From a Suzuki Samurai to a Nissan Xterra, there are a surprising number of cheap off road trucks out there if you know where to look. You can shop for affordable used models, then modify your off road truck for ideal performance.
When you’re looking for a cheap off-road truck, keep an eye out for something low maintenance with strong suspension and high traction. While the perfect truck might seem outside your price range, you can usually find a good option after doing a little research.
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What qualifies a good off-road truck?
The purpose of an off-road truck is right there in the name, they need to go off-road. That means a good off-road truck needs to have the power to drive through any obstacle, the clearance to get over unseen obstructions, and the traction to take you through any conditions.
The best way to measure power for off-road vehicles is in torque—how quickly a vehicle accelerates. While you may think horsepower is more important, you won’t be moving very fast in most off-road environments. Given the trees, rocks, mud, and snow, in most off-road areas, it’s more important that your truck has the torque to tackle these obstacles from a stopped position.
When you think of a high-clearance vehicle, you might think of monster trucks or tricked-out cars with five-foot tires. But clearance is about your approach, break-over, and departure angles.
These angles respectively correspond to the angles between:
Back bumper and back tire
The higher these angles are, the more likely that your car will be able to handle bumpy terrain without any damage.
Perhaps most importantly, your car needs to find traction wherever it is. Whether you’re in snow or mud, your car must be able to pull you forward.
While your traction can be improved with specialized tires, four-wheel drive (4WD) is the best option for achieving higher traction. In 4WD vehicles, the front and back axles can lock together—causing the wheels to move at the same speed. This helps you get a better grip in tricky environments, where your back wheels might be stuck or you need to move at steep angles.
While it’s the priciest option on our list, the
Suzuki Samurai is tight, compact, and ready to take on almost any off-road condition.
Unlike other options on our list, the Suzuki Samurai isn’t ideal for highway speeds. But the same high center of gravity and low wheelbase that make them problematic on pavement, make them perfect off the road.
The low wheelbase adds to the car's clearance, and the high center of gravity makes the suspension system incredibly effective. Plus, the 4WD adds an extra level of traction for any off-road explorers.
If you’re going for the Suzuki Samurai, look for a model from the early to mid-1990s. The last Samurai model was made in 1995 and featured smaller engines with higher torque than older models.
Looking for something big, bold, and classic? The
Toyota Tacoma could be your car.
As far as off-road trucks go, the Toyota Tacoma is one of the most iconic. Its timeless look and consistent performance make it a classic among off-roaders. Not to mention, the Tacoma has been known to keep driving well past the 200,000-mile mark.
That said, it’s most ideal for beginner off-roaders. The clearance is relatively low for a truck, and some models may suffer from frame damage.
If you’re just getting into off-roading and want a vehicle that’ll last, the Toyota Tacoma could be your choice. But to make sure you’re getting the best deal, try checking for models from the late 1990s or early 2000s.
Easy to find, cheap to fix up, the
Ford Ranger is a great truck for serious off-roaders looking for a long-lasting car.
Ford Rangers have been a huge success, ever since their release in the 1980s. Because of that, Ford started producing Rangers in massive quantities in the early 2000s. As a result, you can easily find cars and spare parts for a relatively low price.
That said, it’s hard to find a cheap model in good condition.
The best way to find an affordable Ford Ranger is to look for models from the early 2000s and fix them up. You can usually find a base model for around $2,000. With a few months of work and an extra $3,000 to $4,000 later, you could have yourself a fully functional Ford Ranger.
If you’re looking for a classic American off road truck with absolutely no limits, the
Cherokee could be for you.
Jeep Cherokees typically hold up pretty well, and so many were produced that spare parts are easy to come by. The only problem with the Cherokee is that you might have to deal with a barrage of small issues like sensors or dashboard lights.
These days, you can find a model from the late 1990s or early 2000s for anywhere from $500 to $4,000. While you might need to put in a little work, you can usually have it fixed up and off-road-ready for under $6,000 in total.
For a cheap, reliable base model, the
Nissan Xterra could be your best option.
In the late 1990s, there was a brief golden age of mid-range SUVs. Lucky for potential buyers, the Xterra came out of it somewhat undervalued.
While its traction, clearance, and torque can compete with bigger names like Toyota, its lower horsepower is seen by many as a drawback. That said, anyone offroading in crowded or narrow environments won’t notice the difference.
Models from 1999 to 2001 can typically be found for around $4,000 to $5,000, and they don’t need much additional work. If you’re looking to optimize its off-road capabilities, you could spend some of the money you saved on new tires and cutting back the front bumper to improve its clearance.
Insuring your truck
When you get a new truck, you’ll need an insurance policy to match. For help finding the best car insurance coverage at the lowest available rate, try
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