I Have $35,000 To Spend On An Overlanding Rig That's Not A Jeep Wrangler! What Car Should I Buy?

Illustration for article titled I Have $35,000 To Spend On An Overlanding Rig Thats Not A Jeep Wrangler! What Car Should I Buy?
Photo: Andrew Collins (Jalopnik)
What Car Should You BuyThe experts at Jalopnik answer your car-buying questions.

Ty is from Kentucky and has some friends who are encouraging him to get into overlanding. His buddies have access to all the accessories, but he needs a platform that is preferably not a Jeep Wrangler. What car should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )

Here is the scenario:

I’m finally able to afford an overlanding vehicle. One of my very good friends operates a social media overlanding group and has a ton of demo gear to help outfit my rig. I’ve got a $35k budget and a blatant disregard for paved roads. Help me live my overlanding dreams? I like Wranglers but it seems that everyone goes for the Jeep and I would like to explore some other options. I like things that are rugged and powerful.

My budget is up to $35,000.

Quick Facts:

Budget: Up to $35,000

Daily Driver: Sort of

Location:

Wants: A creative platform for overlanding

Doesn’t want: A Wrangler

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Expert 1: Tom McParland - Prove Me Wrong

Illustration for article titled I Have $35,000 To Spend On An Overlanding Rig Thats Not A Jeep Wrangler! What Car Should I Buy?
Image: Autotrader

Yesterday, on Jalopnik’s Slack channel, I reiterated that all cars are made cooler with the addition of rally lights. Most of my co-workers agreed, but someone expressed doubt that the addition of extra lights would add to the aesthetic of a boxy BMW.

Illustration for article titled I Have $35,000 To Spend On An Overlanding Rig Thats Not A Jeep Wrangler! What Car Should I Buy?

Erica’s brother drives an excellent 1991 E34 generation M5. I still believe that a set of Hella bulbs and big-ass mudflaps would make that car cooler. I’m not going to suggest that you buy an older M5, but I would like to see this experiment play out on a boxy BMW.

Here is what looks to be a super clean E36 M3. This generation of M car isn’t as loved as the now stupidly expensive E30 or the ageless E46 that came after, but the overall style would be a great setup for light bars, raised suspension, knobby tires, and whatever else your buddies can come up with. Will it be as capable as a Wrangler? Probably not, but if your overlanding friends are looking for some clicks on their social pages, a well set-up M3 will stand out from the crowd.

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Expert 2: Raphael Orlove — It Already Has A Snorkel

A lifted BMW would be cool, but I have said it before and I will say it again: If you are looking for an off-road vehicle and you live in the United States, just buy a Jeep. Parts are readily available and the aftermarket is rich. You’ve already crossed a Wrangler off your list, so you should probably just get a very nice old SJ Wagoneer or Cherokee or, you know what, you don’t need me to tell you any of that.

But what I can remind you is that America is finally getting inundated with cool 1990s JDM offroaders now legal for import under the 25-year rule. If it were me I’d get a Mitusbishi Delica, but since you want something with power, I might look at another model.

The Toyota Land Cruiser.

Toyota has always sold these things in America, so there are parts around, aftermarket support, forum posts you don’t have to google translate, and even a half-decent chance you might spot another Land Cruiser owner while wheeling.

Duncan Imports opened up a second location in Nashville not that long ago, and there’s a couple Land Cruisers down there. One even has a snorkel! It’s a 1991 with not even 50,000 miles on it, and looks like a peach. They’re amazingly far under your budget (not what you usually say about old Toyota trucks) and will go to the moon and back.

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Expert 3: David Tracy — Buy A Range Rover

You want space, a V8, decent off-road capability, and loads of comfort? Look no further than an old Range Rover. The 2001 model above is for sale in Michigan for $5,000, meaning you’ll have $30,000 left over to keep it running. That probably gives you at least six months of driving time.

All joking about Land Rover reliability aside, this particular SUV looks like a great deal. It doesn’t appear to have much rust, the body panels look straight, the leather interior looks fantastic, and the mileage is low at 124,000. It’s actually not too far from me, either. Hmm...

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Expert 4: Andrew Collins — Use Your Budget! 

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Photo: Hermosa Motors (AutoTrader)

I see that, as usual, my colleagues are so used to being poor that a “$35,000 budget” as exceeded their processing power. An E36? A freakin’ P38?! I mean, I love my Montero, but you could go a lot fancier for the coin you’re working with here.

You should look at G-Wagens, specifically early-’00s G500s. These vehicles are extremely stout, powerful, and highly off-road capable when they’re wearing the correct tires. It’d also be fun to cruise around Kentucky in one, where it’d probably blow people’s minds because these cars are uncommon outside Los Angeles and The Hamptons.

I’d grab one that’s been cared for, fit a set of five great overland tires (Cooper Discoverer AT3s are always a good choice), and send it.

G-Class Mercs hold their value really well, but now that the new-for-’19 model is out, the two-facelifts-ago look G500 is in your striking range. There’s a decent crop for sale asking $29,995. There is a catch: You are going to have to buy it from Los Angeles or The Hamptons because it will be really hard to find one for sale in your area. (As I said, they’re just not common away from image-obsessed urban centers.)

The pandemic will make the logistics of purchasing a little tough, obviously. But if you’re an overlander logistics are part of your hobby. So embrace the challenge.

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Expert 5: Rory Carroll — You know you need a Lexus GX

Illustration for article titled I Have $35,000 To Spend On An Overlanding Rig Thats Not A Jeep Wrangler! What Car Should I Buy?
Image: AutoTrader

As the “Overlanding” thing grows to swallow everything from state park camping to years-long sojourns into the wild with only tens of thousands of dollars in gear/truck to get you to the good Instagramming spots, the new hot thing among non-Jeep havers is the Lexus GX.

Known in other markets as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 120, the GX is rugged, reliable and, hilariously, filled with wood trim and leather. It shares a lot of parts with other, more common Toyota off-roaders and packs V8 power. Plus, you can look up a prospective purchase’s maintenance history on the Lexus website. Off-roady parts are common and only getting more common as your favorite outfitters fire up fab shops to start churning out gear. Start with a good, well maintained truck and start burning through that budget. I’m building a GX47o as we speak! Get started here.

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Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)