My wife has requested that I get a jeep type vehicle that we can use to do some light off road driving, i.e. she wants to drive on the beach. I see this as an opportunity to buy a fun 4×4. I would like to take it off road a bit and try to get it stuck. My requirements are that it be a 4×4, cost $15000 or less and can support a winch. It does not need to be a daily driver, and manual is OK, but automatic is slightly preferred. Finally, I am not looking to buy myself a job as a mechanic.
“I would like to take it off road a bit and try to get it stuck.”
I’ll tell you what. For $15 you could probably have your wife wedge your head in a roll-up window. Then you could get rid of your masochistic tendencies while she enjoys a nice bottle of wine. When the urge for deep pain leaves you, just roll down the window (the right way) and join her.
So you want to get a little hopper for the beach and the rarely beaten path. It won’t be a daily driver, and chances are it will see only a few thousand miles a year.
I would opt for an older Mitsubishi Montero, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Suzuki Sidekick or Geo/Chevy Tracker.
At most you would be spending $5000. Out here in Atlanta, a reliable version of those vehicles regularly hits the $3000 to $3500 mark. Buy one of those and spend the remainder on some good gear.
Once you find yourself perfectly happy with your arrangement, please send the remainder to a good cause. Me. I promise to put the rest of your money to better use.
Try to get it stuck? Don’t worry, its easy to get any 4×4 stuck if you have the right combination of heat-of-the-moment stupidity and bravery.
The big problem with 4x4s is their cost. Not to initially purchase, but to outfit as you see fit. Perhaps you should buy a pre-modded Wrangler, thereby letting the previous owner take the depreciation hit on both the vehicle, parts and labor needed to install all these goodies.
Then again, a rig with off-road bits is more likely to need more upkeep, unless you are sure it was owned by an urban cowboy who simply had to look cool and never got a spot of dirt under his knobby tires. And there’s plenty of that in Texas, let me tell you!
Full sizers might be better for a mixed use rig, but since you just want a toy, look at compact trucks: Chevy/Isuzu S-10, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Ford Ranger and the obligatory Jeep Wrangler. The SUVs based on these platforms are just peachy too, but we’d forgive you for not wanting a 2000 Ford Explorer or Chevy Blazer no matter how great the deal can be. Odds are you can get a 4×4 pickup for less than the Jeep, and the Chevy and Ford will give the best bang for the buck with cheap parts aplenty if you do, um, get yourself stuck.