There is a large variety of 4x4s on the market, each with its own features, positives and negatives. When buying one it is important not to bite off more than you can (or want) to chew.
The most popular 4×4 vehicle for us ordinary folk is the one that can be used to go to church, work and moonlight as a general family car. Then we also want to use it occasionally for holidays, and to do the odd 4×4 trail.
That is why vehicles such as the Prado, Fortuner, Discovery and Pajero, and others in this class, are good sellers.
On the other hand, double cab bakkies are more versatile, but also cover the demands of the previous class. They outsell any station wagon, since they can be loaded for long trips more easily.
There are smaller vehicles and bigger ones, but they all have their limits. If, however, you need a vehicle for extreme off road use and competitions, it would be unfair to expect the right qualities in a car you can buy straight off the floor. Price, of course, also comes into play.
It is for these reasons that I always advise people to do their homework properly before they spend their hard-earned money.
Sit down and make a list of the things you plan to do in your 4×4. Do you want to use it as an everyday transport vehicle or for recreation only? Then you need to determine what category of vehicle you require.
The next step is to find out which vehicles in your category have service centres nearby. This is important, since you will have to take it for a service at least every 10 000km, or when you have a problem or need advice.
Now it is time to go around and look at the vehicles and see which one best suits your personal preferences.
By now there will be just a few vehicles on your short list and it will be time to talk to some owners, to find out about their experiences and if they have had any problems. But remember that to most people the vehicle they own is always better than the rest! So take what they have to say with a pinch of salt.
Next, you will need to go around to dealers and test drive the vehicles you fancy. Your mind will be made up, and you will be ready to buy.
Only now should your budget come into the picture. If your budget does not allow for the required vehicle, do not scale down to one that suits your pocket, or one that offers the best trade-in for your old vehicle. That would be a disaster. Rather buy a second-hand vehicle that can do what you need it to do and go where you want it to go. Don’t buy a cheaper one just because it is all you can afford.
Also, buying a less capable vehicle and then spending money to upgrade the suspension or fit a diff lock is not advisable. You will just end up with an over-capitalised vehicle that will never be completely satisfactory.
I meet too many people who have spent their money on a substandard vehicle because it was all they could afford brand new. Then, after a while, they sell it at a loss and buy the correct type of 4×4 that they should have bought second hand in the first place.
Also, be wary of good salesmen. They often swing buyers to the vehicles they get more commission on, or those that they have in stock. Enquire at various dealers before you finally make up your mind.