Choosing a 4×4

For choosing a 4×4, first ask yourself a few questions, and answer them honestly. Secondly, draw three columns listing the features and potentials your type of 4×4 must have, like to have and what it should not have. Thirdly, see which 4×4’s make it to the finals and which ones do not. In choosing a 4×4, you have to determine what the main and secondary purpose is that this 4×4 will have to fulfil. If you are in a financial position to afford a 4×4 for every occasion, then the choices are endless.

For so many of us the perfect 4×4 will have to be used as the daily commuter too. The more diverse the requirements the tougher the choice to find the perfect 4×4. A rockcrawler doubling as the wife’s shopping trolley is going to leave someone disappointed. Choosing a 4×4 that can be set up for touring and used to drop the kids off at school is very doable. Possible too is using a commuter for weekend club events.

Choosing a 4×4 that fits most requirements, can be as little as using two sets of wheels with different tyres and a little spanner effort. After the weekend’s 4×4 camping trip, unpack the recovery gear, and those items with no need for the coming week’s activities. Swap between muddies and, highway oriented tyres, it will serve much better than to compromise with AT’s, all terrain tyres. Remove the extra spare wheel and roof rack. By removing accessories that add extra drag and weight, will save fuel and make for an easier daily drive and even using under-cover parking garages.

Once you have determined what the main and secondary purpose of your 4×4 will be, you then have to work out which feature are more important than which, always keeping both purposes in mind when choosing a 4×4.

Things to consider when choosing a 4×4 are:

  • Will it be a “Soft Roader”, AWD, SUV, constant 4×4, part time 4×4? See 4×4 Explained for more.
  • Buying a new or second-hand 4×4.
  • Body type: wagon, pick-up dual cab or van.
  • Manual or automatic gearbox.
  • Minimum and maximum body size.
  • Fuel type: petrol, diesel or low sulphur diesel fuel only.
  • Electronic traction aids and new age goodies or old school diff locks and driver input.
  • Suspension type; Independent or solid axles, coils, leaves, torsion bars.
  • Seating capacity and the size of the occupants.
  • Weight carrying ability and loading bay size.
  • Distances you are likely to cover, per day and per trip.
  • Up to what grade 4×4 Trails do you intend to do; 1 to 5
  • Do you intend to wonder off into Southern Africa or even an Africa Overland.
  • How important is mechanical reliability?
  • Can you do most of your own vehicle maintenance, or would you require a dealer only service.
  • Would it be possible to find spare parts within a certain radius if so required.
  • Minimum power and torque required. (too much is just enough)
  • Approach, departure, break-over angle, ground clearance and wading depth.
  • What larger tyre sizes (profile) can be fitted.
  • What is more important, looks or practicality?
  • What modifications can be done and are available to improve the 4×4 for its chosen purpose.
  • What accessories are available for your chosen model? Choosing a 4×4 based on available accessories is not all wrong. Tell the missus I said so………….:)

Choosing a 4WD that you and who else is required to drive it; fell comfortable with, is important. Some 4×4’s drive very different from the everyday sedan or even a SUV. Do not exaggerate your driving capabilities but do not be shy to push it too.

All of these decisions are unfortunately always governed by money, so choose very carefully from the beginning. Correctly choosing a 4×4 is where it all starts, making the wrong mistake here, will not only cost you money but also take some of the intended 4×4 pleasure away.

Choosing a 4×4 is not only about the vehicle as a stand alone instrument for the purpose of transport. Choosing a 4×4 is an extension of you the driver, you must “gell” with it, give here a name, make it something special.