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5 Budget-Friendly Off-Road Vehicles

photo by Adventure_Photo via iStock

As more and more people venture into the outdoors, the demand for cheap off road vehicles has increased in the past years.

But wanting to explore the vast backcountry trails does not necessarily mean you have to invest over 50k into a brand new SUV or a pickup. Not at all.

There are many trucks out there that are affordable off road vehicles and still have high performance to get the job done and get you through your overlanding adventure. 

Cheap Off Road Vehicles: 2005-2015 Toyota Tacoma

Toyota Tacoma

Photo by Dusty Barnes on Unsplash

The 2005-2015 Toyota Tacoma has been well known as an excellent mid-sized truck with outstanding reliability and capability. It is an absolute overlanding favorite. The model largely remained the same from 2005 to 2015, so parts are easy to find. This makes it a great option when you are looking for a used midsize truck to do the job.  

The standard models were available with a four-cylinder engine which gives you proper performance and excellent fuel economy (and is one of the best cheap off road vehicles). But there is also a V6 engine option which enables the truck to pull more weight. With relatively easy maneuverability and many available options for off-roading, it is considered one of the more capable vehicles out there and one of the best budget off-road vehicles. 

Pros of the Toyota Tacoma:

  • A very reliable vehicle
  • Wide variety of aftermarket items
  • Strong resale value
  • Overall good performance
  • Convenient size 

Cons of the Toyota Tacoma:

  • The bed is not as robust as you would expect
  • The four-cylinder engine can be noisy when pushed
  • Due to the high amount of plastic in the interior, it can feel cheap
  • Payload is not that good if you have the standard engine
  • The soft brake pedal doesn’t feel as confident as it should

Cheap Off Road Vehicles: 2005-2015 Nissan Xterra

Nissan Xterra

Photo by Saeed Sarshar on Unsplash

This truck is suited for daily driving, and it is also capable of fulfilling your off-road needs. Of course, it depends on your personal opinion as not everybody likes an SUV as an overlanding vehicle, but this is an excellent option if you do.

The Nissan Xterra has high ground clearance, a fortified suspension, and it is also available as a four-wheel drive. The interior of the car is straightforward, functional, and provides a lot of storage space, which makes it a top choice among cheap off road vehicles.

Pros of the Nissan Xterra:

  • Manual transmission is available
  • Available in three trim levels
  • Legitimate off-road prowess
  • The interior of the truck is very versatile 

Cons of the Nissan Xterra: 

  • This truck is not very fuel-efficient
  • It can feel very clumsy when pressed around turns
  • Not all available options has four-wheel drive
  • The interior is a little outdated compared to other trucks in the segment, but with a less refined interior its price tends to be lower, making it one of the best affordable off road vehicles

Cheap Off Road Vehicles: 2015 Jeep Wrangler

2015 Jeep Wrangler cheap off road vehicles

Photo by Sebastian Kurpiel on Unsplash

Although the jeep is often the subject of many jokes about being a genuine off-road vehicle, it is unmistakably qualified to be out there. They are very much fun to drive and, in their own way, have a unique style that you will either love or hate dating back to World War II.  

The soft top is messy and a magnet for thieves, but if the only thieves you have to worry about are trail squirrels, that’s part of its charm. Jeep took this model back to its primary roots with old-school solid axles and still allows you to remove the doors and windshield as well, unlike any other off-road vehicle, just for the fun of it. Fortunately for those who hate soft tops, a three-piece hardtop is available with a rear defroster and wiper. 

Jeeps do hold their value quite well, but you can still find one that fits your criteria for cheap off road vehicles – if you look hard enough!

Pros of the Jeep Wrangler:

  • Has its own unique style 
  • This vehicle is nearly unstoppable on the trail
  • Comes with a vast array of aftermarket and offroad options
  • It is fun to drive
  • Available in both two and four-door models 

Cons of the Jeep Wrangler:

  • This car does not perform that well in crash tests
  • The soft top is not easy to use
  • The interior is very noisy
  • Messy handling on the road
  • Long braking distance

Cheap Off Road Vehicles: 2010-2012 Dodge RAM 2500

Dodge RAM cheap off road vehicles

“Dodge Ram 2500 SLT Heavy Duty Quad Cab 2012” by RL GNZLZ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The main reason to consider a full-size truck would be the enormous payloads these beasts can handle with ease. In addition, the turbo-diesel engines are incredibly reliable, and there are many off-road options available, ranging from components that increase technical terrain performance to flatbeds and camper options. 

The standard engine is a 5.7-liter V8 sporting 350 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Besides that, it is also available with a  Turbo Diesel engine, a 6.7-liter V8 sporting 383 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque. The diesel option is not among the most cheap off road trucks, but it’s still worthy of inclusion as good deals can be found.

Pros of the Dodge RAM:

  • Payload of up to 5,000 Lb
  • High-quality look and feel in the cabin
  • Solid front and rear axles
  • Large rear-seats with plenty of space
  • Very robust 
  • Quite riding when on the highway
  • Great torque and power performance 

Cons of the Dodge RAM:

  • This vehicle is on the larger side, making some technical routes difficult
  • Controls on the dashboard may be fussy
  • Infrastructure outside North America and Australia may be less equipped to handle a truck this size 

Cheap Off Road Vehicles: 2009-2014 Ford F-150

Ford F-150 cheap off road vehicles

Photo by David French on Unsplash

The Ford F-150 is a versatile full-size pickup truck with an extensive range of options available, making it very suitable for several daily situations, including towing and hauling as well as off-road and overlanding.

It comes in many different trims and offers many options in the interior and even in axles. So make sure to check the specifications of the car you are thinking about buying and check the details on its available options. Chances are, you probably won’t find two used trucks in the same exact build. So while some options will be pricey, you can find others that qualify as cheap off road vehicles.

Pros of the Ford F-150:

  • The turbocharged V6 engine is very compelling
  • Largest selection of variations available in its class
  • Lots of convenience options
  • Powerful and efficient ecoboost engines

Cons of the Ford F-150

  • The clamshell rear doors can be less convenient
  • The highway ride of this model is not as smooth as a Dodge RAM
  • The engine can be noisy at times
  • The electronic interface has proven to be tricky to many users (MyFord Touch)

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