Should You Take the Dodge Nitro Off Road?

The Dodge Nitro is better suited for highway and city driving, but it can handle some minor off-roading if necessary!
Written by Drew Waterstreet
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Considering the
Dodge Nitro
shares the same rugged and adventurous frame as its sister vehicle, the second-gen
Jeep Liberty
, you’d think it would have a good off-road reputation—but we’d call it adequate at best.
A multitude of features, such as ground clearance, steering, drivetrain, and more, contribute to a vehicle’s overall off-road capabilities. And after analyzing the specification sheet of the Dodge Nitro, we’ve determined that it’s better suited for on-road use.
The experts at
, the
super app
that saves drivers money on
car insurance
and more, are here to elaborate on this evaluation. We’ll give you a detailed look into off-road specifications, how it stacks up to the competition, and how the Nitro scores out on Jerry’s DIRT off-road rating system.
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Can the Dodge Nitro go off-road?

Yes, the Dodge Nitro can handle some off-roading if necessary, but don’t expect the smoothest ride if you do decide to hit the backcountry. Produced between 2007 and 2012, the Nitro was originally designed as the city-street alternative to the second-gen Jeep Liberty, so this driving experience isn’t necessarily surprising. Let’s take a closer look at the specification sheet to confirm this claim.

Ground clearance

The Dodge Nitro has a relatively low ground clearance of 8.1 inches. Since the ideal off-roading ground clearance is between 8.8 and 10.8 inches, the Nitro doesn't pass the test. This lacking specification makes it more likely to bottom out on obstructions or uneven terrain.


Steering on the Dodge Nitro is often referred to as truck-like, which isn’t necessarily ideal for navigating unpredictable terrain. Clunky maneuverability and a poor turning radius are not characteristics you want from your adventure mobile.


During its production lifetime, all models of the Nitro came standard with rear-wheel drive, so you had to fork over roughly $1,500 to $2,000 to get the optional all-wheel-drive package. Without the traction benefits of AWD, the Dodge Nitro is better kept on city streets.


This is where the Nitro shows a glimmer of hope! The 2008 Dodge Nitro has a towing capacity of 3,500 lbs. and 75.6 cubic feet of cargo space.
So, if your destination isn’t too far off the beaten path, the Nitro can certainly serve as your casual camping cruiser—plenty of capacity to pull a camper or stow all your gear!
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Off-roading is all about angles: specifically, the approach angle and departure angle
  • Approach angle: the maximum angle at which a vehicle can climb without interference 
  • Departure angle: the maximum angle at which a vehicle can descend without interference
The Dodge Nitro has approach and departure angles of 26 and 27 degrees, respectively. This specification in and of itself is actually quite adequate for off-roading. But once you partner it with below-average ground clearance and poor handling, it becomes merely aesthetic.

Off-road rating: In a Pinch

We’ve rated the Dodge Nitro using
super-technical DIRT rating system, broken down in the table below: 
Don’t Try It
Vehicles better suited to highway conditions
In a Pinch
Vehicles that can handle off-road conditions in certain circumstances
Rough and Ready
Vehicles designed for casual off-roading
Trail Boss
True off-road vehicles capable of tackling a range of terrain types
The Dodge Nitro earns an I rating (“In a Pinch”): as its design and marketing imply, the Dodge Nitro is better suited for city streets. However, it does have some advantageous towing capacity and cargo storage specs that can be utilized for simple camping excursions.

The best off-road alternatives to the Dodge Nitro

Even the appealing starting MSRP of $21,590 wasn’t enough to make up for the lackluster off-road capabilities of the Nitro—this had a big part in its discontinuation after a short five-year tenure from 2007 to 2012. 
So, let’s take a look at some alternative options from the same era that can fulfill your off-road desires.
Used price
Best all-around alternative
2011 Ford Escape
$6,000 to $10,500
With great fuel efficiency, an intuitive drivetrain, and decent cargo space, the Escape can be your everyday off-roader.
Best all-terrain alternative
2008 Chrysler Aspen
$5,500 to $9,500
An innovative drivetrain setup and powerful engine make the Aspen a much more viable off-road SUV.
Most obvious alternative
2012 Jeep Liberty
$8,000 to $13,000
If you want to go off-roading, don’t get the car that only looks like a Jeep, just get the Jeep!
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How to find affordable car insurance for off-road vehicles

Unfortunately, off-roading is seen as a privilege rather than a right in the eyes of insurance providers—they consider it an unnecessary risk. So if you want to hit the dirt road, you’re going to have to pay for it with higher insurance premiums.
But what if we told you there was a loophole! Well, we’re happy to introduce you to the
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