If you haven’t noticed light duty pick-up trucks are popular as ever, again. With gas prices dirt cheap and there is always a need for people to haul items. And let’s be honest trucks are cool, so here’s an affordable older truck that is more reasonable than most.
In 1994 Dodge (now Ram), stunned the pick-up truck world with its new Ram 1500 model. It looked like a “big rig” had more options (like a fold down middle box in the console), and was intimidating with a huge chrome grill. Even if you didn’t like trucks or were familiar with Dodge, this truck was hard to ignore.
These trucks sat higher than the competition and seemed bigger. Most were powered by a 5.2 liter V8 “Magnum” engine and you could go up to a V10 if you wanted to or have the legendary Cummins diesel. The iconic “Hemi” engine didn’t return until the next generation of Ram trucks in 2002.
Immediately you saw these trucks everywhere and because of those sales numbers and that Dodge trucks generally don’t hold their value like General Motors (GM), & Ford, these older models are a deal.
You should be able to find a decent one around $ 5,000- $ 7,000. Now granted we are talking about at least a 15 to over 20 year old truck that probably has been well “used”. Though that styling has aged well.
My father in law has had one for years and I know he replaced a rear end and some of these have transmission issues and the dashboard cracks on a lot of them too. Keep your eyes open for those issues.
As with a 15-20 year old truck, you may have to replace any one of the following, shocks, struts, tie rod end and tires. Check for rust, surface rust is common but check underneath (as well as in door jabs), and check right under the rocker panels both for deeper rust and for any “Bondo” or less than quality body work too.
The good thing is (outside of the several thousand dollars that may cost), is that these trucks are very easy to customize.
Parts are easy to come by for this truck and not terribly expensive, you can get things like running boards, upgrade your tires, give it a “lift” and custom exhaust, or simply have it painted and basically make the truck yours for not much more than what you paid for it.
The best part of these trucks is how they drive, you sit higher than in a GM truck (hence you may really want to think about running boards aka “nerf bars”), of the same vintage and even with stock exhaust the truck sounds mean.
Most of these trucks have held up pretty well, obviously you will pay more for the 4x4 models, there is a popular “off road” package that many of the later models have, and there are “Laramie” models that had leather seats.
What you will see a lot of are “SLT” model’s that are well equipped, the factory stereo was a nice Infinity system if it still has it, along with power windows and locks.
I love the large mirrors these trucks have. Most of these trucks are an “extended cab” (or what Dodge called at the time "Quad Cab"), model, with a “half door” that opens once the front door is open and there’s a tight rear seat back there but it folds up for more cargo.
The four door crew cabs became more plentiful in the next generation.
You can tell right away if it’s an early model (1994-97) for the back of the exterior mirror is chrome and the later models (1998-01), it’s black. Some of those later models had heated mirrors and they had larger front seats.
My first experience with these trucks was test driving a completely loaded one new in late 1997 with my late dad. We were blown away by the looks of the truck and by price (which seemed high), I think it was $ 27,000 in 1997. It drove exceptionally well, had leather interior and was simply bad ass. But the dealer was pushy and with that price my dad wanted some time to think about it which the dealer wouldn’t let him have.
My dad ended up buying a used (1993), GMC Sierra which served him well for 17 years but personally having trying to restore that truck and eventually selling it, it was the more expensive truck to repair but sold for more too.
I also have found the Ram is more plentiful on the used car market than the GMC and sells for less. So if you are looking for an inexpensive but tough (looking), truck, the 1994-01 Ram 1500, is worth taking a look at.
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Filed under: Cars