I wrote a post not so long ago, sharing the costs that have gone along with the build up of our 80 series Land Cruiser. You can read about it here - How much have you spent on your 4WD?
To be blunt, the final figure was a bit of a shock to me, and not surprisingly, given you do a bit here, a bit there and over a period of years in building your dream vehicle, it adds up! With this in mind, I'd like to go over a few things that everyone can do to save a fortune on their 4WD's. Owning a 4WD is not cheap at all, but there is plenty that you can do to save a fortune in both the purchase and the build up.
Start with the end in mind
Spur of the moment might be fun at the time, but it has the potential to cost you a fortune down the track when it comes to buying a 4WD, or even modifying it. I've lost count of the number of people who have told me they bought a nice 4WD, decked it out, and then realised that it wasn't actually what they wanted. So what do you do in that situation? You've got no choice really; you either put up with the vehicle you've invested so much in, or you sell it for much less than you've spent, and start again. Neither choice is very appealing, and its a very easy trap to get caught in.
This applies to your modifications too; if you buy the vehicle you want to keep for many years, modify it it by thinking about the end in mind. Again, plenty of people start off with a 2 inch lift and go bigger just months later, or they change bull bars because the one they bought doesn't have winch capability. If you want a roof top tent, don't get a steel roof rack as they are too heavy. Before you spend a cent on your 4WD, think about where you want it to end up, and then buy the products that suit your needs.
Buy once, buy right
We are all suckers for price. I'm sure you can't tell me you haven't been sucked into buying something that is rubbish quality just because it was cheap. Maybe you thought it was ok quality at the time, but it soon rears its ugly face, when it breaks, or goes wrong. I still battle with this, but I've learned for the things that are important, don't cheap out and buy something that is average quality just because its price. You know as well as I do you will be back to upgrade it to the item you should have bought from the beginning.
Whether its spotlights, suspension, winches, drawer systems, or pretty well any other 4WD modification you can add to your vehicle, you have a range of options starting at the cheapest, nastiest rubbish and working its way up to the top of the line stuff. Get something that suits your application; there's no points spending a fortune on a vehicle that isn't worth anything, but at the same time, if you've spent 50k on a 4WD, is it really a good idea to throw a set of $180 tyres onto it?
This applies to vehicles too. If you go to see a car and are not quite happy with it, walk away. There are hundreds of cars for sale every day, and you want to get something that you are happy with, not a lemon that is going to cause you headaches for days on end.
Don’t buy what you don’t need
Technology is an amazing thing. However, we can all get a little carried away with new items that come onto the market. I wrote a post a while back - Do you really need all those 4WD accessories? You don't actually need very much to go 4WDing, and there is a lot of gear on the market that you can do away with. If you've got the money to throw away I'm not going to stop you, but wouldn't you rather spend the money on an Incredible 4WD trip away? The list of 4WD accessories on the market today is truly astronomical. Believe me, you don't need it all!.
Avoid new cars
This will probably stir a few people up a bit, but I will never buy a new vehicle. The amount you lose the second you drive it out of the dealership is truly astronomical, especially when you can get a demo model for several thousand less. Obviously, everyones circumstances vary, and you should get a vehicle that suits your requirements. Sometimes you can get a lot with new vehicles (discounts and low interest rates). However, make sure you get good value for money; its hard earned!
Research and compare
With the internet today, there is no reason why you can't get online and have a quick look at reviews and comparisons of what you are going to get. I often won't do this for cheap items, but anything over double digits usually gets a few seconds looking it up. Going off other peoples experiences can save you a fortune, and you will quickly find out what is worth buying, and what isn't.
You can't do too much research, especially when it comes to the bigger items, like modifications to your 4WD that are over a few hundred dollars, or even buying a new vehicle.
In many ways, this step takes a lot of patience. If you are buying a 4WD, take the time to learn the market. Don't buy the first 4WD that meets your requirements on carsales or gumtree, as you could very easily be getting ripped off. I've purchased more than a couple of second hand 4WD's now, and have things worked out pretty well. I will set alerts to get emails for vehicles that match my requirements, and look at them every day. When something pops up that looks good, I will investigate further. If you are patient, you will get the deal of a century.
My 80 series had over 7 grand spent within the last 70k on a fully rebuilt engine. It had a heap of mods done too, and I managed to pick it up for only $10500. Market value would have been at least 15 - 17k at the time. The more you research and compare, the better off you will be. You have the ability to find deals that are much better when you understand the market, or the modification you are doing.
You don't ask, you don't get! In many cases, simply having the confidence to ask 'is this the best price you can do?' will save you a heap of money. If you are buying more than one item, there is no reason why you shouldn't be looked after. Likewise, don't be afraid to bring reference to other stores, or different products. Prices are not set in stone, and I know I've saved a fortune on our 80 series by negotiating. You aren't being stingy, or rude. Your money is hard earned, and you've got every right to ask for a better price.
This becomes second nature in time, and you will learn when to ask for a better price, and when not to. If its unfamiliar territory, and I think there's a good chance that I can get better pricing, I will ask, every time. My yellow top optima battery died the other day, and I rang around for prices. The first company I rang quoted $465. I chuckled, knowing that you could get them online for $300 - $320. I kept ringing around, and found a company in Bibra lake who sold it to me for $318, and even went out of their way to see if they could do any better pricing. Support your local businesses, and those who support you!
Keep it in good condition
So you've got a sweet 4WD and plenty of modifications. Look after it! I don't mean never take it off the bitumen, but if you want to save money, treat it carefully. Don't bounce your way up hill climbs, or drive through salt water. If you can avoid a bonnet height mud hole, your wallet and 4WD will thank you down the track! Drive it carefully, and it will last you many years. The number one way to throw money out the window is to neglect your vehicle in the way you drive it.
Learn to work on your own 4WD
I wrote a post recently on the money you can save simply by doing some of the mechanical work on your 4WD. Basic installations and preventive maintenance are well within the realm of the average DIY mechanic, and you know the job has been done properly, whilst getting a better familiarity of your vehicle, should something go wrong with it out in the bush. You can read the post here - Save money by working on your own 4WD.
Find a good mechanic
I am pretty picky with who I allow to work on my 4WD. I've seen too many dodgy jobs done on other vehicles and various mechanical systems that have put me off. The best thing you can do for yourself is find a good mechanic. Not one who is just good on price, but someone who knows 4WD's, who lives and breathes cars, who really cares about whether your vehicle is going to make it home, and who takes care of you as a customer.
I do as much work as possible on my 80 series, and leave any of the major work to Quickshift Autos in Myaree. I have a number of mates who are pretty good on the tools too, but I don't like any old person working on my vehicle, and neither should you!
Have you considered a second car?
When I had my Hilux, it was my daily driver. It would do anywhere from 300 - 600km a week, and even on LPG, the constant stops at the fuel station and costs just got too much for me. Unless you've got a fancy new 4WD, they are not as comfortable to drive as a small vehicle designed for the road. When I picked up my Land Cruiser, I did the maths, and worked out it was much cheaper to buy a second vehicle, and drive that to work. I picked up a 1997 Corolla with 57,000km on the clock for a mere $4250. Today, its done about 105,000km and hasn't missed a beat. I've got no doubt it will continue to go like that to well over 300,000km, and every km done in the Corolla is over half the price of that in my Land Cruiser. Sure, you have double the rego and insurance, but I save a fortune on maintenance (4WD maintenance is almost always more), fuel and its a much more comfortable vehicle to be driving around town.
It's pretty simple; do the maths and see what the end result is. Even if it costs a few hundred more each year, I dare say its still worth it in the comfort and flexibility a second vehicle offers.
Don’t ignore warning signs
If something sounds a bit odd, or feels weird when you are driving, get it looked at. If you know you've driven through fresh water with no breathers, get your oil checked. When you ignore warning signs, it comes back to bite you several times over. I've learned that if you look after your vehicle, it will look after you. When you have something wrong with your body, you don't ignore it and keep going, until something breaks. You get it looked at, and fixed!
Fill up when its cheap
Most 4WD's consume considerably more fuel than your average vehicle, and as a result have much bigger fuel tanks. Whilst it might not make much of a difference with some vehicles, a 4WD that has a considerable fuel capacity can save a fortune by filling up at the right time. You've got the capacity, so time it right and fill up when the fuel is cheap. The fuel will regularly go up and down by 20 cents. If I fill our 80 Series up, that's about $25. Not a massive amount, but enough to provide a couple of decent meals when camping!
Reduce your fuel consumption
The best way to save money on fuel is to reduce your consumption! Air filters are the number one culprit for making your 4WD use more fuel. Then there is larger tyres, leaving heavy items in your vehicle, roof racks, and sitting at higher speeds. The difference in fuel usage between 100km/h and 110km/h is unreal, if you are happy to sacrifice a bit of time. Have a read of Improve your 4WD's fuel economy for more information.
Rotate your tyres
If you are like me, 4WD tyres are not something you want to be buying regularly. I look after mine, and rotate them in my garage every 5000km. It's not hard, or time consuming, if you have the right tools. For mud tyres especially, regular rotation ensures they wear evenly, and stay as quiet as possible. If you don't use your spare, or rotate your tyres regularly, you will chew through them much faster, and be up for a new set a lot quicker.
Shop around for 4WD insurance
I got my renewal notice for our 80 series some time ago, and was a bit surprised. Being an automatic renewal that is direct debited, the price had gone up quite a bit. I went online and put the exact details in, and it came out much cheaper. When you get your insurance renewal notice, don't just sigh and add it onto the list of bills to be paid. Ring around, and find out whether you are getting the best deal. Keep the insurance companies on their toes. I wrote a post you may find useful - 4WD Insurance.
You could decide never to do any maintenance on your 4WD. It will save you a lot of money short term, but it will cost you a lot more long term (that, and you will probably kill someone on the road!). Preventive maintenance is crucial to make your 4WD last, and perform correctly. Things like fluid and filter changes are simple, but extremely important. If you don't follow the manufacturers recommended service schedule, it will cost you big time.
If you are working your vehicle hard (regular water crossings, 4WD trips etc) you should be servicing your vehicle more regularly. Again, the service manual should list the extreme conditions and the service intervals, so read up and follow it, to save yourself a fortune in the long term.
Wash your vehicle
The number of people who are happy to drive around with filthy 4WD's baffles me. Mine usually gets washed after every trip, especially if it's been in mud or on the beach. A dirty 4WD not only attracts unwanted attention, but it hinders cooling and increases the chance of rust starting. Keep it in good nick, and it will love you for it.
The most important part of owning a 4WD is getting good value for money. We've all spent way more than we'd like to go into on our 4WD's, but at the end of the day, they serve a purpose, and there's nothing better than heading away for weeks at a time, leaving the glow of the city behind. Every time I drive my 80 series I smile; I love it. The places it has taken me to will never be forgotten, and despite the cost, its something I'd do over, and over again! It's trips like our 5 weeks in the Kimberley that you remember, and without a 4WD you miss out on so much!
How do you save money on your 4WD?
If you've got some inventive ways of Saving money on your 4WD, share them with us. We'd love to know!