Used car case study: dual-cab ute

2008 Toyota Hilux
2008 Toyota Hilux

Dave is a young tradie with a dilemma. After crashing his ute, he urgently needs another vehicle for work. With a wife, a two-year-old son and a second child on the way, the new ute will have to double as family transport.

Of course, there are budget constraints. The insurance payout on Dave’s old Toyota Hilux was $12,000, which is ideally what he would like to shell out for a new set of wheels, but he could scrape together another $2000 if needed.

First the homework

Time is critical, but he must do some homework, and plenty of legwork, before shelling out. Buying the first vehicle he sees could be disastrous. The wrong choice may not suit his needs, while a dud can cost more in repairs and time off the road than the price of the vehicle.

For Dave, the logical choice is a dual-cab ute. Diesels tend to be more popular for their stronger pulling power and better fuel economy. Most are 4WD which is handy for building sites and off-road use.

The older the vehicle, the more important it is for Dave to base his decision on the condition of the individual vehicle for sale than on the model’s reputation. But which one?

Then the legwork

Dave should talk with owners of different makes and models, then drive as many as he can. When he finds a brand he likes, he should drive a few similar examples to find the best one. In terms of spec levels, it’s important to compare apples with apples.

And he should get a thorough independent mechanical report, such as an RACV Vehicle Inspection.

The Toyota Hilux is an obvious starting point for Dave, if he can find a good one at the right price. Hilux arguably has the best reputation for ability and reliability but you do need to keep an open mind. It generally lives up to the ‘Unbreakable’ slogan but is not completely flawless. Poorly maintained, high-kilometre examples still command top dollar, and good ones come at a premium price.

For the same money, Dave might find a later model from another brand that does not have quite the same reputation but offers more safety features, is better equipped, well maintained, has lower kilometres and is in better condition.

Dave should consider:

Nissan Navara: Performs and drives well, has a roomy cabin but suffers a few reliability problems and high fuel consumption.

Mitsubishi Triton: Often underestimated, it combines work and family duties well but cabin space is tighter than in some of its peers.

Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50: Similar offerings with a few subtle differences. Early versions have not achieved the accolades of the current models but will satisfy many buyers.

Dave should check:

An up-to-date service history is a valuable asset. Regular oil changes at the specified intervals are essential with turbo-diesel engines. Oil slugging can be a killer and serious leaks are often costly.

On all 4WDs look for under-body or suspension damage, as the vehicle may have worked on building sites or a farm, or been used to explore rough tracks or even ventured off-road. Wear in suspension bushes, shockers and steering linkages can be a problem. Hard use puts strain on the clutch and transmission. A life of heavy towing also takes its toll on other components. Dents and extensive scratching in the tray can be another indicator of hard use. And as usual, look for signs of serious accident damage and poor-quality repairs.  

It is also worth noting that these vehicles have a cab chassis style construction, and therefore you will be charged commercial rates to use them on Victorian toll roads, even if the vehicle is owned exclusively for private use. These significantly higher toll rates can quickly increase the vehicle’s running costs.

Written by Greg Hill
August 18, 2017