Having a car symbolizes freedom, right? The freedom to go anywhere you want, across town, across the state, across the country! But only if there’s a road…
If you want to tackle beaches, forest trails, and mountains, then you need something that won’t get stuck the moment you hit some dirt. Nothing is more gratifying than being able to drive everywhere you want, even through creeks or down canyons.
And to go everywhere, you don’t need to drop $30,000 on a new Jeep Wrangler and be called a pavement princess because you’re still on warranty. With these 5 cheap off-road beasts, you’ll be tackling the trails in no time, and way under budget!
Jeep Cherokee XJ
When you’re thinking of getting an off-road vehicle, the very first thing that should come to your mind is a Jeep, and you’re right to think so! The choice of most people hitting the trails is the rugged Wrangler, which can also be found for relatively cheap. But the real deal is the brother, the Cherokee. It’s for people that want something more practical.
Released in the USA from 1983 to 2001, the XJ Jeep Cherokee is one of, if not, the best off-road-ready SUV chassis. Equipped with a red-white-and-blue bulletproof 4.0-liter straight-six that will give you all the torque and a 4-wheel drive system, you’ll have almost everything you need to tear up the trails, and have some room to bring some friends along in the back too!
The best part is that parts for Cherokees are cheap, and these trucks are very easy to work on. It’s a really popular platform for off-roaders with tons of companies making all kinds of mods for them. Throw a 3.5-inch lift kit from Rubicon Express and some 33-inch big mud-slinging tires on one and you’ll be able to conquer just about anything!
I also really like the boxy design that has been lost to time. You will stand out on the road more than the curvy designs and, with the right modifications, people will want your rig! What’s the best part? You can find a great example of the XJ Cherokee for under $5,000! What a steal!
Now for something completely different. Suzuki, the people who make insane rocket ships on two wheels like the Hayabusa, also took a stab at making the Japanese Jeep in the 70’s, and still make them to this day! The Suzuki Samurai is a fun little two-door box that can take you anywhere. The Japanese Jeep may not be a household name, but around the world, they’re used to get people where they need to go, on or off the road.
For example, in Hawaii, they use the Samurai for tours up to the volcanoes, which proves that they can slice through tough terrain. Powered by a 1.3-liter four-cylinder, it might not make much power, but that also means the engine stays super reliable and easy to work on. And that’s pretty important when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
The engine can perform on trails just fine, but don’t expect it to set any land speed records, because with big tires you’re looking at 55 to 60 miles per hour max on the freeway! But… and there’s always a but! You can swap in a Toyota drivetrain, which sounds way more complicated than it actually is, like the Toyota 22R or 22E, which grants your Sami with more a bit more oomph. This is actually a common modification for these warriors, which will give them the ability to go well over 60 miles per hour.
The Samurai also has selectable two-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive, adding to the versatility of this little 4-wheel fighter. Think of the Samurai as the Miata of the off-roading world, and we love the Miata. It’s the answer to everything! The Samurai is super small and super fun, and it’s a street-legal, off-roading go-cart. They’re awesome, very capable and very open to upgrades.
You better hurry, though, the prices are shooting up because of how capable these things are and how rare good examples are becoming! However, we still founda good example for just over $5,000. With its small body and detachable soft or hardtop, a summer in one of these would be a blast!
Here in the USA, the most sold vehicle ever is a Ford truck. And that means one thing: deals on deals on deals. The Ford Ranger is just a reliable, easy going, versatile, and cheap ride for anyone looking to get into the great outdoors. The Ranger comes in either a meager four-cylinder or the much sought after V6, which gives you 140 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. If you have something to tow, you’ll be glad you have all that power.
The Ranger’s engines are pretty reliable and easy to work on, and another benefit of them being so common is that parts are cheap and widely available. Some people even call this the off-roader’s Civic because of the ease of maintenance. Available with a 5-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel or 4-wheel drive, the American off-roader is ready to rock, even stock. And having a pickup truck platform means it’s practical for hauling around your gear anywhere you need to go.
I found a 5-speed manual Ranger with a camper shell, a clean interior, and 4-wheel drive for just $2,000! This might be the best deal on this list by a longshot! Plus, there’s a ton of aftermarket support for this platform. So, grab a 3-inch lift kit and fat 30-inch tires with all the money you saved, and you can conquer trails like no other.
Land Rover Discovery II
I can hear it already. “What? A Land Rover in a cheap off-roader list? You must be out of your mind!” Please, bear with us. The Land Rover Discovery II is easily found for pretty cheap in clean condition. However, buyer beware, there’s a reason you can Rover the Land for so cheap.
These British trail-tacklers are unfortunately plagued with a ton of mechanical issues, like broken head gaskets and failing drive shafts in the 4-liter V8 engine. And the electrical issues with the OEM off-road technology will cause problems in some amenities like its infamous air suspension.
Even though there are lots of flaws, if you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, you can reap its rewards. The highly capable off-roader with center-locking differential, four-wheel drive, and a nearly indestructible undercarriage. Plus, it’s definitely the most luxurious on the list, and in my opinion, the coolest looking. It has safari windows in the back, so you can look at giraffes! How neat is that? I found a 2000 LR discovery with a 4.-liter V8 with some factory off-road gear for only $3,600.
Jeep Wrangler TJ
And, of course, no capable off-roader list would be complete without a Jeep Wrangler, and this is it. With the same invincible 4.0-liter straight-six as the previously mentioned Cherokee, this car tops the list as one of our most ideal off-roaders. In fact, we bought one of the cheapest ones in the nation!
The classic two-door body style with a detachable soft or hard top allows this to be the perfect summer car. Even stock, this car will surpass your expectations. However, if you want to modify your Wrangler, then add 33-inch tires and a 3-inch lift kit to become absolutely unstoppable! And a cool thing you can do is swap out the headlights for some cool looking halos and a more updated look.
While it is hard to find this legend for cheap, if you keep an eye out, you can find decently affordable examples for right around $3,200. Now, with a little negotiating and the Ideal Car Strategies, you can crawl your way into this must-own off-roader.