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What’s the best 4WD in Australia?

There’s a heap of great 4WD’s in Australia. Which one is the best? Everyone will have their own comments and ideas, and in this post we look at what makes the best 4WD in Australia, and why.

There is such thing as the best 4WD, but its not the same for everyone. It’s not going to be the same type and model for me as for you, and the next person reading this article. Please know best doesn’t mean perfect either; I’ve always said there’s no such thing as the perfect 4WD or camping setup; you’ll always find some downsides to it.

That said, it is possible to take the best 4WD and modify it as needed, to turn it into something that matches as close to your needs as possible.

Best 4x4 in Australia

What’s the best 4WD in Australia, and why?

The premise of this article is this; the best 4WD in Australia is the one that does as much of what you want and need as possible. If that’s just comfortably and safely dropping the kids to school each day, then its vastly different to someone who wants to run a 4WD tag along business and takes hundreds of clients in comfort across the Canning Stock Route each year.

Best 4WD in Australia

There’s a huge range of old and new 4WD’s available in Australia

What makes up the best 4WD in Australia?

As above, the best 4WD is the one that does what you need it to. Below are a number of things that you should consider when looking for a new 4WD. Some will be important to you, and others will not be. The more you think about it though, the less likely you are to purchase something that doesn’t actually do what you need it to.

So, onto the items that make up the best 4WD in Australia:

Safety

Cars are involved in accidents all the time. There’s been a huge improvement in safety every time a new 4WD comes out, and the chances of survival and decreased injury get better with each model. I know people who’ve bought a new 4WD purely because its safer than the previous one, and I also know a number of friends who’ve had serious accidents and (thankfully) walked away without any major human damage.

Our previous Land Cruiser was built like a brick, and it would have behaved like one in the event of a nasty accident. One of the reasons we moved to the Isuzu Dmax was for the improved safety, and I feel much more comfortable with my wife and two kids on board.

4WD Safety

Improved safety should be a huge priority

When you investigate safety, look at the ANCAP safety rating, the number of air bags, where they are located and what sort of safety systems are in place. Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control are pretty standard features these days, and we’ve moved onto items like lane departure detection, autonomous emergency braking, trailer sway control, driver attention warnings and so on, and so forth.

Some of these can be annoying and painful, but they can also increase the safety of your 4WD by several fold.

4WD roll over

When it all goes horribly wrong, are you as safe as possible?

Fuel economy and capacity

Fuel is one of the most expensive parts of owning a 4WD, and if it relates to dollars its something I think long and hard about. When you are talking about an average fuel consumption of anywhere between 8L/100km and 15L/100km in stock form, there is huge savings to be made. 

As of today, you’d be looking at about $16,800 for 150,000km of fuel at 8L/100km. At 15, its $31,500. If you do the average 20,000km per year, that’s more than 2 grand a year in fuel difference, and after 7 years you’ve spent anywhere from 25 to 75% of the purchase price of your vehicle in fuel!

However, I don’t just look at the 4WD fuel economy from the factory. What happens when you install the usual modifications, load a trailer on the back and then work it hard up and down the hills on the east coast?

Beyond the consumption though, you need to look at the capacity and consider your range. An economical 4WD with a tiny fuel tank is still likely to cause you issues when touring Australia.

Filling the Dmax with fuel

Fuel consumption and capacity is hugely important

Payload

So many people purchase 4WD’s for the extra room, and extra payload that they have. If you aren’t sure of what this is, it refers to the amount of weight you can add to the 4WD from its stock standard condition. It includes passengers, accessories, fuel and any gear that you carry.

In my mind, this is one of the most important factors when purchasing a 4WD, as its so easy to exceed. If you are over the maximum payload allowed, you can have your insurance void, an illegal vehicle and be put in all sorts of nasty situations.

4WD's payload

What’s your payload, and are you underweight?

Normal size 4WD’s range from around 600kg of payload, through to around 1200kg. The bigger 4WD’s and trucks can be anywhere from 1500kg to several tonne, so the difference is substantial. If you put 4 full size adults in a 4WD though, you can easily be left with only 200kg to play with, and that’s hardly a Bull Bar and Tow Bar, let alone any weight applied to the vehicle by the tow ball of a trailer.

The good news is that you can get GVM upgrades in many cases, and this will buy you some more payload.

Trucks have fantastic payload

If you want the ultimate payload, you need a 4WD Truck

Towing capacity

Several years ago the selling point of a 4WD was its power and torque figures. The more the better, and every manufacturer was pushing for higher and higher outputs. Then, it changed to towing capacity, and the marketing got a bit grey, and misleading. Most 4WD’s have a 3500kg towing capacity today, but the fact is that this is all smoke and mirrors, and you should not believe it in the slightest. 

The only way you’ll get 3500kg towing capacity is if you are under extreme circumstances (like only one person in the vehicle, with no other gear). The more realistic towing capacity for normal size 4WD’s is 2500kg – 2800kg, and even then its very easy to be overweight in a different area. To find out more about this, read our comprehensive guide at Towing Capacity.

If you need a decent payload, and a decent towing capacity then you will run into issues right off the bat, and you need to be looking at a larger size 4WD (Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram, Ford F250 or 350) or a 4WD truck like an Iveco Daily, Mitsubishi Canter, Isuzu NPS300 and so forth. 

Barred creek access

Does the towing capacity suit the trailer you want to tow?

Reliability

For us, reliability is high up on the list of things to look for in the best 4WD. There are some model 4WD’s that I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole because I know their reputation for reliability is suspect at best. I would never purchase a 4WD without extensive research into their common problems, especially relating to the driveline and motor, where mega money can be involved.

I also refuse to buy the first generation of any vehicle; there’s a reason that the later generation vehicles are so much better than the first versions. Boring, yes, but by the time a few generations have rolled through the manufacturer has usually identified and fixed any issues.

Unreliable 4WD

An unreliable vehicle is automatically going to the bottom of the list

Strength

There’s something about the strength of a 4WD that is hugely important. When you look at the old, indestructible Toyota Hilux’s, you get a pretty good idea of what it means to build a solid, strong vehicle. Even the thrashing that the red Hilux got on Top Gear wasn’t enough to stop it!

However, not everyone needs a vehicle that is super strong. The best 4WD is one that does what you need it to, and if that is just running the kids to school with the occasional beach run in between you need a very different vehicle to an off grid mobile welder who carries all of their gear on remote, corrugated roads between jobs.

The Isuzu Dmax has had a huge number of people reporting cracked inner guards, and its something I am acutely aware of, and monitoring very closely. A number of things contribute to the failure, but essentially you end up with cracks in the inner guards that cannot be repaired, so the panels need replacing with the motor out. Not simple, not cheap, and realistically not what any reasonable person would expect from their vehicle.

Corrugations to Millstream

Rough roads around Australia will test your vehicles strength

Warranty length and conditions

There’s a new race between manufacturers today, when you shop for a new 4WD; warranty! Some manufacturers are offering 8 year warranties, with the ability to extend it a further two years. Many warranties are capped at their kilometre range, but there are some who don’t cap it at all, and that’s pretty incredible.

Whilst warranty might not always cover everything you’d expect it to, it does provide a certain peace of mind, and pass the onus onto the dealer when something does go wrong. In many cases the result of a warranty claim will swing in your favour, but it doesn’t always happen. This is especially the case when the item is considered wear and tear, or you’ve fitted aftermarket accessories and the dealer blames them for the failure.

A leaking transfer case

How long is the warranty, and what does it cover?

More than the physical time and conditions though, is the manufacturers reputation for dealing with warranties. There are some vehicle manufacturers that are notoriously hard to deal with for warranty, and others are incredibly easy and straightforward. Take some time to look into the warranty side of your new 4WD and you might just save yourself a heap of time and effort.

Servicing costs

Behind fuel, the other major expense of owning a 4WD is the cost to maintain it. Tyres, major and minor services, and any replacement parts as required can add up hugely, and the older the 4WD the more you are going to have to do.

Capped price servicing on a new 4WD can be a good thing, providing the work is done to a good standard. Servicing costs usually go hand in hand with the warranty, especially when capped price servicing is involved. Knowing what you are going to have to fork out over the first few years of ownership is something a lot of people take comfort in.

Some vehicles run a lot of expensive oil, or have expensive components that need replacing more often than others. The Isuzu Dmax for example has a fairly comprehensive servicing regime on the wheel bearings, and it does end up costing you more than what other vehicle manufacturers charge as their servicing is far less frequent on these items.

Dmax engine bay

What does it cost to get your 4WD serviced?

Parts availability

One of the most common arguments I see online for purchasing a Toyota 4WD is parts availability. They are hugely common across Australia, and in most cases you can get any part within a very reasonable time frame. This is not always the case, but its a generalisation that a lot of people take comfort in.

If you own something more obscure, like a Jeep, or a Silverado, or a new Ineos Grenadier the parts availability is going to be vastly different (although the Ineos is going to be interesting). Of course, this goes hand in hand with the reliability of a vehicle; if its a good, solid 4WD then you shouldn’t need excessive parts availability until its done a significant number of kilometres. 

Either way, for a lot of people having a solid parts backing is a must have when purchasing a 4WD. Does it matter to you? Once again it comes down to how you are going to use the vehicle, and your own personal situation.

It does what you need it to

By far and away the most important thing to look for is a vehicle that is going to do what you, as the owner need it to. If you have 3 tall kids, you will regret buying a normal size dual cab ute as they will struggle every time you have to take them anywhere. 

If you transport dirty tools around for work every day a nice wagon with leather interior might be enjoyable to drive, but its not the right tool for the job.

The more time you spend listing down what you want from a 4WD, the more likely you are to get something that is going to do exactly that. 

Amazing views at George River

If the 4WD does what you need it to, its the best

What’s the best 4WD in Australia?

There are a lot of fantastic 4WD’s in Australia, and many that we would be more than happy to own. At the end of the day, the best 4WD is the one that does what you need it to, at a decent price. Everyone has different requirements, and that means what is best for individuals is rarely the same. 

What’s the best 4WD for you? Only you can answer that, but hopefully this post has pointed you in the right direction in terms of what to look for, and think about!

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