Overlanding Vehicles: How Did I Choose My Vehicle?

In my inaugural post I had talked about some of the key activities that have led me to take up overlanding as my next obsession…err, hobby. Although this process happened about a year and half ago, the philosophy and approach to my final decision is really the whole point to this post. Out of all the overlanding vehicles, which one did I choose?

Overlanding Vehicles: The Process

The process always starts with research.  Whenever I decide that I am going to purchase something (especially something this expensive), I begin by doing research. The amount of research that I end up doing tends to vary on three main topics:

The complexity of the item, What and how the item will be used, The overall cost

Item complexity is one of those aspects that I tend to segment into mechanical and non-mechanical. Now this is a very simplistic approach but it helps me remember how much time I should spend in the research. A new vehicle fits the bill for detailed research!

When and how the item is being used is a major item that I tend to spend a significant amount of time debating. In this case, I was looking for my daily driver as well as a vehicle that I could use as my weekend warrior as well. Another major consideration for my personal needs (obviously needs vary person to person), were all the weekend trips I make to Home Depot for landscaping supplies.

My final consideration is cost. The more I plan to spend, the more time and effort I put into doing my “due diligence.” The average cost of a new car or truck in the U.S. today is about $33,000. That level of expenditure requires some serious thought and planning.

Narrowing Down the Choices

I’ll cut out all the build up research I did in getting to what I thought my final choices would be, but I will share what I thought were my major considerations:

Price point, I was aiming for the U.S. average of about $33,000. Capability, I needed this overlandinfg vehicle to have a 4×4 system with at least a locking rear differential. Ride Comfort, this was going to be my daily driver so it had to be fairly comfortable. Reliability, I was looking for a vehicle with a good reputation for reliability

The FInal Choices

Now remember, this process was taking place in 2015. Based on the criteria that I outlined above, I narrowed my choices to three specific brands, models and trim levels. Here were my final candidates:

Nissan Xterra, PRO4X, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, SaharaToyota Tacoma, TRD OffRoad

All three overlanding vehicles met certain criteria. For instance, all three had a 4×4 system. Additionally, all three had a locking rear differential in the trim level that I had picked out. All three vehicles were in the right price range give or take a couple thousand dollars. Where the rubber really met the road, so to speak, was in my final few categories.

Nissan Xterra

The Xterra was the least expensive even though the PRO4X was the highest trim you could get for the vehicle. As an aging platform without a refresh in at least ten years, I was not overly enthusiastic about the reliability of Nissan products (IMO). I was also a bit worried about hauling all of my mulch, stone and flowers from Home Depot in the back of an SUV.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

The JKU was a strong finalist for my overlanding vehicle. The pedigree was undisputed, but let’s face it, it’s a rolling brick. I had the benefit of having a very close friend with a JKU and the many times I rode in his vehicle I always walked away saying the same thing, the ride is terrible. As my daily driver, this was not going to be a good choice. Additionally, when you open the back and look at the lack of cargo space, the same things were running through my mind when I thought of the Xterra.

Toyota Tacoma

With the Xterra a definite “no” and the JKU coming in as a very iffy “maybe” I went to a local Toyota dealership and went on a test drive in a 2015 Tacoma Double Cab, TRD OffRoad. It was love at first test drive!

Technically, it was everything I was looking for, 4×4, locking rear differential, and even came with Downhill Assist. Double Cab meant that I could carry the family and not be worried about space. The short bed version looked very cool and meant that I could haul almost a thousand pounds of stuff from Home Depot, joy!

Reliability? Toyota is synonymous with quality, check! Ride quality? When the wife says, this is a really nice ride for a truck and she’s used to driving her Lexus ES350 then you know you have really hit the sweet spot. The last consideration was price and as expected the MSRP was at the top of my range. Between some shrewd negotiation and my company’s TrueCar price program, I was able to get a deal that fit my established budget.

My Final Thought

Stong dverlanding vehicles are a rare breed these days. Automakers are no longer focusing on the old frame on rails and rather opting for the unibody construction in today’s vehicles.

Overlanding vehicles posses one major attribute that should be the most important consideration and that’s versatility! I hope you have as much fun as I did sorting through and finding your perfect choice.

Overlanding Vehicles: Toyota Tacoma