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Choosing The Perfect Overland Vehicle - When You Have A Finite Amount Of Money

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Chet is a contributor for Budget Overland. See more of my work there. Reviews, Deals, Etc.



I was on a quest to find the best budget overland vehicle and narrowed it down to these:

  • Toyota 4Runner
  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Toyota FJ Cruiser
  • Subaru Outback H6
  • Nissan Xterra

My criteria is as follows:

  • Affordable – This will depend on whether your’e a blogger, banker, or blue collar. That shiny AMG GWagon was just a tad out of my budget. I wanted to spend less than $10k. For the whole project, which includes the vehicle, modifications, and accessories.
  • Daily Driver – If you can have a spare vehicle for overlanding fun, you wouldn’t need this site. I need a vehicle that can do double duty.
  • Reliable – It makes no sense in buying a cheap car and having to put in thousands of dollars on repairs. And nobody wants to be stranded in the middle of an adventure.
  • Capable – Toyota Corollas need not apply. They’re great cars, if the 9 to 5 is life.

So off to Craigslist, I went on my search. After several weeks of searching I found a 2004 Xterra 4×4 SE for $5500 and 2003 4Runner Sport 4WD for $7000. Both had 180,000 miles but their reputation for reliability kept me interested. I emailed both asking if they can go $1000 less than their asking price. The Xterra seller who said he would go as low as $5k flat was actually a licensed dealer who posted in the owner section of Craigslist which annoyed me a little bit. The 4Runner seller said she would do $6000 if brought a cashiers check from my bank. (I wasn’t sure why, probably so that I wouldn’t try to talk her down anymore?) I got to her house and did the standard layman used car inspection and everything checked out. Gave her the bank check and became the second owner of this beautiful 4runner.

Toyota 4runner SE 4WD

So begins my adventures!

Here are other cars that made my top 10 short list and reasons I didn’t get one:

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  • Toyota FJ Cruiser – The prices actually have gone up! I can buy 2 or 3 of my 4runners.
  • Toyota Land Cruiser – Although just as reliable, the 13MPG made it an expensive daily driver.
  • Toyota Tacoma – Just couldn’t find a good deal on one.
  • Subaru Outback – The 4 cylinders had a head gasket issue that scared me off. The H6 were hard to find.
  • Subaru Tribeca – Rare. Older cars needed high octane fuel.
  • Nissan Pathfinder – A lot of them had transmission issues, although, this could have just been an internet frenzy.
  • Honda Pilot – These also develop transmission issues.
  • Porsche Cayenne – Believe it or not, I found some that had the same year and mileage as the 4runner for the same price. I wasn’t sure about maintenance and parts prices. If this was a dedicated overland vehicle, I would’ve searched for these.
  • VW Toureg – Same concern as the Porsche.
  • Wrangler – Why are used examples almost the price of a new one?


Asif Iqbal Samad from Dhaka, Bangladesh on August 31, 2017:

Thank you WheelScene

WheelScene from U.S.A. on August 29, 2017:

Hey, Great article! While a Hilux might be nice, they will be hard to get in North America. I think you made the right choice! Thanks for sharing, cool read, and safe adventures!

Asif Iqbal Samad from Dhaka, Bangladesh on August 27, 2017:

Toyota Hilux (the model released between 1997 and 2001), 4 door with a pickup in the back. Used one should not be too high a price, well inspected prior to purchase, with average knowledge and access to good workshops, easily overhauled to make it very reliable. Total money spent, would be hard to beat for what the final outcome would be.

Their maintenance or repair works if necessary, would be easiest anywhere, at low cost, compared to any other option.

A vehicle Jeremy Clarkson and James May have documented well upon to convince anyone :)

An air condition option would be a necessity.

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