs of pre-cast concrete. This was definitely overloaded but the truck did the job with no fuss. I think the maximum practical load was about 1800 lbs plus driver.

The 2.8 V6 was economical and durable, but was pretty slow on the highway when loaded. A 4.3 V6 would be way better.

The S-10 trucks were very easy and straightforward to repair/service and parts are cheap. My trucks just ran and ran, and needed little attention, though. For all the years I drove them, my only breakdown was one dead ignition module.

I briefly has a Ford Ranger. It was a bit softer and more luxury car-like than the S-10, but the front suspension and steering conspired to produce less-precise handling. Overall it felt a bit more like a luxury car, and less like a sports car.

I also drove a late '80's Nissan compact truck. It was nice enough, but had softer, longer-travel springs. More comfortable in the rough stuff but less load capacity.

Generally, I think you should pay more attention to getting the best-condition, lowest -mileage truck you can afford and don't get too picky about one particular brand. A 6-cyliner engine is way better than a 4. An extended cab and comfortable interior are very worthwhile.

I would stay away from a Mazda rotary or the VW unless you are some kind of parts/maintenance masochist.

Finally, Jeep made the Commanche pick up truck, based on the compact Cherokee. These are great trucks but popular among Jeep fans and thus a bit more expensive.

Overall, though, compact trucks are terrific and very under-rated, so they are cheap to buy. You should be able to get an excellent example for far less than $5000. I personally would lean towards the S-10, mostly because of the quasi-sports car handling and the great familiarity I have with older GM vehicles. Also, I would not bother with the 4 wheel drive versions unless you really need it. 4WD adds lots of complexity, weight , cost and potential for maintenance and repairs, regardless of the brand.

12-25-2012, 06:45 PM
I have never owned or even driven an s10 so I dont have any personal experience with them. I will say that my ranger drove like a truck but was still comfortable. It had a lot of torque for such a little engine. It was comfortable for a small truck, still felt cramped if there was more than 2 people in it. Whatever you decide to get make sure it is a v6 with low miles and you probably wont go wrong.

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