I purchased my 97 Ranger in 2004 with 75,000 miles, in 2011 it now has 145,000. The clutch needed replaced when we bought it, also had the slave plate fixed in 2009. Those were the 2 biggest expenses. Being in Ohio, rust has been my only enemy. I've replaced rusted broken parts as needed, and this thing still runs like a champ. You will be in the shop 2-3 times a year as it gets older, but they're not expensive trips. Gas mileage is excellent around 23-24 with mostly city driving.
I've owned mine for just short of five years now and not a single problem with it. I've changed the oil every 3K-4K miles and purchased a soft tonneau cover shortly after I bought it in 1999. With that, and the K&N airfilter and just keeping up on normal maintanence, its never steered me wrong. I just recently talked to a 2001 owner who has over 120K on his and he loves his as well...Rangers don't die.
Bought for $2,800 with 118k miles. Have never had a problem except with neutral safety switch not making contact and shifter knob coming off (its the 5 speed manual 2.3L). Runs great and is very fun to drive. I'm not a big fan of the sag in the front, but that seems standard with most rangers of the time. It has problems with uphills but nothing major. You can get some serious bounce and slide out of the back which is fun on occasion. I have never gotten lower than 24.3 miles to the gallon and I keep up with it everytime I fill up. It came with 14 inch rims which is a shame because there are not that many off road tires for that size, but i can always upgrade. all in all, an awesome truck!