Why don’t we upgrade from the Dmax?

When travelling Australia, I find myself often lost in thought about a whole range of things, particularly when we are driving between spots (and the kids aren’t arguing!). One of the thoughts that has popped into my mind a number of times recently is what 4WD we’ll get next, when we eventually upgrade. 

However, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that upgrading isn’t the right move…for now.

For those of you who don’t know, we have a 2016 Isuzu Dmax, which at this moment has just ticked over 100,000km, and we’ve had it since brand new (ex demo). It was purchased on a Novated Lease, which ran out a few months back and we paid the balloon repayment out and kept it.

Our Isuzu Dmax at Comet Flat
We’ve got a 2016 Dmax that’s just ticked over 100,000km

Now, we could absolutely sell it and get something else, but we won’t for now, and here’s why:

Its reliable

I’ve said this a number of times before; reliability should be king when it comes to building a touring 4WD. There’s no point having amazing flex, huge power or a vehicle that looks unreal if it can’t take you around the country at the drop of a hat.

Now, I’ll fairly point out that we have had plenty of issues with our Dmax so far, and they are all documented here; Isuzu Dmax problems. That said, none of them have been show stoppers, and overall I can comfortably say its reliable, and I’ve got no concerns about it breaking down on the middle of a 4WD track somewhere.

Ironically, it needs to go in for 3 weeks to have the Dmax inner guard cracking remedied, but this is the first, major issue that we’ve had with it.

Would a newer 4WD be more reliable? Perhaps, but there’s often a period (especially after adding a heap of accessories) where you have to iron the bugs out, and we’ve done all that already with our Dmax.

Dmax and Hybrid Camper
We’ve had a reasonable run with the Dmax, and are very confident in its reliability

Its cheap

We own the Dmax, including all of its accessories, and its actually fairly cheap to own and run. Even towing our Reconn R2 Hybrid, we’re averaging between 13 and 15L/100km, which is fairly impressive. Servicing costs are fairly normal, parts are easy to get and its cheap to own overall.

One of the biggest reasons I don’t want to upgrade is that you pay a small fortune for anything better today, and literally a house deposit for anything that next level above. I’d say our Dmax would sell for somewhere between 40 and 50k right now, and you’d get very little for that money today (I know; I’ve looked!).

Dmax off road near Blackwood
50k doesn’t get you anything better these days

It does what we need it to

Perhaps the most over arching comment I can make is that the Dmax does what we need it to. It tows our Reconn R2 reasonably well, its legal, its easy to live out of, we love the storage and kitchen inside, its got more battery power than we can poke a stick at, and everything works as it should.

The idea of driving around in a 200 Series Land Cruiser, Y62 Patrol, 79 Series Land Cruiser, Ram or new Dmax has its appeal, but what would it do above and beyond what our Dmax already does? 

300 Series in the Flinders Ranges
We could absolutely get a 300 Series Land Cruiser, but what would we really get for our money?

Sure, we’d probably be more comfortable (unless it was a 79 series), have more power, a few extra safety features and so on and so forth, but without major modifications it wouldn’t be as functional for us, and I just can’t justify the additional expense.

We aren’t into keeping up with the Joneses, and couldn’t care less about what people think about us; we do what is right for us, and the Dmax does what we need it to for now. If we purchased a heavier camper, or a Caravan, we’d have no choice but to get something else, but our Reconn R2 is a great compromise for us so far too.

300 Series and Zone Caravan
If we upgraded to a bigger van we’d have to change tow vehicles

On another, random point, I can’t imagine touring with a Wagon and two young kids, and especially an expensive one. I love our canopy so much for throwing dirty gear into, not worrying about how its packed and for the kitchen setup, and you cannot get that with a wagon, no matter how you set it up. 

That comment isn’t meant to offend anyone; our previous 4WD was a wagon, and with young kids and touring, we find a Ute so much more user friendly.

80 Series Landcruiser drawers
Our previous 80 series wagon was so much harder to live out of than a gull wing canopy

The costs to deck out another 4WD are now astronomical

It’s always been expensive to deck out a 4WD. I’m not talking about a change of tyres and a 12V Compressor though, I’m talking about setting a 4WD up for touring out of. You can see our full Dmax build cost here, which was done in 2017, and the prices from then to now have gone up substantially, and so has the wait times.

Not only do you have to wait sometimes up to 18 months for a new 4WD, but there are huge delays in getting accessories fitted, and the logistics of making it all happen are just way to tiring for me to even think about.

I honestly don’t think you’d build a new, like for like replacement of our Dmax for less than 85 – 90k these days, which is a huge amount of money.

Nice Y62 Patrol
Building a new 4WD and getting accessories today is astronomically expensive, and takes a long time

I can’t find any other vehicle that would be worth the swap

I mentioned above that there are plenty of other vehicles that I like for various reasons. The Y62 Patrol, 200 Series Land Cruiser, Ineos Grenadier, Jeep Gladiator, Ram 2500, new Isuzu Dmax, small trucks and so forth all make the list for different reasons (and no doubt many would be scrubbed off after further investigation), but none of them seem to offer us anything too far above and beyond what we have.

Sure, some of them are nicer, and in some cases a lot nicer, and a totally different vehicle, but for the price difference, and effort required to swap over there is no way I can justify it, and Sarah couldn’t care less what we travel in.

Dodge Ram and Canopy
There’s some nice options out there, but nothing really stands out

We’re in a car bubble

It’s a funny economy today, and despite the fact that there are some indications we are on our way back down, 4WD prices are so much more expensive today than they were 3 years ago its almost hard to believe. I sold my 80 Series Land Cruiser 5 years ago for about 20k, and in todays market it would probably get advertised for nearly double that.

Upgrading in the middle of a car bubble is a great way to throw a massive chunk of cash out the window, especially if you are going to something substantially more expensive than what you own now. Sarah and I like to make smart financial decisions, and buying a car that is far more expensive than it likely will be in the next year or two is not a good move.

Big Hill 4WD Track
I bet the prices of 4WD’s plummet in the next few years

When will we upgrade?

I don’t like to plan too far into the future, and accept things as they come my way. I don’t expect we’ll be upgrading from our Isuzu Dmax until at least when we finish our Big Lap of Australia (so another year or 2, or maybe more!), and when we return to a home base, do we really need a new 4WD?

We’d upgrade if we changed campers to something heavier, or if the kids outgrew the rear seats, or if we had to due to an accident or major failure, but for now we’re happy with the Dmax, and will keep putting the kilometres on it around this amazing country.

Have you decided its not worth upgrading either?

Dmax and camper near Jamieson
For now, we’re sticking with our setup

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  1. Hey Denis,

    Cheers mate. I think time and experience soon teaches you what is worth doing, and what isn’t. Some people take longer than others to learn, and everyone’s needs shift in time too.

    I hadn’t heard about what’s going on in QLD with older vehicles – interesting to say the least!

    Thanks for your thoughts, and take care

  2. DENIS DIXON says:

    As always Aaron, just good readable “no BS” with lots of CDF. My wife and I sometimes consider whether upgrading is justified. Put simply – it ain’t! I actually consider some of your initial improvements (though justifiable) unnecessarily expensive by working through the rapacious 4WD industry. Your total outlay was fortunately mitigated by your work.
    It embarrasses me to remember some issues and costs which I incurred for no results with ‘professional’ operators; since remedied by myself through self-help and a knowledgeable, trusted friend. Upgrade would have been a serious mistake at the time as I now have a superior truck. New stuff with tradie inserts, add ons etc are hugely appealing; but harken to the plethora of major, expensive repairs for leading vehicle brands. You know – items at $6,000+, workshop labour exceeding $120/hr and parts wait time in weeks but owners are reluctant to discuss that issue.
    We should all be aware of government (Qld) attempts to get rid of older vehicles and post-accident write-off equipment through annual mandatory registration disqualification regardless of condition. Well maintained 20-30 year old diesels with 300,000+km perform as well as any new mid-range junk boasting heaps of ‘gee whiz’ goodies but which will throw in the towel or revert to limp home mode at whim. And they don’t need a workshop analyser to correct the problem. It’s time we let our politicians know that we won’t cop bureaucratic interference of this type.

  3. Hey Matt,

    Yep, you’re absolutely right. That sort of money buys a lot of travel, and as you say, the opportunity cost is insane.

    Maybe in a while the 4WD and van market will take a big nosedive, and there will be bargains everywhere! Time will tell.

    I’m still not convinced I really want anything bigger or heavier, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

    Take care

  4. I’m in exact same frame of mind. Our 4wd and hybrid might be worth a little over a $100k in todays market. To “upgrade” to a decent off road family van and attach a touring ready tow vehicle could easily approach the $300k mark. Poor value for me, to be able to access less places and spend more on fuel. People rarely take in to account the opportunity cost of spending. The real cost of the $200k upgrade in this case, is much, much more than $200k…Great blog and site as always.

  5. Hey Mark,

    Cheers mate. Yep, its a weird world we live in. I don’t see the point in upgrading unless there’s a reason to, and sounds like your Hilux is doing just fine.

    All the best

  6. Mark Grooby says:

    Great blog. Agree, car 4wd prices are silly. I’m sticking with my Hilux.