The Dodge Dakota is a great truck for hauling, towing, and commuting. It has an affordable price tag, comfortable interior and excellent fuel economy.
If you’re in the market for a mid-size pickup, then you should consider the Dakota, despite it being an old vehicle. If you are looking for a reliable vehicle that will serve you well, then the Dodge Dakota is an excellent option.
The Dakota has been around for several decades, and it was discontinued quite a while ago, in 2011. This makes the Dakota a great choice when considering an affordable truck for your next purchase.
This article will be taking a deep dive into the best and worst years for Dodge Dakota.
Let’s list them all down before we get to the fun stuff!
Best Years for Dodge Dakota:
Worst Years for Dodge Dakota:
Now that I have narrowed down all of the important years, the article will now be focusing on the pros or cons of each of these years. A proper description of each model will allow you to better know why it has earned its respective position in its list.
List Of The Best Years For The Dodge Dakota: What Years To Buy
The first list of the best years will be discussed in detail first. These years have been narrowed down after considering many things, including reliability, features, and the quality of the hardware being used.
It is recommended to consider buying one of the models listed below because they will provide you with the best experience.
#1 Best Year: 1990 Dodge Dakota
Taking the first place is one of the oldest models you can buy, 1990 Dodge Dakota.
This model has earned the top spot because it is one of the most reliable variants of the Dodge Dakota out there. The 1990 model became popular because the manufacturer added an extended cab variant, which was welcomed by many.
The 1990 Dodge Dakota is a pretty old model. But still, according to user ratings, it runs solid. This model has earned the first spot because it has been designed to last.
It works perfectly, despite it being three decades old! Although it lacks features, its V6 engine makes up for it with its amazing performance on the road.
#2 Best Year: 1991 Dodge Dakota
The 1991 Dodge Dakota is another fantastic option for users looking to buy a truck that is affordable yet powerful.
This model of the Dakota can output more HP than its predecessor, meaning it is better on the road. The model was also offered with a V8 engine under the hood, which was a huge upgrade over the 1990s V8 one.
Even the door handles were made of metal instead of plastic in the 1990 model. So, why has this model earned the second spot on this list?
There have been a few complaints of some of the variants using up too much oil. The problem is not commonly reported and is pretty rare. Other than that, it is a great truck.
#3 Best Year: 1989 Dodge Dakota
The 1989 Dodge Dakota is the oldest model in this entire article. It was pretty similar to 1990 one. It was built like a tank, and even today, users praise it for its performance and reliability.
The only thing that has led it to earn the third spot is that its fuel consumption was pretty bad, around eight mpg. Other than that, it is a fantastic option for users.
The base model of the 1989 Dakota was upgraded to a 2.5L one from its predecessor. A V6 engine was also offered, which was an excellent performer. The truck was most popular because it had amazing handling despite its large cargo space.
#4 Best Year: 2010 Dodge Dakota
One of the last models of the Dodge Dakota was 2010 one. This model was loved by many.
The main complaint that users had was that adding features made it extremely expensive. The interior was also not great, which has resulted in earning the fourth spot on this article. The 2010 Dakota can reach up to a very decent 15 mpg.
With a V6 engine under the hood, the pickup can easily tow up to 5000 pounds. The V8 variant, however, can bump that number up to 7200. Now, that is impressive. The truck is extremely safe, thanks to an ABS system and airbags.
#5 Best Year: 2009 Dodge Dakota
The 2009 model of the Dodge Dakota is a brilliant option for people who are looking to buy a truck that drives like a beast on the road.
There were many complaints about it. The only reason it has scored a lower place than the 2010 model is that its touchscreen is not good. The 2009 Dakota is similar to 2010 one in almost all scenarios.
It has a similar towing capacity of 5000 pounds with the V6 engine and 7100 pounds with the V8 engine. The fuel economy is decent and reaches 15 mpg.
The interior of this model is a pretty luxurious feeling. The manufacturer has included heated leather seats, which many appreciate.
#6 Best Year: 2011 Dodge Dakota
The last addition to this list is also the final model of the Dodge Dakota. This was the final entry in the Dakota series.
The 2011 Dodge Dakota improved on many things from its predecessors. The V8 engine that was under the hood was an excellent performer. The manufacturer also included high-quality navigation and audio system.
The 2011 Dakota has earned the last spot on this list because the truck’s interior was not made up of high-quality materials. That is not all.
The model also did not feature electronic stability assistance, which is why it has finished last. Other than that, it is an excellent truck that still performs extremely well.
List Of The Worst Years For The Dodge Dakota: What Years To Avoid
Moving on to the worst year list, it is recommended that you don’t consider a model of the truck from this list. These years of the Dakota have been plagued with issues, which is why you should avoid them at all costs.
#1 Worst Year: 2002 Dodge Dakota
The most complained about the model of the Dodge Dakota is 2002 one. This truck model is two decades old at the time of writing this article.
It faced some serious issues, most of which were related to the brakes and the engine. The brakes would frequently lock up or get hot, which would result in the truck not being able to slow down normally.
On the 2002 Dodge Dakota, the engine would often sputter, which would indicate a major problem. It also faced the issue of oil pressure lowering, which would result in the engine not working properly.
The AC system was also plagued with issues on this model. All in all, it deserves a spot on this list.
#2 Worst Year: 2005 Dodge Dakota
The 2005 Dodge Dakota, released three years later, was also plagued with numerous issues. The engine had a rough idle all the time.
There were also complaints about some of the cylinders not firing, another serious problem. There were the engine, transmission, and brake problems as well, which helped it earn the second spot on this list.
Although brake problems were there, they were not as serious as in 2002. The vehicle would shake while braking. It makes the driving experience unpleasant.
Although reports about this were scarce, some users did complain about the transmission slipping at times. This can cause a serious accident.
#3 Worst Year: 2000 Dodge Dakota
Better than both models is the 2000 Dodge Dakota. Yes, it did have its fair share of problems, but most of them were not as serious.
There were complaints that there was a quick build-up of oil sludge, which would result in a pressure drop. This would affect the idling and could also result in misfiring.
There were paint issues on this model, which resulted in the truck earning the third spot on this list. Owners complained that the paint on the hood and the roof would completely fade away.
There were complaints about rusting too, which compromises the truck’s integrity in the long run.
#4 Worst Year: 1999 Dodge Dakota
The 1999 model of the Dodge Dakota is another truck that one should avoid at all costs. This model had lesser issues than its successor. There were electrical and engine problems, which made owning the truck inconvenient, but they were certainly fixable.
There were two common electrical issues in the 1999 model of the truck. The ABS and brake lights would be engaged at all times, even when those systems were not in use.
The engine also did not start sometimes. The issue of oil pressure dropping and engine stalling was also present on this model, but it was not frequently reported.
#5 Worst Year: 2001 Dodge Dakota
The 2001 Dodge Dakota model did not have an engine or electrical issues. Instead, its brakes and suspension were the sources of frustration for most users.
The braking system was flawed, and using it would result in the wheels becoming extremely hot. They would also emit smoke. The rear brakes would also lock up if the ABS was used.
There were transmission issues on this model too. Users reported failure of ball joints. The repair can cost well over $1000. The paint on this model was also not good. There were complaints about it peeling off or becoming chalky.
#6 Worst Year: 2004 Dodge Dakota
The 2004 Dodge Dakota can be considered, but it may cause serious problems. Most of the issues that have been found in other models were found in the 2004 Dakota too, but their occurrence was not that frequent, which is why it is at the end of the list.
There were shifting issues that resulted in the transfer case chain spring breaking sometimes. Engine issues include quick sludge build-up, resulting in knocking sounds and unexpected stalling.
This was not reported a lot, so it should not be a reason to avoid getting this model. There were also complaints about the steering being rough. This falls to personal opinion rather than it being a fault.
What Are The Most Common Problems With The Dodge Dakota?
Now that all of the important years have been listed, I think it is important to discuss the most common problems that owners of the Dodge Dakota faced over the years.
Let’s get straight into it!
1. Airbag Issues
This is perhaps the most serious issue of the Dodge Dakota. 2005 to 2011 models of the truck were affected by this problem.
The exact issue is that the airbag inflators, which should activate only in the case of a crash, have become unstable over the years. This results in them activating randomly and hence deploying the airbags.
As there is no way to predict the issue, it could happen at any time, resulting in an accident that can cause a serious injury or even death. The problem was so serious that it affected more than 100 million people around the globe.
If you plan to buy a Dakota from one of the years above, you need to get it checked as soon as possible. The manufacturer had to recall fixing the issue. The airbags on these models are ticking time bombs, so no risk should be taken.
2. Failing Exhaust Manifold Bolts
The next problem on this list is another one that needs immediate attention. Failing exhaust manifold bolts was mostly seen in the 2006 Dodge Dakota. The failing of the bolts means that the exhaust system will not be able to work properly.
The issue can lead to many engine problems. Owners reported that the exhaust manifold on their trucks would emit ticking sounds when starting up. Others saw this problem with checking engine lights.
It was found out that the bolts would be rusted or broken. This means that Dodge did not use high-quality bolts, which led to them corroding and causing engine issues. There were also reports of the engine stalling, which is extremely serious.
3. Engine Overheating Issue
The next problem on this list can happen to any vehicle. Overheating is an issue that was commonly found on the Dodge Dakota because of leaks in different areas.
There were reports of the coolant leaking, which would result in the engine not being able to manage its temperature. An overheating engine can be identified easily.
Apart from the warning lights, you will be able to see physical smoke rising from under the hood. The smoke may be accompanied by knocking sounds too.
The most common reason for this problem is the failure of the water pump or the intake manifold. Although the issues are covered in the warranty, with the truck being so old, they need to be fixed at your own accord.
Related: Dodge Dakotas use these engines below and I highly recommend you to learn what type of issues these trucks will face.
Related: Why Won’t My Dodge Dakota Start?
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. How Long Will A Dodge Dakota Last?
A Dodge Dakota can last for 200000 miles, at a minimum. This pickup truck was built like a champ, and this means it will provide you with a pleasant driving experience for a long time.
It must be noted that the Dakota has not been in production for a long time. So, if you are looking for one, you need to find one that has been driven the least.
Q2. Why Did Dodge Quit Making The Dakota?
The Dakota was designed as a compact truck, and when it came out in the 1980s, it was due to high demand.
The demand for compact trucks decreased over time, which led to Dodge seizing production for the old pickup truck. Production was stopped in 2011, which means the last truck rolled out of the assembly lines well over a decade ago.
Q3. Are Dodge Dakota Good On Gas?
The fuel efficiency of Dakota trucks, in general, has been subpar. The older models were exceptionally bad because they could only touch 8 to 9 mpg.
If not properly maintained, the fuel mileage can decrease. For example, the latest ones, let’s take the 2011 one, can consume fuel at a rate of 16 mpg. Although that is also not great, it is much better than the older models.
Q4. What Are Dodge Dakotas Known For?
Dodge Dakotas are exceptionally good on the road. This may be due to the V6 or V8 engines that have been provided under their hood for a long time or because Dodge has used high-quality hardware, such as the suspension system, which still works great to this day.
The more recent models also have great safety features, saving a life. These features are what Dakota is known for.
Q5. What Does SXT Mean On A Dodge Dakota?
The SXT model was introduced in 2001. It was a mid-range level that was a step above the base variant. An SXT variant has a radio, a CD player, an air condition system, and power windows.
The interior also receives an upgrade, having a more premium interior. Keyless entry is also included in this pickup truck variant, but that is optional.
Although the Dodge Dakota has not been manufactured for quite some time, the live models are truly spectacular. Yes, the earlier models indeed had problems, but there is no denying that Dodge improved the quality of its trucks greatly towards the end.
Out of all of the models that have been listed above, the 1990 Dodge Dakota is the easy winner. Despite it being one of the oldest models on this article of the best and worst years for Dodge Dakota, it stood out then and is still a beast on the road three decades later.
Hi there! I am Tahir Azam, and this is my blog. WVDOT Automotive is a website dedicated to creating high-quality content for car enthusiasts. I am also an avid car driver. I own and drive a Porsche for my daily tasks. It is the perfect vehicle for my family. I am a proud father of two boys. I spend my mornings and evenings catering to clients at my very own software hub. After getting home, I dedicate a few hours of my time to create an article every day. Well, this is a short introduction about me and I am also a publisher on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading through my articles, and I also hope that I may have helped you choose an upgrade for your vehicle.