Image: Land Rover
Ryan lives in the Texas panhandle, which is home to a lot of flooding. He wants something that has a bit of lift on it that can haul project car parts. Other key requirements are that it cannot be domestic and he wants to be able to easily modify it. What car should he buy?
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Here is the scenario:
I live somewhere with regular major flooding and need something with ground clearance, and space for project car parts. I really like classic Land Rovers but I don’t want to deal with the maintenance. It can be an SUV, or Outback style lifted wagon, 2-doors or an RX-8 style 4-door setup. Needs to have substantial aftermarket so I can play with it, a good car for road trips, and light camping. MAYBE a truck. I really don’t care for domestic cars. My budget is up to $60,000.
Budget: up to $60,00
Location: Texas panhandle
Daily Driver: Yes
Wants: Higher ride height, room for parts, easy to mod
Doesn’t want: Anything from the Big 3
Expert 1: Tom McParland — New Old-School
Photo: Andrew Collins/Jalopnik
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Ryan, if you are worried about high flood waters and other hazards, you want to go with something that is as indestructible as possible, and that means a Toyota 4Runner. It’s not going to be the fanciest ride, nor the most fuel-efficient but what it lacks in refinement it more than makes up for in durability.
Aftermarket support for 4Runners is super solid. If you want a lift kit, snorkel, or overlanding set-up, it’s all there, if you have the money to spend. Your biggest challenge with the Toyota is sourcing one at a fair price in a reasonable time frame. I ran a 200-mile search from Amarillo and only found four new vehicle listings. A wider net will give you a lot more options. Personally, I would forgo the top dog TRD Pro that is bound to have a huge market premium and instead get trim that is easier to source and spend the balance on mods. Here is a very cool TRD Off-Road Premium in Lime Green listed in AR. This one may or may not actually be available, so it will take a bit of legwork to see which dealer has an incoming car that isn’t already spoken for.
Expert 2: Owen Bellwood – Cruise You Never Lose
Ryan, the 4Runner Tom suggested is a good place to start, but it’s not quite the right recommendation for you. Heck, it might not even be the right Toyota for you. I reckon the Toyota you really want is the FJ Cruiser, probably the coolest car Toyota has made.
You want something with ground clearance, the FJ Cruiser has that. You want something with RX-8-style doors, the FJ Cruiser has that. And, you want something that’ll be good for road trips and camping adventures that costs less than $60,000 then, you guessed it, the FJ Cruiser has that.
Despite only being on sale here in America between 2007 and 2014, there are still some pretty FJ Cruisers out there that would suit you down to a T. This lush blue example would be perfect, and with just 13,000 miles on the odometer, it’s basically as good as new. Or, if you want a manual, then there’s also this lovely 2014 FJ Cruiser that has your name written all over it.
Expert 3: Collin Woodard – Toyota Is Boring
Photo: Ben Hoskins / Stringer (Getty Images)
Sure, the 4Runner and FJ Cruiser are good SUVs that will probably do everything you’re asking for, but come on. They’re so boring. Everybody and their brother buy one of those when they’re looking for a safe, reliable off-roader they can modify. If you get one of those, everywhere you go, you’ll run into someone else who owns one. They’re just such predictable choices.
I say be bold. Think outside the box. Dare to be different. If you can justify waiting a bit before you buy, order an Ineos Grenadier. For a little less than $60,000 (probably), you’ll have a rugged old-school SUV that no one else will be driving. Whether you’re parked at Walmart, fording flood waters, on an off-road trail, your “Technically Not A Land Rover Defender” is almost guaranteed to be the only one in sight.
Is it a little risky? Sure. But what’s life without a little risk? And if you can stretch your budget a little, you can upgrade to the Trialmaster Edition (not Trailmaster. Trialmaster), which comes stock with a snorkel. No flood’s going to hydrolock your engine while you’re driving this BMW-powered SUV.
Confuse your family. Impress your friends. Make new friends everywhere you go. Get the Ineos Grenadier.
Expert 4: Andy Kalmowitz – You Won’t Have to Defend This Choice
Photo: Steven’s Jersey City Ford
Ryan, my good friend, there is one vehicle that is the clear answer to your conundrum: the Land Rover Defender 90. Hell, it’s such a good answer that it’s even the head imagine for this article.
You could even spring for a 110, but we all know two doors are cooler than four. With the Defender 90 you get a nearly new vehicle, great looks, insane off-road capabilities and practicality. And anyways, for your budget, you can get a relatively-low mileage Defender 90. If you play your cards right, you can get a brand new one. It’ll be tough to pull off, but it is possible.
I’ve done hundreds of miles in Defenders, and they are a joy to drive on the highway. They are far smoother and quieter than anything else you’ll find on this list. Plus, they’re holding their values so well you won’t lose your shirt when (or if) you go to sell it.
There’s also a huge catalog of accessories and customizations that can be done to make it the exact vehicle you’re looking for.
I found one for you in Jersey City, New Jersey that fits the bill perfectly. It’s a 2021 with under 30,000 miles, and it costs under $60,000. It’s a really nice spec to boot. You really cannot go wrong with black on black with aluminum and wood in the interior.
Ryan, do the right thing, buy a Defender 90. You said you didn’t want an old Land Rover, so how about a new one?