We tow an '86 Bigfoot
with a 2002 Dodge Dakota (a 6 cyl.). The Dakota is kind of the "family car" since we both commute to work and around town in much smaller cars with 33+ mpg. ratings. Neither of those cars are great for long trips with the whole family as they are too small to carry much luggage or big enough so everyone has some elbow room. The truck isn't as smooth to ride in (it bumps us around a lot with every little dip in the highway) but it's a quad cab with a 5 foot bed so is great for long trips-and camping trips- and fits the whole family (up to 5) and our gear comfortably. It also gets between 20-22 mpg. driving (mostly highway) and only takes 1 more gal. of gas for every 200 mi. we travel while towing a trailer (we're on our second trailer, the former being a 13ft vintage pop-up).
We were originally looking for a Toyota Tacoma, since I am not a big fan of Dodge vehicles (I owned an '87 Dodge Daytona from Oct. '87- Jan '90 and that car was the biggest lemon I have ever owned-the battery
died about 2 weeks after I bought it with 23,000 mi. on it, the water pump went out at 31,000 mi. and from then on it was one major component needing replaced about every 3 months till I got rid of it in early '90, from the alternator, transmission including the linkage, clutch and seals twice, electronic components, hoses, fuel injection system, and the entire brake system TWICE due to a fault in engineering according to the garage! When I traded it in the dealer sounded amazed that the car was "in as good as shape" as it was, since in his experience 3 year old Dodge Dakotas with 66,000 miles on them rarely had a functioning turbo drive or electric windows
or locks that still worked!)
I take good care of vehicles too-drive very conservatively and get the oil changed every 3,000 miles, etc. The next new car I traded my lemon in for was a Nissan Sentra, which ran fine with NO mechanical problems and only one brake shoe replacement at 70,000 mi. (and standard oil change/tuneup stuff) until I had the clutch replaced at 125,000. It still had the original battery
the car came with!
Needless to say I was not overjoyed when my husband came home with a Dodge Dakota after a trip to the dealership to "test drive" a couple of trucks. The good thing was that we got it with 32,000 mi. at about $3,000 under it's Blue Book value.
It's at 53,200 mi now and so far the main computer has gone out once for us (under warrantee-phew!-but my husband saw the work order and it went out for the original owner at around 20,000 mi. as well), some fuses have blown, there was a slight problem with the differential (that still ran $250), and now the fan isn't working (after 2 months of having to be on full blast in able to work at all) so when the heater or air conditioning
is on it doesn't blow out any air (I guess this isn't under warrenty). I am still not convinced Dodge has overcome past concerns about quality, I guess.
I've also noticed that I have to downshift considerably to make it up steep hills and then floored can only get the truck up to 40-50 mph. while towing. I have also had this problem on moderately steep inclines such as the one between Palm Springs and Quartzite.... so I personally feel that it is a little gutless despite the fact that my trailer is only "supposed" to weigh 2,500 lbs. max and the truck we have supposedly has a 3,500 towing limit. I am getting my trailer (fully loaded) weighed at the Lake Casitas Gathering just to make sure that I am not vastly underestimating my weight
, however, so *may* be back to retract the "gutless" statement!
I guess I would go with Consumer Reports and the guy up above and look around for a Toyota. You might find the same issue that we did when we were shopping for a truck, though-not that many people are selling "used" Toyota Trucks, and we just didn't feel like shelling out for a new one. Good used Toyotas take a long time to find. We got tired of looking, but now I kind of glance at the Toyota classifieds now and then in preparation for the day some big expensive thing (more expensive that the $450 it will take to fix the heater fan) goes wrong with our current truck......
Then again, maybe I am just really unlucky with Dodge vehicle choices and get the ones made by the hungover guys on Monday morning or the TGIF guys on Friday afternoon that had a few at lunch!
I am curious if any others on this site have had the same issues (when you google "Dodge Dakota reviews" you'll get plenty of horror stories about repair costs but also some people who think it really looks great and is affordable, so I guess it depends on your perspective.)