If you’re looking for a used 4x4, what will a budget of £12,000 get you? Ed Coles investigates the options and best-performing models for Shooting Times

With the rising cost of brand spanking new vehicles, and the prospect of big bills from handing back a leased truck, the second-hand 4×4 trucks market could be the sensible option for acquiring a pickup. We’re going to take a theoretical £12,000 and see what’s on offer. If anyone would like to send me an actual £12k for a truck, that would be smashing.

Before we embark on what is more than likely the second largest purchase any of us will make, there’s a few things we can do to avoid buying a nightmare.

second-hand 4x4 trucks

A 44 model has to cope with all-weather conditions on shoots

Important when buying second-hand 4×4 trucks

  • Most pickups are classed as commercial vehicles so they have become popular with builders and other tradespeople, which can lead to them holding their price, even with quite a few miles on the clock. As they’re commercial, it’s always best to check if the price includes VAT or not.
  • Buying an ex-tradesman’s vehicle could mean the odd dent. More importantly, it may rarely or never have been used in a four-wheel drive, let alone done a wet feed run in December. So obviously, when you have found a truck you like, make sure you put it in 4×4 and check it works.
  • Acknowledge FAHFS — Friday afternoon heavy foot syndrome’ — as some tradesmen are renowned for testing the limits, shall we say. As a general rule of thumb with mechanicals, if it sounds like someone’s rattling a bag of spanners, don’t buy it.
  • Buying an ex-farm vehicle also comes with similar perils. There may be a few dents and knocks and it may have had a hard life. Again, the ‘bag of spanners’ rule applies. On the plus side, an ex-farm vehicle will more than likely come with some proper off-road tyres on it, which could save you anything up to and beyond £150 per wheel. Likewise, it could work the other way if you plan on doing more motorway driving.

We need to be realistic with our purchase. The chances of finding a 4×4 that the vicar has used to pop to the shops are fairly slim. For £12k we are looking at second-hand 4×4 trucks that are up to 10 years old with between 80,000 to 100,000 miles on the clock. That’s not to say an older truck with similar or higher mileage should be overlooked, but it may not have all the fancy toys you want and getting parts may be an issue.

2002 black silver Mitsubishi L200 2.5td 4life 4WD; Vehicular traffic moving vehicles, cars driving vehicle on UK roads, motors, motoring on the M6 motorway highway network.

For £12k, expect an eigh-year old Mitsuishi L200

Child seat

If you’re in the market for a second-hand truck, you’ll probably have an idea of what you fancy. If you’re planning on hauling a lot of material, then a single cab is probably the way to go. Let’s not forget you may have to run the odd errand for your better half, or drop the wee ones off at school, so a double cab does have its advantages. Essentially, when going to look at second-hand 4×4 trucks, don’t be afraid to take a tape measure and the child seat — I have been caught out with the latter myself.

When going to look at a vehicle, it’s also worth remembering it will have had a wash and polish, including the engine bay. A good steam clean can disguise some oily disasters waiting to happen. At the risk of telling you how to suck eggs, start the vehicle and leave it running for as long as possible before you test drive it. When you’ve given it a run, check under the bonnet. Follow the ‘bag of spanners’ rule and keep an eye on how ‘smoky’ it is when you first start it.

Automatic or manual transmission comes down to personal preference. Automatic gearboxes are more expensive than manuals. That said, the technology has moved on a bit and I don’t often hear of modern autos throwing lunch up everywhere. Personally, I prefer a manual for off-road driving.

Rear canopies are a good selling point when considering gundogs and security. Remember that canopies do come off, but can be pricey to buy and put on.

The same applies to tow bars. If you are buying a truck to tow a horsebox or something similar, always check the weights and the towing allowance of the vehicle — replacing a clutch can be expensive.

Service history is always something to consider — the more the merrier. If you are handed a wedge of paperwork it is always good to have a quick look through, just to see if the vehicle has had any major work done. It’ll also give you a good idea of how much servicing will cost.

The DVLA website is also worth a check, once you’ve found something that tickles your fancy. You’ll be able to check when the MOT runs out and if it has any potentially expensive advisory notices that you’ll have to deal with on the next MOT.

Isuzu D-Max

The Isuzu D-Max should hang on to its value

What’s on offer?

The pickup market is a bit more extensive than I thought. Checking on a popular car-selling site, in our price bracket for  there are 12 models from 10 manufacturers, totalling 577 vehicles. That doesn’t include Fiat’s rebadged L200 — apparently nobody is selling one at the moment — and Mercedes’s rebadged Nissan Navara is well out of our price range.

There are a few quirks like that in the pickup world. For example, early Ford Rangers are actually rebadged Mazda B2500s, and the later BT-50 is a Ford Ranger. It’s not uncommon for different manufacturers to use each other’s engines and running gear. The Isuzu diesel engine is rather popular in other people’s vehicles. There are the usual suspects in our list, but also a few that you might not have thought about.

The most readily available pickups on the popular car-selling website are the Nissan Navara with 187 vehicles, and the Mitsubishi L200 with 186 vehicles for sale.

In the early days of the Navara and L200, both manufacturers pitted themselves against each other with a bit of a brake horsepower battle. This led to the engines being slightly fragile — it was not uncommon for engines to throw a conrod out of the block making a hell of a mess, leaving your wallet in a similar condition. Likewise, the L200 had similar issues.

They seem to have sorted the major issues in later vehicles and the Navara doesn’t corrode and snap in half any more. From personal experience, I would avoid a 2004-2007 Navara. Later ones are worth a look; I’ve not heard of too many catastrophes with the later engines. For the Navara and the L200, £12k is going to get us an eight- to nine- year-old vehicle with 80,000 to 150,000 miles on the clock.

Land Rover Discovery

A Land Rover Discovery may not be the cheapest to run, but boasts plenty of space for man and dog

One manufacturer that may be a surprise to you is Great Wall. The steed could be one to look at for a bargain workhorse. There were 10 for sale, all of which were relatively cheap and cheerful. About £6k to £8k would get us a seven-year-old version with between 60k to 80k miles on the clock, which seems pretty good, but the availability of parts is something to think about. There are a couple of SsangYong Mussos: £12k for a three- or four-year-old with 100k on the clock.

The Land Rover 110 needs no introduction, but don’t expect an eight-year-old one with 100k miles on the clock. Expect at least 15 to 16 years old with at least 150,000 miles.

If you’re feeling flash, the VW Amarok might be worth a look — £12k will get us an eight- to nine-year-old one, but it will have more than 100k miles on it, closer to 150,000 on average. A VW is pretty reliable if looked after, but you can dent it and ruin leather seats quite easily.

Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 BiTDI 4Motion - MY 2011 - Double Cab - German pick-up - forest, meadow. Image shot 06/2011. Exact date unknown.

A Volkswagen Amarok is a dependable and safe option for a pre-loved truck

There are not many Mazdas about; one BT-50 and three B2500s. The B2500s are 15 to 16 years old and average around 100k miles. However, they are good sturdy trucks and well under our £12k limit, at around £4,500, so well worth a look if you’re after a workhorse.

As I said earlier, they were sold as a Ford Ranger so parts are easily available. The BT-50 ,which is the facelift Ranger (2008 onwards), is £8k with 120k on the clock. The Ford Ranger is the third most numerous on that car site, with 71 for sale. Our £12k would get us the new shape with a reasonable spec. Expect a seven-year-old model with anywhere from 70k to 100k miles on the clock. They are reasonably reliable, though I hear the fuel injectors occasionally play up.

second-hand 4x4 trucks

A later model Nissan Navara is less likely to let you down and offers good value

Simply the best

Now we come to the final couple, and I’ve saved my personal favourite second-hand 4×4 trucks until last. The Toyota Hilux has almost god-like status in the pickup world and its reputation precedes it. There are 65 up for sale and, for our budget, we could buy a 15-year-old one with low mileage, or a six- to seven-year-old one with 160k on it — quite a broad church. On average, though, we’re looking at seven to eight years old with 80k to 100k miles. But regardless of mileage, the Hilux is pretty much bulletproof.

Finally, Isuzu. The Rodeo, though not as popular as the D-Max, is still very capable. We can scoop a nine- to 10-year old one up for £10k with fairly sensible mileage, anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000.

The D-Max has been snapping at the Hilux’s heels for a while now, and there’s only nine for sale in our price bracket. Expect a six- or seven-year-old one with 100k to 150k miles on the clock. The D-Max does seem to hang on to its price well, marginally better than the Hilux. So buying either, we should retain a bit of value further down the line.