Getting Ready to go Off Road in a Used 4WD
Thinking about going 4WDing? Great choice! There are some major decisions you need to make when planning a big adventure. If you decide to take some back roads (or sandy ones) and you can't afford the newest, fanciest Land Cruiser, purchasing a capable, reliable vehicle is key. Getting ready to go off road in a used 4WD should be easy with some of our tips below.
Start with a solid base
When heading to remote parts of the country, having a mechanically sound vehicle is the most important part of any adventure. There’s no point having all the accessories in the world if the car can't make it to where you want to go.
When buying a used 4WD, make sure you get it checked over by a certified vehicle inspector before purchasing. Used car dealers will tell you it has already been checked, but ALWAYS get a second opinion from a third party. I use State Roads and they have always been honest and reliable. They'll send a mechanic out to the dealership to give the car a proper inspection, usually within a few hours. It's an added expense that is definitely worth it for peace of mind, especially if you are buying a brand or type of vehicle you don't know too much about.
A benefit of going to a dealership instead of private sale is that the dealership is somewhat responsible for the vehicle for a limited amount of time after purchase (check with the dealership about warranties). You also have a bit of power by way of leaving reviews. If you purchase from a private seller the price may be lower, but the lemon law is harder to put into effect.
Know your purpose
Do you plan to tow a trailer? Are you going fully off road or just sticking to bitumen and occasional dirt roads? How far away from towns do you plan on heading? These are all questions you need to consider as it will greatly impact vehicle setup.
If you plan on being completely off grid and not seeing civilization for weeks at a time, you are going to need a completely different vehicle than someone sticking to the typical tourist track. At a minimum, if you’re looking to go Outback or off road you’ll need spare tyres, extra fuel tanks, plenty of water storage, and a UHF radio. These all add in extra cost which is worth considering from the very beginning.
If you're going far Outback, consider purchasing a vehicle that's commonly found. These include Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi 4WDs. If you have a make or model that's a bit less common, make sure you are carrying spare parts or you'll likely be waiting weeks for one to be delivered.
Coming soon - We’re working on a blog post about the modifications we've made to our Nissan Navara 4WD and Black Series Dominator camper trailer. These mods allow us to go off-grid for a few days at a time, and be entirely self-sufficient while traveling through the Outback.
Be prepared to compromise
We all want the best but sometimes the budget just doesn't stretch that far! Often most of the budget is blown on the non-negotiables and compromises have to be made on the other items. It's important to work out what you are willing to compromise on BEFORE you start budgeting and then purchasing.
Our Nissan Navara came lifted and with some helpful extras, like the rooftop solar panel, aluminium back canopy, and wiring in the back for a fridge. These helped us stay on budget, and saved us some time.
Our advice is to work out your non-negotiables and then once you have them sorted, if there is budget left you can start on the “nice-to-haves”. For us, safety is a non-negotiable and the other things always come second. We also wanted a camper trailer, which meant we couldn't put all of the bells and whistles on the ute.
For a list of what we've added to our Nissan Navara, stay tuned for another post.
You will lose money
I think this one is pretty self explanatory. Some people think that by adding extras onto the vehicle, it greatly increases the value. Unfortunately, this is not the case. All the extras that you add are likely to be overlooked when determining a resale value, especially if it is getting traded in or sold to a dealer. Have a think about how much money you are willing to spend, knowing that you may not get it back.
Learn how to do things yourself
I have saved literally THOUSANDS by doing things myself instead of paying people. On vehicles there is so much that can be serviced or installed yourself. YouTube is an incredible resource for learning how things need to be installed, and most companies selling car parts these days will have videos showing installation methods. It may be frustrating, hard work, dirty, and all around just a pain in the ass, but you can save yourself enough money to keep yourself traveling for a number of months!
It will take longer than expected
The first few times that I fitted out a 4WD for an adventure, I had very ambitious timelines. I thought I could get it all sorted in a couple of weeks. I was wrong! If you are doing things yourself it will take you a lot longer than you expect. Add onto that ordering times if you’re finding good deals online and it can take months to get your 4WD ready for its first long adventure. Make sure you give yourself enough time to make the right decisions and it will benefit you in the long run.
Get the highest coverage insurance you can afford
In 2013 I took a group out to the Australian outback for a 3 week road trip showing them the best parts of what Australia has to offer. This all came to a grinding halt when the car blew its engine and we were forced home by plane, with great expense! Thankfully my business was properly insured, and I didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket.
On this road trip so far we’ve needed 2 tows and multiple mechanic visits for things that really weren’t supposed to break. We had all of the proper checks and servicing done on our vehicle, but towing a heavy trailer for thousands of kilometres took its toll. Our platinum RACQ membership has saved us thousands of dollars, and has been worth every penny.
Do your research
In the age of the Internet, resources are endless. Subscribe to some YouTube channels, follow some 4WD enthusiasts on Instagram, find a group for your particular vehicle, and follow one of the Big Lap pages on Facebook. The information you can get from social media and forums is all absolutely free!
Experience is priceless
One thing we wish we’d done before we left (but we ran out of time and cash) was taking a 4WDing course. If you don’t want to spend big bucks, ask a friend to take you out for the day. Get yourself stuck and make sure your vehicle and recovery equipment are up to the task, before it’s a matter of serious consequence.
Questions about purchasing a used 4WD? Comment below!
Learn more about our setup!
We’re working on a blog about improvements we’ve made to our ute and camper trailer for our trip across Australia. Subscribe below or follow us on social media to learn more about getting ready to go off road in a used 4WD.