Buying a 4×4 for the very first time can be a confusing affair. To help you out, the Editor gives some initial advice on how to get started, to make the best decision, and our contributors and industry experts confess on just what they chose for their first 4x4s…
Looking to buy a 4×4 for the first time? Well, as you might expect, our first reaction is, well done – and our second is, what took you so long? But to be serious, a fatuous comment like that is of little help to someone considering a 4×4 vehicle for the very first time and if that’s you, hopefully we can offer some pointers for you to consider and ensure you make the right first choice.
One of the most exciting things about the world of 4×4 ownership is that it is so broad; the variety of vehicles on offer to you is enormous. If you are buying new, then at one end of the market you can have a Fiat Panda 4×4 for around the £14,000 mark, or you might consider a top spec Range Rover which has a starting price of £71,310 or for the long wheelbase option a staggering £102,120 (and that’s before you look at the impressive option list and start personalising your machine). Now, would someone sit down and ask: ‘Shall I buy a Panda or a long wheelbase Range Rover?’ Of course not, but what is true, and what makes 4×4 ownership such an excitingly broad church, encompassing such an enormous breadth of vehicles, is that they are linked, they have a similar basic DNA; they are both 4x4s and they are different to other vehicles on the road.
As ever, that variety in itself presents the major problem for a potential new owner. You are spoilt for choice. Five hundred quid could buy you a Suzuki Jimny that would give you hours of fun, off-road at your local Pay ‘n’ Play site, but would not be the best for the monthly Tesco’s food shop and would certainly not be the vehicle you’d want to ever try a long-distance motorway journey in. Then there is the plethora of medium sized SUVs available, grab a Honda CR-V or a Nissan Qashqai and it will be ideal for the family, reliable, efficient, good when the weather turns and about as exciting as lift music. You could go off-road, but you won’t try, and you probably wouldn’t enjoy it very much if you did.
As with all specialist interests, the world of 4×4 has its own nomenclature, some of which are just manufactured marketing terms, many can be somewhat confusing, and many are used incorrectly by car salesmen. In fact, we’d advise you ignore most of what they say. Unless it’s obvious that they have had a lot of serious off-road experience it is probably safer to assume that many simply have little idea of how your proposed vehicle works; it’s best to do your own homework first. We have a Glossary table in this feature to help you out.
The first serious question, therefore, is not ‘what should I buy?’ but ‘what exactly do I want a 4×4 for?’ Get that answer right, and you can start narrowing down what you should consider buying. You also narrow down the sort vehicles that are available, which helps with the decision-making! So, do you know why you want a 4×4?
To read the full report see the May 2014 issue of 4×4 Magazine. Buy it here