Tacoma vs. Frontier...or Ranger?

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by bostonsr, Jun 22, 2011.

  1. bostonsr

    bostonsr Just weight

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    Hey guys, i'm finally in the market for a small pickup.

    I'm looking to buy CPO. Priced $18K max, ideally want to be under $15K all in.

    This will be a daily driver, in CT...commuting to work, rarely hauling/towing heavy stuff, occasional moto hauling but really just a commuter car.

    MUST HAVE: Manual transmission, extra-cab or crew cab (4dr). Longest bed available.

    PREFER: 4cyl engines, but realize they may not be available in some applications. Any guidance on 4 vs. 6 would be appreciated.

    1. Need guidance on 4wd vs. 2wd models (maintenance issues, costs, fuel economy, etc) I can go either way on this but prefer the lower loading height of 2wd but will probably end up using 4wd more due to snowy winters.

    2. Any of these models have any major issues to look out for? dealbreakers? recalls?

    3. Personal experiences, first-hand or otherwise, are welcome. I'd like to know what the ownership experience will be like.

    4. Routine maintenance costs, oil changes, brakes, clutches, shocks, etc...what to expect?

    5. Horror stories?

    Any referrals to particularly good dealers can be PM'd to me.

    abe
    #1
  2. Grreatdog

    Grreatdog Long timer

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    When I needed a new compact pickup I had pretty much the same pricing and specs in mind that you listed. Except I knew I didn't want another four cylinder. The three four cylinder pickups I have had all got right at 20 mpg. Two were 2x4 and one was the 22RE 4x4 Toyota. I just can't see driving another gutless truck for one or two mpg difference.

    I ended up a with a V6 4x4 5 speed Ranger extended cab. With the Ranger a four cylinder is not an option with four wheel drive anyway so i didn't have to sweat that. The reason I went Ford is that I got an immaculate 35k mile truck for about the same thing people around here wanted for 200k mile thrashed Toyotas.

    I had a Toyota 4x4 four cylinder pickup and know they are an excellent truck. Mine went 350k miles on the original everything except disk pads. But they aren't that much better to justify a nearly 100% premium over a similar Ranger. I don't know how used Tacomas are priced up your way, but here people think they are made of gold.

    As for maintenance, I haven't seen much difference in any of our trucks. At work our Titan 4x4 is the worst for reliability, the Fords and Toyotas are all stone ax reliable and my Ranger has been trouble free for the 40k miles I put on it in 18 months. Which is why price vs. low mileage is what finally swayed me over to the Ranger.

    That said, the down side to my Ranger is the clutch took a lot of getting used to, it definitely shifts like a truck and it has the turning radius of a locomotive. So you have to drive it like a full size truck. It wants to be shifted that way and it wants to be backed into parking spaces just like grown up trucks. Otherwise there isn't much difference between it and my old Toyota.

    BTW, have you ever driven a 2wd compact pickup in the snow? My LC4 with greased knobs would probably do better. They really suck in snow even after you shovel your driveway into the bed. Sand bags will be your friend for the weight and to shovel the sand under your back tire.

    As for dealers, I bought our last two 4Runners and my Ranger from Carmax. I know i pay a little premium. But they just make it so damned easy.
    #2
  3. acesandeights

    acesandeights Noob

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    The truck Grreatdog bought, that's what I'd buy over all others.
    #3
  4. BikePilot

    BikePilot Long timer

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    The Taco is a fun to drive truck, try it on for size though as its built for short guys - especially the older ones. I haven't had one for years, but my last one was fairly painful to drive due to the very short seat and lack of leg room.

    I'd go with 4x4, there's so little weight on these things that if there's even a little snow they don't go very well in 2wd. My wife's 2k lbs '93 civic goes in snow much better than my 'yota did in 2wd. The 4wd doesn't add any appreciable maintenance cost and the reduction in mpg, all else equal, is almost nill (only thing hurting mpg is the extra couple of hundred lbs of weight as the hubs disconnect when in 2wd, so no extra drivetrain drag). It is hard to get a short, small tire 4x4 though and those things can make a difference in mpg.

    'yota's electric rear locker is sweet, if you get a 'yota make sure its so equipped.

    The current four cyl makes as much power and more tq than the old v6 and the old v6 suited me fine for most purposes - it was a bit slow towing and going up steep hills with a couple of bikes in the bed and a bunch of gear.

    A GDI v6 F150 will probably get the same mpg (better actually), make more power and have more space than the current compact trucks - the mfg's have really dropped the ball with the compacts and they are running on 10+ yr old tech. No stick though which sucks and they probably aren't in your price range yet.

    You can get the Frontier in Suzuki guise and it looks pretty darn snazzy, but I think Nisan doesn't do the big engine and 4x4 with the manual mixer which sucks.

    If it comes in a manual the little GM truck might be worth a look. That inline 5 and 6 cyl engine is a nice runner.
    #4
  5. Doc.Snyder

    Doc.Snyder Long timer

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    I went with the 4.0l V6 manual 4x4 Frontier King Cab.

    Great Truck so far. No problems, nothing.

    Very powerful engine - compared to the others. The VQ Nissan Engines are well known for their reliability.

    I still think, Nissan delivers the best Package for a mid size pickup right now.
    #5
  6. Agent2

    Agent2 Been here awhile

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    Owned a '99 Tacoma, 2.7 4cyl and 5 speed, definately not a rocket off the line, but reliable as hell. First gear was tough to get when the tranny was cold, swapping in Redline MT90 made a big difference. As said, not built for big guys, am guessing the newer generation models might have more room.
    #6
  7. bodhisattva65

    bodhisattva65 Been here awhile

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    Tacoma; I put 200k on one and it is still running, sold it to a budding who gave it to his teenage son.
    #7
  8. Adam E

    Adam E halfway there

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    Had great experience with an '01 Tacoma. Thing was bulletproof. I took really good care of it, but it was also used quite hard.

    Work has a bunch of Rangers, and they've all pieces of shit. They aren't really used for "work" but to lug around bosses that don't need tools or hauling capacity. They ARE taken care of really well. 1 out of 4 has NOT gone through an engine and/or transmission. I'll stress that this experience with these 4 Rangers is my only experience with Rangers. With that said, when I need another small truck, it'll be a Tacoma and I'll pray that it's just like the one I used to own.
    #8
  9. xshanex

    xshanex Been here awhile

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    Issues with tacomas for your criteria

    -
    you're probably going to have a tough time finding a tacoma with 4wd and extended/crew cab in good enough condition to be CPO through Toyota at that price point. It can be done but is not easy and might equate to a lot of searching. Resale on them is ridiculous and even more so now that used car prices are at an almost historical high. What you described in a tacoma is 19-23k here assuming 45-60k miles

    -the 2wd ones will likely be prerunners which gets you the 4wd height without the benefits of it. The low height 2wd extended cabs are rare

    -very few 4cyl out there and I don't even think they were available in the crew cabs. The difference is 1mpg between 4cyl/5speed and v6/auto. The v6 6 speed gets the worse mpg by far. I wasn't a fan of the 4 cyl in the tacoma either and have been glad I got the v6 for marginally worse mileage....it's a heavy truck like all the mid size trucks.

    -I do not like the 6 speed manual in the tacoma and returns the worse mpg than the automatic. I will say that the automatic in the tacoma is probably one of the best I've ever driven.

    -it's a big truck.....you might be want to expand your search to the tundra as well

    I'm at 82k miles with my 2006 tacoma crew cab off road with almost every option. The temp sensor needed a solder and it's a known issue. Takes 15 minutes. Change my oil and fluids.....rotate my tires....a set of brake pads...a few headlights....a set of tires...thats it. It's towed through passes with decent size loads, been offroaded a little, lots of easy trails, snow/ice covered logging roads to go snowshoeing, maybe 3k of those miles in the snow/ice, high speed trips from san diego to vegas in 100 degree temps up grades, and it has never given me a problem. It still feels tight/new without any squeaks or issues. I'm keeping the truck as long as possible....best vehicle I have an probably will own. Does everything well.

    performance wise the frontier and tacoma were right up there with the edge to the frontier. Interior (materials and the seat fit) it was the tacoma by a little. The ranger was an also ran and didn't rate a second look. They felt the same as in 1998 when I was working at a ford dealership.

    Would I buy a tacoma used.......nope :lol3 When I was looking I could get an older model tacoma that was 3-4 years old with 40k miles for $3-4k less than a new one. They are a great value new but so overpriced used. I can't bring myself to pay $20k for something thats not fully loaded with the options I want and has close to 100k miles.
    #9
  10. DNF

    DNF Been here awhile

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    Never have to put weight in the back of the truck for winter driving on my Tacoma. My Ranger was all over the road (both had winter tires).

    I love my Tacoma. But 5% of the time the bed is too small (haul firewood out of the bush and it takes more trips). The suspension went on the rear but it was covered under warranty and they even upgraded me to TRD suspension.

    I would buy another in a second but my truck only has 125k. Highway mileage is good, city not so much but I have the six.

    Needs a new set of summer tires. The stock ones suck in the gravel.

    4x4 with winter tires and it will go anywhere.

    edit my Tacoma is an 06
    #10
  11. acesandeights

    acesandeights Noob

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    I am a claims adjuster handling extended warranty claims (typically those claims that are outside the manufacturer's warranty period). I'd buy the Ranger, a 3.0L, 4x4 if I could find one with the options I wanted.
    #11
  12. RichBeBe

    RichBeBe All Hail Seitan!!!

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    Abe,
    I had a 6-cyl 2wd Mazda (Ranger) with a 5-speed and got about 23 on the hwy, but only 15 max around town. Not sure where in CT you are going to but if there is any city driving involved get the 4-cylinder. My 2wd was crappy in the snow but I didn't worry about it, since we do not get a lot of snow. Though depending on where in CT that might change.
    ~Rich
    #12
  13. AerialCameras

    AerialCameras Awkward Boner

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    :thumb My Taco 03 Taco is fine, but it's no MPG champ by far. I'm hoping my year turns around and the new F150 ecoboost isn't a flash in the pan. There just doesn't seem to be many advantages to a compact pick-up anymore.
    #13
  14. Doc.Snyder

    Doc.Snyder Long timer

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    The Tacos are way too overhyped, imho
    #14
  15. invicta1

    invicta1 Been here awhile

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    I have a Frontier - been great. Taken lots of abuse, lots, and still going strong, no issues at 50k. At Edmunds, you'll find Tacoma and Frontier rate similarly according to them, and owner inputs. Frontier has fully boxed frame, disks front and rear, and some other bonuses over Tacoma (read on edmunds). Did look at Tacos, and when previously buying a SUV too, but the dealers and private sellers did seem to think they were made out of gold. The dealers were garbage, did well with Nissan dealers who would actually deal. Having used Rangers for work, would not consider one. Look it up at Edmunds too.
    #15
  16. Tinfish

    Tinfish Long timer

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    i have a 2010 4x4 Tacoma, 4-cyl engine, 5 speed. The version I have is a really basic truck, no frills other than AC and the sliding rear window. But it was cheap to buy (I think I paid around $19k new), and it has done everything I have asked it to very well.

    The stock tires are crap; I'm looking forward to replacing them once they wear enough for me to justify it. But it hauls heavy loads alright (I've had up to 1400 pounds in the bed and use it as a truck all the time), gets pretty good mileage (around 24 on the highway, less in town), and has a much cheaper maintenance schedule than the six cyl version. (I think the six needs new plugs ever 36k miles; the four needs them every 100k, for example. And the five speed has a solid reputation, while the six speed seems to be dodgy for some people.)

    So for my needs, the smaller engine was a much smarter option. Cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, does everything I need it to do. If your needs are different, or if you tow heavy on a routine basis, you need a different truck. I used to drive a Ranger at work, and man that thing sucked. Turned like a train, couldn't get out of its own way, sucked gas like it was still 1960. But if you found one cheap enough, they are solid trucks and it was reliable despite some very rough use.
    #16
  17. bostonsr

    bostonsr Just weight

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    $19K BRAND NEW?!?!?!

    i can barely find CPO Regular cabs at that price:eek1 that don't have under 50,000miles.

    these guys must really have some wiggle room.

    thanks for all of you guys' input, keep it coming, it's very informative!

    abe
    #17
  18. Logan80

    Logan80 Been here awhile

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    Hate to toss another one into the mix, but what about the S-10 ZR2?

    I'm hoping to be in the market for a small 4x4 truck for hunting, camping, fishing, etc. and certainly can't afford one of the newer and more pricey trucks.

    I like the looks and specs on the ex-cab 4.3ltr Vortec S-10, and with the ZR2 package they seem even more capable.

    Unfortunately that limits me to 1998-2003 trucks, however, my budget will keep me in that range anyways.

    I've seen 2002 ZR2 S-10 trucks with 120k miles for $7,500! Comparable Tacomas are $12,000-14,000. I'm not sure they are really all that much better...
    #18
  19. Firestorm

    Firestorm .

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    Frontier is good, and cheaper then the Taco... Taco's are over priced.. But they are bullet proof...


    If I was getting a new truck, I'd probably go for a single cab, 4x4 short bed work truck trim from Chevy...
    #19
  20. Grreatdog

    Grreatdog Long timer

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    This is most of why I am driving a Ranger. My Toyota 4x4 truck was bought new and really was a better driving truck than my current Ranger. But a large part of why that truck went 450,000 miles was that the 22RE just didn't make enough power to hurt itself. Same reason a well cared for lawn mower will run forever. I definitely would not pay the gutless motor penalty again just to get 20mpg anyway if I had a do-over on that one.

    But CPO Tacoma 4x4's are crazy expensive here. There were exactly zero CPO 4x4's under $20k when I was looking. As said, you might as well tack on a few thousand and buy new. You would likely get a better interest rate, you get what you want and, assuming people actually pay those prices, it will have guaranteed good resale. But with less than $20k to spend I was limited to 100k mile beaters. And I just wasn't going to settle for a beater just to drive another Toyota truck.

    Spending that kind of money for my wife's car that has a very gentle life makes perfect sense. Which is exactly why we bought two equally expensive CPO 4Runners for her. But she has 80,000 miles on a 1999 we bought five years ago with 35,000 miles. I bought my Ranger 18 months ago with the same 35,000 miles and passed 80,000 miles this week. So I just can't bring myself to pay crazy money for something that is going to be toast in a few years regardless of the name badge.

    Frontier might be a good option. But around here a CPO Frontier is unobtainium. And, after the new S10 debacle we had at worrk, I couldn't even bring myself to look at a Colorado. GM cancelled any interest I have in GM's with that bucket of crap. Maybe not fair, but our S10 really was that poorly engineered. So I was kind of left with the Ranger as a last option. So far it has been reliable as a hammer even if it isn't exactly a joy to drive.

    The 4.0 has returned 20 mpg in my mostly lead footed highway driving and nothing has broken. It shifts like crap, needs 40 acres to turn around and features the engineering advancement of say a XR650L. But it hauls my crap, gets the job done (land surveying) and I won't be crying about the cost when it is junk in a few years.
    #20