Top 3 Beginner Off Road Trucks

Are you looking to get into the off road “scene”? But, you have never owned an off road truck? There are a few things you must consider when deciding what you want out of your off road truck.

Do you just want to go camping? Do you want to go trail riding? Rock crawling? What about desert prerunning? Here’s what you need to look for in an off-road truck:

  1. Price: If you’re just getting into the off road lifestyle, you probably don’t want to break the bank. Picking up something cheap to wheel on the weekends is ideal.
  2. Durability: You want something that is tough, and can survive harsh conditions and treatment.
  3. Size: You obviously don’t want to wheel a school bus, but maybe a Wrangler is to small for you. Small off road rigs like the Wrangler don’t allow you to bring many friends and/or gear. Big off road rigs like the Chevy Suburban can’t easily fit on many trails.
  4. Articulation: Depending on the type of wheeling you’d like to do, articulation may be important. If you just want to do simple trail riding or camping, then this is much less important.

Now that you have a good understanding of what you’ll want, let’s look at the candidates. Here are the best beginners off road trucks:

1. Jeep Cherokee

The Jeep XJ Cherokee was made from 1984 to 2001 and was the Predecessor to the original body-on-frame SJ Cherokee. The XJ Cherokee was unlike the SJ Cherokee; it was small, it didn’t have a standard frame, and didn’t come with a V8.

Robert Cumberford, from Automobile Magazine said: “Great designs never grow old, a truth no better confirmed than by designer Dick Teague’s masterpiece, the Jeep Cherokee. Possibly the best SUV shape of all time, it is the paradigmatic model to which other designers have since aspired.”

XJCherokee1

 

Generally speaking, most XJ Cherokees are four door, 4.0L inline 6, and 4WD. Which is perfect, 4 doors to more easily hold gear and people. The 4.0L is notoriously bullet proof, and the 4WD system is great for the trails. Since the XJ Cherokee is unibody and 4 link suspension up front, they articulate very well and ride very smooth.

Since the XJ Cherokee was made for such a long period of time, they are everywhere and dirt cheap too! With so many of them around, a huge amount of off road companies started making aftermarket parts for them, making parts dirt cheap too!

Prices for the XJ Cherokee generally range from $1000 to $6500

Too see what a commonly modified XJ Cherokee looks like, check out Coles XJ Cherokee.

2. Chevrolet K5 Blazer

The Chevy Blazer/GMC Jimmy was made from 1969 to 1994 and was made to compete with the Jeep CJ-5. Almost all Blazers came in 4WD with a 305CI (5.0L) or a 350CI (5.7L) small block chevy. The Chevy Blazer is a frame-on-body design, with leaf springs front and rear of the truck.

Being that they are frame-on-body, they are very heavy duty and very strong. Leaf springs front and rear allowed for cheap manufacturing and add stability while driving the truck.

BestTruck1

 

The leaf spring design doesn’t articulate, or ride very well, but with some modifications can perform very well. Since Chevy trucks have been around for so long, it’s impossible to run out of factory used or aftermarket parts. Much like the Cherokee, the Chevy 350 is also a great engine,it makes plenty of power and torque and retains the old-school, but proven engine design.

The US Military used the K5 Blazer from 1983 to 1986, they named them “CUCV M1009”. The M1009 came with a 6.2L Detroit Diesel and an Eaton Gov-Lock rear differential, and served many purposes in the US Military.

Prices for the Chevy Blazer range from $1000 to $5000

3. Ford Bronco

The Ford Bronco was made from 1966 to 1996, and was also built to compete with the Jeep CJ-5. The 302CI and the 351W were the most common engines that the Bronco came with. The Ford Bronco, like the Chevy Blazer, was also frame-on-body, making it heavy duty and strong.

The Bronco had a leaf spring suspension design front and rear until 1980. In 1980 Ford introduced the TTB (Twin Traction Beam), to allow for a smoother ride, on and off road. The TTB suspension system worked very well, it improved handling and ride comfort, but sacrificed wheel travel and is notoriously hard to align.

BestTruck2

Both the Ford 302 (5.0L) and the 351 Windsor (5.7L) are great motors, making good power while still being reliable and cheap to maintain. Parts for the Bronco aren’t nearly as abundant as the other two trucks, but parts are still easy available.

The TTB system, lead to the Twin I-Beam suspension, which is the same as TTB, except its not 4WD. I-Beam suspension is what many “pre runner” trucks use and works great for high speed off roading.

Prices for the Ford Bronco range from $1000 to $5500

Summary

The XJ Cherokee is great for rock-crawling, the Blazer is great for mudding and trail-riding, and the Bronco is great for going fast in the dirt.

All 3 of these trucks are very cheap to buy and easy to fix, and can take a hard beating off-road. Making them all perfect candidates for a beginner off road truck. The choice is yours to make.

Jeep vs Land Rover: Which One is Actually Better?

If you’re just getting into off-roading, than chances are you’ve heard something about the Jeep vs Land Rover debate. Both are designed with off-roading in mind, and both are exceptionally good at it. One is built in America, the other is built in the UK, but which is actually better? Well, there’s a lot of different aspects to cover, as well as different generations of the Jeep vs Land Rover debate. So, lets dive in, and compare Jeep vs Land Rover.

Jeep vs Land Rover: Interior

Assuming you don’t live under a rock, than you should know that the Land Rover brand is known for its luxury. When you think of high end vehicles, most people will think of a Range Rover, and thats exactly what I’m talking about. The luxury of a Range Rover transfers over into other Land Rover models. For this example lets look at the Discovery II.

Discovery II Interior

JeepVsLandRover1

The Land Rover Discovery II was an impressive new version of the loved Discovery. With this new model, Land Rover upgraded nearly everything, including the interior. All Discovery II’s came standard with dual power sun-roofs, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, power seats, heated seats, Home-Link system, all leather everything, dual-zone climate control, and more. So, as you can see from that quick list of features, Land Rover’s are really luxurious. Even by modern standards, the Discovery II is a really nice vehicle.

RELATED: Is The Discovery II The Last Real Land Rover?

Jeep’s on the other hand are a little lacking in the luxury department. For this comparison lets look at the XJ Cherokee. The XJ came standard with cloth interior, manual windows, manual locks, manual seats, a standard climate control system, and nothing else fancy. Yes, you could get higher up XJ models like the Laredo, which came with power everything, leather seats, and an upgraded sound system. But, standard vs standard, Land Rover blows Jeep out of the water.

XJ Cherokee Interior

Jeep6

Newer models on the other hand are much nicer for both Land Rover and Jeep, but Land Rover’s still have much nicer interior’s in 2016. At this point Land Rover has become a standard for luxury vehicles.

Jeep vs Land Rover: Reliability

Okay, so when it comes to reliability, what do you think would be more reliable? If you said to yourself “Land Rover’s and Range Rover’s are super  unreliable, so of course the Jeep must be the more reliable one!”, than you wouldn’t be alone. I too thought that since Jeep was American made, it would be way more reliable than anything European, but man was I wrong. Don’t believe me? Here’s reliability articles for both Jeep and Land Rover.

JeepReliable2

Unfortunately the numbers don’t lie. As a big Jeep fan, it pains me to see this chart. This chart is a list of reported problems/repairs per 100 vehicles. The vehicles are all 2014 models. As you can see, Jeep and Land Rover, are nearly tied. Quite honestly, they’re both absolutely terrible when it comes to reliability.

Jeep 4.0L

JeepVsLandRover2

What about the good ole’ 4.0L Jeep engine? Yes, the 4.0L Jeep engine is one of the most reliable production engines ever, but the 4.0L Land Rover engine is also pretty good. While both have their Achilles heel, they’re both incredible durable engines.

Jeep vs Land Rover: Off-Road

These are both off-road oriented vehicles, so it would make sense to compare how they do off-road. As much as I would love to give you a good off-road comparison, its not that easy. “Why?” you might ask, its because off-roading is just more than ground clearance. Its articulation, wheel base, approach and departure angles, chassis strength, axles, and most importantly, the driver. I’ve seen Mazda 3’s go where some Jeep’s couldn’t, because the driver knew what he was doing.

RELATED: Jeep vs Toyota: Which One is Actually Better?

Before I tell you which is better off-road and why, let me tell you this. I am a big Jeep fan, and the other writer (Kristoffer) for this website is a big Land Rover fan. We’ve both taken our vehicles off-road tons of times, so I have a lot of real world experience with both of these vehicles.

JeepVsLandRover4

One big difference between the Discovery II and the XJ Cherokee, is how the 4WD system works. In the Land Rover, its actually AWD, which means that there is a differential in the transfer case. The Jeep on the other hand is 4WD, because when 4WD is engaged power is locked 50/50 between the front and rear axle. Why does this matter? Because it greatly changes the characteristics of how it handles off-road. See, the Land Rover is always in AWD, which means if you’re going down the road, and hit a sudden patch of ice you’ll be fine, but the Jeep has to be in 2WD on the road, which can cause that same patch of ice to send you flying off of the road.

JeepVsLandRover5

RELATED: Land Rover vs Range Rover: What’s the Difference?

Another big difference between these two, is the traction management. While some Jeep XJ’s came with a rear LSD, most didn’t. If you know how open differentials work, than you know they’re not that great for off-roading. The Land Rover also came with open differentials. The difference here is that Land Rover’s come with a pretty advanced 4-wheel traction control system, whilst Jeep’s don’t. This traction control system is basically the equivalent of having lockers front and rear.

JeepVsLandRover6

There is so much more I could go into regarding the off-road performance of these two but it would take all day long. Bottom line, my Jeep(s) have gone places that Kristoffer’s Land Rover couldn’t, and his Land Rover has gone places my Jeep(s) couldn’t. We’ve both gotten stuck countless amounts of times over the years.

Jeep vs Land Rover: Old

Thus far we’ve focused on mainly the older Jeep’s and the older Land Rover’s. The Discovery II has a way nicer interior, and overall is a way nicer vehicle to drive every single day.  The XJ Cherokee is more reliable than the Discovery II, but not by much. When it comes to off-roading its more about the driver than the vehicle, and both Jeep’s and Land Rover’s are incredibly capable off-road machines. So when comparing older Jeep’s vs older Land Rover’s, you’ll find that quite honestly, the Land Rover’s are nicer to drive every single day. But the Jeep’s might be a better choice for reliability. It honestly comes down to personal preference.

RELATED: Why Are Jeeps so Ridiculously Expensive?

I’ve owned both and I can tell you right now that I would rather drive a Land Rover Discovery II every single day, and rather have a Jeep XJ Cherokee for an off-road rig.

Jeep vs Land Rover: New

If you’re not a car/truck enthusiast, and just want to know which one is the better option for you, than this is the part you’ve been waiting for.  When it comes to newer Jeep’s vs Land Rover’s things like off-road ability aren’t that important. Why is this? Because over time Land Rover has become less about off-roading and more about luxury.

One big difference with both Jeep and Land Rover is that now in 2016 they all comes with fully independent suspension, other than the Wrangler. The solid axle suspension design is quite ancient and can only handle so well on the road. The independent suspension might be loads better on the road, but its not so good off-road. Both now come with pretty advanced traction management systems, as well as a ton of other driver assists.

RELATED: 8 Reasons to Buy a Land Rover Discovery II

JeepVsLandRover3

One thing that hasn’t changed is the interior comparison. While new Jeeps are much nicer than old Jeeps, they still don’t compare to Land Rover’s. Like I mentioned earlier, the Land Rover brand has become the pinnacle of luxury SUV’s and luxury vehicles in general for that matter.

In all reality, modern Land Rover’s are way better than modern Jeep’s. But, as a die-hard Jeep person I would still rather have a new Wrangler than a new Land Rover.

Jeep vs Land Rover: Summary

So, when it comes to the Jeep vs Land Rover debate, the winner really depends on the age. Older Jeep’s aren’t that nice to drive on the road, but are slightly better than Land Rover’s off-road. Older Land Rover’s are arguably better than Jeep’s off-road, and are way nicer to drive on the street daily.

Newer Jeeps and newer Land Rover’s are both much nicer than their older models, but the Land Rover brand has gone in a different direction. Newer Jeep’s are unquestionably better off-road, but are still lacking when it comes to interior comfort, especially when compared to the Land Rover.

So basically it boils down to this. If you drive off-road a lot, get a Jeep. If you drive on the road and off-road a lot, get a Land Rover. Or just pick your personal preference. I prefer Jeep’s, but thats just me.

Best First Car for a Guy – Jeep Cherokee

So, you’re a young guy, looking to purchase his first car, congratulations! You are probably considering things like fuel economy, horsepower, number of doors, or a variety of other things. I’m here today, to tell you to throw that all out the window, because I have already gone through this struggle, and I believe that I know the perfect first car for a guy.

Jeep Cherokee

You’ve probably heard some bad things about Jeeps, “they flip over easy”, “they get terrible gas mileage”. But, I personally believe that have far more pros than cons.

1. Size

They’re the perfect size for a first car. The Jeep Cherokee is compact, but large enough to haul around your friends, and your gear. The back seat is a little tight, but as long as you’re not 6’5 you’ll fit just fine. They’re super easy to park, and get through drive-through food chains, because thats what every teenager does.

jeep cherokee

2. Engine

The AMC inline-6 is known for its bullet proof reliability. It will run in damn near all conditions, and seem to run forever. Both of my Cherokee’s that i’ve personally owned have had 210,000+ miles and ran perfectly. They are known for being a little temperamental with cooling, but that aside, they’re an excellent engine. By no means is the inline-6 powerful, but it makes lots of torque, which is exactly what you want for off-roading.

best first car

3. Off-roading

If you’ve never been off-roading, it probably sounds like a silly thing to do to you. But, the first time you go off-roading, you’ll be hooked, I promise you. Most Jeep Cherokee’s are 4WD, making it easy to go pretty much anywhere. The Cherokee is also very lightweight thanks to its unibody construction, meaning it doesn’t have to try very hard to go the places you want. It also has a coil-spring suspension up front, giving it excellent articulation, and a leaf-spring rear suspension, making it very stable.

best first car

4. Price

Cherokee’s are dirt cheap! There’s loads of them laying around, so prices are low. There’s also a huge following for the Cherokee, meaning that the after-market parts are nearly endless, and pretty cheap too. Depending on the location you live in, Cherokee’s can be bought for $1,000 – $4,000. Insurance is typically very cheap too, since is it considered a station-wagon/suv, which is pretty important when you’re a teenager with a small budget.

jeep cherokee

Buying Guide

Im going to give you  quick run down of what to look for when buying a Cherokee.

  • Rust
  • Rear mail oil leak, a very expensive fix.
  • Oil pan leak
  • Over-heating, very common problem
  • “Death-wobble” which can be a pain in the rear to repair
  • Leaky rear brakes
  • Do not get anything expect the 4.0L inline-6!
  • The inline-6 inherently has a lot of lifter-tick, so don’t let that scare you away

These are the most common problems for Jeep’s. But none of these problems are deal breakers, just use them to your bargaining advantage. I would recommend staying away from certain year Jeeps, heres an overview of the Cherokee from 1984-2001

  • 1984-1986 had a V6 motor, stay away from it! (NO!!)
  • 1987-1990 the “renix” motor, I personally stay away from these ones, but some people swear by the renix motor. (Meh)
  • 1991-1995 the “high out-put” motor. More horse-power, much stronger Chrysler 8.25 rear axle replaces the Dana 35 rear axle. (Good)
  • 1996 OBDII introduced, much easier to diagnose issues (Good)
  • 1997-2001 improved rear axle shafts, stronger u-joints in the front axle. (Good)
  • 1997 wiring can be a little messy (Bad)
  • 1999 head crack problem (NO!!)
  • 2000 coil-on-plug ignition (Meh)
  • 2001 low-pinion front axle (Bad)

I personally recommend the 1991-1995 year Cherokee’s, these years seems to have the least amount of problems, and seem to be the most reliable.

Overview

The Jeep Cherokee is perfect for a first car because of its reliability, simplicity, off and on road capability, and its price. It’s also great for someone who wants to learn about working on cars, or just loves to tinker with cars. With over 3 million Cherokee’s made, its easy to find a nice one, purchase it, and have a great time.

chopped cherokee

 

Cole’s Mean Green XJ Cherokee

Dust Runners Automotive Journal is proud to present our first vehicle feature. Cole Bruns and his XJ Jeep Cherokee! Cole comes from a family of Jeepers, when Cole was a child, his father bought old Jeep’s and restored them. The Jeep “Bug” caught onto Cole when he bought his XJ Cherokee. He fell in love with it, and made it his baby. Modifying it to his style and needs, also with some flare on his interior.

XJ Cherokee

His XJ has a full spring 4″ Rubicon Express lift with upgrading shackles and spacers giving it a total of about 5″ inches of lift. It also has 32″ tires on 16″ rims, custom bumpers, a rear swing-away tire carrier, custom rock sliders to protect his Jeep’s body. He also has a Super Winch “Tiger Shark” 9500 lb. winch tucked away inside the bumper, to get him out of sticky situations. All of his fender flares have been coated with heavy duty bed-liner, as well as the rocker panels on all four doors.4.5" Lifted Cherokee

The sound system is three Rockford Fosgate P1’s, 1500 watts total, the sub box is sealed and custom built by Cole himself, all the door speakers are 5.5″ inch Pioneer speakers, he also has green LED light strips throughout his interior the give it a fresh and cool new look. “I rarely use my side mirrors, because they’re vibrating to much.” Cole said.

Rockford Fosgate P1 12"

He likes to take his XJ Cherokee to the local car shows and hang out with the local off-road groups, and show off his XJ.

Car show xj cherokee

Cole’s future plans for his XJ Cherokee are to add a roof rack, LED lights, a bigger lift, and a bigger tires. Eventually upgraded the weak factory axles, to something much beefer to handle larger tire sizes.