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How to choose a ute for a slide on camper – Part 4: Stats, Figures and Facts

best ute for a slide on camper

We continue our blog series on what to look for when choosing the best ute to pair with your Trayon slide-on camper. As we have discussed in the first 3 parts of this discussion,  there are a few things you need to consider in order to find the best ute for your needs.

In part 1, we discussed “camper dry weight”, and in part 2, we discussed “budget considerations”, and in part 3, we discussed “horses for courses”.

In this article, we will continue this discussion. We take a look at comparing the utes on paper, stats and figures don’t lie. But how do we decipher them?

It’s easy to get pulled into a specific ute due to its design aesthetics.  Manufacturers know that buying a car is often, in large part, an emotional decision for many, and their interior and exterior design languages are often specifically formulated based on psychological principles to increase the appeal of a particular vehicle. However, this could mean you end up with a vehicle that doesn’t serve your needs as well as another.

Remember, you are buying this ute for a purpose – to carry a slide-on camper and drive through some of the harshest off-road trails that Australia has to offer. So it needs to be up to the task. 

As a quick reminder from the 3rd part – Horses for Courses, you probably have already decided on the exact purpose you intend to use the ute. It can be either as an off-road, purpose-built expedition vehicle; OR, a multipurpose, mid-range 4-wheel drive like the current Hilux. 

So let’s take a look at some of the stats, figures and numbers. Not all of these are specifications, some of these are based on user feedback, parts availability and other factors that help form a whole picture of a ute in the market.

Cheap vs Popular?

The first “number” that you need to play with, and also the most obvious, would be the price of the ute. As we have previously discussed,  people tend to want to go for cheaper utes in the beginning, however, they also ask the question: Why are Toyota Hilux and The Ford Ranger the number 1 and 2 cars sold in all of Australia in October 2022?

More specifically, we want to narrow down these stats for specifically slide on campers, we at Trayon have our own data on public interest in our products.

Over the last 2 years, here is a breakdown of our top five vehicles people wanted to pair with a slide-on camper: 

Note, although this doesn’t necessarily translate into actual sales of our products, it is a good statistical representation of people inquiring about slide-on campers.

So why is the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger so popular even though they definitely aren’t the cheapest options? Well, recent updates to both vehicles have no doubt made them more appealing both aesthetically and from a tech perspective. However, there are a few other factors that these manufacturers have also done well.

These other factors include:

  • Parts and Repairability
  • General User community and feedback
  • Upgradeability

Parts and Repairability 

First off, these brands are sold and used the most in Australia. This means that when parts need to be repaired or replaced, they are easier to come by and will have serviceability even in most Outback towns.  You do not want to get stuck on the side of the road or in the middle of the road waiting for parts.

User Community and Feedback

The more popular a brand or product becomes, the bigger the user community it builds as well. 

This is very helpful as users can provide real-world feedback and insights about the said brand/product. Though it also has its drawbacks, which we’ll touch upon later. 


Say you are looking to own your first Hilux, you will have a vast database of available resources to work with. This includes forums, Facebook groups and even Wiki databases that are constantly being updated by real people who own this vehicle themselves. 

The best-selling vehicles obviously have this advantage over the ones that are not that popular.

As an example, Toyota and Ford will sell anywhere from 15K to 30k units a year. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for smaller brands like Ssangyong or Foton. 

If you are shopping for a vehicle and want to do your research online on these smaller brands, there might not be a lot of readily available information out there because they are simply not big sellers. 

You might not find the information you need to be able to upgrade it. 

And speaking of upgrading…

Upgradeability

Third-party aftermarket companies like ARB, TJM and even Pedders suspension will also obviously prioritise manufacturing for the more popular models. 

Whether you are looking to do GVM upgrades, or maybe get a nice bullbar to go with your ute, it will be less difficult to find these for the Ford Ranger vs a brand that is not a big seller like the Mahindra or the LDV. 

If you think about it, they are also playing the numbers game here. They are mostly focusing on the demand for parts for the more bigger brands and work their way down the list that way.

I am not saying that you won’t ever be able to replace your Foton Tunland’s shocks once it gives way, but there will definitely be limited options and you may end up getting OEM parts that are usually more expensive.

Know Your GVM & Payload

It is helpful to familiarise yourself with things like the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and available payload increases for a specific ute before pulling the trigger to buy. Because if the ute can’t carry what you want, then that could be a costly decision.

This is important as some utes will have minimal GVM upgrade capability to handle the payloads you’d like it to have. And some only allow decent GVM upgrades before it is registered; this is called a second-stage manufacturing GVM upgrade. And of course, every state in Australia has slightly different rules and regulations that govern these upgrades.

Some utes might even restrict how much you can tow while carrying certain weights in the tray, as this also affects your Gross Combined Mass (GCM).

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the American import, the big ol’ Dodge Ram 2500. Everyone assumes that since it is massive, then it should be able to carry a lot of weight. 

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

We are talking about a vehicle with a 3.6-tonne starting (curb) weight. And this does not even include the weight of the fuel and other additions like bullbars and all of that sort of stuff.

There is actually a little wiggle room for upgrades as it will still have a GVM limit of 4,495 kg on a normal car license.

The Dodge Ram 2500 will only have a maximum payload of around 886 kilograms. That is supposed to include passengers, fuel in the tank, slide on camper and other upgrades strapped to the vehicle. Even the little brother to the 2500 – the Dodge Ram 1500 only has a payload rating of between 701 to 833kg (model dependant)

This is lower than most of the 1-tonne utes which are much smaller and cheaper that we have on Aussie roads.

The pricing side of things does not look promising either.  There is no aftermarket GVM upgrade for the Ram 2500 but for the Ram 1500 you’d be looking at spending around 23K for a GVM upgrade on top of a $85K vehicle and then still no diesel option in their range.

In comparison; you can get the 79 series Land Cruiser for around $85K, install a GVM upgrade of 4,200kg to get an increased payload of over 1.5 tonnes for approximately $5k.

Again, playing the stats, figures and facts numbers game well is crucial. You will definitely see a big difference. Do not be caught up with a Dodge Ram just because it’s bigger, has more cup holders and is more comfortable. These large pickups are designed for towing their weight, not so much carrying their weight.

And this is not to specifically disparage Dodge Ram. The same applies to the Hiluxes, Rangers and all those as well. A specific ute model may come in different variants/configurations and include features that may affect both OEM payload and GVM. Not to mention the aftermarket upgrades. 

So, you do need to pay close attention to these figures, not just between makes but also between models as well.

Check out our full article on GVM upgrades before you buy your ute, just so you know what is possible.

Keyboard Warriors

As we have mentioned earlier, having a vast community of brand enthusiasts has its pros and cons. It’s great to be able to get helpful feedback online anytime you need it. But you also must be mindful and vigilant with the information floating around as some may be far from facts. After all, when playing the facts game, we must be able to filter out the (often biased) opinions.

The proliferation of what we would like to call ‘keyboard warriors’ has become a post-sale phenomenon happening online. By definition, these keyboard warriors would typically post let’s say “passionate” opinions on the internet and would hide their identity behind their online accounts.

For example, one post may claim that the Toyota Hilux’s auto gearbox is problematic and that this vehicle is a ‘hunk of junk’.

Or that the Ford Rangers have faulty rear view mirrors. These claims would typically try to generalise a whole product line based on an often isolated experience. 

We must remember that these brands typically sell around 20K to 30K units yearly. Even if this 1 or 2 person’s claim is true for their specific vehicle, it still won’t accurately represent the rest of the units sold.

We also need to consider the background information behind the claims:
1. Has the vehicle been serviced properly?

2. Has the vehicle been overladen?

3. Has the vehicle been modified?

4. How and where has it been driven?

5. Under what conditions did it fail?

When it comes to facts; we must be very careful with the information we find on forums, Facebook pages or Wiki pages. They can be great resources as there is a huge following behind them but they can also be a source of wrong information and it is important to take everything with a pinch of salt. 

As a car enthusiast myself, I remember hearing this bad rumour about the 3.2 litre turbo diesel Ford Rangers back in the day. 

I heard maybe 2 or 3 people say things like, “the gearbox, “oh, they are problematic, I had

a friend down in Tasmania who had one of them and that particular one just, oh, endless problems! I wouldn’t buy it if I were you.”

Well, okay, it’s the second most-sold ute In Australia. You heard one person have a problem with it. I have personally owned four of those Rangers in the same configuration as yours and not one gave me those problems.

I understand that user experiences may vary a little, but you also have to kind of look at the figures and discern what is indeed factual, exaggerated or isolated.

Again, using the Ford Ranger as an example, it is a multi-platform vehicle – meaning that all units worldwide will share the same standard core platform.  It’s the same chassis, same engine combinations etc., with a  few variances based on the country’s emission control standards. It is the most widely distributed platform in the world, being sold in over 100 countries. 

So we are talking in huge numbers! There’s no way a company like Ford or Toyota would go into that kind of numbers with ‘problematic’ units that are just “a hunk of junk”.

There would definitely be a quality assurance process in place to quickly find out if there is a problem. And if they find a substantial issue, especially those that would pose health hazard risks, that vehicle will be recalled.

These communities are great to get help from experienced individuals and they are also a great place to get a general feel for the sentiment around different vehicles and perhaps identify trends.

Conclusion

So the stats, figures and facts numbers game is good because choosing the most sold units is the safest way to go. However, we must be careful with non-factual input from strangers online. Hearsays and unfounded facts can ruin the selection process for you. 

If you are unsure, you can do further research or consult with people who you know are experts in the field. You’d be surprised at how much information you can get from the trusty mechanic. In any case, it is your due diligence to find out what is fact and what’s not. 

We hope that you enjoyed this part of the blog series! We are almost at the end, and part 5 is coming up. This whole blog post is broken up into different sections because there is a lot to consider in choosing the best ute for your hard-earned money. Hopefully, you have found the guide useful in finding the truth about what would suit you the most.

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