WASHINGTON – Consumers in search of the best truck, minivan or sport utility vehicle now have another tool to help them wade through the choices.
The seventh edition of “The Truck, Van and 4×4 Book 1997” hit the book stores Wednesday with its annual ratings of the best bets for those in the market for a new vehicle.
The Ford Explorer, Chevrolet C/K Series Pickup and GMC Sierra earned the highest rating of a “10” from author Jack Gillis.
They were followed by a group of minivans that earned scores of “nine:” the Nissan Quest, Isuzu Oasis and Honda Odyssey.
Three more minivans were bumped up to “nine” ratings following publication of the book, based on good showings in recent crash tests: the Chrysler Town and Country, Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager.
Gillis, 46, a former marketing analyst with the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, analyzed and compiled data from manufacturers, insurance companies and the government to determine the ratings of the 64 models he evaluated.
“This is the kind of information the car companies don’t want to see the light of day,” he said.
He based his ratings on the trucks’ safety, complaint history, insurance cost, maintenance and repair costs, fuel economy and warranties.
He said his book takes millions of tax dollars worth of government information and translates it for consumers.
“It raises consumer awareness and makes changes in the industry be driven by market forces, instead of government regulations,” said Gillis, who also writes annual editions of “The Car Book” and works as a contributing consumer correspondent for NBC’s “Today Show.”
He is considered an expert in his field. “When it comes to consumer information on trucks, Jack Gillis is one of the best sources out there,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group founded by activist Ralph Nader.
Gillis drives a 1987 Volvo wagon and a 1993 Chrysler Town and Country minivan.
Of the three vehicles Gillis gave the highest rating, the Ford Explorer is listed as the most expensive. Gillis estimates the sticker price to be between $20,000 and $24,000.
He lists the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet C/K Series as being between $14,000 and $21,000.
The Explorer and Chevy received a “strong” rating for side impact protection. The Sierra was given a “weak” rating.
In crash tests, the Sierra and Chevy received a “very good” rating while the Explorer was given a “good” rating.
All three vehicles were rated “very good” regarding complaints, “very poor” for warranties and “good” for repairs.
Maintenance and repair costs were determined by comparing nine likely repairs for the 1997 models.
Each of the vehicles did about the same in the fuel economy comparison – able to get around 15 miles to the gallon in the city and about 20 miles to the gallon on the highway. All three come with dual air bags and 4-wheel anti-lock brakes. -30-