Where to start?

As you can see below, there lots of options, and they are just Toyota's

New or Used?

There are upsides and downsides to both options. Used is cheaper because someone else has taken that new car depreciation hit you get with all new cars the minute you drive them out of the dealership. Having said that, buying used can be a risky business, especially if you don't know a great deal about what to look for or cars in general. There can be hidden problems that someone has discovered and covered up to off load it so they don't have to deal with it and you don't know the history of the vehicle. There is that compromise of buying something  one to two years old so it still has some new car warranty, and with newer cars there generally is a log book which documents the service history of the vehicle.

Lets break it down and look at the pro's and con's of each.

Pro's and Con's of buying a new vehicle
Pro's Con's
- Its new - More expensive- increased interest on a loan, insurance etc etc
- You know the history and control what happens to the vehicle - Cost of depreciation
- New car warranty peace of mind - The fear of taking a new truck bush and damaging it
- Its a blank canvas for you to customise - added cost of aftermarket off road accessories
- You order the vehicle you want with the optional extras you need  
Pro's and Con's of buying a used vehicle
Pro's Con's
- Cost savings - Uknown vehicle history, has it been cared for?
- The money you save can be used to kit the vehicle out - Hidden problems that can cost you more money
- Good used vehicles that are already kitted out can save time and money - You can only choose from whats on the market at the time, colour, options etc
- less worry about scratches and minor damage off road - No new car warranty

The points listed above are only a few, you will have an idea of what you want and what your budet will allow. Ultimately what people choose will often be governed by their budget. It would be nice to have everything new but buyin an older vehicle for half the price saves alot of cash to spend on accessories and travel costs. In the end whether you choose to buy new or used you will still do your home work.

Where do you want to go and what will you do?

What you want to do and where you want to go will also have an impact on what you buy. What you do for a living might also have an impact. For example, many tradies are buying dual cab utes because they can be a trusty work vehicle during the week and then be a family tourer or off roader on the weekend, therefore negating the need for two vehicles. If you have a during the week car to use for work etc and then your four wheel drive as a second vehicle this gives you more options because you havent got to consider the general usage needs of the vehicle as much. If you do alot of highway driving then mud tyres can become annoying and impact on handling, but if you have a second vehicle then putting up with muddies on the way to your off road adventure isn't so bad.

Then you have to decide where you want to go and what you want to do when you get there, how much gear you need to take and how many seats will you need. If family touring is your thing then you will need something with the space for all your gear and serious off road prowess isn't as much of a concern as it would be if you wanted a weekend warrior to go bush and tackle some nice hard tracks. If you don't need a huge amount of space and need some ground clearance for fire trails and easy tracks then there isn't really a great need to spend a fortune on a Land Cruiser, instead a Rav 4, X-Trail or Freelander might do the trick. If you don't really want to go down to many serious tracks but you want to tow a camper and take gear for long trips away then space and towing capacity will be your governing criteria. It is vitally important that you work out what you want or need from your vehicle and find one that will do it. Buying a car is a big expense on the family budget and it wouldn't be nice buying something only to find out that it isn't up to the task.

Write down a list of criteria that you need the vehicle to meet and then look at vehicles that meet those criteria so you can create a short list. Then go out and look at the vehicles on your list to decide what you like and what you don't like. Do your research first and foremost. Planning ahead is also a good idea, you might only need two seats now but will that change in 3yrs time and mean you kit a vehicle out an then get forced to sell it due to an expanding family?

Brand Loyalty

This battle has raged on since the invention of the motor vehicle, in Australia the one we are all familiar with is the Holden v Ford battle. When it comes to four wheel drives it seems to be Toyota v Nissan. However they aren't the only two options you have. Theres Land Rover, Jeep, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Ford, Holden, Mazda, the list goes on. All of these manufacturers offer different four wheel drive vehicle options. If its a large family four wheel drive you are after the three main contenders would be the Toyota Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol and the Land Rover Discovery 3 and 4. Mid sized options would be the Toyota Prado, Nissan Pathfinder (older models, the new one doesn't have low range), Land Rover Discovery Series I and II, Mitsubishi Pajero, Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, Holden Jackaroo (no longer sold new) and numerous other vehicles.

It's not my place to sell you a particular brand of vehicle, I have my preferences as do most people, if you were to ask me around the camp fire i'd happily tell you my opinion as would most people. I would also find out about what it is you want to do and maybe throw a few other vehicles in the mix aswell. Everyone has horror stories about different brands or models, and everyone knows a mate of a mate who had a vehicle and it was a nightmare. With the internet so readily available with facebook groups and forums, The 4wd Zone has both, it is very easy to do some research and read up on what people think. Don't get to hung up on myth and rumour as to what is crap and what isn't, a well serviced and well maintained four wheel drive is just a reliable as the next one, having said that there are some models of four wheel drives that seemed to just be plagued with problems, you will soon find those out and keep clear of them, but some are unfairly bagged out so take what people say with a grain of salt as it were. Many vehicles with engineering floors have been the benefit of aftermarket engineering and accessories which can often take a problem that is a complete pain in the back side and solve it completely. Yes there are lemons out there but all brands have those. Yes there is the famous Toyota reliability and they don't get that reputation for nothing but there is alot more choice out there than just Toyota. It will take me some time but I will eventually do the research for you and create a comprehensive list on the key models in Australia so you know what you look out for and what to stay away from.

Different models

Every manufacturer will offer you a choice of vehicle models to choose from. For example with the Toyota Range you have the Land Cruiser Wagons, i.e the 60, 80, 100 and now the 200 series wagons, the 90, 120 and now the 150 series Prado models, the varying models of Hilux if a ute is your requirement, the 70 Series Land Cruise range or the Rav4 or Kluger if you dont need low range but you want some all wheel drive capability. There are heaps of models there and thats only one manufacturer.

Of course if you are buying new that cuts your list down considerably because you are limited to the current model. On the other hand, if you are buying second hand there models dating back to when ever a vehicle was released in Australia. What models you choose may be based on appearance, engine options, power, size etc etc so working out what you need from the vehicle might cut some models of your list aswell.

If you are loyal to a particular brand then the model range becomes more important because that is your selection pool and you need to find the vehicle that best suits your needs from within the pool of vehicles. But as I keep saying, do your homework and test drive as many as you can yo get a feel for them.

Petrol or Diesel

This can also be a big decision. Diesel is generally more popular than petrol, largely based on running costs alone. Petrols as a rule are generally cheaper to repair and maintain. Injectors and other engine components are cheaper for petrol engines, but in large four wheel drives petrol engines are expensive to run. You only have to look at the price comparison between a V8 Petrol Land Cruiser or Land Rover Discovery and their diesel equivalent to see that diesel is more popular. Diesels are generally more economical to run in terms of cost at the pump, on long trips the difference isn't as great but around town and when towing you can see a distinct difference. If you are buying a four wheel drive as a second vehicle and it will be parked up at home most of the time then fuel economy isn't such a massive issue and a good cheap petrol four wheel drive might be the best choice, you'll save quite alot of money on the purchase cost and because you are only using it for weekend trips away then poorer fuel economy wont be as much of an issue, and lets face it, who doesn't love the sound of a nice V8. If you are buying something for day to day use aswell as weekend trips away then a diesel might be a better choice, it'll cost you more but you will get that back in savings at the bowser.

When it comes to towing the torque of a diesel is good, big powerful petrol engines are good but as stated above they are thirsty, some big petrol four wheel drives can see fuel consumption figures as high as 25-30 litres per 100km's. Some diesels can see figures as low as 10-15 litres per 100km's when towing. Now for weekend trips that might not add up to much but a long touring trip across Australia or up to the Cape is a different story. Your budget doesn't only go as far as the purchase of the vehicle, you need to consider the running costs aswell.

LPG is also an option, its cheaper at the bowser so saves you cas and you can save the cash buying that petrol vehicle. The only downside with LPG is it isn't as readily available in the more remote areas of Australia so dual fuel is a must.

General Things to look for

Each and every model of vehicle will have its good and bad points. But when it comes to buying a used vehicle in particular there are things you can look out for on any vehicle that might be a warning sign for future issues.

These might include:

  • Uneven gaps between body panels- this can be a sign of accident damage and then dodgy repairs that can cause headaches later on
  • Paint over-spray on areas where it looks out of place- this again can be a sign of poorly repaired accident damage or a rebirthed vehicle
  • Get underneath and look for excess oil build up- some oil leaks are easy to fix however there are some that require major surgery to repair, meaning costly repair bills because of the high time required to do the work. Get under the vehicle and look for oil drips or excess oil build up, oil leaks on only cars can be more common. If you find an oil leak, search around the area to see if you can pin point its point of origin to give you an idea of what it will take to fix and how much it might cost
  • Is the vehicle clean?- the cleanliness of the vehicle can also give an indication to the effort the owner puts into maintenance. If the vehicle is filthy and they couldn't be bothered to clean it before you came to look at it what else have they not been bothered to do? A spotless well cleaned vehicle might indicate that the person has taken some pride in their vehicle and actually looked after it
  • Aftermarket accessories- Unfortunately spending $20000 dollars on aftermarket four wheel drive accessories doesn't raise the value of the vehicle by $20000, as a four wheel drive owner it would be nice to get some of the coin you put into your vehicle back but this is rarely the case. It can be a great way to save time and money by buying something that has already had alot of the goodies you want fitted to the vehicle, but don't be lured into the trap of paying through the nose for a vehicle just because it has lots bolted to it. It comes down to a personal choice really. Say for example you want to buy a Nissan Patrol, you find one for sale on the internet for $30000, also listed on the internet is the exact same model in the same condition etc but it has a bullbar, winch, spotties, side steps, roof rack, UHF radio and cargo draws fitted and it is $35000. That shopping list can easily add up to $10000 without any trouble at all. The question you need to ask yourself is, is buying the kitted out vehicle for $5000 more better value than buying the stock standard vehicle and then having to pay cash to buy all that stuff anyway? Its a preference thing, many people like to buy a standard vehicle and customise it to their needs, but buying one with goodies already on it can be a great way to save some coin.