Buying a Cheap 4WD

Everyone wants to get a good deal when they purchase a four wheel drive. However, a Cheap 4×4 refers to much more than just the cost that you pay for the vehicle. It also includes the costs of running the vehicle, maintaining it and the depreciation of the vehicle over time. On top of this 4×4 Accessories cost money, which is a big area that you can save a lot of money if you shop around and buy smart. I know that the costs of owning a car are considerably more than what I expected when I first purchased one!

Costs of owning a 4WD


In order to drive your vehicle on the road it has to be registered. This is usually around $450 – $550 a year, depending on the size of the vehicle. A normal 2wd car is considerably cheaper.

4WD Insurance

4WD Insurance is a very costly expense, especially if you are young. For an 18 – 20 year old male to own a $10,000 car you are looking at around $1000 – $1600 per year (for full cover), which is a lot of money when you think about the value of the car.

Of course, if you think it’s not worth paying that much money you could just go with 3rd party insurance and you would pay in between $300 – $600. I would say however, driving without 3rd party insurance is one of the biggest mistakes that you could make in your life. One accident into a nice Mercedes (or something more expensive) and you get yourself a loan for the rest of your life!

You can save a lot of money by getting quotes from multiple insurance companies. Look for reviews online from people that have had claims through the insurance companies, specifically for four wheel drives. Every single insurance company can get out of a claim if your vehicle is not 100% road legal. What this means is that for insurance to be a valuable cover you need to make sure that any modifications that exist on the vehicle are within the tolerances that the transport department have set up in your state.

4WD Fuel Use

Being larger vehicles a four wheel drive costs more to run. Vehicles that run on LPG are usually much cheaper than Petrol or Diesel, and Diesel is usually cheaper than petrol. However, Diesels usually require more regular maintenance and as a result become more costly overall. The average four wheel drive would use in between 12 – 16L per 100km.

At $1.30 for fuel, you would be looking at $16 – $21 per 100km. From that, you can work out that every kilometer you travel costs you in between 16c and 21c in fuel. Of course, this varies considerably depending on the size of your engine, weight of the vehicle, modifications the vehicle has and the fuel type it uses, but it is a rough guide!

If you aren’t sure how to work out your fuel costs, check this out; How to accurately work out your fuel economy.

4WD Repairs and Maintenance

For most four wheel drives that are a few years old, the maintenance costs are usually about the same, or more than what you spend on fuel. What this means is that every kilometre costs you in both fuel and maintenance. This is very important to remember, because owning a car is not just a few dollars a year!

In many cases you will have to spend big money to have repairs done – Alternator, Radiator, Air conditioning, Gearbox/Engine/Diff rebuild, CV joints and many of the other components that love to break just when you don’t want them to! Four Wheel Driving results in more things going wrong; you have to accept this and drive in a manner that conserves the life of your vehicle!

If you want your vehicle to last longer, this is a good guide – 23 things you should do when buying a second hand 4WD.

4WD Tyres

4WD Tyres are not cheap! To replace 5 of them you are generally looking at around $1200 – $1700 depending on the type and tread pattern that you purchase. If you look after these properly you should get at least 60,000km out of a set, but that varies considerably depending on what you are doing! Some mud terrain tyres are known to get over 100,000km without an issue, whilst they will wear out much faster if you never drive on bitumen!

4WD Modifications

Probably the most expensive part of owning a four wheel drive is the modifications that you do to it. Of course, some people never modify their vehicles at all, but having just a few simple modifications makes a big difference to the way the vehicle performs off road. You never recoup the money you spend on 4×4 Accessories either, meaning buying a 4WD with a number of modifications already done will save you quite a bit of money (assuming that the vehicle has been treated well).

Lift Kits, ARB Bumpers, Rear Bars, Diff Lockers and a number of other modifications all cost over a thousand dollars each, and many four wheel drives have all of these. In order to save money a lot of people will make their own bull bars, rock sliders and rear bars. Mechanical work can be done by yourself (if you are competent) and as a result you save a lot of money.

Things like wiring up spotlights, fitting a UHF Radio, fitting a Diff Locker, fitting new suspension, adding lights to your vehicle, putting a cargo barrier in and fitting roof racks and a Long Range Fuel Tank can be done with relative ease, but it will cost you an arm and a leg to pay someone else to fit it!


Over time, the value of a vehicle goes down. The less the vehicle is worth the less quickly that it will depreciate. When you buy a brand new car from a dealer it loses several thousand dollars the moment you drive it out the door. Whilst depreciation can provide some benefits in terms of your tax return, minimizing the amount your vehicle depreciates is something worth thinking about. Modifications depreciate very quickly.

For example, if you put a $2000 bull bar on your vehicle you can’t expect the value of the vehicle to go up $2000. It’s a good idea to insure your vehicle including the full price of your modifications, but you lose a lot of money on modifications on anything; whether that is a boat, car or motorbike.

What does a 4WD really cost?

If you want to know how much owning a 4WD will really set you back, check this out; How much does a 4WD really cost you?

Why buy a Cheap 4WD?

For most people, money is something that doesn’t come too easily. As a result, the simple reason for purchasing a Cheap 4×4 is to conserve your money. There is no point having the nicest four wheel drive out there if you can’t afford to take it camping and four wheel driving. I prefer to think of a good four wheel drive as something that is good value as a pose to being cheap! By saving money on the four wheel drive that you want you can spend it on modifications or fuel to go camping!

What do you want to do with your 4WD?

A while ago I wrote a long post on ‘What 4wd’ you should look at getting. In a nutshell, the four wheel drive that you purchase should fulfill as many of the ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ that you have. If you make a list of what you want and what you don’t want, and then choose the best four wheel drives that come from that then you will be much better off than just buying one that ‘should do’.

Problems with a Cheap 4WD

I mentioned before that you want to get a four wheel drive that is good value, not cheap. Sure, if you specifically want to buy a cheap four wheel drive as a paddock basher or a weekend vehicle then so be it, but you should still make sure its good value.

There is no point buying a vehicle that has been flogged for its whole life and then expecting it to last. The biggest problem with purchasing a Cheap 4×4 is that things go wrong with it one after another. Over time it ends up costing you more than what you would have spent on a good quality vehicle anyway!

What are some Cheap 4WD’s?

If you have ever owned a modern four wheel drive with all of the electronics and had to repair it then you would know how expensive they can be. Take a simple ECU in many of the modern four wheel drives – most cost in between $500 and $3000 to replace. As a minimum, if something does go wrong you need some serious knowledge and equipment to identify the fault and fix it up. Whilst modern cars tend to be more reliable because they have done less work, they cost a lot more to repair.

The more simple cars are known as being cheap, because they are basic and easy to work on. Take the Suzuki Sierra, Pre 1997 Toyota Hilux, GQ Patrols, 60 series Land Cruiser and several other older four wheel drives. They are simple to work on, reliable and at the end of the day very cheap to maintain. It also means that if you do some panel damage you aren’t going to be so worried!

Getting good value for money

Getting good value for money when you purchase a four wheel drive comes down to solid research, and a commitment to purchase something that is worth paying for. A lot of car yards will rip you off, and they continue to do so because people get sucked into the sales spiel. Take a step back, have a good think about what you want, research the prices of other similar cars and then make a decision.

Taking the time to purchase a four wheel drive that is going to be cheap to run, reliable and provide a lot of fun is well worth it. It is so easy to buy the first four wheel drive that you see, but you regret it as time goes on. There are plenty of good value four wheel drives on the market, but you have to be patient and persistent.

Please add comments on how you saved money when purchasing a four wheel drive, any lemon vehicles that you have bought or anything else you would like to share!

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  1. Hey mate,

    Yeah, its gone up a bit since then, but still very cheap. About $700 from memory for a small vehicle, and our Dmax is about $950.

    One of the benefits of living in WA!

    All the best mate

  2. Not sure where your from. Rego for $450-$550/ year would be great. In QLD it’s $745 for a 4 cylinder and $940 for a 5 and 6 cylinder per year.(don’t ask about an 8cyl)