Retiring teacher wants zero frills for first new car

Dear Car Talk:

I’m nearing the age of retirement from public school teaching. I’ve enjoyed reading your column for years, as it has been helpful in teaching me how to make repairs to the many cars and trucks I’ve owned over the years.

I’ve never had, wanted or could afford a new vehicle, but on a teacher’s salary, I took pride in “making do” with what I could afford. Maybe it’s time to go out with a bang and buy a brand-new car or small truck in retirement?

Here’s my question: What is the most no-frills, no-extra-options-to-jack-up-the-base-price small truck on the market?

In my perfect world, I would like to buy a brand-new, small, 4-cylinder truck with no radio/CD player, no power windows, no power seats, no power-adjusted side mirrors, no GPS navigational system talking to me, no seat warmer and as few other computer gizmos as possible.

I wouldn’t care if it didn’t have AC. I would like it to have manual 5-speed transmission. Don’t take this personally, I’m not excited about a car as I regard it in the same way I would a hammer or a wrench. It’s a tool, that’s all. Does my ideal vehicle exist? -- Mark

RAY: Yes, it does, Mark. It’s an ‘86 Toyota HiLux pickup truck.

You’re asking the impossible these days. While it’s possible to get a stripped-down Ford Ranger (or soon, the even-smaller Ford Maverick), I don’t know if you can even get one without power windows these days. And I doubt there’s a car for sale without a radio. In fact, most come standard with touch screens and Bluetooth. Oh, the humanity!

The other stuff, you can avoid. GPS, power seats, power mirrors, seat warmers ... those are all options on lower-priced vehicles. But even the most basic car or truck you buy these days is still going to have 30, 40 or 50 microprocessors to handle everything from the lights to safety systems to engine and transmission management.

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That’s led to great improvements. Cars are far more reliable than ever. And the safety advances from computers alone have been nearly miraculous. And that’s probably the best reason we can give you to “go out with a bang” and get a new car: So you won’t “go out with a bang!”

You’ll be exponentially safer in a 2022 Ford Maverick, 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz or even a 2-year-old Honda Fit than you’ll be in an ‘86 Toyota HiLux.

If you really want a very simple truck, something pre-computer age, with manually operated everything, you’re going to have to look for a 1980s or earlier vintage compact truck that’s lived its life in a place where they don’t salt the roads.

But if you can afford it, I’d encourage you to at least consider a new car for safety. The power windows might even grow on you.

Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at

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