Readers often send us emails and messages lamenting the high prices of new 4x4s. The highest concentration of correspondence usually follows our SUV and Pickup Truck of the Year test when folks read how much each 4x4 costs.
The first time I was shocked at a car price was in 1978. My friend’s dad earned a good income managing a large factory, and he bought his family a new, fully loaded ’78 Chevy Caprice Classic. It was two-tone blue and had those fancy wire hubcaps. If I remember correctly, the car’s sticker price was in the mid-$8,000 range, which to the 15-year-old me was an unbelievable amount of money for a car. In 1980, one of my friends bought a used ’79 Pontiac Trans Am. Black, T-tops, loaded. If I remember correctly he paid around $10,000 for that car. I dug the car, but it was an object lesson on the cost of being cool. But my future brother-in-law’s silver, regular cab, longbed ’82 Chevy Scottsdale 4x4 pickup with a 6.2L diesel and a manual transmission was the most shocking. He bought it new, and it stickered for well over $12,000. At the time, my senior year in high school, all I could say was, “yikes!”
Prices of 4x4s have continued to climb, and we’re seeing non-dualie 4x4 diesel pickups breaking a sticker price of $80,000. It seems like most well-equipped 1/2-ton trucks are stickering for over $50,000. For some buyers this isn’t a problem, as illustrated by all the new pickups running around. But for others, this puts a new truck out of reach. Fortunately, there are options.
It’s said that the Nissan Frontier is the least expensive 4x4 pickup available in the U.S. at the moment. I went to the Nissan USA website and used the “Build” tool to configure a no-option ’18 Frontier SV 4x4 King Cab. The price came out to $28,835 including destination charge. For that price, the truck is equipped with a six-cylinder engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Not bad for a brand-new truck that has a decent tow rating (6,510 pounds) and cargo capacity (1,360). It doesn’t cost much more to bump up to the crew cab version. According to Nissan’s website, that price is $29,815 including destination charge. Both prices are pretty inexpensive nowadays in the new-truck world.
Want a new fullsize truck with all the off-road goodies but don’t want to pay a lot? Here’s one for ya. Recently I had the chance to drive a ’17 Ram 2500 Tradesman with the Power Wagon Package. It wasn’t a Power Wagon per se, but an entry-level 3/4-ton Tradesman truck with all the Power Wagon goodies like locking differentials, Warn 12,000-pound winch, skidplates, front disconnecting stabilizer bar, and more. Yeah, Ram lets you simply add the Power Wagon Package and get the goods without going full-zoot for a Power Wagon. The base price of the 4x4 Tradesman was $38,545, and the Power Wagon Package added $7,950 (this package also required the addition of the 6.4L Hemi engine at $500), for a total sticker price of $48,315 including destination charge. That saves you a few thousand dollars compared to the base Power Wagon price. Of course for this price you won’t have what most people would consider all the bells and whistles, but in the wheeling community you will in fact have all the bells and whistles. The truck was just as amazingly capable off-road as a regular Power Wagon. Interestingly, it didn’t have any of the Power Wagon badging, so it was all stealthy and stuff.
As the prices of new 4x4s climb, some of us who want to own one will need to compromise. I know I will. One of the options is to forego options. Personally, the carpet and floor mat delete and the manual-shift T-case lever in the Tradesman didn’t bother me one bit.