Dual-cab ute used car case study

Front and side view of  Mitsubishi Triton driving in a paddock

Greg Hill

Posted August 18, 2017

RACV compares three popular second-hand utes: the Navara, Ranger and Triton.

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.

Blue Renault Kadjar parked in city alley way

Toyota Hilux.

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?


rear and side view of blue Renault Kadjar

Nissan Navara.

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.


rear and side view of blue Renault Kadjar

Ford Ranger.

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.