Buyers' Guide: Finding a ute to suit
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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 such as mountain bikes and surfboards.
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.
With so many different varieties of utes on New Zealand roads, it’s important you know what to look for on your next visit to the dealership.
1 Cab and chassis
The bare basics — rather than being fitted with a pre-assembled tray, the ute is simply a front cab with a naked rear chassis.
These are typically sold to customers who have a specific purpose for the vehicle and need a custom-built unit on the back like a camper, mobile serviceman or custom flat deck.
2 Flat deck
Flat decks have been a staple of Kiwi culture for decades, and remain popular today. It’s a hardworking tradie’s ute with two doors, two seats and a big, long tray for carrying the tough stuff.
They’re constructed for heavy work with the ease of loading their key advantage. Models with flat decks are usually chosen with fewer trim options and may have removable sides attached to the cargo area to improve access — perfect for those big lock boxes.
Wellside utes have factory-installed moulded trays with fixed sides that can’t be removed, therefore only allowing access through the tailgate. Popular add-ons include fibreglass canopies and various tray covers.
Tow capacities are typically quite high as well, with some claiming to haul up to 3.5 tonnes. These are by far the most common utes on our roads today, and come in a couple of options.
4 Extended cabs
An extended cab, as the name suggests, is a ute with a stretched single cab. These particular models usually have two extra-large front doors with collapsible seats allowing access to the rear passenger compartments.
The back may be suitable for young children, but if you try taking some friends on a long journey, you’re going to have a bad time. The rear seats usually have a fixed rear cushion that can’t be reclined or a fold down seat squab.
5 Double cabs
Double cabs — or Cab plus and King cabs — are designed with passenger comfort at the heart, offering more space, more seating and more technology.
They take a one size fits all approach that’s perfect for the working week, and the family trip to the beach. Cabin space and comfort are continually on the rise, so if you’re intending on doing a lot of driving with the cabin loaded, you should go for a test drive with the family to make sure it fits your requirements.
New Zealand’s love affair with utes is strongly represented in new vehicle registration figures. Data from the Motor Industry Association shows that four of the top five selling new vehicles in 2017 are utes.
The Ford Ranger outsold any passenger vehicle in 2016 so the demand is as high as ever.
If you’re shopping for a used ute, understanding the types that are available before you turn up on the sales yard will help you choose the right vehicle that can cater to your work and lifestyle requirements.