I bought my truck new July 2004 and loved it. Loved my truck until it reached 104k miles. After that my transmission went bad. I was told by a mechanic who specializes in transmissions that the Dakota has the same engine as the Dodge Caravan. It's not made for towing anything more than a couple thousand pounds. As a matter of fact I am on my third transmission and it's untrustworthy. There is a noticeable "clunk" when it shifts from 1st to 2nd gear. Also had to replace both front hubs as the both froze up and wouldn't turn. Up until 100k miles this was a good truck. After that everything is breaking down. I do regular maintenance on the truck; oil changes and all that. Gas mileage SUCKS, less than 15 MPG.
Buy the 4.7L. The 6 is just not powerful enough. That said, I had ONE issue over 100,000 miles. I had to repair the parking brake. At 105K I replaced the waterpump. As an aside, there is a ton of room under the hood if you do your own repairs. I didn't even have to remove the radiator to get the water pump out! I drive off road and tow a trailer. Both are no problem for the Dak (W/4.7L) At 128K there is rust starting under the paint on the front lower drivers door and the classic 3rd brake light hole rust, also not through the paint, yet. Get the 60/40 bench seat. My brother has the buckets and the console lid has no padding and sucks to drive for any length of time. The bench also allows you to haul 3 adults if you need to. The rear "seat" is a package shelf for your subwoofer and jacket. THe 4wd works very well in the mud as well as rain on the highway. The drivers seat left bolster is going to collapse after 80K. If you live in the south, you're going to have to repaint the black trim on the cab after 2014. So far, this truck has been excellent so, of course, in 2005