In search of wheels – Part 1

I’m due for another car.  Last week my vehicle of around 5 years drew its last breath.  I know this isn’t directly related to fishing but without this car I have no tow vehicle for my boat or transport for my kayak. Over a couple of articles I’m going to go through the process and decisions I will make which will hopefully lead me to the purchase of another vehicle.

You could say my family has been extremely loyal to the Toyota brand over the years.  Between my brothers and dad we have owned something like 14 Toyota four wheel drives between us.  Six 80 series Landcruisers, four Hiluxes, two Prados, one 73 series Landcruiser and one 100 series Landcruiser.  These have all been great reliable vehicles and Toyota is definitely a brand I have been exploring on my recent car search.  More interestingly though, and much to many family and close friends dismay, I haven’t ruled out anything in my search including European vehicles or another Australian built vehicle.

New Wheels (2)

For the first time in my life, I feel very apprehensive in selecting the vehicle best suited for me.  Previously I have had a list of vehicles that I’ve wanted to own and as a mechanic I had a fair idea of what was a good buy, what to steer clear of, and if I wanted something a bit different I usually built it or modified it myself.  Times have changed though.  Now I have a family, a mortgage and I’m not interested in modifying vehicles.  Family time is more important than wrench time in the garage and I don’t want the headache with registration and insurance companies that come with those types of modified vehicles.  To try and make my search a lot easier, I sat down with my wife and listed some key criteria for our next vehicle purchase.

  • Safety – With a family to come home safely to and transport this was a no brainer.  Either a solid second hand vehicle or a newer vehicle with an ANCAP rating of at least 4.
  • Seating – At least 5 seats.
  • Towing capacity – My boat and trailer loaded is probably pushing the 2T mark so above 2.2T would be ideal.
  • Body type – Preferably a wagon or utility so that there is room for luggage, a pram, the kid’s toys and fishing gear when travelling.
  • Fuel efficiency – Something that isn’t going to require me to invest shares in a major oil company.
  • Kilometres – This can vary.  Ideally I’d like to see a vehicle with less that 80,000km’s but I know from experience the Toyota diesel four wheel drives will be very expensive with this kind of mileage.
  • Pricing – Well this is probably always the sore point for most buyers.  Having enough money or borrowing power to secure the vehicle which best suits your needs.

The Internet is an excellent tool but can be your own worst enemy.  So much information is available on different vehicles that you spend just as much time sifting through what looks like hear say to find the honest opinions and reviews.  I struggled for hours looking through hundreds of webpages before I decided to just start looking at the website  It’s been a while since I have browsed this site and to my surprise it has had a significant facelift, with some excellent inclusions in search functionality since my last visit.  I soon realised that making a list of my criteria was a good decision as all of my listed requirements could be used to filter the hundreds of thousands of cars listed on this site.  After quite a bit of browsing and research I broke up long list of likely candidates into two shortlist categories – second hand vehicles and new vehicles.

For second hand vehicles I have shortlisted the following:

  • Chevrolet Silverado – Despite not meeting a few of my criteria points these vehicles are popular in the states for all things towing.  The dual cab models can accommodate the entire family and there is ample storage room in the tray.  They probably aren’t the most economical to run and finding a model with low kilometres at a reasonable price is not easy either but they have the reputation behind them with parts in Australia not too difficult to obtain.
  • Ford F-150 or F250 – For the same reasons as the Chev Silverado.  Injected petrol models are readily available and parts are easy enough to come by. Again, low kilometre models at a reasonable price are difficult to find but they do have a reputation as tow vehicles.
  • Toyota 80 Series Landcruiser – The 80 series Landcruiser is probably one of my most favoured of the Landcruiser breed.  The fact that I spent a fair majority of time working on these during my years as a mechanic probably sways that decision as well.  They are definitely a solid vehicle, I have personally seen the proof of this.  They are ultra reliable, have ample room and the towing capacity I’m after.  The only issue I will have with these vehicles is finding a factory turbo diesel model with under 250,000kms.
  • Holden Commodore Station Wagon – My most recent car was a Commodore station wagon and despite the number of bad things I have said about Holden over the years it served a purpose well.  It was bought to tow my boat and for over 5 years and something like 130,000 kms it did just that.


As for new vehicles, my list has been shortened to mainly commercial vehicles.  Not because that is what I was looking for but because there isn’t much that fits my criteria which can tow in excess of 2500kgs.  This list at present is:

  • Ford Territory – The Territory is an unlikely candidate but does tick some of the boxes for safety, seating, towing capacity and storage.  Ideally I am after a wagon or SUV so that I have ample, easily accessible ‘boot’ space but having another vehicle with a monocoque style chassis leaves me wondering whether it is the best decision for a tow vehicle.
  • Ford Ranger – The Ranger has received quite positive reviews as a dual cab utility.  With a 5 star ANCAP safety rating and a 3.5T towing capacity, it has become a contender, not to mention that it would support a major sponsor of our tournament scene.
  • Mazda BT-50 – I believe the chassis and drive train of the Mazda is identical to the Ranger.  Again with a 5 star ANCAP rating and 3.5T towing capacity, it essentially comes down to styling preference and price that would split the two apart.
  • Toyota Hilux – A reputation for reliability and resale value, the Hilux is an obvious choice considering my family’s long association with the brand.  I also know that it will be able to serve the purpose I require.
  • Volkswagen Amarok – To many family and close friends dismay, the Amarok has made it onto my shortlist of vehicles.  I have said a lot of bad things about European cars in the past including the Volkswagens but with raving reviews, competitive pricing, reports of refinement and a ‘car-like’ ride, the lump that you may see in the back of my throat is nothing other than my pride being swallowed as I consider this vehicle as my next.


In the next article, I’ll continue to explain my findings and opinions as I narrow down and hopefully select my next vehicle.  None of the above mentioned are certain, for all I know another brand and model may enter into my decision making process.

11 responses to “In search of wheels – Part 1

  1. My Father in-law purchased an AMAROK 12 months ago. He has always been a Toyota Hilux man. He loves it…. Been on a few trips with friends who have the SR5 Hilux and the Amarok beats it in power and Economy. And it has a lot more room in the back seats..

    • Hi Chad,
      I’d be interested to hear if he has towed with the Amarok and what he has towed. There aren’t too many write ups on people actually towing a decent load.

      • Ian,
        He tows a 26ft Dual axle caravan. He just got back from a 8 week trip up the coast. He was getting 11.8l/100km !! His mate in the hilux was towing the same van and was using 14.9l/100km… He also said that he could pass the Hilux up hill without putting the pedal to the metal…..

    • Simon,
      Nissans options are limited. I believe the Pathfinder would meet my criteria but I don’t like the physical look of them. The Navara’s would also meet my criteria but I’m very hesitant because of friends experiences with them.

  2. I have the new ranger and absolutely love it. Great to drive, comfortable to sit in and has plenty of space in the cabin. As for towing and fuel economy it is awesome. Around town I get either side of 9L/100km and towing the skeeter is around 11.5L/100km.

    • Stuart, The ranger is definately one I am considering. The downfalls I see at the moment in this vehicle is price and availability. From what I understand Ford can’t get them off the production line quick enough.

  3. I have the new D40 … It’s ok !! Next it will be a VW Amarok with out any 2nd thoughts

  4. We just bought a Prado to replace the Commodore and are very happy with it.

  5. Hey Ian,
    Having done alot of research around the subject, if you do narrow it down to a dual cab, both the Amarok and the Ranger are the 2 you should pick from. If you are thinking long term the Ranger has been outperforming the Amorok hands down and from memory has a lower servicing cost. Also in regards to Safety the ranger also gets side curtain airbags, both have a 5 star ANCAP rating which is important.

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