Shopping for the perfect 4WD is a bit like shopping for groceries, both require planning and making a list of the things you want.
Go in without a plan and you’ll end up overspending on a vehicle that doesn’t do what you want it to do, and there go your holiday funds.
The more planning and research done beforehand, the more chances you have of getting a 4×4 that fulfils your wildest dreams.
With so many 4×4 options and brands available on the market, how do you know what’s right for you?
To ensure you get a rig that satisfies your thirst for the great Australian outdoors, we’ve created a 101 checklist to choosing a 4WD that’s right for you.
Why do you want a 4WD?
First things first, this question is an absolute no-brainer — why do you want a 4WD? Maybe you’ve been peer pressured into keeping up with your mates at Mundaring Powerlines because your current rig can’t keep up.
Or, you’re keen to explore some of Perth’s most beach accessible tracks and cast a few rods out. Or perhaps it’s a bit of everything, from off-roading and family camping trips to cross-country touring, discover what inspired you to get a 4WD.
What sort of four-wheel driving do you want to do?
How you plan to use the 4WD will reduce the number of choices you need to research by 10 fold. Not only will you need to consider the level of 4WDing you are going to be doing, but also the simple things in life like going to the supermarket.
Here are three modes to consider:
1. Off-road Enthusiast
If you intend to hit the off-road tracks quite regularly and push your 4WD to its limit then you’ll need a vehicle with a solid front axle and solid rear axle suspension. This will be perfect for tackling muddy tracks, side angles, deep ruts and huge rocks.
2. Long distance/remote areas
A 4WD that is used for long-distance drives and remote areas will be one that focuses on a more comfortable drive. You’ll want to go for a 4WD that has an independent suspension for a more comfortable drive, however, you aren’t limited.
They are more than capable in serious off-road conditions but are more suited for comfortable travel, this includes being fully equipped for camping and travelling long distances with minimal fuss.
3. Gravel, towing and beach tracks
There are plenty of 4WD’s on the market that has been made for the sole purpose of towing a heavy caravan or trailer, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak Bi-Turbo is known for its torque and power when towing.
Beach tracks can be traversed by just about any 4WD, just make sure you have the right tyre pressure and the essential 4×4 accessories.
Other questions you’ll need to ask yourself is:
- Will your partner be driving it to drop the kids off at school or do the weekly shopping?
- How many passengers will you be carrying?
- Where are you going to drive it the most? Is it purely off-roading, city driving, or remote?
- Are you planning to install any 4×4 accessories?
- If you do take it to remote areas, how easy is it to source spare parts or fix mechanical issues?
How you plan to use your 4WD will give you a fair idea of what you’re going to need and narrow down your list of choices.
What is your budget?
One of the most limiting factors when choosing a four-wheel drive is how much do you have to spend? You may find a vehicle that fulfils all your requirements mentioned previously, but if you can’t afford it you’re back to square one.
You’ll need to consider how much you can afford, this includes maintenance and repair costs, as well as any modifications you are planning to do. Tally up the costs of the mods and add them to the total cost of the vehicle and you’ll have a rough idea of how much your budget is.
Remember, you can always opt for a second-hand 4WD if it means you have money to spare, this way you can afford any extra 4×4 accessories you want.
Automatic or Manual?
One of the largest debates in the world of 4×4, on par with Petrol Vs Diesel, is automatic or manual? It all boils down to how you prefer to drive, each having their own set of pros and cons.
- Use slightly more fuel
- Lack engine braking
- Increased brake wear
- Can’t stall the engine
- Changes gears much quicker and tend to be considerably better for sand driving
- Better for going uphill
- Smoother drive
- Requires clutch to be replaced more often
- Uses less fuel
- Better engine braking for steep descents or towing heavy loads
- Transmission can’t get locked if left in park, can be push-started
- Simpler to drive
- More fun to drive
Fuel Type — Petrol Vs Diesel vs Gas
Much like the automatic vs manual debate, there is no definitive answer to this. What we can pinpoint, however, is that most new diesel engines are more economical than petrol engines and have become much easier to drive. Nowadays, you can run your car on petrol, diesel or gas, or a combination of either 2. Here’s what you’ll need to consider:
- Petrol engines have higher revs than diesel, giving more power and responsiveness
- Petrol engines may struggle with water crossings
- Petrol models are cheaper than diesel models
- Although it may produce less energy, gas is the cheapest fuel source
- Gas engines may struggle with water crossings
- You need a lot of gas to travel the same distance as a little bit of diesel
- May be hard to source refueling locations in remote areas
- Diesel is the most economical fuel out of the 3
- Diesel engines require regular servicing more than a petrol or gas engine
- Diesel engines have more torque
- Diesel engines tend to be more reliable
- Diesel engines are less likely to stall in a river crossing
- There’s always going to be diesel at service stations in remote areas
- You’ll never misfuel with the SoloDiesel cap
Some food for thought:
As a rough calculation — 20L of gas will get you roughly 110kms, while 20L of petrol might get you 140kms, and 20L of diesel will get you around 170kms. These numbers will vary depending on the car and engine itself.
To give you a better idea, if you plan on towing heavy loads and travelling long distances — get a diesel.
If you want a faster and more responsive car that isn’t going to tow heavy loads — get a petrol.
If you plan to do a lot of beach driving, you may end up guzzling more fuel in a petrol/gas than in a diesel. A petrol driving on soft sand can use up to 60% more fuel, while a diesel will only use 30% more.
What modifications will you install?
Finally, you’ll need to think about the modifications and 4×4 accessories. Consider the ‘final product’ of your vehicle, is it going to be more functional, comfortable or capable?
What’s the availability of aftermarket 4×4 accessories?
Can your 4wd be upgraded with some additional drawers and storage, toolboxes, or a canopy, so your ute becomes your greatest work asset?
On this aspect Total 4×4 can help you. We have been supplying, building and mounting all kind of 4wd equipment for over 30 years. We know our products and 4x4s, we can confidently guide you towards the right accessories for your needs.