5 years with our Isuzu Dmax; what’s the total cost?

In September 2018, I arrived home from work to find a brand spanking new (ex demo) Isuzu Dmax parked in my driveway, delivered on a truck all the way from Victoria. It was shiny, completely standard and had just 32 kilometres on the clock.

5 years later, and its not so shiny, has seen a huge chunk of Australia and has had a significant amount of money spent on it in maintenance, fuel, modifications and repairs. 

Today, I want to share with you every single dollar that we’ve spent on it, and even I don’t know what the end result is going to be; I’m literally adding it up as I write this.

Dmax ownership costs
We’ve had our Dmax for 5 years, and its time to add up the money spent!

One of the benefits of going down the Novated lease path is that every single expense is logged, and I get regular updates emailed through. In our Dmax build cost post we covered the total cost of the vehicle and the modifications, and as a result have a pretty accurate record of every cent spent.

In this post, we look at the total cost of owning the Dmax from new, through till now. This includes everything from the loan costs, to fuel, servicing, registration, tyre replacements and so on and so forth.

After 5 years of being on the Novated Lease, we’ve finished it up and paid the residual, or balloon repayment and we now own the vehicle completely. Keen to know what it costs to own a 4WD for 5 years? Read on!

What did we use the Dmax for?

Before we get too far into the costs, I want to explain what we purchased the Dmax for. It replaced an 80 Series Land Cruiser, and a Toyota Yaris. We’ve used it as a family vehicle to putt around town with, and then as the 4WD to head out on 4WD, touring and camping trips. 

By far and away the most distance covered was on our trips, where we started off towing a soft floor camper trailer, and then eventually moved to a Reconn R2 Hybrid Camper. Towards the end of the lease it got less use around town as I had a Mitsubishi Triton for work, that we used for light private use.

I modified the Dmax fairly extensively, to be a capable and comfortable tourer, and its done really well so far. That said, if you want to read about the Isuzu Dmax Problems we’ve had, we cover that too.

We are now on a big lap of Australia, and are living out of the vehicle and camper full time for at least a year, and maybe more!

Initial cost

We spent a smidge over 40k to have our Dmax delivered, registered and ready to use here in WA. This all came out of the lease cost, with exception of the stamp duty, as it was shipped to WA and I had to license it as I organised it all myself, instead of getting the lease company to do it.

Our new Dmax
Our brand new Dmax, shipped over from Melbourne

Modification and accessory costs

The initial set of modifications done to the Dmax were 20k, give or take a bit. The total build cost (car and modifications) was just shy of 60k, and I’ve done a bit of work since in installing a DIY lithium battery, new DCDC charger, rear locker and some other bits and pieces.

Let’s call it a 23k total accessory and modification cost, on top of the 40k vehicle cost.

Our Isuzu Dmax
5 years later, and its quite different

KM done

At the time that our Novated Lease ran out, we’d done about 82,000km (and starting to go up much quicker now) over the 5 years. Realistically, it didn’t do a huge amount of driving around town, and was mainly used for 4WD and camping trips away. Going forward, we’ll be living out of it, around Australia and I expect the kilometres to go up much faster.

Regardless, that’s 16400km a year on average, which is pretty normal.

Actual Novated Lease Expenses

There’s no denying 4WD’s are expensive to own, and this is the rest of the costs, all factored into the lease.


$ 4356.63


$ 13474.51


(2 x claims) I had to pay Club 4×4 for two excesses, which was $850 each, and outside of the lease.

The second time our windscreen was replaced Shannons Insurance did it for free

The insurance premiums were $5855 for the 5 years (Club 4×4, and then Shannons)

I also paid $165 for TFM Novated insurance, and $209.96 for Roadside assist, which were compulsory through the lease.

Fuel filler damage
I backed into a tree in Katherine and pushed the canopy into the car.


I purchased a set of Toyo Open Country AT2 tyres early on in the life of our Dmax (as part of the modifications), and ran them for a while before getting a set of Bridgestone Dueler AT 697 tyres, which basically saw us out to the end of the lease. I did sneak a set of Toyo RT’s into the end of the lease for our lap of Australia though, so we have a new set of boots to head away. The original Toyo AT2’s are already included in the build cost.

Total cost in the lease for tyres was $1240.91 (the Toyo RT’s we recently purchased).

Tyres are part of your lease
Our Toyo AT2 tyres that we ran for some time


All of the maintenance has gone through our lease, with exception of one service done in Darwin which I paid for, and it was about $200.

The total excluding the $200 above was $6691.44

The loan

A novated lease works by taking out a loan on the vehicle, and in conjunction with all the other expenses you pay a fortnightly payment. At the end of the lease you own the vehicle, and the loan is all gone. 

Our loan costs over the 5 years were $34571


The novated lease companies don’t do it for a bit of fun. They do it to make money, and charge fee’s for their services. Our total fee cost was $ 1500

End Balloon repayment

At the end of our lease, we had a $11474 balloon repayment. This is part of the initial quote, and we were prepared for it. We’ve chosen to pay it out, and keep the Dmax, rather than hand it back in and get something else.

Total 5 year ownership cost


$68065 for the 5 year lease, plus $27900 in accessories and expenses outside of the lease.

Our grand total then, over 5 years including the initial purchase price, mods, and every single dollar to keep it on the road is $95965. I’d estimated about 100k, so not far off the money.

If we left it completely standard, it would have been about 73k total, just for interests sake.

Broken down per week

Per week, we are looking at $369, for everything

Per kilometre

I’m always keen to know how much it actually costs to drive the vehicle, and it works out at $1.17 per kilometre


Under normal circumstances, after 5 years your average 4WD would have lost a huge amount of money. However, with the way everything has gone in the last few years, 4WD prices are extremely expensive, and you get very, very little for your money.

I was looking at our insurance policies the other day to see whether we are correctly insured for todays market values, and when I started looking at equivalent vehicles on car sales and marketplace, I was quite shocked. 

I’m fairly confident I could sell the Dmax right now for around 50k, which would mean we’d walk away with a modified vehicle owned for 5 years, having done 82,000km for just 46k. If it were normal circumstances though, I’d expect to get around 30 – 35k at best.

The reality right now is there has probably not been any depreciation, and I’ve really only paid for the accessories and running costs, but that is very unusual.

Pre and post tax payments

The above payments are split between pre and post tax, which is one of the benefits of a novated lease. In essence, some of the cost to own and run the vehicle come out of your pre tax income, which reduces your taxable income and saves a chunk of money.

I’m not going into specifics, but I will say that roughly 35% of the lease cost came from my pre tax income, with the remaining (and all modifications) coming from my post tax income. If you know your tax percentage, you can work out the rough savings.

As a little example, if it cost you 15k a year to do a novated, lease, and 35% of the payments were in pre tax dollars, you’d pay $5250 towards the lease before tax, and $9750 after tax. If you are paying 30% tax, that $5250 effectively saves you $1600 a year in tax, bringing your out of pocket cost from 15k down to $13400.

We weren’t your normal lease

Originally, the lease was set up to do 20,000km a year, or 100,000km for the entire lease. However, they base it off the fuel economy that the vehicle is supposed to get (8.1L/100km, and $1.35 per litre). Whilst the Dmax might have gotten that when we purchased it, by the time we’d finished modifying it the vehicle never got below 10L/100km, and towing (which it did a large majority of the time) we’d be lucky to get anything under 13L/100km.

It didn’t take long then, for our fuel bill to soar and TFM to contact us to ask for extra money (all noted here). The same thing happened with insurance, when we decided to take out our own insurance that was more expensive, but covered us appropriately, and also for the servicing, when we had some extra work done (transmission services, fuel filter replacements etc).

It wasn’t really an issue, but each time I had to deal with TFM and sort it out, and that was frustrating.

Do we regret it?

Interesting question. We don’t regret getting the Dmax. We don’t regret 95% of the modifications we’ve done, and the money its cost. There are some modifications we’ve gotten wrong, which we’ll cover in a post that comes out shortly.

I do sort of regret not selling the 80 series earlier, before we blew a huge chunk of money in ‘unnecessary’ modifications and maintenance related issues. You can read more about this now; why we swapped from an 80 Series to a Dmax.

80 series fuel economy
Our old 80 Series Land Cruiser was a lot of fun, but it cost a fortune

The novated lease worked out fairly well, although I’m not sure I’d do another one with a 4WD. I think we saved a fair chunk of money doing it that way, but the inconvenience and mucking around, as well as the impact it has on your planning just makes it frustrating for us.

We could have bought a 200 series Land Cruiser, or a 79 series, or a Hilux, or something else, but I’m relatively happy with our Dmax overall, and don’t regret it.

Are we going to replace the Dmax?

At the moment, I have no intentions of selling the Dmax. It does most of what we need it to, we’d have to spend a massive amount of money to get anything better, and until it starts to cause us issues I’ll keep using it.

I hope in due course that the price of 4WD’s return to a normal level, and we’ll be able to upgrade as needed without selling our kidneys. We’re not interested in keeping up with the Joneses; if it does what we need it to, its good enough for us.

4WD’s aren’t cheap

I’ve never seen a post sharing a full 5 year ownership breakdown, and when I realised how easy it is to track with the Novated Lease, I thought let’s share the total ownership cost over 5 years of a fairly normal 4WD for many out there.

Obviously, you could spend a lot less on fuel and modifications if you kept it more standard, but hopefully this post has given you some idea of what to expect when you purchase a 4WD, and hang onto it for a while.

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  1. Hey Denis,

    Cheers for your perspective, and yep, there’s certainly merit in keeping an older 4WD that has proven itself to be reliable.

    A big part of us upgrading was due to the lack of reliability on our 80 Series Land Cruiser, but also that it wasn’t legal with its weights, and was costing a fortune.

    There’s lots of things to think about when getting a 4WD, and it sounds like you’ve come up with a pretty balanced and well thought out decision.

    I’m also horrified by the prices of new 4WD’s today.

    All the best

  2. Nice to finally read an honest and frank summary on this subject. It’s a great basis for assessing the costs of vehicle (especially 4WD) ownership. I formerly owned a novated lease Series 2 Disco and regretted my experience with this example of expensive, complex, modern units. Now the owner of a 1996 Discovery TDi 300, I recently investigated a Mahindra 4WD replacement plan (and no, I am not embarrassed to reveal this) because, on a value for outlay basis, that vehicle is way ahead of the competition. My Series 1 Disco is simple, rugged, competent and comfortable so it is used for daily driving, lengthy trips, towing a caravan, trailers etc and transporting kayaks. I can also do the maintenance. Long story short : even after rectifying various mechanical issues and some up-specing, the Disco ownership costs after a $5,500 initial outlay are still way ahead of the cheapest new alternatives ($42,000 w/- bullbar and towbar) which offer no advantages but introduce dreaded complexity. Used examples of the major brands are terrifyingly-expensive in the order of $70,000 plus.
    Thanks……but no thanks! It’s time to return 4WDs to their proper role and cost.