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Budget Buy Under $10,000: Canyon vs Ranger

Jesse McGraw

For under $10,000, is it better to buy a used GMC Canyon or a used Ford Ranger? We help you decide between two of the best used mid-sized truck options.

Not Everyone Needs a Full-Size Truck

carsforsale.com
carsforsale.com

Everyone knows the heated debate between the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, RAM 1500, and the GMC Sierra, but those are all full-sized trucks. What about the people that don’t need to tow super heavy loads or have huge beds? The mid-size truck segment is for those that need the utility of a truck, but don’t need the full towing, hauling, or price point that comes along with a full-size. Today we’re looking on the used market for two mid-size trucks with decent mileage for under $10,000. We narrowed our choices down and pitted used GMC Canyons and used Ford Rangers against each other to see which is the best option for you.

2006 GMC Canyon - carsforsale.com
2006 GMC Canyon - carsforsale.com

For under $10,000, you can find decent a used GMC Canyon from the first generation starting in 2004. The original GMC Canyon was a jointly design between GM and Isuzu in the early 2000s and came up a little short of beating the sales of the reigning Toyota Tacoma in its debut. If you’re not a fan of the exterior styling of the GMC, you’re in luck! The GMC Canyon shared its platform with the Chevrolet Colorado and Isuzu i-Series trucks of the same generation and will yield relatively similar pricing with a couple different style changes. For this comparison, we’ll stick with referencing the used GMC Canyon, but be aware that the Chevy and Isuzu models are virtually the same on paper when shopping.

1998 Ford Ranger - carsforsale.com
1998 Ford Ranger - carsforsale.com

Then there’s the simple classic of the used Ford Ranger. The little Ford truck has been around since the ‘80s and is still a prevalent model today. You can find plenty of nice classic used Ford Ranger examples from the first and second generation, but for better technology and features you’ll want to look at the third generation. Third generation of Ford Rangers were sold from 1998 to 2012 and also had a rebadged alternative found in the Mazda B-Series trucks of the same time.

So, are you going to be better off with a used GMC Canyon or a used Ford Ranger? We looked through the listings on Carsforsale.com and found all the features to look for when shopping for one of these mid-size trucks.

Specs – Plenty of Inlines and a Couple Vs

2009 GMC Canyon 3.7L I5 - carsforsale.com
2009 GMC Canyon 3.7L I5 - carsforsale.com

For used GMC Canyons, you’ll find plenty of different inline engine variants ranging from a measly 2.5-liter I4 making just 116 horsepower to a 3.7-liter I5 making 242 horsepower. These small inline engines will all get you from point A to point B with little hassle and with decent fuel economy. If you want a little more power and torque at the expense of lower mileage and fuel economy, 2009 and older models had an optional small-block V8 engine under the hood producing 300 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. Used GMC Canyon engines came paired with either a 5-speed Isuzu line manual transmission or 4-speed automatic transmission from GM.

When shopping for used Ford Rangers, you’ll find a similar situation to the Canyons powertrain options, but with a shorter list. The most common engines you’ll find in a used Ford Ranger from the third generation is a 2.3-liter I4 making 143 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque and a 4.0-liter V6 making 207 horsepower and 238 lb-ft of torque. While Ranger’s engines can’t beat the GMC Canyon’s V8 engine, they meet similar fuel economy numbers as the Canyon’s inline engine options. Paired with these used Ford Ranger engines is either a 5-speed automatic transmission from Ford or a 5-speed manual from Mazda.

2003 Ford Ranger 4.0L V6 - carsforsale.com
2003 Ford Ranger 4.0L V6 - carsforsale.com

Neither of these trucks do inherently better in terms of 0-60 times or top speeds and they both offer either rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive. However, if you plan on towing more, you’ll obviously want to shell out a little more cash for the used GMC Canyon with its available V8 engine. Even past the V8 option, the Canyon’s 3.7-liter I5 out performs the 4.0-liter V6 found in the Ranger. So far it seems the Canyon may be the one you’d want when it comes to actually putting the truck to work.

Driving & Comfort – Both Have Off-Road Options

2004 GMC Canyon Z71 - carsforsale.com
2004 GMC Canyon Z71 - carsforsale.com

In these used GMC Canyon models, you’ll find three different suspension options. There’s the standard Z85 suspension which works well for everyday driving and it can handle some bumps in the road with relative ease. If you’re looking to drive off-road more often, then be on the lookout for one of these Canyons with the Z71 suspension packages though. The Z71 lifts the truck a couple more inches for more ground clearance, tunes the springs and shocks, adds a locking rear differential, and adds better tires for off-road (those may have been replaced by now though). The cabin will jostle about as much as any other truck when tackling the outdoors with the only noticeable downfall being that it will have a slight understeer.

Then the final suspension option you may find goes the other direction in consideration to ride height. The ZQ8 sport package was only available on 4×2 models and added color matched bumpers and grille, special fender flares and side skirts, a different set of 17-inch wheels, a revised street purposed suspension tune, and lowered the ride height by about 2 inches. I’d only recommend going for this package in a used GMC Canyon if you plan on making a sleeper out of it, otherwise it’s kind of cool but pointless.

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2007 Ford Ranger FX4 Level II - carsforsale.com
2007 Ford Ranger FX4 Level II - carsforsale.com

On the used Ford Ranger side of things, you’ll find a lot less choices for suspension. The standard suspension offered on the third-generation Ford Ranger was revised as a short long arm setup and has rack-and-pinion steering rather than the recirculating ball steering of previous models. You’ll want to look for models 2004 and newer as they received updated bushings, shocks, and springs that helped in providing a smoother ride quality. These 2004 and newer used Ford Rangers handle corners with ease and soak up the bumps in the road.

If you’re looking to take a used Ford Ranger into harsher environments, get one with an FX4 package. The FX4 is a trim line that adds off-roading centric enhancements to the Ranger and came in two different versions. The FX4 Off-Road from 2003 until 2007 is the cheaper option that added some additional right height, skid plates, and a couple changes to the suspension with Ford based components. The FX4 Level II (also just called FX4 Off-Road before 2003 and after 2007) added a lot more quality components to the Ford Ranger. FX4 Level II models received a Torsen limited slip rear-differential, Bilstein shocks, specialized wheels, and skid plates.

Interior & Features

When shopping for one of these used mid-sized trucks, you’ll notice some visible wear when it comes to the interiors. The plastics may have lost some luster and the seats will have lost some cushion, but that’s to be expected when shopping the used market.

The used GMC Canyons we’re looking at are configured in three sizes – standard, extended, and a four-door crew cab. Standard is limited to two passengers, extended provides a little more space behind the front seats and adds two cramped folding rear seats, and then the crew cab size will come with the most interior room and allow comfortable seating for rear passengers. As far as interior quality, this era of the Canyon wasn’t graced with any Denali level enhancements. The majority of components are plastic along the dash and on the door panels. The seat upholstery is more than likely just going to be a standard gray fabric, and while you can find one with leather, they don’t really make the experience any better.

The shining points found in one of these used Canyons is that they typically come with rubber floor mats for easy cleaning, there aren’t any weird shifting gimmick or out of place controls like modern day GMC models, and you can find models with some relevant technology at the end of the generation. There’s no infotainment system to speak of, but you can find used GMC Canyons with Bluetooth and SiriusXM Satellite Radio installed. The standard AM/FM radio and CD player also has MP3 functionality so you can just play tunes off your phone from a streaming service.

Used Ford Rangers came in three sizes as well – standard, extended, and what Ford called SuperCab. Standard is fit for two passengers, extended adds some room behind the front seats to accommodate fold down seating, and then the SuperCab isn’t all the super. While the largest configuration does add an additional set of half doors for rear passengers to use, the fold down rear seating is almost worse than in the extended model. Rather than have the seating appointed facing inwards, the SuperCab’s folded seating faces forward with about two feet between the front passengers and the back of the cab.

For interior quality you can expect much of the same story found in the Canyon. Used Ford Rangers from the third generation are composed almost entirely of plasticky components and most common seat option will be two tone fabric. There is a perforated leather seat option that feels a little more acceptable even in used condition than the ones found in the Canyon models. As for tech, the best thing you’ll find in used Ford Rangers is MP3 availability added to the radio in later models.

Used GMC Canyon or Used Ford Ranger?

2011 GMC Canyon - media.gmc.com
2011 GMC Canyon - media.gmc.com

The Ford Ranger has been around for a while and was once the best-selling American made mid-size truck you could find, but even when the third generation was new people preferred the GMC Canyon. The available used GMC Canyons you’ll find on dealership lots come with more power, more options, more space, and better available technology. They can be well appointed for either on road or off-road use. The used Ford Ranger models out there are just basic and don’t excel in any area when compared with the Canyon. If you have $10,000 to spend and you want a used mid-size truck, you can’t go wrong with a used GMC Canyon. Honestly though, if you can afford to spend a little more on a mid-size truck, I’d splurge for a used Toyota Tacoma. Just saying.

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Jesse McGraw
Jesse McGraw

Jesse's life-long car obsession began when he started collecting Hot Wheels as a child. He’s constantly keeping up with the latest car news and diving deep into automotive history. His automotive journey began with a rusty ‘99 Dodge Dakota held together by zip ties, only recently replaced by an impeccable 2014 Kia Soul. You can find him modifying and racing cars in video games when he’s not playing paintball or writing about cars.

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