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Ute deals start early

If you shop around, you might be able to drive a good bargain on a brand new ute.

Last week we predicted a fierce ute battle was hotting up. Turns out, it happened much sooner than expected, and you might be able to drive a bargain in some showrooms now rather than later.

Doing further research on the three utes tested for this week's cover story -- the updated Ford Ranger, the all-new Toyota HiLux and the mildly made-over Mazda BT-50 -- we hit the pavement and mystery-shopped a few dealers.

First stop Mazda, the slowest seller among these three, even if the sales staff are sharp.

They knew the BT-50 misses out on some of the new gadgets and refinements in the Ford Ranger, but were quick to highlight their price advantage (although neatly avoiding questions about why the Mazda was up to 50 per cent dearer to service than the mechanically identical Ford).

The biggest surprise came when we went into Toyota showrooms

Ford dealers were helpful, although bordering on over-confident. They know they have a good truck and didn't appear to be in the mood for haggling.

The biggest surprise came when we went into Toyota showrooms. They were already doing deals even though the HiLux was barely a week old.

"If you buy today we can do some discount," said the keen young sales guy amid a showroom full of HiLuxes with "sold" signs in their windows.

So, a warning to Ford: you still need to win customers even if you have the better truck.

And if you're in the market for a Toyota, tell the dealer you've been crawling over a Ranger. That seemed to get them in the mood to talk a deal once we pointed out what the new HiLux was missing.