Used 4×4 ute buying guide

HISTORICAL business alliances – and rivalries – within the global ute market means that now, in 2020, all the popular new utes currently on sale are all either reach the end of their generational life, or midway through a generation.

In enormous terms that means they are all come 10 years old, or five years old with none of the new popular utes being new-generation designs.

In simple languages the ‘oldies’ are the VW Amarok, Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50, Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-Max, which arrived in Australia in that verbalize in 2011/12. The mid-generation utes include the Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara and Toyota Hilux, all of which arrived here in 2015.

Of course, things haven’t remained completely static with those utes as their respective initial arrivals, although some occupy changed more than others.

Courtesy of a potent V6 diesel, the Amarok is the most changed although the 2016 re-engineering of both the Ranger and the Colorado moreover brought significant changes, as did the optional 2.0-litre 10-speed powertrain in Ranger in 2018. Even the mid-generational utes have seen evolution and progresses in the last five years with Triton receiving a mid-life refresh remaining year.

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All of this bodes well if you’re looking to buy a second-hand ute, as you can go abet a good number of years to something that’s extra affordable without having to settle for a survive generation design, which, by and large, need the performance, safety, equipment, general amenity and, in one cases, the cabin size of the recent generation utes.

HOW TO BUY A extinct CAR

BUYING second-hand and making sure you get a respectable ute is not rocket science but solves require patience, perseverance and, above all, a plan!

You might be thinking of either buying privately or buying through a dealer, as both have advantages and disadvantages, but it’s best to glimpse both. The wider the net you throw, the better chance of catching the best fish.

The main car-selling websites, which are the best place to starting looking for a second-hand ute, hide to combine private-sale and dealer second-hand cars anyway – unless you grasp another level of sorting – so that wider net is automatically thrown for you.

YAY OR NAY? must you buy a used car.

Dealer cars come with certainly of title and ownership, and generally with some warranty but desire cost more and may not be necessarily be a safe car, depending of course on the manufacturing of the dealer.

Private-sale cars are generally cheaper, but come with no warranty and you’ll privation to thoroughly check that the person selling the car actually owns the car.

On the subject of throwing a wide net, those same websites funding you to select a ‘distance from you’ as one of the search criteria. No point in even considering utes that are too far away to stare with reasonable convenience unless to get a better conception of average prices for the type of ute you’re looking for. If you live terminate to a state border, the ‘by state’ searches are too irrelevant and another reason to use ‘distance from me’.

Once you beget selected your preferred price range, the next key search criteria you demand to use is ‘lowest mileage’, which is generally far extra important than a ute’s age in existences given all utes have a finite mechanical life – hopefully at least 400,000km – and the more of it that is frail up when you buy it, the less that is left. The only qualifier on this is you may hold a low-mileage older ute that’s been out in the climate all its life and its poor exterior condition overrides its mechanical youthfulness.

As ever, a documented service history is close to being notable (dealer car or not), while a documented ownership history is moreover important although not as vital as the repair history.

A professional road-worthiness inspection by a mechanic is moreover very worthwhile if you’re not mechanically minded. Even having a friend along when inspecting a potential assume is a good idea if, for no other reason, they may notice something you don’t.

Here’s a rundown of the unique 4×4 utes and how they shape up as a second-hand buy, and presented according to new-sales popularity.


THE current generation Ranger arrived here in behind 2011 but was revised heavily for the 2016 model year beside improved engine response and refinement, electric permission steering and changes to the way the chassis electronics replace, which, along with the generous wheel fade, helps make the Ranger a top-tier performer off road.

The Ranger has a big roomy cabin that’s second-to-none in conditions of combined front and rear legroom, and beside the gutsy 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel is near as good as it gets for heavy-duty low and tow work.

An optional powertrain, a 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel with a 10-speed automatic, came in 2018 and while the microscopic bi-turbo engine has the same towing capacity on paper as the 3.2 it doesn’t match the bigger engine after there’s serious work to be done, although it’s collected and refined and peppy enough with moderate loads.

RANGER TOW TEST: 2.0-litre vs 3.2-litre

Unfortunately, it also has to work harder to do the same job as the 3.2, which creates the ‘big’ five-cylinder engine still the take of the two. Such is the Ranger’s popularity it now outsells the Hilux in 4×4 models, which keeps second-hand prices strong. And an all-new Ranger is due in the next pair of years.


THE Toyota Hilux is probably the most sought once of second-hand utes due to its solid reputation, and the high demand keeping prices high and the chances of pulling a ‘bargain’ Hilux quite low.

The original generation Hilux 4×4 arrived here late in 2015 by three different engines and the usual cabin and drivetrain options.

2.8-litre Hilux

The Hilux is a ute that does greatest things well enough although the mainstream engine – the 2.8-litre diesel – is a diminutive underwhelming in performance and over-geared with the automatic and works better as a manual. The 2.4-litre diesel in lower spec 4x4s performs an admirable job but is no powerhouse.

If, by chance, you’re after a petrol ute plus the Hilux is the only option in this class beside the current generation utes. The 4.0-litre V6 in expect is a rare find second-hand but is grand, if relatively thirsty, and offers simplified maintenance compared to contemporary high-tech turbo diesels.

3.0-litre Hilux

The Hilux is moreover physically smaller than big utes like the Ranger and the payload and towing capacities not as high in one cases. Like the Ranger, the Hilux is except a top-tier off-road performer due largely to its class-leading bet on wheel travel.


THE current generation Triton arrived here in 2015 and is distinguished from the other common utes by being a bit smaller and not as beneficial for carrying or towing heavy loads, but it’s moreover handier in confined places and the least expensive of the margin utes.

This is why its new sales dismal only behind Hilux and Ranger. The low new note also translates to low second-hand prices, after strong new sales also means good supply on the archaic market. If you want a less costly ute than the Triton, then you’ll be looking at a Chinese, Indian or Korean offering.

Recent-model Tritons are most strong with add-on safety equipment, while more expensive variants also hold the inherent primary safety bonus of full-time 4WD, a consistently underrated be in the lead that the Triton holds over the other current utes, bar automatic Amaroks. And in the case of the Amarok, the full-time system is single range, whereas the Triton offers the combination of full-time 4×4 and dual range.

RIVALRY: Triton vs D-MAX vs Navara

Unfortunately, while that helps the Triton in a touring role, the limited wheel travel means the Triton’s star fades off road and, listed with the Navara and D-Max is a bottom tier off-road performer.


THE announcement that US carmaker General Motors is closing the Holden brand in Australia can merely force down the value of second-hand Colorado utes.

Holden has guaranteed parts and ceremony until 2025, but beyond that it desire mean sourcing parts through independent channels. And unfortunately, while there are some common parts between the Isuzu D-Max and the Colorado very of the service-sensitive items such as the engines and gearboxes are different.

Outside of that the Colorado offers a biggish cabin and a hard-working engine that gets the job done. Excellent automatic gearbox too. It could well be the value buy in the used-ute market.

The unique generation Colorado came out in mid-2012 and a top-to-bottom re-engineering in 2016 cooked it far better in terms of body and powertrain refinement, ride and handing, and steering courtesy of electric authority steering.

END OF AN ERA: What Holden’s closure means for the Colorado

The head of second-generation off-road specific electric traction regulation in that year also moved the Colorado from a bottom-tier off-road performer to a mid-tier off-road performer. So, if you’re after a Colorado, plus you definitely want a 2016 or later model!


THE unique Nissan Navara, or D23, was another 2015 descent and is distinguished in the broader ute market as greatest dual-cab variants having coil springs at the posterior, and not traditional leaf springs.

It’s splendid to say that this generation Navara has remained a disappointment for Nissan, sales-wise, failing to fetch the market penetration of its predecessor, the D40. Despite claiming a 3500kg tow rating to match the bigger utes in the class such as Ranger and Colorado, the Navara proved none too good at either towing or carrying heavy loads, although this was improved for the 2017 model and again in 2018.

You can get extinct leaf springs at the rear of a Navara D23, but merely with the less powerful single-turbo engine and not plus the more powerful bi-turbo engine that is the default engine across the broader range.

2019 TWEAKS: Updated Nav

The Navara’s relatively poor settle clearance and limited wheel travel also denotes it’s a bottom-tier off-road performer, despite coming plus a rear locker as standard.

If you desire a more general-duties ute and not a heavy-duty workhorse or off-road weapon, the Navara still offers decent performance and suitable levels of equipment, so can be suitable value. And if you want a dual-cab 4×4 with a factory sunroof, or an opening back window, then it’s the only choice!


THE Isuzu D-Max has been the peaceful achiever of the ute market, rising from approach obscurity upon release in 2012 (at the same day as the Colorado) to a significant force in the market today.

Not grand changed in the first five years of this generation’s life but 2017 caused a revised engine, new gearboxes and stronger all-round proceed. The engine needed upgrading for Euro 6 emissions standards, which meant, among other things, the fitting of a diesel particulate filter.

The D-Max is composed a modest performer but will get the job done equal when towing heavy loads. Call it an impartial workhorse, every day, all day. Like the Colorado, whose bodyshell and ladder frame it shares, the cabin is mid-size, so bigger than Navara or Triton, but not as roomy as a Ranger, BT-50 or Amarok.

The D-Max nonetheless, isn’t anything special off road and once better than Triton or Navara, it mild falls in the bottom-tier utes in languages of off-road performance.

10 FACTS: The 2020 D-Max

With its salubrious reputation for reliability and low service costs the D-Max is a celebrated second-hand buy and one that keeps its second-hand value well. As with buying a second-hand Hilux, finding a ‘bargain’ D-Max won’t be easy.

An all-new D-Max is due in 2020 but the timing is risky given the CV-19 disruption. When it performs arrive, it will be the first of the next-generation utes to do so.


WHEN this generation Mazda BT-50 arrived in late 2011, it was a rebadged twin of the then-new Ford Ranger. There were a couple of minor technical repositions – steering-rack ratio and suspension damper calibration – but otherwise the two happened mechanically identical.

From 2016 on however, plus Mazda not adopting the mechanical enhancements achieved to the Ranger in that year, the BT-50 fell slack the Ranger in a number of ways, notably engine refinement and flexibility, and off-road where the BT-50 is a mid-tier performer, although a good one at that.

On the other wall of the ledger, you can make an argument for the BT-50 remaining with the proven, long-term reliability of hydraulic authority steering and not adopting electric power steering, as did the Ranger.

Despite the similarities the BT-50 has only enjoyed a faction of the Ranger’s sales, so is not as common on the ancient market. But if you can find one, it offers the same basic attributes of the Ranger, namely a big cabin and excellent load and tow replace thanks largely to the big and ‘grunty’ 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel.

A new generation BT-50, sharing a platform with the upcoming Isuzu D-Max, is expected later this year.


VOLKSWAGEN’S Amarok firstly appeared in Australia in early 2011, initially beside a four-cylinder bi-turbo diesel. This was joint by a 3.0-litre V6 diesel in leisurely 2016. Even with its four-cylinder engine, Amarok set the benchmark for utes in many ways and the V6 has pushed that superiority out to spanking level.

In terms of performance, heavy-duty towing organization, ride and handling, the safety of full-time 4WD, fitting a full-size pallet between the wheel arches and ease of driving, there is none better.

Until recently, the V6 was merely mated to a single-range full-time 4×4 auto method but is now available as a part-time, dual-range 4×4 manual, however don’t expect to see many of these pop up on the second-hard market for a after yet.

Still, if you think the lack of low-range is a handicap off road for the Amarok automatic, then you would be wrong as it’s a excellent top-tier off-road performer along with Ranger and Hilux and better than most utes with low range.

On the negative wall of the ledger, the Amarok has no back cabin airbags, in any model, while the lack of VW dealerships in regional and rural areas and the Amarok not being the favourite of independent land mechanics are other drawbacks.

An all-new Amarok isn’t far away and it appears it determination be based on a Ford platform, which income the current Amarok could be one of a kind.

This article was written by with title Used 4×4 ute buying guide.
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Author: apprentice

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