15k overland first rig

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croakthedj

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First off this group forum family internet rabbit hole of knowledge is fantastic. I'm learning. For that thank you. Now I just have to remember it all.

Back to macro.

I am in a position to spend 15k on a new daily driver/ overland vehicle. I have had dodge ford chevy and have even gone off road in a scion xb and a Honda civic. But now I want to do it safe and smart. This is why I'm here.

I am looking for something that will be reliable. Comfy-ish decent room and won't fold if a fat man sits in it. I do live in the PNW so a topless CJ might not work what are your suggestions?
 

Smileyshaun

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You most likely to get responses of people telling you to buy what they own because it’s the best in the world , but they are not you . Make a list of vehicles your interested and simply go out and test drive them . Then you will have a shorter list of vehicles to choose from and gather peoples opinion on . What’s comfortable for someone who is 5’7 might be miserable for someone over 6’2 and vise versa .
 

croakthedj

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I have test-driven. 11 different models. Widdled down to 3 that I like based on what I've read. How they drive and price. BUT I am looking for that opinion beach person has their rig for a reason. They have that opinion because of how it works for them. I'd like to know. They may be biased. Short sighted. A paid rep or just someone who only buys brand A But there is a reason and if like to hear them out.
 

tjZ06

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...You most likely to get responses of people telling you to buy what they own because it’s the best in the world , but they are not you...
100% correct.

I'm here to tell you all about why the WJ is the best vehicle evAr and is the obvious choice for a DD/Overlander... but that's mostly because I'm rather biased AND I think my idea of Overlanding involves a bit more "hardcore" trail than most people. So, take what I say with a giant grain of salt. Of course, that said, a few questions about your needs and priorities:
  • Does MPG matter much (do you have a long commute)?
  • Do you need to tow heavy or anything like that?
  • You said you're a larger gentleman... are we talking like 6'8" or taller and bigger?
  • Is $15k your total, said-and-done ready to Overland budget, or just for the vehicle then some $ on top for gear?
  • What type of camping and trails do you like? Are you more into basic dirt fire-roads, or a bit more adventurous and like a "challenging" trail?
  • You mentioned reliability is key, but are you somewhat handy with a wrench and willing/able to work on some basic stuff?
So, anyway, pending answers to ^that stuff, here's why I like Jeep WJs (aka '99-04 Jeep Grand Cherokees):
  • Affordable, they range from $2500 to say $7k tops around here. If you can find a really, really, really clean one that's super-low miles you might pay $8k or so (but it's worth it if you can go that route)
  • One of the only solid-axle, coil-sprung, multi-link front and rear SUVs out there. The only others would be the 1st Generation Grand Chrokees, aka ZJs and older Land Rover products (Discovery 1/2, P38a Range Rover, etc.)... if reliable is your thing don't go LR (not "hating" on them, I actually dig them and they CAN be made to be great rigs, but I still wouldn't recommend them to most people.
  • Available with a V8
  • Very nice (for their era/age) interior with some high-end (again, for the time) features like dual zone climate control, auto-wipers, etc.
  • Really great size... even though it's a "Grand" they are actually much smaller than most modern SUVs... without being tiny. The 105.9" wheelbase is a great compromise offroad - longer than 2 door Wranglers but shorter than 4 door Wranglers. Real room for 4 adults (5 is a def tight, and rear-seat leg room isn't the "best") and still room for gear in the back. Tons of room once you fold the rear seats down. More compact and narrow than even the later Grands for tighter trails.
  • MOST parts are readily available and cheap
  • MOSTLY easy to work on for the average shade-tree mechanic
  • Quadra Drive is a really effective and seamless 4WD system if you stay under ~32" tires
Of course, there are downsides:
  • MPG is pretty bad, especially on any of the full-time 4WD models
  • Getting harder and harder to find a clean one, especially the desirable 4.7 HO (only standard in '02-04 Overland models and optional, but not common, in '02-04 Limited)
  • SOME parts are getting harder to find and new/reman options are available
  • Unless you find a super clean, low mileage ones the leather on the driver's seat tends to break down
  • Feels a bit more compact than modern stuff, I'm 6' and probably about 270 right now (yeah, I need to work on that...) and I'd say it's kind of "perfect" for me, but if you're over 6' leg room might start to get a bit cramped (I drive it w/ the seat all the way back)
  • It's a ~20 year old Jeep - they're will be some problems here and there, and there are known things that WILL fail (upside: all the big known failures are relatively cheap/easy fixes)
I paid I think it was $7,500 or maybe it was $8 for my grey one. That is on the high-high-high-end for a WJ, but it was super-duper clean and low-ish miles (92k when we got it) and is a '03 Overland which IMHO is the absolute best year/trim ('02-04 Overlands have the 4.7 HO like I mentioned, '03+ have the better brake calipers, but '04 have the different front bumper and grill I'm not as much a fan of... even though we also own a '04 Overland, lol). Including the lift (4" lift with long-arms in the front), rock sliders, over-the-knuckle steering, upgraded rear sway bar, good shocks, JKS quicker disconnects, etc. etc. I'm still WAY under $15k. My next move will be good bumpers with a winch up front and a tire-carrier in the back for a matching wheel/tire and I'll probably be around $15k at that point. It still drives super nice, is very reliable, and is more capable off road than "most" Overland type rigs (excluding stuff like Wrangler Rubicons).

Here's how our grey one looked when we got it:
WJbefore1.thumb.jpg.a2b2e0787ccacab8da5bb43a472f7ba9.jpg

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Here is how it sits now, and the mods:
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WJlift8.thumb.jpg.6f5a43df11f579fd06071aceb44cf467.jpg

WJlift9.thumb.jpg.9465e262ec2f231149f3d74232f9bf6d.jpg

WJlift10.thumb.jpg.1544d8b5c030ee903c2dcb1a2aab998a.jpg

WJlift11.thumb.jpg.e01b9173c49db7a118c208822cd7009f.jpg

WJlift12.thumb.jpg.9ab458ae688b29df0aefe03381ad79b3.jpg

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WJlift14.thumb.jpg.60643fcaeb593d950e27472147c44bfa.jpg

Fender trimming (still need to relocate the washer bottle and delete the fog-lights though):
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Doing Jeep stuff:
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It still cleans up nice too, and is a presentable daily driver:
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So... yeah... there's my WJ rant. I really enjoy the things and even with this minor lift and stuff it still drives great and I would easily DD it.

As I mentioned above, we bought another one, this one is a '04 and has a new motor and lots of new parts and we paid about $6k. The interior is a little rougher than the grey one, mostly just the driver's seat so I might replace that, but it does have a 2" budget boost and new tires and all that:
1572807380690.png

-TJ
 

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systemdelete

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I got out of Toyotas this year. I loved my FJ, but it didn’t work well with my child seats on long trips, and those trips are a requirement to spend holidays with the Grandparents. I looked hard at the 4runners, driving and working the numbers on several with two different dealerships. I asked for a weekend test drive so I could really try it out, instead of falling in love I fell out. I HATED the intervention of the “driver aids” and the fuel mileage was a touch worse than my FJ on a basic day trip. I knew that the fuel mileage typically drops as I begin modding and the 4Runner was sluggish compared the the FJ. I returned it to the dealer, apologizing and circled around again with the fiancé. I made lists of what I had to have, and what I wouldn’t accept along with what I was willing to spend. I looked at a defender, p38 range rovers, older land cruisers, older wagoners, suburbans, etc. I was perusing craigslist and I found it. Initially I was going to buy it as a possible parts vehicle for a future Range Rover, I went and met the owner. He was firm on his price, and I was ready to walk away if it wasn’t worth it. After crawling under the truck and finding its frame and undercarriage COMPLETELY rust free I handed the gentleman the cash and drove off carefully with my prize. It wasn’t in daily driver condition when I acquired it. Thankfully I was able to get it into shape within the first month and under my initial budget.

IMG_1328.JPG

2000 miles logged, $1000 initial purchase and registration, $2500 spent to date catching up maintenance and equipping thus far.

Doesn’t have to be a Rover, but if you can work on it, it’s rust free/in good shape, and it fits your needs well I’d recommend picking it up.
 

croakthedj

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Thanks for the photos and the stories. It makes me think about the vehicle choices I currently looking into.
A little bit more information I currently have a 2014 ram 1500 2wd work truck that never was used as a truck really. So this is the time I am getting rid of the truck and moving to something that I can actually use it all. Dents, scrapes, dings, and dirt.
 

Smileyshaun

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I’ve bounced around owning as the fiancé puts it “way to many Fing vehicles “ and after a lot of test driving and comparing to vehicles I’ve owned in the past I found my perfect for me vehicle a xterra pro 4x .
The pros
It’s Not a huge rig but still has great seat and leg room
Manual trans ( I have bad luck with autos )
Factory rear locker
32s from the factory
Lots of lights
Good power
Still a simple vehicle
Upgrades seem to be inexpensive

So far the cons.
Limited suspension travel from the factory
Not the strongest front end
Plastic cargo area ,stuff tends to slide all over the place

I’m sure the cons list will grow the longer I own it but so far I’m super happy with it .
 
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Mike331

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Sounds like you might be in the market for a Toyota 4Runner, or FJ Cruiser. The 4.0L V6 offers a great balance between fuel mileage and power, typically from 240ish to 280hp and from 16-20 mpg. Great aftermarket support and the ability to DIY things if you enjoy those types of projects. Just to let you know up front I might be a tad bias, I am a Toyota technician, so there's that. But the vehicles offered with the 4.0L V6 are all timing chain motors and have much lower overall maintenance cost and potential for failure. Also these vehicles have the more modern 5 speed auto or the 6 speed manual, and to be honest, I've rebuilt more of the manuals then I've ever even seem complaints about the autos. (My most recent rebuild was a Tacoma with 43k miles and a blown up clutch that destroyed the front case of the transmission, requiring a full transmission disassembly) Just some things to consider.
 
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M Rose

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Back in March, I got a Fullsized Bronco... I wasn’t looking for an Overlanding rig, but something that would handle winter roads around here, and be something that I could beat on trails with in the summer time. When I found the Bronco, I was actually looking for a 4Runner. Now almost a year later I am back to looking at 4runners since my Bronco became undrivable for my wife.

15k will get you a lot of rig...
 

Mike331

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Damn must be nice, a decently modern Tacoma, 4Runner or FJ Cruiser around here is at least 12k (read 2005 or newer)
 

M Rose

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Cruisers here are outrageous, Tacos, Tundras, and 4runners aren’t bad prices however. RAV4s are also getting cheaper and easier to find... also my prices were 2005 and older... personally I like older rigs for off highway use, anything over 4 grand and I get anxious putting pinstripes on it.
 

Mike331

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Yeah there is some cringe to pinstripes on something that was expensive for sure. But without knowledge of how much mechanical skill someone possess, I tend to lean towards recommending newer vehicles by default. And with Toyotas specifically, the newer ones and the old ones have the better track record in my experience. (Read 79-95 and 2005+)
 

tjZ06

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The Broncos have been going up a lot in value too... and I totally get it. For guys more in the Southwest they can be made LEGIT for higher speed desert running, but they can remain a good street vehicle and still retain real 4WD (with low-range). Overall, it's actually a really cool platform.

-TJ
 
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M Rose

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The Broncos have been going up a lot in value too... and I totally get it. For guys more in the Southwest they can be made LEGIT for higher speed desert running, but they can remain a good street vehicle and still retain real 4WD (with low-range). Overall, it's actually a really cool platform.

-TJ
Yes the Bronco is a great platform, but like you said the base price is going up, and finding one that doesn’t need a lot of work is going to eat up some change, or be willing to spend what you saved to fix it. I got what I thought was a deal on my 89 EB FSB, But after fixing all the major stuff and not even touching some important minor stuff I am not left with a lot for “upgrades”. But I’m not letting that get me down. The Bronco is doing exactly what I want it to do, just taking longer to setup than what I wanted... it was supposed to be ready for winter trails by Thanksgiving, but I will be lucky to get it there by spring.