I own two trucks. One is a ’96 Ford Ranger, the other is a ’95 Ford F-150. I paid 1,500 for the Ranger and 2.000 for the F-150.
I’ve had the Ranger since 2006. It has just under 200,000 miles on it. I’ve had the F-150 since 2010, and it’s still running great at 300,000 miles.
As vehicles get this old and travel hundreds of thousands of miles, maintenance is required. Fuel pumps go out, thermostats fail, water pumps need replacing and spark plugs burn out. I spend a good bit of my free time under the hood of my trucks, or under the trucks themselves. So why turn wrenches on old trucks instead of buying a new one?
There are several reasons.
First off, I actually enjoy doing mechanical work. While I may curse and complain about scraped/bruised knuckles and the constant trips to the parts house for that damned special tool I didn’t realize I was going to need, I’m having a blast. On top of that, in the event it’s something I haven’t done before, I’m learning something. A few weeks ago my friend D and I changed the ball joints on my F-150. The repair shop wanted 800 dollars for this project. We did it in a weekend for the cost of parts (about 175 bucks) and of course the cost of beer. We had a good time doing it.
You simply cannot get under the hood and do things on newer vehicles. A friend of mine has a 2006 F-150 and we couldn’t even change the spark plugs. Hell, the shop charged 50 bucks per spark plug because it’s such a pain in the ass. Once you buy a new vehicle, almost all repair will have to be done at the dealership or a mechanic shop…for which you will pay a 20% mark-up on parts and 70-100 dollars an hour for labor. I’d rather buy a case of beer, grab my wrenches and make a day of it.
Then there is the next obvious reason….GPS. More and more new automobiles are coming equipped with GPS, not to mention remote control features that are accessible by strangers. Someone you’ve never met can lock your doors, start and stop your engine and locate you at any time. That’s not my idea of a good thing. Imagine if the government decided you were a threat….there you are, driving to work, when suddenly the car stops and your doors lock. Hell, they would probably due it because you owe taxes or back child support. I’m not interested in that little feature, thanks.
I also take a lot of pride in ownership. This is probably why I enjoy working on my trucks so much. Because they are mine, free and clear. If I lose my job and have no money, I still have transportation. I will never finance a vehicle. Why would I, when I can go pick up a used one for two grand or less, cash?
Which brings me to my next reason: money. Yes, I work on my trucks and buy parts for them a few times a year. The money I spend on parts probably averages out to around 100-150 a month. Compare that to a 300 dollar or more car payment for 5 years, plus cost of repairs, since new automobiles just don’t hold up like the old ones and they cost more to fix.
So, if you have at least a small amount of mechanical ability and aren’t afraid to tear into something you’ve never worked on, I recommend buying a 90′s model truck, picking up a Hayne’s manual and taking pride in the upkeep of something you own and intend to own for many years to come. I say truck and not car, because trucks are bloody useful. You can haul things, carry things in the back and go riding in the woods.
Keep it simple.