The decision to purchase a new four-wheel drive is an exciting one, accompanied by visions of the untouched pockets of Australia that this go-anywhere chariot will transport you to. But the multitude of choices can turn your excitement into a burden if you’re not careful.
There is a maddening array of four-wheel drives on the market, each with their own particular design biases. There are very few, if any, that tick every conceivable box. The trick is to find a vehicle that meets as many of your particular prerequisites as possible. Therefore, the first thing that a new buyer has to determine is exactly how they intend to use their four-wheel drive. Price constraints, or an unusual set of aspirations for a new (or used) example, often mean that you won’t be getting all the gadgets you desire. But there are, of course, modifications that can be undertaken to get your vehicle as suited to your requirements as possible.
The research phase can get very cumbersome if you don’t set yourself strict guidelines. Once you’ve decided what your four-wheel drive will be expected to handle in terms of terrain, environmental conditions and towing requirements, it’s then good to work out what your chief travel desires are. Do you need something with as much mechanical durability as possible? Do you want creature comforts? Are you in the market for something that can handle the most extreme terrains? Work out your list of priorities as far as ‘must haves’, get a price range set and start ticking boxes.
One good way to work out what make, options and modifications you want in a vehicle is to pick your toughest target terrain (be it rough and arduous like the Cape York Trek, or fairly unchallenging yet still requiring the clearance of a four-wheel drive, like Fraser Island), and work backwards from there. You don’t want to drive into the teeth of a steep, muddy incline in a soft-roader, nor is it economically sensible to purchase an army-issue Hummer for some light beach driving on the weekends.
There are more than 300 affiliated four-wheel drive clubs in Australia. Join one and check out the forums – they’re very supportive communities. Forums allow you to be just an online post away from the wisdom of a whole throng of experienced off-roaders. They’re also a helpful community to be a part of when you need to call for help via CB radio, or for useful info on track and road conditions