Teach me about pickup trucks!

I’ve been semi-idly thinking about either trading in my current ride or adding a pickup truck to the driveway.

What I have now is a 2004 Jeep Liberty - it’s a cute-ute and wasn’t my choice. It’s more car than truck, and even more car than Jeep. It’s got just barely enough guts to drag our travel trailer around. It’s also not a good choice for doing things like dump runs or hauling home plywood or lumber.

So, a truck sounds right. Something I can dump a pile of bricks into and not worry about scratching it. Something I can put lumber into and not have to drive home with 2x4s wedged in between the seats and sticking out the passenger window. Something that can tow a 6,000 pound trailer with ease, or that I can tow a fifth wheel with.

The question is do I want to replace the Jeep with a late-model truck, or keep the Jeep and add a “beater” truck? What’s got me puzzling is the mileage. For cars, the traditional rule of thumb seems to be 12,000 miles per year is typical. I’ve been looking at trucks that have seen 30,000 miles a year.

Is that common? For that many miles, I’m assuming they’ve been “easy” freeway miles, and most of the trucks I’ve looked at are clean, so they’ve probably not been hauling around rocks or cattle. What is the typical life expectancy of a truck? At 140,000 miles, is it just getting going, or is it nearly worn out? (assuming the appropriate maintenance has been done over the years)

Now the trick question: Which would you buy? For some reason, Chevy trucks are pretty rare around here, so they’re not in consideration.

New(ish) truck - Ford F150 or Doge Ram?
Older truck - Ford F150 or Doge Ram?

Any particular spans of model years to avoid? Any engines better or worse than others? If it’s going to be a daily driver, I’d need a super/extended/club/king/crew cab. For an added vehicle, regular cab is probably fine.

Can a 150 tow 6,000 pounds? My van was a 350, and it could tow 8,000. I’d expect to need at least a 250 for what you’re talking about.

Can a fifth-wheel-tower have a load of bricks dumped into the bed, or does the fifth-wheel hitch in the middle of the bed negate that functionality?

My rule of thumb for how dependable a vehicle is going to be is to look at what’s also selling 50,000 miles down the road. If there are a ton of trucks in your price range at 150,000, and the price is about the same at 200,000, that’s great. On the other hand, if they’re selling for $50 and a free car wash at 200K, that’s not so good: it’s probably going to start to fly apart fairly soon.

Are you sure you need that much truck? Plan on buying a fifth wheel?

Anyway if you DO need that much truck you’ll need to go with the F250.

I used to have a F150 (8v) but I traded it in for a Ranger for better gas mileage. Also, it’s nice not having to do a “three point park” every time I want to park my truck in a crowded parking lot.

I wouldn’t be hauling bricks and a trailer at the same time - that would take some serious muscle. :smiley: Fifth wheel hitches usually have a base that’s mounted permanently, and the hitch itself pops in and out easily to enable use of the truck for other purposes.

That 6000 pound trailer is in a gray area with my Jeep. The owners manual says it can tow up to 5000 pounds, the salesman said it could tow 6000 pounds, and the hitch people say up to 7500. With a weight-distributing hitch and trailer brakes, the reality is yes, it does the job, but just barely, leading me to think the truth is somewhere between the manual and the salesman, and the hitch people are only describing what the thing can hold before it rips apart.

I used to own a pickup (Chevy) but found that for the type of hauling I do a full-size van is much better. If you really need to tow a fifth-wheel trailer, or regularly haul rocks, gravel or bricks, a pickup is clearly the way to go. But for any cargo that would like to be protected either from the weather or from theft, the van gets the nod.

My E-150 van (totally reliable at 130k miles) can haul many people (seats in) or much cargo (seats out) - and quite a respectable combination of the two. It’s great for towing and gets somewhat better gas mileage than a pickup (its aerodynamics are mediocre, but not the unmitigated disaster that a pickup has).

There’s a huge price difference - I bought my van new for not much more than half what a decent pickup would have cost. There’s often a large status/sex-appeal component to pickup prices, whereas a utility van has exactly zero of this.

What everyone needs to know about pickup trucks (Humor piece by PJ Orourke)

Well, the owners manual wants you to not break the truck, the salesman wants you to buy it, and the hitch people want you to buy and not break the hitch, so this makes sense…

The difference here is that with the basic suspension, that model can do 5000. Beef up the springs (maybe the engine, too) and you get 6000. 7500 is what the hitch is/was capable of.

A couple years ago I bought a 95 F-150 with the 302 V8 for around $6,500. It had around 100,000 miles on it. I’ve been very happy with it, and I’ve had fun adding some aftermarket parts to it.

There’s a good reason the F-150s sell best, they’re nice reliable trucks. The Ford engines are great, transmissions maybe not as much, but I expect it will last at last till 200,000 or so. I do know at least in the mid-90’s Fords, the automatic transmissions have a higher tow rating than the manuals.

IMO, I wouldn’t go much over 10 years old, at that age things start going wrong whether or not the vehicle has high miles.

Your Jeep Liberty is really much more of a truck than a car. For one, it’s trail rated, as all Jeeps have been up until the Compass. For two, it has a ridiculously strong frame. Find a car even close to its size that’s rated for towing 5000 lbs, or one that weighs in at over 2 tons.

That being said, it definitely doesn’t have the type of power, interior room, and hauling ability you need. If you’re looking for cheap, the van is the way to go. The only problem with a van is that you can’t load and unload it as quickly as a pickup with a nice bedliner in it.

That, and the fifth-wheel hitch is a little tricky to arrange.

Luckily, this is IMHO, so I’m not going to try to find cites to back up my thoughts. Take that for what it’s worth, YMMV, etc.

There are two things to address here. First is bed size. A standard truck bed has room for 4x8 sheets of plywood or sheet rock with the tailgate closed. However, club and crew cabs have become increasingly more popular as people use trucks for their daily driving (more on this later). Most of these trucks have short boxes. You can still haul 8’ 2x4s and what not, but you have to leave the tailgate down. Trucks with a crew cab and a standard box are very long. You’re going to have problems with parking spaces and just turning around. It’s an area where a compromise has to be made somewhere (cab room vs. box room vs. clumbsiness of the truck).

When pulling trailers, in my opinion the gross trailer weight isn’t as important as tongue weight for determining what size truck you need. A 6000lb trailer with 600lbs of tongue weight (10% is a pretty good estimate) is going to kill a 1/2 ton (150 model) truck if you’re pulling off a hitch. You will definitely want torsion bars and they probably won’t help enough. The same truck would probably handle a similar sized fifth wheel trailer ok, since it moves the trailer weight directly on top of the rear axle. In either case, you will want to make sure that the brakes on the trailer are working properly. 6000lbs is a lot of weight to have behind a pickup truck.

Trucks have become trendy over the last 10 to 15 years. A lot of people drive trucks that don’t need a truck. They seem content to drive a vehicle that gets 15mpg, when they could be driving a car getting 30mpg. Personally, I don’t understand it, but I think that explains why you will see a lot of high mileage, pristine looking trucks. If a truck has worked for a living, you should be able to tell.

At 140K miles I would say that things will be going wrong on a truck regardless of if it was worked hard or just driven on the highway. It’s going to be time (or past time) for shocks, brakes, transmission and coolent service, etc. I don’t say that to steer you away from a truck. You should just understand that while they may still be solid vehicles, they will be at a point where parts will be wearing out.

Well, I would buy a GM, but that’s me and it was excluded. Of the two listed, I would probably go with a Dodge. I’ve had friends have too many transmission problems with newer model Fords. My advice would be to look at why you need/want the truck. I would seriously consider getting a “work” truck and keeping your other vehicle. That way you can get a standard cab (usually cheaper) truck with a standard box. I think a standard box is a very nice thing. I would also highly recommend a spray in bed liner (suck as LineX) if the truck doesn’t already have one.

For the record, I pull a race car around a quite a bit. I have a 24’ enclosed car trailer that’s rated for a max weight of 7000lbs (3500lb axles). It has a standard hitch (not fifth wheel). I pull it with a 3/4 ton Chevy 4x4. There is a pretty big step up in suspension stiffness between a 1/2 ton and a 3/4 ton. My friend’s 1/2 ton sags badly when hooked up to his race car trailer (and he has torsion bars). My 3/4 ton sits level hooked to the same trailer (no torsion bars). I’ve hauled 3800lbs of 12’ sheet rock (tailgate open, hanging 2’ off the back) in my truck. It’s not something I would recommend and the truck wasn’t happy about it, but I’ve done it. My friend’s 1/2 ton looked about the same with a little over a ton of 8’ sheet rock. My truck is in nice shape, but it’s a work truck. I have a car for daily driving.

Ok I have heard a bit about ‘trail rated’ as well as the trail rated Liberty, but don’t really know what it really means. My understanding is that it is a standard that Jeep made up, which is that the vehical unmodified must complete a very difficult offroad run. The Liberty did it, but not without extensive help and repairs.

<snip>From Jeeps site - We test Jeep® 4x4s on the toughest trails in the world to prove one thing: They can take whatever you dish out. The Trail Rated® badge means that your Jeep 4x4 has been designed to perform in five categories of off-road conditions: traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation, and water fording. * 2004 vehicles shown.
Jeep and Trail Rated are registered trademarks of DaimlerChrysler Corporation.<snip>

Better than nothing. But I think this involves the [The Rubicon Trail](Cheap Fake Ray Ban Sunglasses $18.99 Outlet Sale trail.) From what I have seen, no stock vehicle would ever get over it. However, according to a rock crawler buddy of mine, there is an accompaning trail for support vehicles and such. And it’s not a walk in the park either. That’s what the new Jeeps must get over to get Trail rated. Or so I’ve heard.

I have a 1965 Ford F-250 that will do everything/anything you want. Twelve miles to the gallon, at best, either empty or hauling the DeYoung Museum. Doesn’t matter.

I’m thinking about selling it. Good tires, new engine. Paint by Wal*Mart.

Are you going for a 4x4? I personally would never buy a truck that wasn’t.

First things first. If you are thinking of buying a different trailer, such as a fifth wheel, go look at trailers before you go shopping for a truck. I used to get customers coming into the RV lot with a brand-new truck that was completely inadequate for the trailer they wanted. They were always shocked and disappointed that their Hummer 2 was unable to pull an 8,000 lb trailer. Talk to an experienced trailer salesman and ask him/her what sort of truck you would need to haul the trailer you’re looking at. They will have a book that tells you what the towing capacities are for any pickup made.

Generally, a half-ton pickup is a poor choice for towing a travel trailer of any size, and is going to be out of the picture for a fifth wheel or camper (other than a shell). Not that you can’t tow something, but you run the risk of destroying the drive train or wracking the frame, or worse. For trailers over 24 feet, make sure you equip your trailer with sway bars.

As mentioned, an F250 or other 3/4 ton truck is a solid rig. If you’re buying a large, heavy trailer or fifth wheel, get the beefiest suspension you can and the largest engine, with an automatic transmission. For truly huge fifth wheels, you would probably move to an F350 with duallies and the power stroke diesel. Dual rear tires do nothing for pulling capacity, but provide stability.