What Does Your Work Truck Say About You?

c4500-partytimeTo my Brothers of the construction trades, the oil industry, the armed forces, and even plain old civilian office jobs.

I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, because I think we should all be free to make our own choices. But with the recent oil boom and bust, and the even bigger housing boom we are just starting to roll with here in the ‘States, there’s a big chunk of your money at stake, and I’d rather see you hold onto it instead of seeing it go up in smoke. So I’m just going to put this out there nice and clear:

Your Work Truck is Killing You, and making you look like a Big Dumbass in the process.

Now don’t get me wrong – not every work truck is a money-burning rolling clown circus with a 24/7 fireworks show shooting out of its roof telling the world how dumb you are. Only about 99% of them. So if you’re fortunate enough to already be in that top 1% who knows how to buy and operate a real work truck, you can just laugh along with me and then share the lesson with our other Brothers* when you get out of class.

“So what’s wrong with my truck?”

I know how you feel – trucks are fun, and everybody has ’em. How could this be wrong? To figure it out, let’s review the basics of what a truck is really supposed to accomplish.

  1. To make you money.
  2. To make you look good in front of other people.

You could get more complicated and start talking about horses and cupholders, but if you break it all the way down, those two points above are why we buy trucks.

You could say a truck needs to carry you and your crew to work, or haul your tools, materials and trailers. But why are you delivering yourself to work? Why are you bringing the tools and materials in the first place? To make money. These machines are business tools, designed to make us a profit.

And you could pretend a truck is only a business tool, but that would be ignoring the fact that your choice of truck says something about you – to the ladies, to other men, and to your employer. Or if you’re doing well, to the customers of the business you own yourself. What message do you want to convey to these people?

So Where’s the Problem?

The problem arises when you don’t understand the Two Commandments of Truck Ownership, and buy yourself something that doesn’t really meet those goals.

The Money


Look at this truck, compared to the one at the top of the article. Which guy would you rather hire to build a foundation for you?

A truck makes money by carrying as much shit as possible, safely, to your destination. This allows you to earn a good day’s pay. But the truck also costs you money, which is taking back a portion of that paycheck. The amount you get to keep for yourself is your profit. Since your goal is a nice fat profit, you obviously want to pick the truck that burns the smallest amount of your hard-earned cash.

The Looking Good

But you also want to enjoy the driving, right? You want good handling, a comfortable interior, and you want other people to see how well you are doing.  Maybe some flashy accessories and huge off-road tires, because hey, why wouldn’t you want to give your truck superpowers?

And this is the downfall of most truck-owning men. Because a truck that makes you a lot of money, and a truck that handles and accelerates (or climbs 45 degree boulder fields) and has the comfort of a car, are two completely opposite things. In fact, they are so far apart, that the more flashy and comfortable your truck becomes, the more obvious it becomes that you are not using it to make money.

In other words, you are telling the world you’re a big fake. Or at least that you’re too dumb to know the difference. Neither of these is a very impressive message to send.

How to Choose The Right Tool for the Job

So now we know a truck is a tool. It’s a tool for carrying heavy shit, and making money. We can take the emotions of vehicle ownership out of it by just comparing it to a drill.

When I need to make a small, precise hole in something, I’ll grab my smallest drill – currently this little Ryobi 18V deal. It’s the perfect tool for the job: lightweight, plenty tough as I’ve built quite a few houses with these things, and it only set me back about 50 bucks.ryobi

Of course, sometimes you need more power. To drill through a concrete foundation, I use this hammer drill. It does stuff the little cordless could only dream of, but in exchange it is so big you have to angle it properly to even carry it through a doorframe.


Then when things get really tough, I use the drill press. I have a Ridgid 15″ machine, which is the largest one I could find. With this thing, I can drill 50 half-inch holes through half-inch steel plate without breaking a sweat. On the downside, it weighs 163 pounds.

Now, when I need to drill a few small holes to set some hinges, which of these drills do you think I grab? Of course, I use the little Ryobi.

And yet, when a man buys a 360-horsepower pickup truck and uses it for anything smaller than hauling an excavating machine, this is what he is doing:


The Wrong Tool for the Job: this is what you are doing, if you use a full-sized pickup truck for anything smaller than hauling multi-ton loads. And I’m not even going to mention the folly of using a pickup truck to commute to an office job. Fuck.

In Ecuador, they know how to use trucks.

In Ecuador, they know how to use trucks.

See, when you buy a truck, you look smart only at those moments you are maxing that thing out. Payload and towing load at 100% of rated capacity, 16-foot lumber on the roof rack, and the cabin full to the limits of comfort. At that moment, the truck is earning the money you paid for it. Unfortunately for most gentlemen, this moment is Never.

At all other moments, you’re showing you bought too much truck. You are using the 163 pound drill press to countersink tiny screws in a door frame. You are wasting your own money and looking to the rest of the world like a dumbass who can’t choose the right truck. And unfortunately for most truck owners, this is Always.

For every inch you raise the suspension or every bump in tire size, you’re burning up thousands of your own dollars. For every extra horsepower you have on tap, the story is the same. If you want proof, just look at what the professionals use: real trucks that make millions of dollars for the owners who run fleets of them look like this:

Walmart is run by billionaires - they know how to use trucks.

Walmart is run by billionaires – they know how to use trucks.

Note the design of this real truck. As low to the ground as possible. Tires designed to roll easily on pavement, because pavement – not dirt – is where you make money. An engine big enough to haul the most profitable load, but no bigger. Fully loaded, these things take well over a minute to get to 65MPH – so why are you paying so much to get your work truck there in under ten seconds?

Sure, motor power is fun. But you know what is much more fun? Money power. Just by making different truck choices, you can end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank, or invested in your business making more money for you. At that point, your employees will be driving your fleet of slow trucks, while you can kick back with a fast car if you choose to do so.

Examples of Badass vs. Stupid Work Trucks

Now for the fun part of the lesson. All of this makes more sense if we go through a few real-world examples, and explain what they say about the man who drives them.

The Ridiculously Overpriced New Truck:


Only $66,610 (plus taxes/fees) after rebate!

Trucks like this scream, “I am a sucker for shiny toys and am horrible with my money!”

The new truck market is such a racket. I recently biked by this Ford “Super Duty” at the local dealership, and was astounded at the price. At over $70 grand including tax, this thing is an insane money pit. The depreciation alone in the first year is more than most of its customers actually manage to take home from their jobs. Even if you need to tow 20,000 pounds,  you can get an equally useful used truck, a trailer, and a Bobcat or small track-drive excavator to start your landscaping or concrete business for this much coin.

The Jacked up Boy Toy


“I’m bad with money, AND I don’t ever use my truck for real work!”

A truck like this leads a predictable life. It starts out as a ridiculously overpriced new truck (see above). After taking a $50,000 depreciation hit, the original owner trades it for a newer truck with a bigger loan, and a younger man comes in and buys it for $25,000, also on credit. He then spends another $15,000 on customization, making the truck less stable on the highway and the cargo bed even more useless.

Next he blows $15,000 on gas, then eventually runs into money problems and tries to sell it. After months of fruitless advertising, he gives up and lets it go for $9,000, which doesn’t even cover the loan he has on it. He may go bankrupt.  Meanwhile, the miniscule 6-foot cargo bed has never carried anything larger than a washer/dryer and a couch, as shown by its immaculate $450 decorator bedliner treatment.

The Millionaire Business Owner’s Workhorse


“I have a successful business, so please step aside as I have shit to do.” The Isuzu standard truck (sold in the US as Chevrolet W4500)

Meanwhile, quietly working in the background while this clown circus goes on are real trucks like this one. Notice how this W4500 (which costs less than a “Super Duty”) does not waste space on any bullshit. Instead of a 14-foot hood and cab up front with a uselessly small cargo bed in the back (all Hat and no Cattle), this truck reverses the ratio. These carry ten times the cargo of American-style pickups, while using less gas and being easier to maneuver into tight spots. You can also get them with dump or box beds, and they will haul a hell of a trailer as well. Depreciation is much slower with these, so you can buy a used one, and sell it many years later for almost the same price if you keep it maintained.

The Future Millionaire’s Truck

If you are earlier in your career or don’t frequently load and unload multi-ton cargo loads with a forklift, you can do very well with a truck like this:

Mazda B2300 or Ford Ranger - ideal work trucks

“I generally carry less than two tons, and I like to keep the money I earn from working” – Mazda B2300 or Ford Ranger – ideal work trucks. But avoid the 4-wheel-drive and V-6 engine options. Keep that money for yourself.

This beauty is owned by one of the guys who built the foundation for a house I’m currently helping out with. Note the fully loaded cargo bed and the excellent roof rack. This truck has a 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission and will deliver reasonable 30MPG efficiency if you drive it properly. Lower height means easier loading and unloading and better handling. Lower cost (under 5 grand on the used market) means much more money for you.

My own Work Trucks

Here's my van collecting 1200 pounds of logs for firewood.

“I think minivans are a ridiculous invention for carrying 60-pound kids, but great inventions for heavy construction work.”  Here’s my van collecting 1200 pounds of logs for firewood.

At this stage with plenty in the bank, I have grown soft and have a bit more truck than I need. It’s a 1999 Honda van with 140,000 miles on it. I bought it for $4,800 four years ago, and current market value is maybe 3 grand. Less than what the juniors with no money spend on their wheels and tires alone.

And this thing can work. I have carried over 2,500 pounds comfortably, it can lock up a full selection of tools and keep them dry, and with the seats out you can close the rear door on 12-foot pieces of lumber or a stack of 20 full sheets of plywood. This is the truck I use now, but most of my carpentry career was done with something far less luxurious.

El Amarillo

The Amarillo - more than enough for 90% of truck users.

“I live my life to the fullest and waste nothing on silly frills” – The Amarillo – more than enough for 95% of truck users.

Back when money was tighter (I only had $700,000 in the bank but at least my house was paid off), I had this older truck – a 1984 Nissan compact pickup. This thing built multiple houses and kitchens, carried steel girders and landscaping materials,  and protected me from weather of all seasons. It has an aftermarket cupholder on the driveshaft hump which is currently full of hardened surf wax and 10 Peso coins.

And I didn’t even own it. I borrowed it for five years (in exchange for upkeep) from a good friend, who had earlier used it to cross the Continental Divide and Death Valley on his way to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, where the truck served as his beachside home for an extended surfing-based stay.

So heed my advice, men of all ages who are not yet millionaires and wish they were. Your truck may be the biggest obstacle in your way.

The size of your truck is inversely proportional to the size of your wallet. Which one of the two would you rather supersize?

Related Reading (now that you realize you probably don’t need a truck at all):

Top 10 Cars for Smart People

Turning a Little Car into a Big One


* I speak mostly to men in this article, because they are the primary victims of the pickup truck racket. But women are not immune – they just tend to fall into the “SUV and Minivan” trap more often.

  • Self-Employed-Swami April 29, 2015, 8:21 am

    Work-truck-owning female here. I work in oil and gas, and my workhorse is a 2005 Tundra. It has just enough bells and whistles to be be comfortable for the longer winter drives I have to make to worksites (sometimes from 4 to 10 hours one way), where it remains parked for days or weeks at a time, not plugged in, and still starts at -30 degrees.

    I paid $11,000 (cash) for it 2 years ago, when it had over 200,000km on it. I don’t know what horsepower it has, but the 4WD is useful on icy or muddy locations, and because it’s already ‘old’ and has dents, I’m not afraid of getting it scratched or dirty.

    I’m a supervisor of sorts, and I see so many 18 year old guys driving those $50,000+ monsters. I’ve tried warning some of them about the key to inconsistent working is having the lowest ongoing costs possible (i.e., no huge vehicle payments), but now that the work has mostly dried up (and kijiji is filled with ads for cheap penis extension trucks), I hope some of them will learn…

  • Keith April 29, 2015, 8:25 am

    Never thought to use my drill press in such a manner. You can build muscles while drilling little, itty-bitty holes. Who knew? Nearly shit myself when I saw that photo.

    On a serious note: Wish I could get my dad to read this article. He drives a honking Ford 350 to make sales calls to farmers. Sometimes he hauls stuff that would easily fit in a SUV (as you show) or a much smaller truck with a trailer. He owns the trailer already. But who am I to talk; I drive a bank repo Toyota Camry. More car than I really need, but I do manage low to mid-30s for mileage. Heck, I have a small farm and never owned a truck. But then again my dad tells me I am too young to be retired.

    Gawd, that drill press is hilarious.

  • C.R.E.A.M. April 29, 2015, 8:26 am

    This article by MMM really hit home. My wife and I are a 1 car (2000 Saturn) family and commute to work by bike. My Dad and Brother are the perfect examples of the “I am a sucker for shiny toys and am horrible with my money!”

    Our Saturn gets 35+ mpg, moved my wife 3,000 miles across the county, hauls large Christmas trees, 43 bags of mulch (in one trip), dressers, etc. My Dad and brother make fun of our car and our style, but they are both swimming in debt and are complete complainy pants about their money situation, mostly due to their ‘Found On Road Dead’ 250’s. They very rarely use their trucks for any ‘work’ related activities and the pupose of the truck is definately not to make a profit. In short, their trucks and our Saturn perform the same activities. They just pay a $70k or more in car payments, gas, insurance, excise tax and accessories.

    My Old Man helped me w/ a big garage project last summer, I rented a flat-bed truck from Home Depot for an hour, $25 with tax. Transported 25 sheets of plywood, 2×4’s, etc. My Old Man was amazed at how easy and cheap it was to rent a legit work truck. But he, like my brother and many others, must have the image described above. Their visual image sceams out the ‘Sucker’ described in the article. I’ve been internally debating forwarding this post to them, but I know it would be ill-received.

    Thanks MMM for a highly entertaining and informative article. For everyone else that doesn’t have a truck, I highly suggest checking out your local Home Depot if you ever need one for an hour or two.

  • Dean April 29, 2015, 8:36 am

    I must admit I’m surprised you’re using a Honda Odyssey as a cargo van instead of something like a Toyota Hiace (or Ford Transit, or similar).

    I was driving my brother’s 1995 Toyota Townace last year for a while (came in handy when moving house). It wasn’t pretty, and it had 520,000km on it, but it was (and still is) a tough old unit.

    • Jim April 29, 2015, 11:06 am

      The hiace , transit, townace, VW LT, etc. are not readily available in the USA.

    • Zach April 29, 2015, 12:41 pm

      No Hiace in USA and we only just got the Transit so there won’t be any cheap ones on the used market for many years

  • Paul April 29, 2015, 9:00 am

    One thing that seems to be missing from these articles is that we all help pay for a lot of these overpriced trucks. In my area it seems like every housewife drives a huge truck registered to the hubbies “business” so that a lot of the extra expense is carried by us guys paying taxes on our Honda minivans (I have an odyssey that i use for hauling too).

    • Chris I May 1, 2015, 8:03 am

      And they wear out the road infrastructure faster, take more room when parking, are more likely to maim or kill pedestrians and cyclists, etc, etc…

  • Dan April 29, 2015, 9:13 am

    First, bravo on responding to sometimes angry/frustrated/highly critical comments. And for publishing them. That’s pretty cool and I’m often shocked which comments (often the not so nice ones) get responded to. But right on.

    “Which guy would you rather hire to build a foundation for you?” sums it up for me. I would add to inefficiency, expense, and just the pretentious nature of such trucks, that they are also damn-near impossible to park in a single parking space. Too many of these people drop into Whole Foods to buy some organic hummus and almond butter and park their truck so ridiculously that that no one can park next to them. If you’re going to get a truck that’s 9 times bigger than you need, at least have the decency to park it correctly or put it in the back and walk a half mile.

    Lastly, I would only ask what is MMM’s opinion on the safety aspect of larger (albeit gas-guzzling) vehicles? I know people who have purchased larger bodied vehicles for loved ones just as a means of being safer in an accident. I think there’s some truth to that. And perhaps some inefficiency is warranted. Someone has probably already said this on another post, apologies. I’m a noob.

  • Leslie April 29, 2015, 9:20 am

    It’s a good bet that if a mammoth truck is so highly polished that you can see your reflexion in the paint then it is not used for trucking/hauling work.

  • David April 29, 2015, 9:31 am

    And hot on the heels of this post:


    Proof that you don’t need a truck to tow or haul big loads!

  • ReubyTuesday April 29, 2015, 10:10 am

    I used to get a kick out of watching my grandfather (Texas born and bred) stubbornly refuse to get a truck and instead haul EVERYTHING in an old ’97 Dodge Caravan. He was proud of the fact that he could do more with a cheap old minivan than you could do with your Dodge HEMI.
    I think most of us are mostly motivated by how things make us feel. Trucks are popular because people like the feel – the power, the sense of durability and toughness, the “functionality,” etc. Most of us struggle to make decisions based only on facts like depreciation and mpg. We have to replace the pride of driving a cool truck with the pride of actually doing more, with less, while achieving our goals for ourselves and our families. That’s a great feeling too but it takes more work to learn to prioritize it.
    Great post – keep it coming.

  • Rob April 29, 2015, 10:26 am

    My brother-in-law is a firefighter. Pick-ups are a right of passage. He owned a Toyota Tundra. He finally had enough of the fuel consumption and traded it in for a VW TDI. His firefighting buddies asked if it came with a Chatelaine subscription.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 29, 2015, 12:47 pm

      I hope your brother in law enjoys the verbal battles with his mental inferiors! Although there isn’t much challenge to it, I still enjoy a little banter with men with less than one percent of my wealth giving me financial and product-buying advice.

    • Doug May 1, 2015, 8:15 am

      If asked this question again he could reply: sorry no Chatelaine subscription, if you want this magazine you’ll have to pay for it out of your own pocket!

  • Ingolf April 29, 2015, 10:28 am

    True Story

    My brother used to work in a consulting company where the ex-postmaster general (Sweden so other title but the boss anyway) was a very senior advisor. A snowy morning a number of rich urbanites drank coffe discussing the merits of SUVs and the absolute need for fourwheel drives when getting onto a snowy street down-town. When asked about his opinion this gentleman replied, “Well, I used to be responsible for all those mail delivery cars you know, and frankly we never saw the need to upgrade.” Discussion sort of died at that point.

    • Jane F May 1, 2015, 2:30 pm

      Great story! Thanks for sharing

  • Aaron April 29, 2015, 11:02 am

    It’s also worth mentioning that these idiot wagons are dangerous. The bumpers are too high to impact other vehicles bumpers, so basically the just cut your family in half in an accident. The owners of these trucks don’t seem to care though as the driver’s seat is the center of their universe, and anything, or anyone else, is irrelevant.

  • Clean Shaven April 29, 2015, 11:09 am

    For occasional pickup trucklike duties around the house, another option to consider is a cheap trailer. Harbor Freight has basic ones (assemble yourself) for low $hundreds. Craigslist is a good source for used trailers too.

    Trailers are cheap to license/register, and you aren’t required to insure them (they’re covered by your auto insurance when attached to the tow vehicle). Depending on what you need to haul, open or closed (box) trailers both have advantages.

    I have an old 5×8 cargo box trailer that I bought a few years ago for moving. It’s been handy for around-the-house projects, but sits out back most of the time when we aren’t using it. We lend it out to friends too for their home projects. I think it’s about $20/ year to keep it licensed, it requires no maintenance beyond lubing the axle yearly (5 min job; trailer has no brakes), and I can sell it for what I paid, easily.

    Trailer advantage over pickup truck: don’t need to drive it around except when you really need it…. as opposed to pickup trucks, which — most of the time — you see driving down the road, “hauling air.”

    • Phil Hinkle March 2, 2016, 7:38 am

      This is what I have. It stores easily out of the way and its so lite that I can walk it right up to the vehicles tow hitch without having to back the car up to the trailer. I use it all the time and its borrowed by my friends almost as often. I should rent it out. Mine folds up so I could store in a smaller space but the folding part is a pain to operate alone so I rarely fold it.

  • PL April 29, 2015, 11:18 am

    “Your Work Truck is Killing You, and making you look like a Big Dumbass in the process.”


  • Bakari April 29, 2015, 11:20 am

    I’m disappointed I got no mention in this article!

    My 1983 Ford F-250 cost me about $2000 cash ten years ago, and after putting another grand or so in modifications into it, I get anywhere from 25 to 30+ mpg out of it (depending on load and terrain).
    I regularly max it out to 3rd world country proportions, transporting every piece of furniture in a one bedroom apartment to a new location in a single trip.

    And, while it doesn’t exactly have the traditional shiny new car look, I actually get complimented on it on average at least once a week (most recently yesterday).

    I complied a list of a lot of other trucks which get as good or better gas mileage than most cars, most while still allowing for significant cargo space, on the ecomodder blog a couple years ago:


    • Insourcelife April 29, 2015, 12:18 pm

      That’s an interesting read about your F-250… Question in regards to this “Unlike every other design, the cover does not actually start at the roofline… [resulting in 28 mpg overall and 30 mpg highway vs 15 mpg per EPA] – a lower improvement than many of the other designs – no doubt due to not starting at the top of the roofline – but an improvement none the less”.

      Why not get a rear camera? They are cheap now and some are even wireless. This way you wouldn’t have to sacrifice efficiency for visibility.

  • Brian April 29, 2015, 11:22 am

    Ah this hits close to home…I was foolish enough to buy a new-ish used truck and regretted it. It only took a few months to realize the err of my ways and I was able to offload without a huge hit.

    Never again…

  • Mr. Frugal Toque April 29, 2015, 11:27 am

    It’s funny because, right now, while I’m typing this, are the last pieces of hardwood I need to finish the second floor of the Toque castle are sitting in my car.
    I drive a Nissan Versa.
    Without a passenger, I can fit about 12 boxes of hardwood in there, or about 260 sq ft of hardwood. If I had more hardwood, I would have had it delivered.
    The guys who built our house had one utility van (the general contractor’s) and a Chevette for his two main trades and their equipment.

  • Mario April 29, 2015, 11:30 am

    In behavioral economics, this would be called signaling. Lots of people pay a lot of attention to it because it’s easy to take something measurable — the year, make, model of a truck for example — and compare it to something that’s much more difficult to measure — a person’s characters to complete the example.

    In the Army, we did the same thing. Sure, neither having a well-kept uniform nor being able to do a ton of push-ups have a direct impact on how good of a leader you’d be in a combat situation, but the signaling mechanism was that attention to detail and self-improvement meant you’d pay close attention to the details in training and work to constantly improve your team. The funny thing is, relying on signaling worked more often than not….

    As for me, I’d use a truck about once every three years when I need to pick up a big appliance or move between residences, so I just rent. I actually think renting trucks is a great option even for people who occasionally need one for work. Sure, it may be useful to be able to tow 20,000 pounds every now and then, but even a half-ton is total overkill for the 90% of the other things your business does.

  • Luke April 29, 2015, 11:33 am

    Coming from a truck owner, I agree with your view that new trucks and jacked up trucks are usually a waste of money. However, not all trucks are a waste of money. I bought my F-150 used for 10k with 120,000 miles. I have driven it now for 6 years and have put 70,0000 miles on it. I plan to go another 100,000 with it.

    While this article hits home for new and jacked up trucks, it really is missing the bigger issue of living in excess when people can not afford it. The same article could be written about fancy sports/luxury cars. Which I see much more of recently now living in a thriving city than jacked up trucks like when I was living in NW Iowa. Therefore the whole argument of functionality is lost….it was never about that for people that buy brand new shiny trucks or put in lift kits. It is about being noticed and looking like they are doing successful. This is a guilty pleasure and fault of those people then. So congrats to all of us that do not care what people see them driving! But if you do care, realize this is a guilty pleasure that is costing you money and perhaps you should consider a cheaper alternative to looking good. Buy a slightly used economy car or truck.

  • CincyCat April 29, 2015, 11:33 am

    Regular cars can carry much more than people think… The other day, I picked up an 8-foot 2×4 with my kids in our 2002 Concorde sedan. It has this nifty little access panel in the back seat behind the center armrest that opens up to the trunk. That piece of wood fit comfortably in the car between the seats, and I was able to close the trunk with room to spare.

    • CincyCat April 29, 2015, 7:07 pm

      Yes, I’m replying to my own comment. LOL! I just thought of this little tidbit. When we owned a Chevy Cavalier (also had a trunk access panel, by the way), we figured out fairly quickly that you can make stuff fit if you *take it out of the box* that it was packaged in. Microwave? Easy-peasy. Dinette set with two chairs? Piece of cake. This is why they call it Tetris for adults. :-D

  • TAOJ April 29, 2015, 11:37 am

    On my way to work one day I was behind a shiny black Licoln Navigator SUV with farm license plates. I doubt that vehicle ever did any work on the farm, maybe drove up the driveway? However, I guess because it cost them so much they had to list it under their farm so that they could claim it and pay less for licensing!

  • Charlie April 29, 2015, 11:41 am

    The quickest way you can lose my business is making me feel like I’m helping you buy too much car. We were getting estimates for a new A/C and couldn’t believe people would roll up in a 2 years new f-250, then act as though they really needed our business. We went with the company with 10 year old company work trucks. Ugly and practical.

  • MakeBaloney April 29, 2015, 11:55 am

    I realized how true this is recently and switched to bicycle commuting completely. No reason to drive a 4×4 getting 12 miles to the gallon. I am saving over $300 a month from gas and insurance savings, plus I made $3000 when I sold my 88 4Runner. Thanks MMM!! Bicycling is the way to go. Even if you do live at 6500 ft in the Rockies and cycle many days in the snow like I get to.

  • Jeff April 29, 2015, 12:01 pm

    I echo the sentiments that the spirit of the MMM blog has changed a little recently. What got me hooked originally and led me to read all of the articles and talk about them to anyone that would listen was the ranty, humorous, hopelessly optimistic approach of MMM. He wrote in a way that I would imagine myself writing, if I had any talent for that sort of thing. I love the DIY articles, the stunningly simple math articles and the ones that focus on improving oneself.

    Lately, the tone of the articles has been more pessimistic, more critical and less about learning and changing minds than ridiculing and putting others down for making certain choices.

    Reading MMM has taught me a lot and has resulted in many positive changes in my life regarding my finances and my future. I have always been a saver (started investing in stocks when I was 14) and this has led to me be ahead of most of my peers but I have still been able to cut a bunch of bullshit, unnecessary spending that will get me to my goals faster and improve my life in general.

    Vehicles (and trucks) however, remain a weakness of mine. Not because I want to show off, or look cool or attract attention from women (or men), but because as an engineer, anything mechanical interests me (I also think bikes are maybe man’s greatest invention). My wife and I drive ~15,000km/yr (half of that is roadtrip vacations during which we camp), less than the average M-F commuter but we own 3 vehicles (an offroad SUV, a crew cab short box pickup, and a small hatchback – all paid for). Obviously we don’t need these things and would likely be comfortable with no vehicle as my wife works from home and I am a nice 3.5 km walk from work and any other locale we need to frequent is also within walking distance. But to say that being Mustachian is mutually exclusive from owning a truck, SUV or nice car is a little shortsighted and disingenuous. Gearhead Mustachians have just made different compromises and chosen different luxuries than you have.

    I only own a single drill, an 18V Ryobi and should the need arise to bust through a concrete wall, a rental hammer drill from Home Depot is only a 10 min drive away – which vehicle shall I take?

    • Andrew April 29, 2015, 1:36 pm

      I also have weakness for new vehicles despite being an automotive tech I can fix and maintain pretty much everything for much, much less than an ordinary citizen :-). But buying new vehicles instead of used ones (or having no vehicle at all) is my emotional and counter-rational choice even when I am trying to excuse myself with sentences like “its hard to find a good used one” and “I am making more money fixing cars for other people then fixing my own ones”. This my weakness is just that – a weakness, a kind of luxury I allow for myself to have, but I would be much closer to financial independence if I would not have this weakness.

  • Erica April 29, 2015, 12:01 pm

    This is a really hot topic where I live. I live in the country in a State where not driving a truck is anti-American. I recently switched to a Prius. The road rage against the Prius is real around here. I often find myself with a giant truck dangerously close behind me despite me driving a bit over the speed limit. The ironic thing is, I actually farm and most of these guys and ladies don’t. We borrow my dad’s truck during hay season. It is a ’99 Dodge Ram 1500 that is meticulously maintained and often pulls more than most trucks twice it’s size. I go to the farm stores and can fit most everything I could need in my Prius even with a car seat in the back. We have a Jeep that pulls a small trailer that we keep around for some hauling. However, I find that the Prius can do almost anything the Jeep can (excluding towing pigs). I am hoping to get a small trailer for it so that we can bring produce and meat to the farmer’s market.

  • The Roamer April 29, 2015, 12:05 pm

    Haha nope you missed the point. He’s not talking about owning different caliber drill presses he is talking about drilling a hole. As such he is not talking about owning trucks he is talking about transportation/ load.

    But yes he does totally address it, you just made a mistake with assuming truck. He didn’t say own 3 different caliber drill presses he said 3 different items that drill.

    So we are talking about transportation.
    Let’s see if you are 1 person you should own a one person “vehicle” ideally a bike.

    Then a super efficient commuter car. If that is what you will be doing 80% of the time when you drive.

    Then maybe a truck but as he stated the right one with a long bed not a big cabin. You already have a “regular” car to meet your need of traveling in comfort with your family. So the truck should be optimized to meet its need, so for work.

    Plus even if you wanted to narrow it to just trucks, you would still be required to do the analysis of actually utility vs. Need and most people will find they don’t use it enough to warrant the highest caliber of truck. They would also deduce as MMM has show. That the “lowest” caliber truck still meets the needs. So they won’t need 3 tiers of trucks.

    In business it’s call the 80/20 rule. You manage your solutions to address the 80 percent of the problems not the less frequent 20%.

  • Josiah April 29, 2015, 12:14 pm

    Another good option is the venerable E series Ford vans. A lot more usable space than a comparably sized truck, and because it’s not as cool as a truck, they’re cheap and abundant on the used market. My father bought a used one from a fleet sale twelve years ago. We built a removable “cargo bed” in the back for anything messy, and can easily transition from seating 15 people when we help out with charity events, to hauling manure/gravel/firewood the next day without an issue. We’ve used it to tow trailers, I’ve slept in the back of it on long camping trips and use it regularly still to help friends and family move.

  • Tyler in Seattle April 29, 2015, 12:28 pm

    Just over five years ago I paid $700 for my 1989 Dodge Aries with unknown miles. Butt freaking ugly, but it reliably and cheaply got me to and from work for five years without incident before I finally donated her late last year and got a nice tax write off in return. I’ve since upgraded to a 2001 Mazda MPV, fully loaded w/ 140k miles. People at work think I’m nuts. The feeling is mutual.

  • Scott April 29, 2015, 12:53 pm

    My “truck” is a 2006 Scion xB. It has a 1.5L engine and a 5 speed manual, so despite the shitty shape it gets over 31 MPG city, 35 highway. And because of the shitty shape, it can haul plenty. I’ve never tried it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you could load a pallet in the back with a forklift.

    It’s also great for tall people because there’s headroom and legroom for days! Plus it’s really easy to get in and out of– the seat is basically at stool height, so you can just swing in and out.

  • Kat April 29, 2015, 1:05 pm

    I went on a date with a guy once and when I saw his truck I had to catch myself from making the “yucky face”. It was some gigantic Dodge thing. I hate Dodges, but even more so all I could hear in my head was “waste of money!!!” – and this was BEFORE I started reading MMM! This guy was a mechanic who worked in a shop – he did not need to transport his own tools, this was purely for show. Gross. (This site has made me even more judgy apparently lol.)

  • Andrew April 29, 2015, 1:24 pm

    Man, you nailed it! Our locale in Northern Alberta is full of these, there are more lifted trucks on the roads than passenger cars (and I am making a decent money fixing them trucks) and I suspect most of them seeing mud or deep snow only when their owners want to have some fun in the bush. The only load half of them are carrying is one or two quads or snowmobiles in the bed and I don’t think that owners need those quads for work :-)

  • Dr. JB April 29, 2015, 1:29 pm

    Any insights from the engineer types on how realistic rated tongue weight and towing capacities are for the “surge capacity” a trailer offers? My suspicion is that there is a safety margin built in that can be better optimized. I would like to be able to utilize my current vehicle to haul a lot more without using a different engine than I currently use. Thanks!

  • Reepekg April 29, 2015, 1:32 pm

    So I actually work on designing the emissions reduction systems on diesel trucks. You will not believe what these vehicles are capable of vs. what customers use them for. The ultimate irony is that the biggest problem that breaks the catalysts stems from guys running at 5% load all day and never even getting the system up to normal operating temperature.

    Pickup drivers are the worst, but even a lot of pros are guilty of oversizing the truck for their application.

  • JC April 29, 2015, 1:35 pm

    Independent Painter. My rolling toolbox is an ’02 Dodge Grand Caravan, 156kmi, two seats only. Cheap to buy & maintain, excellent crowd-sourced problem solving on the web, plentiful junk yard spares if needed. Decent driving dynamics & cabin comfort, no need for separate car/work truck. Over the years, I’ve had two serve me well, and will be moving into a newer third – just as we reach FI.

  • Andrew April 29, 2015, 1:45 pm

    One thing I have to say about new trucks vs. old ones is that new trucks are way, way cleaner and less harmful for environment. I would hate to work in the shop dealing with old diesel trucks and probably would be dead by now from lungs cancer if I had to work in that kind of shop in my 20 years of career as auto tech. Just driving into the shop some old stinking and smoking beast from 1990-es makes everyone choking and getting a headache for the rest of the day while you can start and run a new truck for half an hour inside the shop without an exhaust extractor before someone would even notice.

    And no matter how well you going to maintain that old truck it is still going to be mobile poisonous gases dispenser.

    Also plenty of the dumb-asses with lifted trucks remove catalysts, EGR and soot filters from them because it is still legal here! This province does not even have an emission tests…

  • Kelly April 29, 2015, 1:49 pm

    This article makes me sad… one, cause I LOVE big ol’ redneck trucks, but I do know they’re not conducive to a more *affordable life; two, I drive a gas guzzeling Jeep… I keep debating on selling it, but it’s paid off and I do not have a long commte, so it is hard to sell it but it may be inevitable; three, you state that $700,00 and no mortgage was “tight”, this makes me think that any type of FI is way beyond my reach. Sigh… Aw well, just keep plugging along. Good read as always.

  • Laura April 29, 2015, 2:39 pm

    Sadly, I think this article would fall on deaf ears if I linked it to my truck-driving coworkers and family. The prevailing thought seems to be, “If I can afford it, then why not?” Some people have very different ideas of what they can afford.

  • Vik April 29, 2015, 3:10 pm

    I have overloaded vehicles to my detriment so I just wanted to point out that the cargo capacities of some of the vehicles that are getting mentioned is pretty low. Take the time to check the GVWR on your vehicle and the curb weight to see what you’ve got left to play with. Also check your tires’ max load rating if you’ve replaced them with anything that’s not stock.

    You should find a bunch of vehicle info inside the door on the driver’s side of your vehicle and in your owners manual.

    It’s worth a read to ensure you don’t unknowingly overload your vehicle.

    — Vik

  • elipsoid April 29, 2015, 3:38 pm

    Interesting topic, since I would like to solve my car situation soon. I live in Europe, so I never felt a need to buy a ridiculous truck like this. I did drive 65+ thousand kms from New York City to Argentina in a van though, while others drove something similar to this (and slept in a tent). My issue is that I might have my first kid soon and I have no idea what it takes to move a baby, pram and other crap around. Will I fit all that (plus my DH) into a Honda Fit/Jazz? I am also considering a Ford Focus estate, which seems a bit more roomy in the back. I definitely want a newer car, I don’t want to sacrifice safety for a few hundred euros. I’d use the car for weekend trips and an occasional road trip around Europe, both of us ride a tram/subway to work during the week. Any suggestions appreciated.

    • Gunhild April 30, 2015, 1:39 am

      Congrats on the baby! We bought our car just around the time our son was born. My husband insisted we buy a stationcar to make room for the pram and baby gear. I say, buy a smaller pram that fit in the car! Even if a foldable, smaller pram is more expensive (even if second hand), it will cost you a lot less than a bigger car (remember fuel efficiency etc.). For the road trip, consider a roof box.

      • Gunhild April 30, 2015, 1:43 am

        By the way, we did get a stationcar – a Ford Focus from 2005 (used, of course). We bought in 2008, and still have it. I still think it is bigger than needed, even if we use it mostly for weekend trips and going on vacations.

    • Insourcelife April 30, 2015, 8:15 am

      One kid? A Mini Cooper will do just fine. I sold my 4 door sedan and bought a Mini Cooper 2 door hatchback when our son was born almost 3 years ago – it’s been great! There is a post about it on my site, just search for “Mini Cooper”. My point is – you don’t need to supersize your car just because you’re expecting a baby.

  • Zims April 29, 2015, 3:44 pm

    It seems like the appearance of inefficiency is attractive to some people because its supposed to convey a status to the rest of the world. It conveys something different to me.
    I second the notion that these 50k+ paradoxes (luxury, rugged, offroad package, low profile tire, brush guard, wing in the back, etc.) do give off a douchebag appearance for a reason. Its not uncommon to see them equipped with ladders just to get into the drivers seat. Im reading what these vehicles are broadcasting, they say “look at me, I own an inefficient douchebag symbol, look at me”.

  • Beth April 29, 2015, 3:49 pm

    Love your blog!
    HOWEVER. There are many women in the trades too, and we drive work trucks and vans and even semis and other heavy-duty work vehicles. Lines like “your choice of truck says something about you – to the ladies, to other men, and to your employer ” seem to weirdly ignore that women are capable of owning and driving “work vehicles” and using power tools and hauling about and climbing big-ass ladders.

    For the record, my main work van is a 2006 Ford E150 cargo van, the back-up work vehicle a 21-year-old Nissan stick-shift truck that still gets 25 mpg and runs great with over 300,000 miles.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 29, 2015, 4:37 pm

      Thanks Beth – good choice on the van. I always figured if you need the capacity of a full-size F150 pickup, why not get the E150 van instead? It’s often even cheaper on the used market, and way, way more versatile for most working people. You can even LIVE in one of those things.

      Speaking of vans, have you noticed that Dodge and Ford both have entirely new vans out this year? Built on more efficient European platforms like the excellent Mercedes Sprinter, these things hold more and burn less gas than the traditional E-series, Astro, etc. 5-10 years from now, there will be a nice supply of used ones flowing down the pipeline to the smarter working folks at great prices.

  • Skipper April 29, 2015, 4:14 pm

    I got a good laugh out of this because my day job involves directly assisting the depreciation of many, many Super Duties. As part of my responsibility as a radio installer, I tear those suckers apart and drill holes in them, both in the body plastics and in the roofs and fenders.

    I do drive too much work truck myself, but I don’t get any say in what I drive, as it belongs to the company. On the bright side, I don’t pay for what I drive, either.

  • Robert April 29, 2015, 4:41 pm

    My 1988 Toyota Truck is the vehicle that propelled me to Financial Independence. I bought it 12 years ago for $900 and have used it to scavenge fallen trees, bricks, mulch, horse manure, gravel and other dirty but valuable resources. I’ve sold roughly $50,000 worth of firewood since buying my trusty beast. Much of that money helped me pay off two rental units as well as my primary pad while still in my forties. I now have no debt and lots of time to grow food and carve a homestead from 14 acres overlooking the French Broad River in Asheville, NC. I’ve averaged about $80/year in maintenance on the truck until this past winter when I finally spent $350 to do a complete tune-up. I am often asked if I’d like to sell the old truck when I’m picking up paint or supplies, or the rare occasion when I treat myself to lunch at my favorite Mexican dive. My guess is that I can still get about $1,500 for my truck (the 22R engine alone goes for nearly that much with 200,000 miles on it, and my chariot has only 193,000). It’s a beater for sure. People in fancy cars get out of my way as it does have that ‘I aint got no insurance’ look to it (I’m fully covered). And just two weeks ago, two different women told me the truck is sexy.

  • Jacked up Jimmy April 29, 2015, 4:52 pm

    I bought my 1989 GMC Jimmy for just over $2000 cash. I had it lifted 4 inches (hardly extreme) to accommodate 33’x12 tires specifically for better grip in deep snow. I have a job where I can be expected to report to work (fairly early) regardless of whether roads are plowed or not. Why did I buy this truck? More than just to get around in deep snow or haul heavy stuff. I bought it for sentimental and nostalgic reasons. This was my grandfathers truck. Also, when I was younger my dad owned a 1979 Jimmy and I loved that truck. So when my grandfather had Alzheimer’s and my grandma wanted to get rid of my grandfathers truck, I jumped at the chance to buy it. This truck is a classic and is super clean and in outstanding condition for the age and I think of my dad and grandfather every time I drive it. I had to put a new radiator, alternator and battery in it but that’s about it. On average, I put less than 1500 miles on it each year. Yes it’s an extravagance, but it’s a joy to drive on the days that I don’t bike to work (which is as often as I can but I won’t ride in rain or snow – cold doesn’t bother me though) and it is useful for hauling heavy or long stuff that won’t fit in our 2010 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI (with a Thule roof carrier on top) which gets well over 42mpg even with the carrier on (it’s long since paid off). I’d have bought that used but good luck finding a used TDI, especially a wagen. Rare as hens teeth.
    My truck doesn’t make me money and I’m ok with that. It was inepensive and it’s cheap to maintain. Yes it’s a toy but at least it’s useful.

  • Karen April 29, 2015, 5:14 pm

    I loved the article, and it’s always fun to read a new MMM post. However, I am concerned for myself because I drive… a luxury racing bus. (A 2007 Honda Odyssey minivan). With three kids.

    It is paid for and it’s been a great vehicle. It’s very comfortable for road trips and camping, etc. But it might be more car than we need.

    What would you suggest for a family of 5 — and the three littles will soon grow into bigs — have you seen the size of some middle schoolers, they can get huge — so fast!

    P.S. Is Mrs. MMM holding one of those drills? Nice arms!!

    • Chris April 29, 2015, 5:27 pm

      You run a big chance of being penny wise, pound foolish here. You own a paid-f0r, reliable vehicle that fits your needs. More importantly, it’s a vehicle for which you know the recent history of in terms of maintenance, repairs, abuse, etc. People don’t acknowledge it, but there’s a HUGE difference between a 100k mile car you put the last 50-100k miles on, and a car you just bought with 100k miles. Further, your van is probably worth, I dunno, $12k or so? What are you reasonably going to buy as reliable transport for 5 people, you probably don’t want to spend much less than say $7500. So now you’re talking about recouping $4500, minus the sales tax (~$500 here) on the new car. And to hold 5 people, you’re probably talking something that gets, at best, 10mpg better than your van, let’s say 30mpg vs. 20, at 12k miles a year that’s 200 gallons, so maybe $600? So your year 1 savings are ~$4600, and $600/yr after that, minus whatever repairs crop up on this 100k mile car you purchased, plus you’ve traded a known quantity for an unknown one. Is that a good rate of return?

      • Karen April 30, 2015, 9:37 am

        Yes, I think we will keep it, and that it is a decent fit for our family, and it is paid for, and we have owned it since it was new, and it is running great at 100k miles.

  • Jack Ludden April 29, 2015, 6:27 pm

    Man, that “Jacked Up Boy Toy” truck. I’ve heard of RE-TIRE-MENT but that is ridiculous!

    …I am so hilarious and well-liked by my peers

  • Jms April 29, 2015, 7:54 pm

    I have always thought that if I was to ever get a truck I would get a 5-10 year old toyota tacoma. If I ever need a bigger truck (like 2x a year… maybe) I would borrow from a friend or rent from home depot at $15 an hour.

  • CHC4444 April 29, 2015, 11:40 pm

    Amen !!!

  • tina April 30, 2015, 12:38 am

    I was given a soft top convertible. wow, could I carry heaps (comparatively) with that. timber, furniture, trees, boxes…..top down, strap in, giggle all the way home

    now I’m driving a 30 yr old ford, hatchback. its handled plywood, timber, washing machine, gates and doors.

    my son is a little embarrassed by it, but for me its a perfect car for hauling whatever needs to be shifted. then when something is too big to be strapped on the roof, I pay somebody to deliver. perfect

  • Gunhild April 30, 2015, 1:25 am

    I wondered about this the other day. The truck-frenzy in the US. You see, I live in Denmark. We don’t have mountains and rough nature like our neighbors in Sweden and Norway, so here it is only the rich and obviously ridiculous show-offs who have a truck. Most people who actually own a car (not just a bicycle) have a towing hook on their car. A few people also have a trailer to attach to it, but mostly we share from friends and family whenever needed, or we borrow one for free one day at the time through this thing called “freetrailer”, where you can pick up a trailer at most construction markets or gas stations through out the country. We resently moved all our possesions (furniture etc.) in a freetrailer and have since hauled loads of garden waste to the recycling station/landfill with a trailer we borrowed from a friend. No need for a truck at all. Don’t you have towing hooks on regular cars in the US? If so, I wonder why not?

    • Eldred April 30, 2015, 7:22 am

      No, it’s RARE that you see a regular car with a tow hitch here. Occasionally, a station wagon will have one, but normally it’s just SUV’s and pickups.


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