Off-Roader Buying Guide: Here’s How to Choose the Right Vehicle for Overlanding

Here's a brief guide on buying a 4x4 or any other overland adventure truck.

Travel tips
6. Mar 2023
Off-Roader Buying Guide: Here’s How to Choose the Right Vehicle for Overlanding

Purchasing an off-roader for overlanding can be absolutely thrilling. However, there are many things that you must take care of before you make your purchase. Because of the dangers of mother nature, you must choose only the best overland adventure truck. 

The vehicle chosen should take you through any terrain and back to the starting point. It should be capable, reliable, and suitable for all of your requirements. But with so many different brands and nameplates available, the buying process can also be overwhelming. 

So, here’s a brief buying guide to help you pick the best fit for your overland adventures. 

Knowing your requirements – 4 levels of off-roading

The first step in picking the right off-road expedition vehicle is to know what your needs are. Try to understand the terrain that you’ll be trailblazing on. Will you do heavy-duty off-roading or just light trail driving? Answering these questions is essential in the buying process. 

The following are the 4 levels of off-roading to consider:

Level 1: Light Off-Roading

Light off-roading is the most basic level of off-roading and involves driving on easy-to-moderate terrain. This can include dirt roads, gravel paths, and mild inclines. Light off-roading doesn't require any specialized equipment, so most stock 4x4s can handle it without any modifications. 

Level 2: Moderate Off-Roading

This level requires a bit more skill and equipment as it includes driving on steeper inclines, rocky terrain, and through water crossings. A good set of all-terrain tires, a lift kit, and skid plates are some of the essential modifications needed for moderate off-roading. 

Level 3: Difficult Off-Roading

Difficult off-roading involves driving on extremely challenging terrain that requires a high level of skill, specialized equipment, and modifications to the vehicle. It includes steep inclines, rock crawling, deep mud, and river crossings. So, vehicles need winches, lockers, large tires, etc. 

Level 4: Extreme Off-Roading

Finally, we have the most challenging level – extreme off-roading, which includes rock crawling on boulder fields, navigating narrow canyons, and scaling near-vertical inclines. It needs highly specialized mods to the vehicle like roll cages, hydraulic steering, and advanced suspensions.  

The buying process

So, how do you buy an off-roader for overlanding then? Well, you follow the steps below:

Establishing your budget

Off-road overland vehicles can differ significantly in price, so it's important to establish your budget before you start shopping. Consider not only the purchase price but also the ongoing costs such as fuel, maintenance, and insurance.

Researching different models

There are numerous types of 4x4s available, each with its own pros and cons. Research different models to determine which one is the best for you. Consider factors such as engine power, ground clearance, and suspension.

Off-roaders are notoriously inefficient, so if you plan on being a full-time overlander, consider a diesel-powered vehicle, which tends to be more fuel-efficient than gasoline-powered vehicles. A newer expedition vehicle may be pricier, but it’ll save you thousands on fuel in the long run. 

Trailering is another big aspect of the game. You need to ask yourself if you require a vehicle to tow a trailer or haul heavy loads. There are heavy-duty options available with stronger frames, more power, towing packages, and DRW options. They’ll add to the towing prowess. 

Also, don’t forget the safety department. Remember that off-road driving can be hazardous, so it's important to select an expedition vehicle with good safety features. Look for features such as airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control.

Another important aspect is the resale value of the car. Off-road vehicles tend to retain their value well, but some models are better than others in this regard. Research which models hold their value the best in case you decide to sell the overland adventure vehicle in the future.

Taking a test drive

Before making a final decision, do a test run on the overlander. This will give you a sense of how it handles off-road and how comfortable it is to drive. Make sure you know the vehicle’s specifications beforehand. 

If possible, go off-road to test its capabilities. Find a suitable trail or off-road course to test the suspension, four-wheel drive system, and other off-road features. Otherwise, try to test the vehicle on different terrains such as gravel, dirt, sand, or mud.

Observe the treads, sidewalls, and overall condition of the tires. Also, check the condition of the brakes, and look out for any unusual noises. 

Here’s what to look for in an off-road vehicle

If you're looking for an off-road vehicle, make sure to consider some key aspects so that you get the right expedition vehicle for your needs. Here are some of the key ones:

Ground clearance

Ground clearance is how far the bottom of the vehicle is from the terrain. An off-road overland vehicle that’s higher from the ground is better equipped to navigate rough terrain, obstacles, and deep water without getting stuck or damaged.  

Four-wheel drive

Four-wheel drive (4WD) allows power to be distributed to all four of the wheels, providing greater traction and better control. Part-time 4WD is ideal for off-roading, while full-time 4WD is best for the tarmac and automatically adjusts to road conditions.


A good suspension absorbs shocks and bumps, making the ride and handling better. Look for a vehicle with independent suspension; it provides better stability and control on uneven surfaces. Also great is adjustable suspension as it customizes the ride height to suit your needs.

Traction control

Traction control is a feature that helps prevent wheel spin on slippery or uneven terrain. It works by automatically applying the brakes to a wheel that is slipping while sending power to the wheels with the most traction.  

Locking differential

A locking diff ensures that the wheels receive power equally to improve the vehicle's ability to maintain forward momentum and prevent it from getting stuck. The increased traction and control can be significant when navigating steep inclines, loose soil, mud, or rocks.

Low range

A low range transfer case reduces gear ratios so that the vehicle can move at slower speeds while still maintaining power and torque. When driving at slower speeds, there is less strain on the engine and transmission, which can help prevent overheating and premature wear and tear.

Skid plates

Off-roading can be tough on a vehicle's undercarriage, which is why skid plates are important. Skid plates protect the underside of the vehicle from damage caused by rocks, logs, and other obstacles. A vehicle’s skid plates should cover the engine, transmission, and fuel tank.

Off-road tires

Off-road tires are designed to provide maximum traction and durability in rough terrain. Look for tires with deep treads and wide grooves that can grip rocks, mud, and sand. Tire size and tread pattern should be selected based on the type of off-roading you plan to do.


A winch is a handy tool for pulling your vehicle out of a sticky situation. Look for a vehicle with a winch that can handle at least twice the weight of your vehicle. A winch with a synthetic rope is a good choice as it is lighter and easier to handle than a steel cable.


Off-roading is thrilling and exciting and it offers something for everyone. By choosing a vehicle with the right features, you can ensure that you're well-equipped to tackle any off-road adventures. Follow our tips to select the right off-road vehicle for your needs and budget. 

To buy the overland adventure truck of your dreams, check out Expeditionmeister here:


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