Fleet Trucks – Ford Rangers or Toyota Tacoma – other options

At Hearts Pest Mangement, I have followed the tradition of many fleet owners/managers by purchasing Ford Rangers again and again. Perhaps I have gotten myself into a lazy rut. I need to take my own advice and think out of the box I have gotten myself into. After many repairs this spring and now in the early fall, I am unequivicably convinced that Ford Rangers just don’t last predictably. Oh, you’ll have one that breaks the mold, but many will have engine problems below the 100,000 mile mark. A few years ago I had one Ranger with a transmission that went out at 25,000 miles and then the engine at 35,000 miles. That was actually heaven-sent as they were obviously warranteed. Now I am purchasing extended maintenance and premium protection plans for my Rangers. They are a logical choice so as to keep maintenance bills predictable and to even out cash flow, but they are also my plan B for trucks that have become my 5th collumn. What is your opinion on the various engine options for pest control trucks that haul considerable weight?

Does anyone out there believe that auto mechanics, even the specialists, know how to solve anything beyond the most obvious electrical problems? We have given up one personal vehicle – and one Ford Ranger, due to unpredictable and repeating electrical gadge malfunctions. I let go of a Ford Ranger just this week, as I did not have a premium extended car plan on this truck with 87,000 miles and I could not tolerate the work interruptions inflicted on my service technician. Neither the dealer, nor an auto electronic specialist was able to find the problem. I also lost my GPS coverage when the Ford dealer recommended removing the GPS to see if its’ wiring was interfering with the operation of Ford electronics.

Should I switch to the Toyota Tacoma? The pricing is higher, but perhaps not that much higher if you consider items that are standard in some of the Tacomas, not found in the Ranger. …or if you believe Tacomas will retain a higher trade in value – despite recent revelations about Toyota quality control or the lack thereof.

Are some of you looking to other options? For a while, I was looking constantly in the news for the introduction of hybrid light duty trucks. Frankly, I have given up hope. I even looked at veggie truck fuel. I don’t see anything that supplies noticeably better gas mileage, though some trucks have noticeably poor gas mileage.

I’d love to hear some ideas out there. I’m not a mechanic and I don’t want to be one. I want trucks that run consistently, capable of handling the work that I expect a work truck to handle.

This post is sincerely submitted by a consultant with no clue about anything on 4 wheels.

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9 Responses to Fleet Trucks – Ford Rangers or Toyota Tacoma – other options

  1. keith says:

    With our business and the constant stopping and going any vehicle is going to have some wear and tear. We have purchased F-150’s over the years and just recently a ranger with the Clunker program. I believe in buying American – I do realize that some of those others are mostly made here but I’m sticking with Ford or Chevy – currently at Ford Explorer 188,000, 2 F-150 at 156,000 – so knocking on wood we will be fine.

  2. David Cole says:

    I love the idea of “Buy American” I would also love to see “American pride in workmanship” like the good old days, until then I have to stay with the Japanese. Buying Japanese still supports American workers.
    I had a Nissan Hard Body I drove 11 years, had 250k miles and never once broke down on me, not many American trucks can do that.

  3. Mel says:

    What do you think of buying local when it comes to pest control?

  4. Gerry says:

    That’s a really good question! I’ll open a new topic on this subject within 24 hours. Give me a little time to compose my thoughts. Thank you for your interest.

  5. Josh says:

    In our pest control fleet we’ve been going with Toyota for many years, and we’ve watch the competition go through ranger after ranger after ranger. I just put another one (early 90’s model) pre-tacoma out to pasture. (Still runs perfectly but does little for our image.) It has 430,000 miles, original engine and transmission. We run the Dodge Dakota for termite and have been pleased. (200,000+ miles typically)

  6. Gerry says:

    Josh, thank you so much for sharing your fleet experience with us. I’ve determined that it is time to switch over to Toyota. I’ve simply had too many problems with the Ford Rangers. Engine and transmission life is very unpredictable. Then there are also the little things that go wrong. It’s so annoying when the internal overhead light won’t go off. Or how about the tail gate handle that snaps off like an eggshell?

    Tell me, Josh… how often have you been changing the oil in your Toyotas? Do you buy their maintenance and/or end-to-end repair packages? Do you feel equally comfortable with Tacomas and Tundras? In your experience, how close do the trucks come to the estimated gas mileage? How many Toyotas do you have in your fleet?

    As an exchange for your comment, feel free to include a link for your website. I’d love to hear more about your pest control company.

    Thanks again,


  7. Josh says:

    Thanks, Gerry! We’re a small, 3rd generation family owned pest control company in southern Virginia. We currently have 6 1996-2009 Tacomas in our fleet. We change the oil every 5000 miles and don’t buy any maintenance packages at all. We typically pick them up used with 0-35,000 miles on them and in the 20+ Toyotas that we have owned in the past 20 years I can honestly say that we’ve never had a lemon. We picked one up this week in excellent condition (2007 model with 31,000 miles) for $10,500. We’ve always been pleased with the mpg that we’re receiving. I can’t answer your question about the Tundra because we have never owned one personally or within the company. Our routes are spread through an 8 county area so there is a good bit of driving and last month, all technicians gas bills were within the $200-$300 price range.

    I don’t think you’ll regret the decision to go with the Tacoma. I’ll try to upload and link to a picture of the one that I picked up yesterday after it’s lettered later this afternoon. I hope helps!


  8. Gerry says:

    This is really good information. I’ve only purchased on used Ford Ranger. It wasn’t necessarily a bad choice, but when the trucks are so unpredictable, you really want to get some miles without repairs, after suffering the pre-purchase old truck repair blues.

    An important variable in the lifespan of the truck is how much weight you put on it, thereby taxing the engine and reducing its’ lifespan. Josh, how much weight do you have in the bed of your Toyota Tacomas? Do you have power rigs? Or do you just backpack? Our rigs have 48 gallon tanks, plus we also carry 2 pack backs.

    Thanks for all the info.

  9. Gerry says:

    So I’ve continued this internal debate between Tacomas and Rangers. I have heard from a local Ford dealer that Ford is not committed to building the Ranger beyond the 1st quarter of 2011. Personally, I just think that is totally stupid. Yes, plain stupid. Ford is not going to get their Ranger customers into the F-150, no matter what they do to it. They can’t do enough to improve the gas mileage to get me into a truck that is oversized for what I want to accomplish by having a light duty truck.

    Meanwhile, I’ve heard some very surprisingly negative comments about the Tacoma. No one complains about the Toyota power train. The truck gave me goosebumps when I surveyed all the extras. But then I heard that the bed was made of fiberglass until a few years ago and that even now it is made of a composite plastic. That’s good for producing improved gas mileage, but I already knew the truck had great gas mileage by lookking at the sticker on the side door. The key problem with the composite plastic is that it causes cracks and other difficulties when attempting to upfit the bed with all the equipment that has to go on a pest control truck. I was told that only a few customizers can do it well and they charge a lot!

    So my next vehicle will NOT be a Tacoma and there may not be any Rangers in my future either. Next on the list is the Nissan Frontier. BTW, I have one Ford Transit Connect. It can work in some situations but requires huge efforts to convert the back of the van for a chemical load that is sealed off from the cab. Whether feasible or not, I’ve decided that I will not by a product made in Turkey until there is a different government there that is not cozying up to Iran.

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