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hello everyone i have a few questions that i was hoping you could answer. Recently I've been looking at getting a new vehicle and I've decided that i would rather have a truck instead of a car. I've been looking at a lot of different options but i really like the second and third generation Dakotas and have found some online that are in good condition for a reasonable price, my only issue is that i had a 4x4 1992 Dakota a while back that i bought with 150,000 and in a month the transmission went out. so what i'm wondering is what year is going to be the most reliable and what i should absolutely stay away from, i also want to get a 4x4 because i live in Iowa and the winters can be hard and i need something to get me to work when it snows, mpg is also a concern but i know that with a truck and especially a 4x4 i cant be to picky but i would like to get more than 14 combined since that's what i'm getting right now. this is my first time posting to this forum(or any forum) so please be kind and i am grateful for any information i can get on this subject.
 

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Well, for the most part, most Dakotas are pretty reliable. Dodge did have some transmission problems back in the early 90s but most by now have been rectified and newer transmissions are much more dependable. I'm not personally fond of the 4.7 V8. Some of the early ones that are found in 2nd gen Dakotas and Durangos had issues, but there were several improvements made by the time the third gen models came out. I like the older 318 and powerhouse 360. Fuel economy for any of the V8s will be in the 14mpg range, give or take an mpg or two. Often overlooked will be any of the V6 offerings. The 3.9 and newer 3.7 are bread and butter engines. They aren't too strong and not really that much more efficient. But they are cheap to come by because most people wanted the V8s.

You'll be familiar with the 4wd system, in the second gen trucks, they are identical to the one in your 92. Only other difference might be newer models will come with a push button controller.

The newer models have more creature comforts than your old 92 did. Take advantage of some of those features especially the quad cab. Having a full rear seat and two more doors helps a lot…although it does come at the expense of less cargo space. But if you're like most people who buy trucks, they don't often use the bed to it's fullest potential. Good luck

Ed
 

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I might add that Dakotas from 97-00 have different interiors than that of the 01-04. (One of the reasons I went with an 04.) Although there are some minor things they left out of my 04 that I have since re-added such as the ash tray and second cig lighter, they did add the 4x4 switch on the dash in 01 instead of the manual shifter on the floor.
The quad cabs are also very nice to have if you don't require the long bed. But since you're coming from a car, I imagine that's not a big deal to you.
My truck (2004 4x4 Quadcab) gets on average about 15mpgs according to the read out, but when actually calculating at the pump it's usually closer to 14. That's also mostly highway as I live 30 min from work.
I would advise you to go for an 01-04, but that's my personal preference because they have a newer interior but still the same sexy body style. The 05+, to me, are ugly as hell. My buddy bought an 07 I believe and had nothing but problems with it. But I believe that to be caused by the previous owner not taking care of it at all. Which is why I told him not to buy it in the first place. Which brings me to another point...
Things I would look at on these other than the obvious rust (especially being in Iowa), is caked on mud underneath and other signs of neglect. The front ends also have quite a few issues. So be sure to check that out, or just plan on replacing all the bushings, tie rod ends, ball joints, etc. after you buy it. I just did that to mine and it made a huge difference in ride quality. I believe it cost me around $1K including installation and parts.
I found mine last year with 170k miles on it for $4K which was a decent deal at the time. I wasn't wanting buy one with such high miles, but I figured it'd be worth throwing some money at to fix any issues. Especially since finding one with low miles was becoming very difficult if I didn't want to spend over $10k. So I guess my advise to you would be to find one fairly cheap, not worry about mileage too much and just plan to throw money at it to make it 100%. That will also give the benefit of knowing what's been done and what may need more attention. I haven't gotten into the engine too much yet (or the tranny), but I plan on replacing it with a remanufactured one within the next year or so which will cost me about $3k installed at a place down in Tulsa. After all is said and done, I'll probably have about $10k into my truck. Which I don't think is too bad considering everything will be reconditioned to new (or better than new) and I won't have to worry about anything for a long time. As opposed to spending $20k on a "new" truck with over 100K miles on it like most people do.
I'm not sure if I added anything to this post or not, or gave you any new info relevant to you. But hopefully I did.
 

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I bought my '02 new (not a 4X4). Currently at 195,000 miles. I've always had the recommended maintenance done. Had a repair done to the A/C system, and an outer tie rod replaced. Lifetime gas mileage is 19.3 (4.7L automatic).
 

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I bought a 2002 4x4 Dakota and I am happy with it. I did have to do a head gasket job (4.7L) because the previous owner didnt do very good maintenance. Its been very reliable, much better than the Chevy ZR2 S10 I had before. If I was to buy another I would go with 2003+, because of the better brakes.
 
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