Thinking of getting a puttering around truck

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Feb 22, 2021
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I have been thinking about getting a small pickup for a while. Mainly for the bed rather than towing - hauling wood for woodworking, large gas tanks for my son’s forge, and gardening stuff. I’m a broken down old soldier so besides excelling as a truck I need it to be comfortable to ride/sit in*. I’ve been looking at the Taco for reliability and the Ridgeline because I’m pretty much the target audience for that design. YouTube has popped up some Ranger videos and I’ve been more impressed with it than I thought I would be. The Gladiator looks really cool but I’m not sure about it’s reliability. Our last Chevy was a disaster so the Canyon is way low on the list. Thoughts on the best truck for my needs?

* the comfort angle led me to look at the F150 and as much as I’d love massaging, ventilated seats but I’m not sure that justifies the extra $20-40k and I definitely don’t need the size.
 
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Are you looking for something used, or new? To me a small puttering around truck is something like a second gen S10 4 cylinder engine, single cab. Or an older Ranger same configuration. However, if you're looking for new or slightly used I can provide you with some information on the Tacoma's since I owned a 2009 and now a 2021. The latest generation Tacoma gets some bashing on here as it's an "old" truck with some new sheet metal and lack of some modern amenities. That is true, underneath is basically like my second gen was. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I can't comment on how it rides compared to others in its segment, but I've been happy with it. We find it more comfortable than our Camry. I will say you will likely need to spring for the TRD Offroad or TRD Sport for the better handling shocks and better seats compared to the lower trims. The 3.5L is behind the others as far as power, but I find it adequate; it's a truck, not a sports car. The 6 speed automatic does have goofy shifting programming, you learn to tolerate it if you like the rest of the truck. If you don't, it can be a deal breaker. Don't know what your budget is, but they do make 4 cylinder access cab configurations with 4wd if you need it. Where I live you can't get a 2wd truck off the lot if you tried. I love my V6 TRD Offroad 4wd, but its price tag was hefty for what it is. You can get a full size for the same price, but personally I don't need anything like that. I'd buy another one again!
 
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Define small. Are we talking about compact or full-size 1/2 ton?

Ridgeline bed is 5' and very shallow. Most of the full size beds are around 19-20" deep, compact's are 15-20% shallower. Not sure if this is a consideration for you.
 

Texchappy

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Should have specified new. I like the new safety suites on them - especially since I have TBi and don’t drive often anymore. And I’m anal retentive about upkeep. I don’t need 4wd but I’d prefer it.

TBH, The Ridgeline was way ahead in my mental race but I’ve tried reaching out to the dealership and they never get back with me.
 

Texchappy

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Define small. Are we talking about compact or full-size 1/2 ton?

Ridgeline bed is 5' and very shallow. Most of the full size beds are around 19-20" deep, compact's are 15-20% shallower. Not sure if this is a consideration for you.
Was focusing in on the midsize models. Until the Maverick comes out, really isn’t a compact on the market right now. there’s a lot to like for me about the F150 but the extra $20,000+ is hard to swallow.

eta: speaking of small, I really liked the Subaru Baja when it came out and it might do what I need to do but I found the seats in my Forrester a deal breaker (or at least back breaker).
 
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Was focusing in on the midsize models. Until the Maverick comes out, really isn’t a compact on the market right now. there’s a lot to like for me about the F150 but the extra $20,000+ is hard to swallow.
Not sure if this helps, but I paid $33k for the 2020 Ram 1500 in my signature and it stickered for $46K. Mine is a 2wd and has the level 2 pkg, LSD and bucket/console option.

This is the 4wd version of my truck with a few more options:

The ride quality of the Ram 1500 is in a different class compared to the Tacoma. Ridgeline is the only one that beats the Ram in ride quality, IMO.
 
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Should have specified new. I like the new safety suites on them - especially since I have TBi and don’t drive often anymore. And I’m anal retentive about upkeep. I don’t need 4wd but I’d prefer it.

TBH, The Ridgeline was way ahead in my mental race but I’ve tried reaching out to the dealership and they never get back with me.

The Ridgeline is going to ride better for sure, that and be easier to get into than say a 4wd Taco. My mother with replacement hips is still trying to figure out a decent way of getting in my truck. I prefer the body on frame design of the Tacoma, but the unibody Ridgeline will ride a whole lot better, and return better fuel economy.
 

CKN

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Spend some time in a Taco. Don't know about this gen but they're known to have a seating position like a car, low to the floor.

Even in the new ones' the seating position is terrible as are the seats themselves.
 
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Even in the new ones' the seating position is terrible as are the seats themselves.
I think they added a power driver seat for 20 or 21, but the driving dynamics are still lackluster compared to most modern full-size trucks.
 
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I think they added a power driver seat for 20 or 21, but the driving dynamics are still lackluster compared to most modern full-size trucks.

The power driver seat was a hilarious addition honestly. I'm a Tacoma "fanboy" and even then I thought at this point it was kinda pointless.

I will say comparing driving dynamics from a mid size to full size is like comparing apples to oranges. Two different classes of trucks. (please don't take that as a flame or jab...)
 
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Should have specified new. I like the new safety suites on them - especially since I have TBi and don’t drive often anymore.
Puttering around and new, does not make sense, especially when you don't drive often anymore. Unless of course you're rich. Puttering around vehicle is something in the $3-6K range. Otherwise just rent one when you need it.
 

wtd

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A friend of mine just got rid of his Tacoma last year that he bought new in 2001 and loved the truck. He also owns a Nissan Frontier that is about a 2010-2012 and really likes it as well. He bought that one new as well. Both trucks have been super reliable.

He bought a several year old Nissan Titan to replace the Tacoma. He wanted a little bigger truck to pull his bass boat with.
 
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give the ranger a try, it’s the #1 most sold ute/bakkie in australia and south africa. toyota’s hilux sales are slowing down for many of the same reasons as the tacoma
 
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Step height into the ridgeline will be easiest of the bunch, and depending on any aches in your back, arms or shoulders, finding a vehicle with the steering wheel centered to the drivers seat may favor the ridgeline. If you aren’t towing, there’s not as much requirement for rwd. I personally don’t admire the looks of the Honda, but I’ve never met a ridgeline owner who regretted their purchase, and rather the opposite. If I hit them with the “it’s not a real truck“ statement, they tell me it does everything they need. Rides like a car, gives them a lite-use bed for propane tanks, mulch, etc.. I respect that, good answer. Honda makes good FWD drivelines, and the AWD in the ridgelines, again, not suited for heavy 4x4 use, is quite effective in snow.

as a full-size owner, if I didn’t need the towing capacity, I would not own a full-size. I’d be much more tempted to look at the ranger... though it’s all relative... the ranger is not small by any means. I quite like our f150, but when I’m just out running errands and getting groceries, the little car is just more practical to me and is more often my go-to.

the Tacoma’s have a low seat height, requiring your legs to push out forward. Some folks are bothered by that. Some aren’t. My tundra was the same, and perhaps on long trips it bugged me some, but i still had no issue driving it for a full interstate trip. The shorter cab height gives them that beautiful off-the-ground truck height while keeping the roof low.

m
 

01rangerxl

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I've heard the current Rangers have kind of a rough ride. Might want to try to do an extended/overnight test drive, or a rental, if you are wanting a "smaller" truck and comfort is a priority.
 
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Used Ranger, Tacoma, or Ridgeline would be my choice. Guy across the street has a older Ranger with over 200k miles and still going strong. I had a Mazda B4000 (Ranger) and it was really good.
 
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I have been thinking about getting a small pickup for a while. Mainly for the bed rather than towing - hauling wood for woodworking, large gas tanks for my son’s forge, and gardening stuff. I’m a broken down old soldier so besides excelling as a truck I need it to be comfortable to ride/sit in*. I’ve been looking at the Taco for reliability and the Ridgeline because I’m pretty much the target audience for that design. YouTube has popped up some Ranger videos and I’ve been more impressed with it than I thought I would be. The Gladiator looks really cool but I’m not sure about it’s reliability. Our last Chevy was a disaster so the Canyon is way low on the list. Thoughts on the best truck for my needs?

* the comfort angle led me to look at the F150 and as much as I’d love massaging, ventilated seats but I’m not sure that justifies the extra $20-40k and I definitely don’t need the size.
Don't write off the Canyon just yet. I have a 2017 Crew Cab V6 (65,000 miles) and once GM figured out the correct ATF for the 8 speed transmission it has been reliable. It has good ride quality, almost car like until you hit a bad bump, and handles really well, much better than a full size truck. Some people complain that the seats are too hard but I just keep a padded cover on my seat bottom which also protects the fabric. The Canyon has a nicer interior than the Colorado.
 

JHZR2

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Will you keep another vehicle as daily driver? If so, for puttering around, I wouldn’t go small like a Tacoma, I’d go big. As big as possible. And worry less about age and more about maintenance and a deal. After all, why not? You don’t have a huge due bill. It’s not like you’re commuting daily 70 miles in it.

I bought my 96 Ram Cummins back in August. I’m about to do an oil change after 3000 miles. Changing the oil was one of the first things I did when I got the truck.

Because I’m using it for “puttering around” of sorts, really for me it was hauling stuff around for a big construction project, I didn’t need fancy. But man does it cruise down the highway at 72 mph nice and smooth. I did put lower mileage seats. 437k miles of use did a lot to a set of seats. It’s great for what it is, and surprisingly smooth and powerful on the highway. And I have a bunch of other cars for any other duties that I have.

So I’d look for an old big truck, regardless of brand, and enjoy it!
 
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