Rangers had the 4.0l OHV V6 engine from 1990 to 2000, very reliable, it would crack a head if overheated, but many engines do that, trick is to not drive them overheated, lol.
Rangers got the 4.0l SOHC V6 in 2001, it had 40 more horse power, but also a timing chain issue, engine had to be pulled to repair it properly, once repaired there were no further issues.
2004 4.0l SOHC engine had the new design timing chains and guides so shouldn't have that issue.
Out side of the early issue they are reliable engines.
3.0l Vulcan V6 engine was used in Rangers from 1991 to 2008, Ford used this engine in many of it's cars in transverse mounted FWD.
Reliable but they changed the head design in '99 and had problems with valve seats until about '05 when the seat material was changed, once repaired with new heads the problem didn't return.
You will want a V6, the Rangers are not light at 3,200lbs, MPG for either would be 17/18 average, 3.0l is slightly better but IMO not worth it for the lost power.
They offered a 4 cylinder 2.3l Duratec engine from 2001 and up and it is very reliable, but.........again the weight of the Ranger is not light and if you load it up for camping or fishing, you will be glad to have the V6.
Manual transmission is the only way to fly, Ford manuals are reliable
Ford Automatics are OK no major issues but all automatics have alot more moving parts and if run even slightly hot they will fail, so if you go automatic add another trans cooler.
Automatics do have a higher weight limit for towing trailers, so if that is important check the limits.
4x4 is what you should have for hunting and fishing, 1998-2001 Rangers had the very poorly designed PVH(pulse vacuum hubs) system.
You can swap these out for manual locking hubs, or when shopping around Ford started using "Live axle" as early as late '99, see if you can find one like that, Live Axle means the front wheel are always locked, transfer case still shifts for 2WD or 4x4hi or low.
2001 was the official start of Live axle, testing found that with the new design on the front axle, having it engaged all the time didn't effect MPG, .3-.5MPG was all that was reported on the testing.
Ranger overall is a very well built and reliable vehicle.
Don't overlook the Mazda B-series, B-4000 = 4.0l engine, B-3000 = 3.0l engine, these are Rangers and can often be purchased for less than a Ranger with the same package/options.
Last edited by RonD; 03-29-2015 at 11:09 AM.