Mazda B-Series, 1998–2010
Dodge Dakota, 2005–2011
Used Vehicle Advice: Small Trucks. Click image to enlarge

Article by Justin Pritchard

Whether you’re renovating the house, partaking in some new outdoor adventures or planning on numerous yard-related projects in the upcoming year, the used truck marketplace has you covered with affordable models that offer relatively decent fuel consumption and top-notch levels of payload and capability to get the job done.

Few Canadians can debate the wholesome functionality, usefulness and handiness of small-truck ownership. Heck, chances are you’ll find new uses for your new-to-you little pickup every week you own it.

If you haven’t got a mobile home or numerous skids of roofing shingles to haul around at any given time, the following models might be on your radar. Most can be had affordably, and most should offer solid reliability after a few mandatory checks.

Here’s a look at what owners like, what they say you should be on the lookout for, and some generally-helpful hints for used truck shopping.

2005 to 2011 Dodge Dakota

The Draw: Dakota’s 25-year run came to a halt in 2011 on account of declining small-truck sales – though the market is full of used examples for shoppers prioritizing performance and style. Power, ride quality, a solid driving feel, capability and cabin spaciousness are typically highly-rated by Dakota owners from this generation, and models with the V8 engine are said to be plenty powerful and responsive in all situations.

Look for up to 310 hp from the 4.7L V8, with a 3.7 litre V6 as standard. If you’re after a newer small truck with a V8, this is one of your only options. Look for a 2007 or older model if you’re after a six-speed stick, and shop a 2007 or newer model for more V8 power, a more refined cabin and more features.

The Checks: Online, owners have griped about less-than-durable front-end construction, so have a good listen for signs of popping or clunking as you drive over rough roads and bumps, and feel the front-end for signs of slop. A mechanic should check the Dakota’s suspension for maximum confidence, having a look at the transmission, transfer case and differential for signs of fluid leakage while it’s in the air.

Dodge Dakota, 2005–2011Dodge Dakota, 2005–2011Dodge Dakota, 2005–2011
Dodge Dakota, 2005–2011. Click image to enlarge

Ensure the transmission shifts smoothly, noting any hesitation, slipping or banging sensations while the transmission shifts at light, moderate and full throttle. Drivers should also feel for a vibration at highway speeds, which could indicate a transmission problem. The transmission should shift cleanly and smoothly in all situations.

Note that hesitation or a rough idle from either engine could indicate a sensor or electronic problem with the engine control unit. Confirm that all stereo speakers are working properly, and be sure there is no sign of moisture in the Dakota’s carpeting, which could be the result of a bad window or sunroof seal.

Useful: Like any used pickup in this column, the Dakota is available with a big engine, and a small one. Be sure you’ll benefit from the added power and capability of any used truck’s up-level engine, as you’ll be paying for that power and capability every time you visit the gas pumps whether you use it or not. For many shoppers, and especially those without heavy things to tow, the smaller engine is adequate – not to mention cheaper to fuel and maintain in most cases.

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