Ute buyers guide

Utes have always been popular with tradies and farmers and now they’re becoming the vehicle du jour for suburban families who indulge in leisure activities at the weekend.

Choosing a ute isn’t an easy decision to make. In many ways, it’s tougher than picking out your average, everyday car. Not only do people want something big enough to carry their livestock, weekend gear or tools, they’re after a vehicle that’s reliable and functional enough to keep up with their heavy lifestyle demands. Farmers and tradies particularly put a lot of trust in their utes because it’s more than just their mode of transport – it’s their workhorse.

Utes have been put to the test in building sites and the rugged, rural countryside of New Zealand. They’ve proven themselves over generations, strengthening popular brands that Kiwis have grown to know and trust. We’ve taken a look at two of the most popular choices to see what they have to offer.

One of the most loved utes among New Zealanders is the Toyota Hilux.
This year saw the long-standing, unbreakable Hilux receive a complete redesign from the ground up. While the existing model had few flaws, Toyota was still eager to create its best model yet. The combination of well-balanced, revised suspension and increased strength and structural rigidity allows the manual model to tow 3.5 tonne (braked). As a result, the cabin can get a bit bumpy, which might not be great for the kids in the back seat, if you’re heading out on a long journey.

The Hilux is a very capable off-roader and the 2016 model has seen improvements of its approach angles over the previous model. This is great when tackling the steep terrain – a common everyday problem for farmers.

Toyotas traditionally have a good resale price, so it’s also a great ute to consider if you’re regularly upgrading.

A model that has grown to become a strong contender in the category is the Ford Ranger. Most of the development of this vehicle happened in Australia, but you wouldn’t know it with its splashes of chrome and oversized insignia indicating a somewhat Americanised styling.

The Ford brand made its mark in New Zealand with the Ranger last year. The AA and Motoring Writers’ Guild named it the best in its class at last December’s New Zealand Car of the Year Awards for the second year running, and the Ranger outsold any other new vehicle on the road in 2015, proving its popularity.

The Ranger is available in a variety of options so there’s generally something for everyone. There are four-wheel drive models if you need to be able to easily get around the farm. The single cab with a large tray allows you to throw all your tools in the back, and a spacious double cab ensures the whole family can come along for the ride.

The XLT Ranger offers good value and although it doesn’t sit at the top of the range, it certainly comes well-equipped and has more technology than you might expect. Traction control and side airbags are fitted as standard, however, there are models that come with lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control add-ons which are well worth the extra bit of cash, especially as they can help to keep you safe on the road. Technologies such as these aren’t always typically available on utes and it would be great if they were standard but having these extras makes the Ranger a great option for suburban families where safety is, and should be, front of mind.

If you are thinking about buying a ute, both these vehicles make great choices. They offer different driving experiences, and are both good vehicles for work and play. Your choice of car really comes down to many influencing factors, but the key ones are generally whether the vehicle meets your personal preference and lifestyle. To a certain point, your vehicle is an extension of yourself and the work you do, so it needs to be something that you and your family can rely on.

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