Off-roading is an adventure that involves riding a vehicle through unsurfaced roads made of sand, gravel, riverbeds, mud, snow, rocks, and other natural terrains. It is a form of a road trip taken via routes where, in reality, there are no roads.

Unlike other road trips, off-road adventures can be exciting but rugged and require resilient vehicles to help the adventurers conquer the routes. Because many driving is done on unpaved grounds, hardy overland vehicles are the best options for off-road adventures.

Overland vehicles come in different makes, sizes, and designs, and often cost a fortune. However, don't let your budget stop you from taking your next off-road trip. Below, we have provided the ten best affordable overland vehicles for off-road adventures.

A red overland vehicle.

How Does Off-Roading Work?

There are many road exploration exercises and recreational activities that focus on journeys through documented and well-traveled routes. While many seek the excitement that comes with having a smooth on-road overland journey, many others experience thrills in conquering treacherous terrains in a bumpy, muddy, murky ride.

Off-roading is often perceived as the combination of a love for nature mixed with the technical challenge of handling a hardy rig on unpaved ground. It is an excellent choice of recreation that requires a great deal of self-reliance coupled with the strength of suitable transport.

The route taken during over landing depends on various factors that range from environmental, geographic, and geopolitical events to how well the overlander can navigate the routes. The terrain traveled often includes challenging trails and rarely passage through international borders.

The routes taken during off-road trips are often purposefully challenging and unpredictable. This requires the strength of a monstrous vehicle that can handle the expansive geographic and whatever environmental element is thrown at it.

The vehicles mainly used for off-road adventures are overland vehicles that range from trucks to SUVs or any other heavy four-wheeler vehicle that can easily maneuver over bumps, ridges, and gravel. These vehicles should be solid and functional enough to pass through terrains other regular cars will find it difficult to pass.

Features Of Off-Road Vehicles

Off-Road vehicles are, by a rule, bigger and stronger than the regular cars seen on the streets or highways. They are characterized by featuring large tires with open treads, have high clearance and higher traction that enables them to clear areas with low traction.

Off-road vehicles are versatile and explore areas that would be too rough for other types of cars. They are designed in such detail to provide maximum comfort and ease of navigation even as the driver maneuvers the vehicle through treacherous terrains and uneven surfaces.

Great off-road vehicles often have:

  • Crawl control: a new technology that enables the vehicle to read the terrain and adjust power to suit clearance. This perfect feature saves the driver from changing the power when encountering a challenging landscape. Crawl Control is a handy feature when it comes to traveling uphill.
  • Tire grip: for a firm grip on the ground.
  • Ground clearance: to ensure the vehicle easily clears rocky surfaces and terrains. 
  • Hill descent control: This is the opposite of crawl control. The hill descent feature makes it easy to adjust your speed as your vehicle completes a downhill descent. 

Other modern off-road vehicles offer additional features that make an off-road adventure easier to make. The ideal off-road overland for your road trip depends on environmental and geographical events. The weather and place play a huge role in determining if a vehicle is a perfect choice for your off-road journey.

The tires for sand dunes are not the ideal type of tires for crossing water beds or snowy ground. This sums up one of the essential features in off-roading, which is traction. Traction depends on the type of tire you use and if your vehicle is a 4WD or Four-Wheel Drive. A 4WD with bigger tire treads provides better traction, ideal for traveling all types of terrain, incredibly muddy routes.

Other than this, other features like momentum, approach angle, break-over angle, and departure angle also play a role in determining if your vehicle is suitable for your off-roading route. Most overland vehicles used for off-road trips don't come cheap. However, you can still secure a rugged vehicle to conquer the unyielding terrains you wish to. 

 

10 Best (Cheap) Overland Vehicles For Off-Road Adventures

Who says you cannot enjoy off-road trips on a budget? While price is often a determining factor for how well a rig functions, there are still budget-friendly overland vehicles that serve their purpose. Below, we have compiled ten overland vehicles you can purchase without breaking your bank.

Overland vehicles riding through the desert.

1. Jeep Cherokee XJ (1983-2001)

Although the XJ in the name stands for ‘eXperimental Jeep,’ there is no doubt that this experiment was a success as the Jeep Cherokee XJ lasted for decades on the market. The Jeep Cherokee XJ comes in a custom-tailored build with two or four doors. While the vehicle has regular car tendencies, its off-roading features outshine them and captivate road explorers with its excellent handling and turbocharged engine. 

The Jeep Cherokee XJ is a resilient sub-utility 4WD vehicle with a powerful engine. Although it might be considered vintage by many off-road adventurers, this vehicle remains a practical option for off-road adventures. With a long production range of almost 23 years, the Jeep Cherokee XJ comes in various specifications. It has an inline 6-cylinder engine, fuel consumption of about 12.8L per 100km, and a 5-speed manual gearbox.

The stock tire sizes come in 215 / 75 on 15-inch rims at the front and 215 / 75 on 15-inch rims at the rear. The Jeep XJ has a maximum top speed of 103 mph and an all-terrain capability. All-in-all, this compact utility vehicle is a reliable option that costs between $5,000 and $8,000 (used). 

2. The Toyota 4Runner (1984-1989)

The Toyota 4Runner was initially manufactured in 1984 but has since undergone several modifications that lasted up to 2009. At first, the Toyota 4Runner was a two-door, modified Hilux truck look-alike enclosed in a fiberglass casing. The first-generation Toyota 4Runner mainly features a retractable windshield in the tailgate. It came equipped with a 2.4-liter 22RE I-4 engine producing about 100 hp.

The second generation featured the same suspension, I-4 gear-driven, and extra rear doors. The later generations will retain the Toyota 4Runner’s off-road functionality and better body style for better ergonomics. Until today, Toyota 4Runners maintains its reputation as an excellent off-road vehicle. They are reliable and underpowered compared to your more recent generation but easy to maintain. Toyota 4Runners cost between $4000 and $16,000.

3. The Subaru Outback (1994-Present)


The Subaru Outback is an affordable overland vehicle that doubles as a regular ride. Although it mimics a compact build, it can handle rough terrains quite well.  The Subaru Outback has an impressive clearance that ranges a bit higher than an average car. It boasts about seven inches of ground clearance. The Subaru Outback is a 4WD with plenty of room to store your gear in.

It is a rugged and reliable vehicle that can last at least 250,000 miles in its lifestyle if appropriately maintained. It makes a fuel-efficient, high-quality overland off-road vehicle to aid your next off-road exploration. It is important to note that in its time, The Subaru Outback was on the receiving end of complaints and criticism that ranged from limited approach & departure angles to frame rug problems. The Subaru Outback costs between $3000 to $8,000+.

4. First-Gen Toyota Tundra (1999-2006)

The first-gen Toyota Tundra serves as more than a trusty pickup truck. The truck came in a two- or four-door design, often with access or a double cab. This trusty overland vehicle uses a top-of-the-line V8 engine that rivals the modern Tacoma. It features an ample interior space thanks to the addition of the double-cab in the design. The first generation Toyota Tundra was so popular that about 100,000 Tundras were sold each year.

This provides tons of aftermarket support in case a repair is needed. The Toyota Tundra is a strong, hardy, and reliable off-road vehicle. It is rumored to last at least one million miles in its lifetime. However, with this design, you might encounter a little fuel inefficiency problem and lower ball joint issues in the tire. Regardless, it performs a great job as an off-road vehicle and can be purchased for about $4000 to $10,000+.

5. 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser (1990-1997)

The 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser is an on-road and off-road classic car. Although it was first made in the 90s, it has since maintained its reputation as one of Toyota’s best off-road land cruisers. The 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser is a rugged front and four-wheel drive with tough and excellent off-road characteristics. It features wide fenders, large tires, and a luxuriously spacious interior design that provides its owners comfort for their off-road adventures.

This rugged vehicle combines technology with its mechanical prowess by providing features like a space in the instrument panel to install wireless communications equipment. All but one of the 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser models also comes with rigid coil springs in front and back, along with a full-time 4×4 powertrain. Essentially, the 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser is one of the most reliable and budget-friendly off-road vehicles. The cost of one of these averages between $8000 to $13,000.

6. The Mitsubishi Montero (1991-2006)

The Mitsubishi Montero is also popularly known as Pajero In the U.K. and Shogun in the Spanish-speaking markets. The Mitsubishi Montero is a great truck with a powerful drive train and an equally excellent engine. The original Montero was a boxy two-door SUV crossed with the off-road abilities of a Jeep Wrangler. At first, it featured a 105-horsepower 2.6-liter four-cylinder which was later swapped for the 215-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 in the last generation. The later generations of the Mitsubishi Montero are built with four doors and a weatherproof cabin.

The horsepower depends on the model generation you purchase, but all generations offer a powerful ride with superb handling and extraordinary off-road abilities.The latest Mitsubishi Montero model features a new electronic stability control system greatly improved safety. Keep in mind that the lesser the generation, the lesser the features and the higher the mileage. However, all generation models retain excellent and reliable off-road abilities. The Mitsubishi Montero is hard to find but costs between $5000 to $10,000.

7. The Toyota Sequoia 4WD (2001-2007)

The Toyota Sequoia 4WD is an often overlooked vehicle when it comes to considering trucks with remarkable off-road abilities. However, with a superb V-8 engine paired with excellent ULEV standards, curtain-shield side airbags, and impressive ground clearance, it is easy to see why the Toyota Sequoia is an excellent choice for off-road adventures. The Toyota Sequoia is a full-time four-wheel drive with an optional stability and control system.

This comes in the form of a manual button on the dashboard to lock the center differential to split power 50/50 to the front and rear driveshaft. You want to be careful with this truck because the compact V8 is sensitive to heavy loads and high altitudes, causing a noticeable reduction in its climbing horsepower. The Toyota Sequoia’s spacey interior features great HVAC ventilation and many compartment storage spaces. It even features 3rd-row seating that contributes to its massive interior. The Toyota Sequoia averages $4,500-10,000+.

8. The Ford Excursion 7.3L Diesel (2000-2003)

The Ford Excursion is a great family truck that doubles as a reliable off-road adventure vehicle. Like many other overland vehicles, the Ford Excursion provides enough head, shoulder, and legroom with maximum luggage capacity. The Ford Excursion comes in three engine types- V8, V10, and a turbocharged diesel- choosing between a two-wheel drive or a four-wheel drive.

With a gross vehicle weight of 9200lb, it is truly a massive rig built like a tank. The Ford Excursion can hold a ton of gear in storage and still makes room for a sleeping space. It is reliable and has great fuel economy but can be hard to find. The Ford Excursion 7.3L Diesel costs anything between $8000 and $15,000.

9. The Ford Ranger XLT (1998-2011)

The Ford Ranger XLT is a decent overland truck that offers value for money spent. It is a popular truck that saw massive sales throughout North and South America, making it easy to find both a good deal and spares for service repairs and changeouts. 

The Ford Ranger XLT is a solid truck with the standard model having two doors and three seats, although other models provided the four-door version with an extended cab and longer wheelbase. If you are looking to purchase a Ford Ranger, it is advised you buy the newer models starting from 2005. They are more reliable, fuel-efficient, and capable of handling off-road adventures. The Ford Ranger XLT can cost anywhere from $5000 to $8000.

10. The Toyota Tacoma (1995-2004)

The Toyota Tacoma might look like any other basic compact pick-up truck, but it is also an excellent overland vehicle for off-road adventuring. It packs a punch and delivers a bang for your buck.  Also considered the first-generation Tacoma, the Toyota Tacoma of 1995-2004 is well known for its value and reliability. It comes as a standard extended Xtracab and a shortened crew cab, called the “double cab.”

The Toyota Tacoma comes as a 2WD and a 4WD. Depending on the year it was made, you have various engine options to choose from, ranging from a 142-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder to a 150-hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder and a 190-hp 3.4-liter V6 engine. For the later versions, an addition of a TRD supercharger available for the V6 engine was added, increasing the horsepower by 50. 

The Toyota Tacoma took the automobile world by storm and boasted tremendous aftermarket support. It is reliable and flexible with solid off-road specs and impressive stability control. The Toyota Tacoma is not incredibly fuel-efficient, but it makes a great budget-friendly overland vehicle choice. It costs a considerable $5000 to $15,000 on average.

Choosing The Best Budget Overland Vehicle For Your Off-Road Trip.

Off-Road trips do not require Vehicles that will cause you to break your bank. You do not need to have modern high-tech rigs to enjoy your off-road trip and encounter nature. With a budget of a few thousand dollars, you can secure an affordable, equally efficient, and hardy overland vehicle to help you conquer the treacherous off-road terrains. 

Although there are lots of cheap overland vehicles you can buy, it is essential to be knowledgeable about the specification of a car before you make a purchase. Carry out a pre-purchase inspection of the vehicle to ensure you are happy with the features and that they suit your preferences and off-routes. Don't break your bank. Grab what you can afford and enjoy your off-road adventure!

April 18, 2022 — Russ Hennings