Are all utes made the same? To "non-ute" people, it might be easy to assume that to be the case. But ask a tradie, someone whose work or business depends on utility vehicles as their workhorses, and they'll tell you differently.
The truth is, if you're looking for a utility vehicle that you can rely on to fulfil your needs, there are several factors that you need to consider. These considerations go into much more detail than just power and torque. Naturally, the considerations when choosing a utility vehicle are very different from when selecting a passenger vehicle for personal or family use.
In this article, we'll look at what makes a particular ute an excellent choice or not for tradies. Then, we'll look at a few quick examples of classic utes that have stood the test of time and are still trusted names in the business.
Let's take a look at the essential feature of a ute first. For a tradie, a work vehicle is more than just for driving from Point A to point B. They need a car that can transport equipment, supplies, and even people efficiently. That ability is known as the ute's 'payload', i.e. how much weight it can carry. And when it comes to ute payloads, there's always a tradeoff.
If you want to carry heavier payloads, you'll need a more minimalistic ute with fewer trims. The less of its payload is spent on comfort items or add-ons like bullbars and such, the more weight you can transport as-and-when you need to.
A ute that can carry a heavy payload is excellent. Still, you've got to make sure the vehicle actually has enough space to fit that payload. That's where the load bed comes into play. If you're buying a ute primarily to transport gear and supplies, you might want to opt for a single cab ute. That way, less of the ute's body is used as passenger space, but much more room is available for cargo.
Sometimes, tradies also need a ute that can tow trailers. So aside from carrying heavy loads effectively, a good ute also needs to have enough towing capacity. If you think you'll be doing lots of towing, the towing capacity isn't the only important factor. You'll also need to pick a much more powerful engine option, so you'll have enough torque and power to tow that trailer without redlining your engine. This is closely related to the next factor: the drivetrain.
When it comes to utes, you typically have choices of a 4x2 drivetrain or a 4x4. Again, each one has its pros and cons, depending on how you plan on using the vehicle.
For example, a 4x4 will offer you a higher towing capacity. On top of that, you already know that a 4x4 will perform better in off-road environments. That'll come in handy if you're working in a place that doesn't have paved roads.
A 4x2 drivetrain, on the other hand, will have lower fuel usage and maybe even offer you better payload. Why? Because with a 4x2, your ute is carrying one less driven axle. Less weight added by that axle means more weight available for your payload!
If you've got an unlimited budget, by all means, go out and get yourself the biggest most powerful ute on the lot. However, if you're like most people who buy utes for work use, you're going to want to keep your operating costs in mind.
For a tradie or a business owner, it's essential to consider factors like the ute's depreciation, insurance costs, and any other upgrades you might need to buy for it. On top of all that, you've also got to think about fuel consumption and maintenance costs as well.
Sure, you can still buy the biggest and most powerful ute if you want to. Or, you could do the smart thing and buy the biggest and most powerful utility vehicle within your budget.
Trim and Comfort
Now that we've gotten all the important stuff out of the way let's talk about the 'non-essential' factors to consider when choosing a utility vehicle. Just like any other car on the market, utes come in all sorts of trims, offering many different levels of comfort.
You could get the bare minimum trims that'll get the job done. Or, you could splurge on something that's much more comfortable and enjoyable to drive, especially after a hard day of physical labour.
Comforts might cost a bit extra, but one could argue that it's well-deserved for all the hard work you and your team do each day.
All-Time Favourite Utes
Just like any other class of vehicles, the offering of utes by manufacturers keeps changing with the times. However, this article wouldn't be complete without mentioning the names of some classics that have been around for ages.
These vehicles have been around for so long, you probably already know which ones I'm referring to. They are the Toyota Hilux (since the 1960s), the Ford Ranger (since the 1980s), and the Mitsubishi Triton (since the 1970s). Utes like these have raised the bar significantly, leading other manufacturers in this vehicle class. These vehicles are sturdy, reliable, and most importantly, they work well for any number of different applications.
Not only do these vehicles function well under harsh working conditions, but they can take a great deal of deliberate damage as well. Take the Toyota Hilux, for example. Some have called it the world's most indestructible car, especially after the TV show Top Gear tried to burn it, sink it, smash it, and even drop the Hilux from great heights. No matter what, the Hilux could still start back up with each abuse. Such indestructibility might explain why the Hilux is really popular with rebel groups in war zones, but that's a story for another page.
So, to recap, choosing the best ute isn't just about torque and power, but also how well it can serve your work needs. If you prefer to keep things simple, you can always just choose from one of the classic utes mentioned above. They've served many tradies well over decades; they'll probably take good care of you, too!
Get a little help in searching parts for your ute
Find more about utes and light commercial vehicles from our Carpedia and Car Reviews sections. If you already own one of these workhorses and are searching for original parts to replace damaged ones, then you’re in the right place. CarPart offers a free tool called Request-a-Part for locating auto parts. And that’s all that you need to do – request a part – because CarPart will do the searching for you. Try requesting a part now and see how it works!
By Ray Hasbollah