Off-Road Vehicle : Checklist Before Buying an SUV

Buying a car is a heavy investment. In today’s society, a vehicle shows a status of wealth and luxury. Since an off-road vehicle is an expensive and long-term investment, finding the perfect product that you won’t regret later is imperative.

parked white Ford Explorer SUV Vehicle Car

While car classifications like Sedans, Hatchbacks, Compact cars are very common due to their need and performance, SUVs are also getting increasingly popular. SUVs, or car-based SUVs, can do almost everything the previously mentioned cars can with the added benefit of off-roading capabilities.

This versatility, of course, comes with relatively higher prices. Cars like sedans and hatchbacks struggle in off-road conditions because of how they are built. However, SUVs are designed with the very intent of travelling off-road and on-road terrain alike.

That being said, SUVs are often more expensive due to their characteristics. You should take day-to-day comfort, off-road capability, and pricing into account before you buy an SUV, as every individual’s needs differ.

However, if you are an off-roading enthusiast, here is a checklist of characteristics you should look out for before buying an offroad car:

1. Vehicle Terminology

First off, you need to familiarize yourself with the terminologies used when dealing with cars and off-roading if you haven’t already.

When you visit an automobile shop, the salesman will explain the specifications of available products. You’ll be pretty lost in whatever the salesman says if you don’t understand what he’s even talking about. Make a further inquiry if you are looking for more details on certain car specifications.

Understanding every aspect of a car can help you determine the features you’re looking for and help the salesman find the best one to suit your needs. Terminology knowledge prevents you from buying something that underperforms your needs or is overkill.

As a bonus, you can also strike a better deal if the salesman sees that you know a lot about cars as they won’t be able to sway you away!

2. Off-Road Vehicle Ground Clearance

Ground clearance, also known as the ride height, is the distance between the lowermost end or the underbelly of a vehicle and the ground beneath. The higher ground clearance allows a better off-roading experience as it can prevent potential damage to the vehicle’s underbelly.

However, a vehicle’s centre of gravity rises when lifted. So, it is more likely to tumble when making turns that can cause roll-over accidents. Statistically, SUVs have more roll-over accidents than other cars like sedans or hatchbacks.

Check out our article on How to Drive in the Fog Safely

An 8-9 inch ground clearance is a pretty good balance between handling, necessity, and safety. Keep in mind that the manufacturer’s specified ground clearance is higher than what it would be in practice since it doesn’t consider a load of passengers and cargo.

Once you account for those factors, the ride height is lower than specified. Thus, it would help if you also thought of potential changes in your desired ground clearance.

3. Off-Road Vehicle Tires

Tires can vary in purpose, durability and speed rating. The most commonly used tire types in SUVs are highway and all-terrain tires.

Highway tires are all-season tires that have symmetrical tread patterns. They are designed with heavily loaded SUVs in mind and generally aim for paved roads.

On the other hand, all-terrain tires feature more aggressive tread patterns with larger tread blocks and voids. They are designed to excel in off-roading activities and unpaved pathways.

But, most all-terrain tires today don’t compromise too much on the on-road driving experience. While all-terrain tires excel in different types of terrain, they are hopeless in muddy terrain. On rare occasions, if you need to drive on muddy terrain, mud tires are a must.

4. Off-Road Wheel Drive Systems

There are five different types of wheel drives in off-road SUVs: Front wheel, Rear wheel, Four-wheel and All-wheel drive.

In FWD, power from the engine goes to the vehicle’s front wheels. Whereas in RWD, power goes to the rear wheels. 4WD and AWD send power to all four wheels.

The key difference is that 4WD offers more off-road capability and suits vehicles like SUVs and trucks. While SUVs with FWD and RWD systems exist, they are far from ideal, performing poorly in off-roading activities.

5. Car Modifications

As mentioned earlier, cars are a heavy investment for long-term use. Even with a carefully thought-out purchase, you may dislike aspects of your vehicle over time. Or you may not be able to find the perfect vehicle you’re looking for.

So, it is important to look into modifiable parts of your vehicles. These can be things like tires, suspension, bumpers, LED lights, wheels, winches, skid plates, underbody protection, etc.

6. Everything Else

Apart from these factors, you should look into insurance, warranty, discounts, offers, etc.

Dealerships don’t just want to sell you a car; they will also try to coerce you into buying insurance or other vehicle tools and provide lucrative offers to make you spend more. You may be able to find insurance of the same quality for less with other parties. Any possible offers that seem lucrative on the surface may end up being something you don’t need to opt for, and you might not need the tools they recommend at present.

Ultimately, it all comes down to how much off-roading capability and day-to-day comfort you want in your vehicle. If you’re into off-roading adventuring but do it rarely, you might want to compromise to maintain its performance in usual day-to-day activities. However, if you need to traverse difficult terrain regularly, you should make no compromises in off-roading capabilities.

All in all, things can get pretty subjective when buying an off-road vehicle as needs and preferences vary for every individual. But, not going through a checklist before buying is objectively wrong.