These vehicles will get you there and back.
You'll find various definitions of the word "overlanding," but the best way to describe it is to say that it combines off-roading and camping. The goal is less about overcoming obstacles and destinations and more about the journey, which often takes you to remote locations.
It sounds easy enough, but there are a few non-negotiables when purchasing an overland truck, car, or SUV. Off-road ability is essential, but you don't need something as extreme as a Bronco Raptor when a regular Bronco can do the job just as easily. The great thing about overlanding is that you're not stuck on a set route, so you can drive around stuff.
For an overlanding 4x4, or expedition vehicle, if you prefer, we'd go with a reliable permanent or part-time 4WD system, preferably with a lockable center differential and another locker on the rear axle.
Our must-have attributes are, in descending order, reliability, packing space, comfort, and fuel economy. Generally, you want to avoid tech-laden luxury SUVs, which are pretty tricky to fix in the middle of nowhere. Cheap and classic overland vehicles that you can fix with a coat hanger and strategically placed spit are where it's at.
Compiling a list of the best overland vehicles is tough because off-roaders, in general, are die-hard fans. This author believes the Jeep Wrangler should have been put out to pasture a decade ago, but some swear by them. Also, even I'm not dumb enough to deny that a two-door Rubicon is easily the best off-roader you can buy straight from the showroom floor. For this, there was no particular budget. An article on the best budget overland vehicles deserves its own feature.
Please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments below, but here's a list of five cars we think are best suited to overlanding.
Yes, I know I just slated the car a few moments ago, but the Jeep has a lot going for it. It's not particularly safe in the event of a crash, the suggestion wheel (known as a steering wheel in most cars) is highly annoying, and the solid axles at the front and rear should be put back on an ox wagon where they belong. Thankfully, there is little to hit on overland trips in America, especially in Nevada.
But, on the bright side, there are reliable Wranglers (and not-so-reliable Wranglers), and there isn't another car out there with as many accessories dedicated to it as this off-roader. Parts are readily available and cheap. You can also choose between two wheelbase lengths, depending on your needs. A two-door Wrangler is probably the best option in the small affordable overland vehicles category.
If you have a decent budget, we'd go for the 3.6-liter V6 introduced in 2012, and if you don't have a lot of money to spend, even better. That means an older Wrangler with a 4.0-liter straight-six, which is the best of the lot. Or, get a second-gen Jeep Cherokee.
Shop around carefully; you might even find a model with some overland goodies already bolted to it.
It's hard to browse the internet for an overland pickup truck and not stumble across the Ford F-150. Ford's famous truck remains the best-selling vehicle in the USA, so you won't struggle to find parts or accessories for it. In fact, you can now use FordPass points to pay for overlanding gear.
Trucks work particularly well as overland vehicles because you have the added benefit of a load bin. You can stash all of your gear in the bed, meaning none has to go in the cabin. A bed is also much larger than an SUV's trunk, so you can take more water, food, fuel, and clothes.
As for towing, you can't beat a truck. If you're looking for the ultimate overland rig, towing is a must. Several companies will build a camper on the stripped-down chassis of a truck, but in this case, the car can only be used for overlanding or camping purposes.
As with all the other cars on this list, a wide variety of engines and trim levels are available. The most reliable engines are the 3.5-liter EcoBoost and the 5.0-liter Coyote V8. Get a 4x4 with either of those engines, and you should be fine.
You can't list the best overlanding vehicles and not include the Tundra. It's possibly the best full-size overland truck available, even though the new Tundra, with its non-hybrid and mild-hybrid twin-turbo V6, still needs to prove itself.
You can go back more than a decade and still score a reliable Tundra if you want to narrow the list down to the best budget overland vehicles. The old-school 4.0-liter V6, 4.6-liter V8, and 5.7-liter V8 engines are bulletproof. We'd buy a later model with the much-improved six-speed automatic gearbox, but it doesn't matter. As long as you buy a 4x4, it'll do the overlanding thing easily.
The Tundra was never class-leading regarding towing and hauling, nor was it particularly brisk. This truck's appeal is its reputation for reliability. You can take it anywhere, knowing that it will get you back.
Since the Tundra is so popular, there are plenty of accessories that will make it even better on an extended off-road expedition.
Buying a new Lexus GX makes no sense whatsoever. So many other luxury SUVs do the daily thing much better. But given some time to age, the GX becomes one of the best adventure vehicles around.
The GX is a body-on-frame SUV powered by a 4.6-liter naturally aspirated V8 that feels like it was designed three decades ago. Because it was. As a luxury vehicle, it's deeply flawed. The ladder frame makes it feel as responsive as a narcoleptic sloth, but that same frame is more formidable than an elephant on crack. In Africa, the GX is known as the Toyota Prado. The Prado predates the GX, and its design thresholds are spectacular. Simply put, the Prado (and Land Cruiser) were built to withstand everything Africa could throw at them and laugh it off. A GX is simply a Prado with an added layer of comfort, which is precisely what you want in an overlander.
We wouldn't bother with a top-spec model with terrain response and multi-camera warning systems. These are all just things that can go wrong. Set aside $20k to $30k, and you can score a decent 2014 to 2016 model with all the luxuries you need.
Toyota's 4Runner is likely the best overland vehicle for a family of five. Objectively speaking, it's not a very good car. All of the mechanical components are nearly two decades old. It still has a five-speed gearbox, while a 10-speed is the norm on many modern cars and trucks. The 4.0-liter V6 is lazy, and the body-on-frame construction means the 4Runner is nowhere near as comfortable as a Hyundai Palisade.
But the 4Runner is tough as nails. It hasn't been recalled for any mechanical maladies in years. Toyota had to replace the fuel pumps across most of its range in 2020, but the work was done free of charge and should present no problems to a potential buyer. As with all the other cars on this list, many accessories are available for the 4Runner, and we've featured many builds on this website over the years.
Remember that 4Runners hold their value well, which is both good and bad. You won't lose much money in the long run, but buying one will be trickier than most cars on this list. Toyota made several trims and special editions over the years, but as a general rule, you want the TRD Pro.
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