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Things to Consider When Buying an Off-Road Vehicle

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So, you’re ready to hit the trails and enjoy off-roading adventures with your buddies?

First things first – you need to get an off-road vehicle. The question is, what should you look for?

If you’re unsure of the things to consider when buying an off-road vehicle, this quick guide is for you!

Buying an Off-Road Vehicle

SUV in the forest

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There are more things to consider when buying an off-road vehicle than the brand and the price. In fact, there are quite a few technical specifications you need to consider when purchasing an off-roader.

First, check the wheelbase of the vehicle you’re interested in buying. You want a vehicle that isn’t too short, but isn’t too long either. If it’s too short, you’ll find that the vehicle isn’t as stable. But if it’s too long, you’ll have trouble with approach, departure, and breakover angles. In many circles, a wheelbase of around 100 inches is recommended for off-roading.

Second, you need to consider the weight of the vehicle. Sure, an H1 Hummer is an off-road beast, but its weight limits its maneuverability in some situations. That’s why so many off-roaders prefer vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler because it’s lightweight, offers superior maneuverability, and doesn’t require a boatload of power to get it up and down the trail.

4x4 in tall trees

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A third criterion for buying an off-road vehicle is its dimensions. Usually, smaller vehicles do better in off-roading situations because of the factors I just mentioned – they have shorter front and rear overhangs that give them good approach and departure angles, they are maneuverable, and they can more easily fit through tight spaces on the trail.

Finally, when buying an off-road vehicle, you should think about the buildability of it. Is the vehicle easy to modify? What is its aftermarket popularity like? Are components like the drivetrain and suspension easy to change? Are recovery parts easily sourced?

Again, this is why so many off-road enthusiasts like Jeeps – they are incredibly buildable and there is a wealth of aftermarket products to make a Jeep even more trail-ready than it already is.

Now It’s Time to Build Out the Vehicle…

Built out Jeep in the snow

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The process of buying an off-road vehicle doesn’t end when you sign the paperwork. Instead, you’ll need to make some decisions regarding how you want to build it out (unless, of course, you’ve bought one that’s ready to go off-road!).

When it comes to building an off-roader, one of the first things you should do is enhance your ability to recover it should something go wrong on the trail. Adding features like aftermarket bumpers with recovery points, a receiver hitch, and a winch will give you the access points for recovery that you will need on the trail.

rse step sliders

Another upgrade you’ll want to make right off the bat is to get a good set of tires on your rig. For some folks, the best option is a good mud-terrain tire. For others, all-terrain tires are preferred. Either way, most off-road enthusiasts want a tire that gives them good off-road performance but has good manners on the road, too. In my case, 35-inch Nitto Trail Grappler tires were the way to go.

Most off-road vehicles have some manner of a lift, too. When thinking about the lift, you’ll want to consider what tires you choose to ensure that the lift has enough space to accommodate your tires. Beware of lifting your rig too much, though. Doing so can reduce the safety and stability of your vehicle, not to mention diminish the ride quality. In most cases, a two-inch lift is considered the minimum you need for off-roading.

Buying an Off-Road Vehicle: Other Adjustments

4x4 tire

Photo by KPegg via iStock

There are other changes to be made to your new off-roader.

For example, you’ll want to upgrade the shocks. Adjustable shocks are a great choice because you get a variety of tuning options to accommodate a range of trail conditions. For example, if you’re driving on a washboarded dirt road, setting the shocks to medium or high is preferred, but if you’re rock crawling, a low setting gives you more flex.

Additionally, you might consider swaybar disconnects to increase the amount of travel available to you on the trail.

4x4 in the sand

Photo by Lorado via iStock

Remember that you’ll need to adjust the tire pressure depending on the terrain you’re traveling over. For example, if you’re driving on sand, it’s important to air down your tires to increase the amount of surface area of the tire. This helps improve traction and helps minimize the chances that you’ll get stuck.

Of course, these are just simple tips, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of things to consider when buying an off-road vehicle.

However, these tips will help you get started and offer you a way to identify what you need to address and areas you might want to research further as you buy and build out your rig.

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