Wade and Ink in an old truck

Get in loser, we're going hiking!

Five Reasons I Decided to Buy an Old Truck

If you’re in the market for a new adventure vehicle, you may be surprised to learn that the best option might be an old truck. It seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes everything old is new again. Here’s how that worked out with my “new” 2001 Ranger.

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Just before 2018 came to a close, I swapped my 2009 Impala for a 2001 Ford Ranger. What inspired me to buy an old truck? Well, it suits my needs here in the Black Hills much better than the sedan did; there’s just some places that you can’t really explore without four wheel drive – especially in winter.

The 2009 Impala
The Impala did a decent job in the flat lands of Illinois, but she just doesn’t do as well in the Hills.

Before committing to buy an old truck, I put a lot of thought into the change. I knew I wanted something reasonably sized, with four wheel drive, and as decent of gas mileage as possible. Also, cheap. It had to be cheap. After a little shopping, and a test drive, I bought my first truck, a 2001 Ford Ranger XLT.

Wade and Ink in an old truck
Get in loser, we’re going hiking!

I grew up having a lot of fun in trucks

Despite loving trucks and wanting one for a few years, the closest I’ve ever come, until now, was a GMC van. Which is actually a little surprising. Trucks have always been part of the fabric of my life, even if they weren’t mine. I got my first experience driving behind the wheel of my dad’s trusty rusty Dodge Ram on the way back from a fishing hole. Fear and the grace of gods kept me upright while truckbed surfing in the back of a rusted out Chevy S10. I cackled wildly in the passenger seat when my buddy pulled down my mom’s old shed in his lifted F350. I helped push and dig out other guys’ trucks after we got them them stuck while mudding in some farmer’s fields late at night.

My dad's old Dodge
My first turn behind the wheel was in that old Dodge in the background, on a rough gravel road on the way back from a fishing hole in the middle of nowhere. Also, I was a very wiry teenager.

Despite doing all that fun stuff that you do in a farm and factory town when you grow up with redneck buddies, I went almost 36 years driving mostly sedans (and that one van). Now I’m the proud owner of my own new old truck, and I couldn’t be happier. Of course, 18 years isn’t that old, but in the world of automobiles, a vehicle that’s old enough to vote isn’t exactly a spring chicken. That’s okay, I’m not exactly a kid anymore myself (maturity level withstanding).

Having fun in the 2001 Ford Ranger
I’m still a kid at heart, and so is my Ranger. Even though we’re both legal adults.

Some people have tried to rain on my parade though. They get hung up on the number on the odometer, fuel economy, and other such concerns. Some of those concerns have validity, but the truth is, I thought about all that before I made my decision. I made a conscientious choice to buy an old truck, ultimately for five very good reasons.

Five Reasons I Decided to Buy an Old Truck

1. They’re cheap.

Let’s be honest straight out of the gate. One of the best reasons to buy an old truck is because they’re inexpensive. Of course, this varies depending on make, model, mileage, year, and trim, but unless you’re looking at something special and unique you won’t pay anywhere near the amount you would for a new truck.

To buy the 2001 Ranger, Clarissa and I paid roughly $6000. Compare that to the soon to be released 2019 Ford Ranger XL – the base model – with an estimated price tag of $24,000. And that’s a pretty low list price for a truck. When you start looking at larger models with additional packages, you can easily spend $70,000 or more on a truck.

I decided to buy an old truck, this 2001 Ford Ranger
This is how every guy in my high school posed for their senior pictures. Except they didn’t smile for any of them — it wasn’t cool, yo. I’m making up for lost time.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not currently in the position to drop $24K on a truck, let alone $70k! Meanwhile, my 2001 Ranger does everything I need it to. True, she doesn’t boast the fuel economy or shiny newness of the 2019, and I had to invest some money in brake work and seat covers but that’s part of the trade off.

Still, when you think about that fuel economy, the $18K I saved buying an old truck will buy a lot of gas over the next few years.

2. They’re readily available.

If you’re not picky, you can probably jump on Craigslist or walk into a dealership today and walk away with the keys to your new old truck. When I started looking to buy an old truck, I found literally hundreds within a fifty miles radius. Given, I live in a small town in a rural environment, but I’m betting that wherever you’re at, you probably have quite a few to choose from as well.

Buy an old truck on craigslist if you want
There are just pages and pages of old trucks on Craigslist.

I ended up buying the Ranger while we were about five hours away visiting my in-laws during the holidays. Why? Largely because I could snag a higher trade-in value for my Impala in a slightly more metropolitan area. Apparently people in a small town surrounded by National Forest at the mouth of a canyon have less interest in driving Sedans. Who knew?

Changing license plates
The Impala served us well, but Inkling knew we shouldn’t be driving a sedan anymore.

Another benefit of the availability of these trucks is that you can still easily find a lot of parts for them, both aftermarket and sometimes just in old junkers. It may require a little seeking and searching, but unless you’ve selected something rare, you can find whatever parts you need.

3. They’re already worn in.

The seats in my new old Ranger have lots of stains. The driver’s seat has a decent sized tear along the side. The rims don’t shine like they once did, and some parts of the body have been replaced and essentially rhino-lined. She’s old enough to vote, serve her country and buy cigarettes – I didn’t make it to 18 without scars either!

Wife and dog inside the old truck
Until we get seat covers installed, a little duck tape and some old towels have done just fine!

If you decide to buy an old truck, it will probably come with some nicks and dings, a spot of rust here or there, maybe some replacement parts, and miles. Lots and lots of miles. But instead of looking at this like a bad thing, consider it a positive; somebody else has already done all the wearing in for you.

Consider the hypothetical $70,000 truck I mentioned before – maybe you got a great deal on a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado High Country. Now that you have that expensive vehicle in your driveway, how prepared will you be to take it on roads snaking through public land, with low hanging branches, and thorny bushes on the side? Maybe you’d be a little more inclined to tread lightly, since your truck costs more than some people’s homes.

Driving the ranger
I don’t have to worry about nicks and dings on the truck. She has a job to do – staying pretty isn’t it.

Whenever my dad bought a new car or motorcycle, he’d give it a kick. This takes the piss right out of cosmetic worries preventing your from using the vehicle as intended. When you buy an old truck, it comes with scratches and battle scars, so you don’t have to worry if you add more – no second guessing if your side mirror will catch that boulder, or the branch will drag across your door. Just go where you want, and toss whatever you want in the bed.

Of course, that wearing in comes at a cost; out of the gate we put an additional $400 into repairing the brakes on the Ranger. But that wasn’t altogether unexpected, and even with that cost I’m still not in the same ballpark when it comes to the expense of a new truck.

4. Old trucks are honest.

Maybe this is a bit of nostalgia talking, but bear with me. A new vehicle, be it a truck, SUV, or sports car can lie to you. Auto makers don’t market vehicles based on their capabilities, instead relying on feelings to sell cars and trucks. With that new car smell and simulated engine roar, it doesn’t matter if your SUV is a glorified grocery-getter, because it can make you feel like an off-roader even when you’re headed to the mall.

Many of us buy things, including our cars, based on feelings. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this. It’s not a bad thing to have emotional attachment to vehicles – I shed legitimate tears when I traded in that GMC Safari Van that I inherited from my father.

Auto makers and dealerships try to sell to your feelings, and that gets some people in trouble. But it’s hard to find emotional marketing for an old truck. No one is putting out ads for a 2001 Ford Ranger, tugging at heartstrings for an 18 year old ride. We’re the low hanging fruit, so there’s no need to bring out the hard sell.

Buy an old truck, hang out in the snow like this
If they marketed 18 year old trucks, I would happily work as a spokesmodel.

That doesn’t mean I have no emotional attachment to the truck. It’s simply more grounded in what it can do; power through snow in four wheel drive, handle the forest service roads I spend time on, haul a decent load in the bed, and go zero to sixty in… eventually. Possessions are only impressive because they are used, so the expensive truck sitting in a driveway is meaningless to me.

I wanted to buy an old truck because it’s an old truck. It’s not glamorous or redneck chic, it just does what it does. I like that honesty.

5. They’re fun.

I wanted to get a truck to do the things I enjoy, but better. Public lands camping, building things, exploring the uneven terrain of forest service roads. I did all these things in my Impala, but I can do them better, and more safely, in a truck. These activities are fun, so by the means of the transitive property, the truck is fun.

Buy an old truck and driving in the snow becomes fun, like this
Now I enjoy driving forest service roads covered in snow and ice.

In all honesty, fun might be the best reason to buy an old truck; all the other examples in this list lead up to this one. An honest, inexpensive, easy to fix or replace truck that you don’t have to worry about scratching or denting gives you a lot of freedom to have fun. And fun is one of the most important parts of life.

Should I Buy an Old Truck?

At this point in the post there are probably two kinds of people still reading; those considering buying an old truck, and those that want absolutely nothing to do with one. If you’re the latter, thanks for hanging in this far. Whatever you vehicle choices may be, I hope you enjoy your ride. But for the former, well my friend, maybe you should buy an old truck of your own.

In the end, a vehicle is a tool. Some work better under certain conditions, and some excel at certain tasks. You can use a screwdriver as a chisel, but it won’t work nearly as well as the intended tool. Right now in my life, the Ranger is the right tool for the job at hand. Getting me from point A to point B is crucial, but having fun is also part of the job.

Walking away from the ford ranger

But damn, I’ll gladly sacrifice the luxury of a new car for that fun part.

9 thoughts on “Five Reasons I Decided to Buy an Old Truck

  1. I’m 100% with you, and would like to add a couple more reasons to go with an old truck.

    1. They’re easier to service yourself. Older trucks were built more for durability than style, and that translates to simplicity. Everything a shade-tree mechanic is likely to be willing to take on is easily accessible, and parts are easy to find. They’re also easy to modify for the same reason – it’s quite easy to add any and all of the modern accessories you want, because the wiring and fuses are easy to get to.

    2. As an extension of that point, they last forever. My ’83 Ranger finally gave up the ghost in 2019, after nearly 350,000 miles and 26 Indiana winters. I’ve “upgraded” to an ’88 F150, and I’m confident it will last me for years
    because it “only” has 106,000 on the clock. And then there’s the fabled Toyota Hilux – I’m sure we’ve all seen what “Top Gear” put theirs through.

    And to expand on your point #3, there’s very little nonsense in an older truck. They’re big, blunt slabs of steel that were designed and built to carry heavy loads from Point A to Point B. They’re not “lifestyle vehicles,” but rather tools – and a good tool is simple, durable, and well-suited to its purpose.

    1. Danny, thanks for your thoughts.

      And I love this — “a good tool is simple, durable, and well-suited to its purpose.”

      So true.

  2. I have a question. Does driving an old truck make you worry about emisions or how it affects the environment? With all the options for vehicles that have better fuel economy and that are better for the environment is a truck especially an older one a good choice for someone who cares about the environment?

    1. This is a really good question, and in fact I’m in the process of writing a post that addresses this question more fully.

      But to give you a quick answer — yes, and no.

      On one hand, I think it’s important to maximize fuel economy and reduce emissions. As such, my current truck is not the ideal vehicle for every situation. However, when I bought the Ranger, I drove less than fifty miles a week on average, and I exercise one of the best techniques for reducing vehicular fuel consumption — I drive really slowly.

      Since I will soon be starting at a new job that will require me to drive a good deal more every week, I’m looking at newer vehicles. And I’ll be honest, I’m probably going to buy a truck, not a Prius. Newer trucks get better gas mileage than my 2009 sedan that I owned prior to buying the Ranger, and they are better suited to allow my wife and dogs to do the things we love. That’s not perfect, of course, but I do feel it’s an acceptable compromise.

      In addition, our vehicles aren’t the only thing that matters when it comes to environmentalism. Every time we have a package delivered, mow our lawns, put off maintenance on our homes and vehicles, fly somewhere on vacation, and choose the source of our food, we make compromises. I strive to live in such a way that I’m comfortable with the compromises I make.

      I hope this answers your questions. If you want to know more about my thoughts on the matter, I hope you’ll check back in, maybe in a month or so, to see the post I’m working on about my truck, my lifestyle, and the environment.

  3. I’m a 60 year old southern boy. I spent most of my life paying for fancy cars and trucks. I got tired of the anxiety and took stock of my abilities and skill level. So I bought a fugly 1992 f150 for 900 bucks. Then I got busy. I changed all the fluids, replaced the leaking water pump and leaking oil pressure sensor. Now the old hag doesn’t leak and purrs like a kitten. It’s refreshing to throw anything into the bed and not give a care about a dent. That just adds to the collection. The insurance costs 275 bucks a year and the county tax is 40 bucks per year. And parts are readily available and cheap…and usually, I can fix it. I’m not looking for a lady to dazzle and I don’t care want another man thinks about the “Fugster.” He is probably subconsciously jealous that he lacks the confidence to ride in a clunker for peanuts. When I see a new f150 in a modest homes driveway…I actually am very thankful that stress machine ain’t in mine. The tax bill on that working class sucker’s truck is more than my total investment. Would I trade my fugly old truck for his and take up his payments? Chance….less than zero. Now, me and the Fug are headed to the dump for trash day. We fit right in there …and we like it.

    1. James. 60year old tennessee boy here…. 100%. I have the $ for a 70k driveway queen… not a chance in h3ll. I’m on 30 acres and I’m going to the dump now in my ancient ranger..trash day you know. Lol. Shawn

  4. Great Blog. I bought a 2005 Chevy Silverado 2500HD from my Uncle right before he died. It’s been a great truck. Had it about 4 years now. Haven’t put on a ton of miles and don’t daily drive it, so I don’t worry about the carbon footprint so much. It fits a need and I’m never worried about it looking pretty. It’s going to be put on the cover of LMC Truck in July of this year (2024). My ex-father-in-law had a 1999 Ford Ranger. It was a great truck and could get good gas mileage for a truck, wasn’t 4×4, so that helped.

    Sometimes I think about a newer truck, but mine fits my needs and I have it built the way I want. It’s simple, radio works, and it needs some TLC still, but lets me do the basic hauling I need to, and some towing from time to time.

    1. I am 72 years old and I bought a 1990 F150 when it was new. I has an extended cab, a straight 6 engine and a 5 speed stick and 2wd. Gas mileage is about 17 mpg in town and 19 on the highway with all terrain tires . The F150 has no AC (roll down the windows) but does have cruse control. I still drive it on weekends to help friends move, for projects and I drive a 2020 Honda CRV as a daily driver and on longer trips with 35+ mpg. The Ford F150 has some quirks, as do I. It can also do a lot of things a new truck cannot. I just keep it maintained and keep driving it to the dump and out for bark or gravel or a roll of wire fencing. The thought of giving up my 30+ year old truck is like giving up one of my children.

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