Dual Cab Utes; 10 things you should consider before buying one

Dual Cab Utes are a compromise. They can perform a huge range of duties reasonably well, and that makes them a very popular option. The thing is though, they don’t really excel at anything except being a jack of all trades, and you will have compromises as a result of this. In this post, I want to share 10 things you should seriously think about before you lay your hard earned down.

We are onto our second dual cab Ute, and the idea of moving to a Wagon just makes me sick. They are fantastic, as long as you know what you are getting into, and their limitations.

Dmax dual cab ute
Before you buy a Dual Cab Ute, here’s 10 things you should know

The rear seats don’t have much leg room

If you have growing children (7 years or older) it is a good idea to seriously look at the leg room before you lay any money down. If you intend on travelling with teenagers or adults, there’s a good chance they will complain about leg room especially if the driver or passenger is tall and has their seat back a significant distance!

4 year old leg room
Leg room in our Dmax with Oliver (5) in a car seat with the drivers seat all the way back

You can’t load the rear up too much

A lot more people know about GVM and payload today, but we’ve been pushing the need to understand axle capacities too. Any vehicle has a payload, which is expected to be evenly distributed over the front and rear axles. If you think you can buy a Ute with a 1 tonne payload, and drop a 1 tonne pallet in the tray you should know it will probably be illegal.

Yes, you might comply with the GVM, but your rear axle weight will be too heavy, and that means its still not legal. 

Dual cab Ute’s run the same chassis as Single Cab Utes, but the cabin is much longer, which is why your weight distribution is off to a bad start right from the get go.

Bad load distribution
If you load the rear up too much, you’ll risk being illegal and dangerously likely to bend a chassis (this is a great example of what not to do)

There are some pretty amazing dual cab ute camping setups out there, but you have to be so careful with how the weight is distributed, or it will end in tears.

Wagons are better for towing

Sorry if this is blunt, but its a proven fact that wagons are better at towing. That doesn’t mean you can’t tow with a dual cab Ute, or that they are rubbish at it, but if you are towing something heavy you are better off with a wagon in terms of stability and overall towing performance.

This is mainly due to the wheel base length, and the distance from the rear axle to the tow bar. Now, if you are talking big Dual Cab Utes like Dodge Rams, or F250’s, then its a whole different kettle of fish.

Towing with a Y62
Wagons generally make better tow vehicles than Utes

Fitting 3 child seats is almost impossible

Most normal dual cab Utes will not fit 3 child seats inside unless you find 3 that are incredibly slim. With our two kids seats in, its so small in the middle seat that most adults literally can’t even sit in the middle.

Car seats in the Dmax
We run two car seats, and fitting a third would be almost impossible

Rear aircon might not be a thing

A lot of dual cab Utes do not come with rear aircon, and if you have kids that can be a bit of a pain. Yes, its not a must, and yes, we lived without aircon for years prior, but if you have kids in the rear and you can get it, its a worthy addition. We live without it in our Dmax, but I know the kids would be thankful to have it, and it saves freezing (or cooking) in the front to try and cool the kids down in the rear!

You won’t be able to tow 3500kg

Don’t buy a regular dual cab Ute (not a yank tank) and expect to be able to tow 3500kg legally. The marketing makes it just possible on paper, but in real life you are dreaming, and anything over 2500 – 2800kg is seriously pushing the limits of these dual cab Utes without a GVM upgrade. This is even more the case if you plan on loading them up with a canopy, accessories and gear in the rear.

Big Lotus Caravan at Yangie Bay
Towing a trailer that is close to 3500kg is almost impossible with a dual cab ute

Comfort is not their strong point

Dual Cab Ute owners often complain about the level of comfort offered by their vehicle. The rear suspension in particular is often quite hard (or too soft), and comfort is not normally a strong point of a Dual Cab Ute. Take any wagon equivalent for a drive after going in a Dual Cab Ute, and you’ll see this fairly easily. 

V8 4WD
A Wagon will almost always be more comfortable than a dual cab ute

They are a compromise

At the end of the day, a dual cab Ute is a compromise. It’s not amazingly fast, nor comfortable, nor flashy, nor able to carry ridiculous loads. They are however, hugely practical and a brilliant compromise for a trades vehicle during the week, and family vehicle every other time. 

They are a brilliant compromise in so many ways, and if you are aware of their shortcomings, they might just suit your application perfectly.

Dmax at Black Springs
We really love our Dual Cab Ute, and wouldn’t swap it for a wagon any time soon

Setting a canopy up can be expensive

One thing you should know about a Dual Cab Ute is that if you want a decked out canopy, you are going to pay a significant amount of money for the privilege. Even a basic Fibreglass canopy is going to set you back 2 – 4 grand for the shell, let alone what you put in it.

If you want a custom gull wing canopy, you’re looking at 3 – 4k for a bottom of the range Chinese import, and up to 30k for a really high quality one. No, I’m not joking; setting a canopy up can be mega bucks.

Canopy storage ideas
You can pay an absolute fortune for Ute Canopy!

You can easily swap the tray or tub over

If you are in the market for a Dual Cab, you should know that what is on the back of the Ute can be changed fairly easily. If it comes with a tray, you can sell this for a decent amount of money and get a tub or well body for very little. If it comes with a tub, and you want to put a tray on, its only 6 bolts and the swap is very simple. 

I make a huge point of choosing what is going to suit you best now and long term, as once you pick a base it can be hard, and expensive to move away from it.

Our new Dmax
Our brand new Dmax came with a tub, which we swapped for a Gull Wing Canopy

We love our Dual Cab

I mentioned above that we really love our Dual Cab Ute, but we have young kids, and carry a heap of gear to tour around Australia. The idea of going to a Wagon in our current situation scares me, as the payload is no where near as good, the ability to store dirty items is almost non existent and our kids would not do the interior any favours.

Our 2016 Isuzu Dmax is vinyl, basic and does exactly what we need it to. In 5 years time that may not be the case, but there’s a reason so many Dual Cab Ute’s are sold in Australia; they are the jack of all trades.

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  1. Hey Denis,

    Thanks for your kind words. I have no doubt that the cheaper Utes (and even some wagons that are coming through) will do a decent amount of damage to the traditional car sellers in Australia.

    They need to prove their reliability, and then it will be a huge success (similar to what Kia have done over the years, I suppose).

    At the end of the day, as long as your vehicle does what you personally need it to, I see no point upgrading.

    All the best

  2. First receipt & reading of your offerings – quite enjoyable and appropriate for spouses. I like the random reviews on practical issues, etc. The dual-cab vs wagon is a case in point. As a Disco One owner, I recently checked out a Mahindra Dual Cab (to the unjustified derision of all and sundry) and noted that this maligned model was generally impressive and had rear seat AC. I predict that these will make a big impact on the current market in terms of value for money but will keep the Disco and save about at least $30,000.