Are the mid to late 90s Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks reliable?

I am selling my beloved Saab 9-3; I have decided that, with the company going under, it would be wise to sell it now while it has relatively few issues. It is a great car but it is over-engineered and there are too many tricky little proprietary Saab parts that might malfunction in the future, costing me too much money in the long run to repair. And anyway, I would be much better served by a truck at this point.

I want to sell this car (already have one interested potential buyer within a day of even just mentioning on Facebook that I’m selling it) and buy the truck before winter begins. What I really want is a Toyota Tacoma or T100. I used to have a 4Runner, which was essentially the same thing. But the problem is, those trucks are rare in this area, and of the few that are available, almost none fit the specifications that I need. I need for the truck to be 4x4; this is essential. It has to have an extended cab; the cab doesn’t need to be huge, but there has to be some form of rear seating. And the truck needs to have some ground clearance in the form of a suspension lift.

There is one Toyota truck that fits this bill, locally, and I will check it out. But if it turns out to be in bad shape or have any issues that lead me to not buy it, I may need to consider another model of truck. There are used Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks all over the place here that meet the specifications that I need. They’re very common. But how do these vehicles compare to the quality of Toyota trucks, which is, to say the least, legendary? Toyota trucks are used all over the third world as irregular military vehicles with mounted machine guns, and routinely keep going for over 400,000 miles. I know that older 70s and 80s American trucks are pretty decently made; they’re still in use as work trucks all over this area. But do the mid to late 90s models - F-150/250, Sierra/Silverado 2500 or Dodge Ram 2500 - have some reliability issues I should be aware of?

I have a 95 Ford F-150 I’ve been happy with. It has the venerable 302 engine with 4x4 automatic transmission. It had some starting issues but I think a new battery terminal and new battery fixed that. Otherwise I just put gas in it and change the oil. It’s hauled a lot of stuff for me and friends and family, but it’s not a daily driver. All I can say is I see a lot of 80s/90s Ford and Chevy trucks on the road, Dodge not as much.

If you’re looking at half-ton pickups they will not drive anything like your Saab, and their mileage will probably be in the 15-17 MPG range if you’re lucky. Is this going to be a daily driver? If you don’t need to haul a lot the Toyota would be a more efficient choice.

You might check Consumer Reports for reliability reports.

When I was looking for a new (small, extra cab) truck in 1995, I remember finding out that Dodge trucks of that era were having some significant transmission issues, so I didn’t consider them. I also stayed away from GM for reliability concerns.

I did quite a bit of research - reliability was a major criterion - and it came down to Nissan “Hardbody” and Ford Ranger trucks. I liked Toyotas but they were about two grand more expensive overall. I went with the Nissan in the end and it’s practically bulletproof, but I think Fords of that era were pretty good trucks too.

Consumer review sites like can give you an overall - albeit subjective with a hefty margin of error - idea of what a particular year and model is like, if there are enough reviews.

My son has the same truck except it’s standard transmission; he drives it daily to school and we occasionally use it to haul things like furniture or garden supplies. It was my dad’s until about two years ago; he drove it daily for heavy use for five or six years. My husband just replaced the entire braking system and the truck had similar starting problems that my husband fixed,but overall, it’s held up pretty well over some serious beating.

I had a 1995 Ford Ranger for a long time… the engine (3.0L V6 - “Vulcan”) was totally bulletproof; after 230,000 miles it didn’t burn any oil whatsoever and used oil analyses were coming out great.

The transmission (Mazda 4 spd manual w/OD) wasn’t awesome though- the clutches would wear out and go bad after about 55,000 miles. Maybe that’s normal, but it seemed a little fast for me.

No body rust, but the paint lost all its gloss at about 75,000 miles, and the interior got really hideous at about 200,000 miles.

What kind of gas mileage did you get?