Dear Car Talk:
I am getting ready for retirement and have been looking for a small utility truck for some landscaping and other projects around the house. It seems that all of the car companies are competing to see who can build the biggest and baddest truck with a dashboard that looks like the cockpit of a fighter jet. Not to mention the price tag for these monsters -- most of the houses I have bought and lived in over the years have cost less.
Are there any companies, foreign or domestic, making a truck that will fit my needs? All I need is a truck the size of a Ford Ranger or Chevy S-10 with automatic transmission, air conditioning and an AM-FM radio with a USB port for my music. Sign me "Future old coot in a pickup."
Do you have a Mahindra dealer near you, Gary? Or is the closest one in New Delhi?
You're right that there are no more small pickup trucks. The standard trucks, like the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado, are humongous now. And the so-called smaller trucks, like the Chevy Colorado, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, are simply "big."
Of those smaller trucks, the Chevy is the most modern, the Tacoma is the most reliable and the Nissan is the most Nissany. But even those smaller trucks are going to cost you $30,000 or more for a four-wheel-drive version.
Honda has just come out with a new version of its Ridgeline pickup. It's about the same size as the other smaller pickups, but it's supposed to be a lot more comfortable and carlike. (I haven't driven it yet.)
I suppose, if it's comfortable enough for you, and your spouse will go along with your "old coot frontier gardener retired guy" fantasy, you could get a Ridgeline and use it as your everyday vehicle. I wouldn't necessarily recommend that you do that with the other trucks, because they all drive like, well, trucks.
Perhaps the best bet is to buy a used smaller pickup. After all, you really only want it for occasional use: for picking up a load of manure or a couple of 386-packs of paper towels from Costco.
Until 2011, Ford made the Ranger. That's a little smaller than the others, and you probably can get one for half the price of a new truck. The Toyotas tend to hold their value longer, so don't expect quite the discount on a used Tacoma. But the reason they hold their value is because of their reliability and durability. So that's what you're paying for.
Almost any truck you get from the past 10 years will have an automatic transmission and air conditioning. And with all the money you save, you can splurge and get a rocking new stereo system with a USB port if you need it. And don't forget the bed-size subwoofer.