“So, which is the best 4×4 bakkie?” asked Stefan. We were driving to town, where the school was hosting a car and tractor show.

“Normally, I preach the best bakkie is the one you can buy cash and fix with generic parts. But you don’t want to buy someone else’s 4×4 abuse. You want a new 4×4 with a warranty, a service plan and cheap parts,” I told him. “And you want to buy it from the closest dealer, so you don’t have to travel far when it needs fixing.”

“So why doesn’t Uncle like the Land Cruiser?” he asked as we bumped along the rutted road.

“Well, your Cruiser makes 285 Newtons. My Hilux makes 400. Your Cruiser guzzles diesel, my Hilux just sips. Your Cruiser costs R164 000 more than my Hilux and, to top it all, its suspension is hell on my kidneys.”

“Ah, but my Cruiser makes its Newtons from lower revs, which is why I can idle up the hill where you always have to rev past the turbo lag,” Stefan said.

That silenced me, but I was saved from retorting by our arrival at the school. A pupil directed us to park on a rugby field. As we drove past the rows of Rangers and Hiluxes, I noted a few Isuzus, Mahindras and a Hardbody or two.

Passing the Mahindra-GWM stand, Ricardo called us over: “Do you know why the larnies in Mahindras always look happy?”

“Tell me,” I said.

“Because they know they paid less for more power and before you ask, for you Uncle, it’s just over R825 per Newton metre in the Pik Up and for our GWM P-Series, it’s just over R980. I saw you guys arrive in that Cruiser – legend bakkie – but I want to cry knowing you paid over R2 400 for each Newton that old D4-D engine makes!” he said.

At the adjacent Toyota stand, Khula was quick to react. “Stefan, don’t listen to that Mahindra man. You didn’t ‘just buy’ a Cruiser – you invested in an asset that doesn’t depreciate like other bakkies. Besides, your asset is supported by the biggest network of dealers with the best trained techies.”

From the Ford stand, Laurie chirped: “My Rangers are stronger and cheaper to buy, service and fix, according to the AA’s latest parts basket list.”

“That’s because Ranger drivers break stuff so often, you get bulk deals on bumpers. Toyota drivers come in only rarely, so its supply and demand, see?” said Khula.

As the rival sales staff ribbed one another, I ambled over to Mike, who does a lot of Lexus V8 conversions.

“Are you seeing more business now that service plans are supposed to be sold separately?”

“No,” said Mike, “but it may be because I told the two people who asked, that a new vehicle is the biggest outlay after a house and the service plan sold by the dealer will save them money over the ownership period.”

“So which 4×4 bakkie do you rate?” I asked.

“Depends,” he said. “I’m impressed with the Triton’s clever transfer case, but only the Cruiser and Peugeot Landtrek costs more. The Toyotas have good resale but, as that Ford lady said, are relatively expensive to service. The Isuzu D-Max is cheapest to service and maintain, but unless they give a steep discount, costs a lot to buy.”

Stefan had joined us. “What do you mechanics think about the P-Series or Landtrek?” he asked.

“Both come from China and offer a lot for the price, but time will tell if they’ll last,” Mike said. “But if you want the cheapest 4×4 workhorse, it’s the Bolero.”

“That’s too hard a ride,” I said. “Give me my Hilux anytime.”

But Stefan was looking back to the Mahindra stand. “Unless I win a Hilux in Toyota’s young farmer competition, that Mahindra Pik Up is starting to tick all my affordability boxes,” he said.