Why do you own a 4WD?
Australia has some of the most incredible attractions in the world. Sadly though, only a small percentage of people get to truly experience what it has to offer. Owning a 4WD gives you the option of exploring and enjoying parts of Australia that are not accessible to normal vehicles. For me, and many others, this is the primary reason for owning a 4WD.
Check out our trip reports from 5 weeks in the Kimberley with just Sarah and I, and later on with a little boy 3 months with a camper trailer, 4WD and Toddler.
Despite rising costs, more and more people are seeing the benefits of owning a 4WD. There are a myriad of reasons for owning a 4WD, which I want to explore below. If you have been considering becoming a 4WD owner, maybe this will tip you over the edge!
I’d never complain about the local beaches here in Perth. They are spectacular, and much better than the average beach anywhere in the world. The same can be said for most of the beaches local to cities in Australia. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say they don’t compare to some of the beaches down south, or up north, which require a 4WD to access them. There’s nothing better than spending the whole day on a world class beach without seeing another person!
Beaches are just the start too; Australia has no shortage of award winning locations (and those that are lesser known!) that can only be accessed via 4WD. Take the Kimberley, Cape York, Fraser Island, the Simpson Desert, Canning Stock Route, Victorian High Country, Gunbarrel Highway and the list could go on and on. All of these places require a 4WD to truly explore what they have to offer.
As the popularity increases, these places are slowly being made more accessible, but not owning a 4WD limits what you can see dramatically. There isn’t much that compares to a 4WD for exploring these places either; you simply don’t have the flexibility via plane, motorbike or helicopter that a 4WD offers
Escape the crowds
Whilst it’s nice to have some company, there’s nothing worse than having to push your way through crowds of people just to go for a swim!
Generally the more inaccessible an attraction is, the less people will visit it. This works in your favour if you own a 4WD, because you don’t have to deal with hordes of people, all trying to follow the same itinerary as you. Anywhere that is 4WD accessible only is going to greatly reduce the number of people that visit it. Sure, there are ways for the average Joe to access these places, like hiring a 4WD or jumping on a tour, but you have a much better chance of finding your own little slice of paradise with a 4WD than you do with a 2WD.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Caravan Parks, but I’d much prefer the peace and quiet that the bush has to offer. We have set our 4WD up so we can travel comfortably and stay wherever we want, without the need to pull into areas packed with tourists! I prefer it when the closest neighbour is at least 50 metres away, if not much further!
A fairly obvious reason for owning a 4WD is the towing capacity that they offer. If you have a big caravan, boat or trailer, you may not have a choice of using a 2WD vehicle to tow it. Most modern 4WD’s have towing capacities of around 3000 – 4000 kg, and many can be upgraded to suit even heavier trailers. If you are unsure about weights, have a read of this – Towing capacity; a simple guide to keep you legal.
With the way technology is going, our trailers are not getting any lighter, and knowing that when you jump on the brakes your vehicle is going to safely and efficiently stop brings a peace of mind everyone should have!
Explore a whole new world
Owning a 4WD opens up a whole new world of activities. You will find a lot of people who own 4WD’s also enjoy some of the following:
With a 4WD, not only can you visit some of the more inaccessible and beautiful places Australia has to offer, but in many instances you can stay there. Why would you want to stay at a 5 star resort 50 metres from the beach, when you can camp right on the beach, and wake up to waves rolling in one after another? Here’s 7 Fantastic Camp Sites Near Perth.
A 4WD allows you access these incredible places, as well as the room and capacity to do it in comfort. You can all the things that make your trip comfortable and enjoyable; a fridge, quality sleeping arrangements, shower, toilet, boat, caravan, camper trailer, generator or solar, fishing gear etc!
For us, there’s nothing better than spending a few days in a remote location that is 4WD accessible. We are comfortable, and can relax, enjoy and explore this amazing country we call home without hundreds of tourists surrounding us.
My theory is the less fished an area is, the better it is going to be. Every time I’ve tried fishing at the local spots in Perth we’ve done pretty poorly. Go several hours out of the city, down a little goats track and wet your line though, and it’s a different story! Those that are serious about their fishing own a 4WD solely to get to the best fishing spots.
If you have a boat that is built well, you are able to take it with you, down the bumpy goat tracks, and launch it off the beach. I tell you, there is nothing more exciting than launching your boat off the beach in an area that rarely gets fished, with a boat full of rods and an esky full of bait!
I’ve had a love for photography for many years now, and always find that owning a 4WD allows me to see the best places in Australia. Whilst I might not be a pro photographer, it’s always a pleasure trying to take photos of the most stunning places Australia has to offer.
We know hikers are pretty fit, but most don’t start from their home and get walking; they use a vehicle to go to their chosen location, and leave from there. A 4WD means you can hike the most pristine and beautiful places that rarely get seen!
I started spearfishing about 8 years ago now, and love nothing more than spending a few hours swimming around a gorgeous reef. If you think we have beautiful places on land, you need to go underwater; the marine life is mind boggling and truly worth a look. Spearfishing is a sustainable way of getting a feed and the best places are accessed via a boat or a 4WD.
These days, we often 4WD to our destination, and hop in the kayak to head out a few hundred meters. I don’t even bother spearfishing around Perth anymore; it’s too accessible for everyone, and we never do well enough to justify the effort!
Every long weekend we see plenty of 4WD’s heading down south and up north, with a number of boards strapped to their roof racks. Surfers take their surf breaks very seriously, and having a 4WD means they can choose the best breaks around. Good luck getting to many of the surfing destinations in the south west in a 2WD!
Many people purchase a 4WD purely to use it off road. I love nothing more than to spend the day driving up muddy, rutted tracks with a few good mates, or exploring some of the incredible beaches and coastline we have in Australia. 4WDing is a lot of fun, and it opens up a world of possibilities.
Share an adventure with your mates
Just like any other sport, thousands of Australians head out on a regular basis with their mates to enjoy a day, or a holiday in their 4WD’s. When the long weekends hit, take a look at your local freeway on Friday afternoon; it’s bound to be packed with 4WD’s loaded up with every piece of gear imaginable, all heading away to have a great weekend with their mates.
We head away as often as we can with the camping, fishing, photography and dive gear. Sometimes we will head out just for a few hours in the afternoon, and other times we will go for the day, or weekend. We’ve been away for weeks on end too, which is the best way to truly unwind and enjoy!
Need more room?
For some reason, no matter what size vehicle you own, there is never enough space. However, the difference in space between the average 2WD vehicle and any 4WD vehicle on the market today is enough to convince people to purchase a 4WD. Whether it’s for commercial benefit, or you just need more room for your day to day activities, a 4WD has bucket loads more space and makes it much easier to pack everything you need.
Save money on an epic holiday
Last year, we headed up north for 3 weeks of camping, fishing, diving, 4WDing and exploring. You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here. We did nearly 5000km in two vehicles, with 4 people and had an incredible time. I lost count of how many people asked me if it was an expensive trip, expecting that because we drove so far it was going to break the bank account. Do you know what it cost? A mere $63 per person, per day. This included food, fuel and accommodation.
We did the same thing down south this year, and again spent very little. If you wanted to do those trips staying at fancy resorts and doing the local tours, it would be significantly more expensive. After all, you don’t get much in the way of accommodation for under $63 per person per night, let alone the cost of flights, tours, food and the rest of the expenses that sneak up on you. If you are the sort of person who loves travelling in comfort, but can do without the 5 star experience you are able to save a huge amount of money travelling with your 4WD.
Improve your safety
4WD’s improve the safety of you and your passengers in a number of instances. A 4WD with a decent bull bar offers significantly greater protection to animal strikes, which are very common in Australia. If you hit a kangaroo at high speeds in a little 2WD vehicle, you are at serious risk, and you can guarantee the vehicle won’t drive home under its own steam. In a 4WD though, expect a bit of damage but a vehicle that still drives.
On gravel roads, 4WD’s handle considerably better than a 2WD vehicle, and the chances of things going wrong are greatly reduced. I’m not saying you are invincible in a 4WD, but in certain instances you are safer driving a 4WD than a 2WD vehicle.
What’s the catch?
Life is full of compromises. You will never be able to buy a vehicle that is comfortable, reliable, cheap on fuel, has plenty of room, is fast and handles well. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying – ‘Fast, reliable, cheap. Pick two, because you can’t have them all.
A 4WD is not the perfect vehicle. There are compromises, and they are not for everyone. Some of these include:
Initial purchase price
You will pay more for the average 4WD than you would for a 2WD. There are plenty of variables though, and it’s all about picking the right vehicle for your application.
This is pretty simple physics. 4WD’s run bigger engines, and are nowhere near as aerodynamic as a normal 2WD vehicle. That’s not to say they are terrible on fuel; modern turbo diesel 4WD vehicles are getting under 10L/100km, and not much worse than that towing a 3500kg trailer! Here’s how you work out your fuel consumption in a 4WD.
Ease of driving
As technology improves, 4WD’s are becoming more and more like normal 2WD vehicles to drive. They are smooth, handle well and have a range of technologies to assist with driving. However, they are not as easy to drive around the city as a normal 2WD vehicle. The older the vehicle, the more agricultural they are too. It’s a compromise one learns to live with!
Higher insurance and rego costs
Inevitably, owning a Four Wheel Drive means you pay more for your registration and 4WD insurance. This varies considerably from state to state, but it is something you want to consider.
A 4WD that is used for its intended purpose will require more maintenance than a 2WD vehicle used on the road. They are designed to tackle difficult terrains, and if well maintained will last a long time, but they are going to require more attention.
Is a 4WD worth it?
Nothing compares to the places a 4WD can take you. We are talking about once in a lifetime trips. Even though there are some factors you need to consider before buying a 4WD, the benefits far exceed the drawbacks. Life is full of compromises and you need to make your own decisions, but for many Australian’s, we wouldn’t be without our 4WD’s!
What do you reckon? Why do you own a 4WD? Let me know below!
True about the bigger vehicle, but I’m not sure most 4WD’s haven’t been used off road
Some people just have a 4wd because they have a big family or just want a bigger car, most have never been off road once.
Cheers Alex. I’m very glad I grew up in a family where a 4WD and camping were a big part of life; nothing beats packing the 4WD up and heading away for a few days!
You make some good points there Aaron! I particularly agree with the fishing part, the harder it is to get to the more fish there are!