If you’re looking for something to drive which can haul big loads, fit the family and still have all the creature comforts we’ve come to expect in 2024, chances are you’re after a ute.

    Australia loves a ute, right back from when Holden and Ford were showroom rivals to now, where Thailand, South Korea and China are feeding our insatiable appetite for single and dual-cabs.

    It’s a competitive market, with almost 230,000 new utes and pickups finding new homes in 2023 – a figure which is on track to be eclipsed this year.

    But with 20 models on offer across 15 brands (and hundreds of variants between them) it can be hard to decide what’s worth buying.

    We’ve given ourselves an unlimited budget but otherwise free reign in the new market, with the ability to choose whether we want to cosplay tradies or an adventurous family.

    Here’s what the CarExpert team would buy if we were on the market for a new ute.

    Paul Maric: Ford Ranger Raptor, Ram 1500 TRX or Mahindra Pik-Up

    In my mind, the answer to this question has a few different options. It depends entirely what you’re using it for.

    If you’re like me and you need to occasionally use the ute element, but enjoy off-road driving and want a performance vehicle, you’ll go something like a Ranger Raptor or a Ram 1500 TRX.

    But, if you need a workhorse, we were recently pretty surprised with the capability of the Mahindra Pik-Up. We put it up head-to-head with the LandCruiser 70 Series and were surprised that it could hold its own – and it’s around half the price and significantly less than most other dual-cab utes on the market.

    MORE: Buy a Ford Ranger
    MORE: Buy a Ram 1500
    MORE: Buy a Mahindra Pik-Up

    Scott Collie: SsangYong Musso or Chevrolet Silverado 1500

    This is a tough question! If the budget was tight, I would be having a good, hard look at the SsangYong Musso.

    It drives like an SUV with a tray on the back, has a generous list of standard inclusions, and undercuts all the better-known brands significantly when it comes to sticker price. 

    Money no object though, it would have to be a Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2. It looks tough, drives really nicely, and has a properly modern cabin which has enough space for the whole family. There’s also just something about a good, old-fashioned V8. 

    It’s also immensely capable when the going gets rough. I wouldn’t buy one as a city car, but as a go-anywhere, tow-anything companion it’s hard to match.

    MORE: Buy a SsangYong Musso
    MORE: Buy a Chevrolet Silverado

    James Wong: Volkswagen Amarok Style TDI600

    I’ve made it no secret that I could ever see myself buying a ute – for me, they’re specialty vehicles that I have no need for.

    But, given I must partake in this activity, I may as well choose the one that’s objectively a segment benchmark while also being against the grain somewhat.

    The Ford Ranger is an excellent all-round work and lifestyle vehicle that has quickly become Australia’s favourite new car, so how could you look past the Volkswagen Amarok which shares underpinnings.

    I like that the Amarok is a little classier, and a little less popular. It’s the thinking person’s ute almost, with some SUV and passenger car niceties thrown in and a design inside and out that blurs the lines between passenger and commercial segments.

    My spec? Give me an Amarok Style TDI600 in Bright Beige Metallic – it looks ready for work whilst also packing some style and class.

    MORE: Buy a Volkswagen Amarok

    William Stopford: Ram 1500 or Ford Ranger Platinum

    I’m not much of a ute person, and that’s probably because I’m not big on DIY projects or camping or anything else where such a vehicle would truly come in handy.

    I thoroughly enjoyed a Ram 1500 Laramie Sport I had through the garage recently, however. I quickly got comfortable driving the burly beast, and the spaciousness of its interior can’t be beat.

    But even in a hypothetical world where I’m a ute buyer, I still couldn’t justify driving such a huge vehicle (and rolling target) that I wouldn’t even begin to actually utilise the capabilities of.

    I’d want a ute that feels as little like a ute as possible, and the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok twins are among the most SUV-like utes out there.

    While the classy Amarok is tempting, particularly with the TSI452 petrol engine, I’m going to give the edge to the Ranger with its more user-friendly (if less attractive) interior.

    The Bi-Turbo diesel is certainly fine, but with no price cap I’ll spring for the turbo-diesel V6, and come as close to Ram-like luxury in this size class as possible by opting for the Platinum trim.

    MORE: Buy a Ford Ranger

    Jack Quick: Ford Ranger XLT V6

    If I had to choose what 4×4 ute I’d actually buy in 2024 my immediate choice would be the Ford Ranger which is still the benchmark in its segment. I’d also entertain the idea of a Volkswagen Amarok or perhaps a Ford F-150 if I was feeling greedy.

    In terms of which Ranger variant I’d opt for, the mid-spec XLT arguably represents the best balance between being a well-equipped lifestyle vehicle and a heavy-duty workhorse. I’m personally not a huge fan of fancy leather seats in work-oriented utes so that rules out any Ranger variant above the XLT.

    The Ranger XLT is the most affordable variant in the lineup that’s available with the sought after 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine, so from a value perspective it also stacks up. With 184kW and 600Nm you won’t be searching for any more power or torque.

    The sticking point however with the Ranger currently is its asking price. At over $70,000 drive-away for a mid-spec XLT dual-cab pickup with the V6 engine you can almost buy yourself a flagship Toyota HiLux GR Sport instead.

    MORE: Buy a Ford Ranger

    Jordan Mulach: Ford Ranger Wildtrak

    As with James, I have next to no need for a ute, but if I was buying one I would be hard pressed to go past the Ranger Wildtrak.

    Annoyingly, Ford knows most of the features people want and has placed them up the top end of the grades list, with the Wildtrak putting itself right near the top underneath the Platinum and Raptor.

    The 3.0-litre V6 is grunty, its interior is well equipped and it looks good, plus you can still fit road-oriented tyres on its 18-inch wheels.

    Of course, optioning the Premium Pack is essential, though it would add many months to the wait.

    MORE: Buy a Ford Ranger

    Josh Nevett: Ford Ranger Raptor

    To put it simply, these are not my typical style of vehicle. However, I wouldn’t complain if someone stuck a Ford Ranger Raptor on my driveway.

    The Raptor looks mean and has plenty of substance to back up the stickers and flared arches, with 292kW on tap from the 3.0-litre turbo V6. Ford’s performance focus carries into the Raptor’s cabin, which has smatterings of orange trim and a sports steering wheel with magnesium shift paddles.

    While the previous generation Raptor was all bark and no bite, the latest iteration is a statement of intent that resonates with me as a younger enthusiast.

    The only catch? That near-six figure price tag.

    MORE: Buy a Ford Ranger

    Jordan Mulach

    Born and raised in Canberra, Jordan has worked as a full-time automotive journalist since 2021, being one of the most-published automotive news writers in Australia before joining CarExpert in 2024.

    Buy and Lease
    Uncover exclusive deals and discounts with a VIP referral to Australia's best dealers
    Uncover exclusive deals and discounts with a VIP referral to Australia's best dealers