No used car is perfect. They’ve all seen use and probably some abuse, been exposed to sun and wind and rain, endured muddy shoes and Starbucks spills and parking lot scapes. Call it patina. Call it normal wear and tear. Call it what you will — it’s what makes a used car “used.”
Buying a used car saves you money, but it also means picking up responsibility for all of these deficits, demerits, and scars. Some will need to be fixed immediately. Others can be left alone – sometimes for years, sometimes for good.
Interest in classic SUVs has reached such a fever pitch even the car companies want a piece of the action. Many are bringing back modern versions of their beloved old school off-roaders, just as Toyota did with its legendary FJ back in 2006. The 2020 Land Rover Defender and 2021 Ford Bronco are leading the charge, but the list of returning icons also includes the Jeep Grand Wagoneer and, hopefully, an all-new version of the Toyota Land Cruiser.
Older versions of the Toyota Land Cruiser are at the heart of the classic SUV market, which is booming as Millennials and Gen Xers begin to participate in the old car hobby. According to Hagerty, the popular insurer of classic cars and trucks, these younger enthusiasts are fast changing the demographics of the hobby, once the exclusive territory of Baby Boomers and their parents.
But which used Land Cruiser makes the most sense for you? Toyota has been building the Land Cruiser since the 1950s, and it has changed quite a bit over the decades. There are many different generations of the SUV, from the original FJ40, which was first imported into the United States in the mid-1960s, to the latest version of the 200 Series, a model that’s still available at your local Toyota dealer.
With so many different versions to choose from, there’s quite a bit to consider before you purchase a secondhand Land Cruiser. Although every Land Cruiser features four-wheel drive with a low range transfer case, and they all have a well earned reputation for being among the toughest and most off-road capable SUVs ever made, each generation of Land Cruiser is very different than the other. Each has its own appeal and its own trouble spots buyers should be aware of.
Sports cars are an indulgence. Comfort, space and even reliability are all sacrificed on the altar of Handling and Speed. And if that altar is busy, then all that can be offered up to the God of Beauty and Allure instead. In most ways, sports cars are just like other cars. But it’s the ways in which they’re no like other cars that matter most.
Sure, there are a few of us who hit it big when they’re young and can afford to buy a brand-new Ferrari. After all, when your initial NHL contract includes an $4 million signing bonus, the $350,050 price of 488 Pista seems almost inconsequential. And all the guys who graduated from high school with you last year, will be envious when you drive it through downtown Saskatoon.
But a first sports car for most of us will be a used sports car. And two sports cars stand out as the greatest used sports cars of all time. One of those is better than the other, but the other one is radically more affordable.
So it’s a tie.
Trucks aren’t about beauty. But there are beautiful trucks. Trucks aren’t about comfort. But a comfortable truck is a better truck. Trucks are about work. And a truck that can’t work isn’t much of a truck.
Evaluating the greatest used pickup of all time requires a clear-eyed evaluation of how well a truck can be used to get things done. All the other things that matter a little, only matter a little. Working matters a lot.
Finding the greatest half-ton pickup means ignoring big one-ton duallies, and even heavy duty ¾-tonners. The half-ton pickups are trucks like the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan. Full-size trucks that are also used as everyday drivers and family haulers. They are the heart of the North American market.
The greatest used half-ton pickup truck of all time is beautiful, is comfortable, but most importantly, it works great. First, though, let’s understand why pickups rule North America.
It’s no secret that we’re fans of the Mk6 generation Volkswagen Golf. In our model-specific buying guide, we say that anyone “looking for one car that’ll do it all” for under $15,000 should look no further than VW’s popular hatchback, which manages to balance performance, economy, refinement, and even reliability with surprising grace.
At the time, we stopped short of recommending any of the turbodiesel, or TDI, variants. That’s not because they aren’t good cars. On the contrary, VW’s punchy turbodiesel engine pairs quite nicely with the Mk6 chassis, making for an efficient and fun-to-drive all-rounder. However, in the wake of VW’s emissions scandal, aka “Dieselgate,” there was too much uncertainty about how the the TDI models would be affected to give them a solid thumbs up.
But in recent months, the Dieselgate dust has begun to settle, bringing some important new factors to light — factors which have caused us to revise our stance. Dramatically.
In fact, we now believe that VW’s TDI models represent one of the best used car buying opportunities to come along in years.