With all the choices for off-road-worthy vehicles, and with the hefty price tags most of them carry, if you’re going to buy a new one, you need to do your homework before you get yourself into debt for the next 72 months. With that kind of commitment, you don’t want any buyer’s remorse.
You also don’t want to saddle yourself with a vehicle you’re going to have to pour a bunch more money into in order to get it off-road capable. It needs to have everything you need when you drive it off the lot.
The first thing you should consider is the tires. Most vehicles these days, even the ones built on off-road platforms, are outfitted with spiffy oversized rims and fancy, low-profile tires that do great on the pavement, but aren’t worth a darn on the dirt – let alone mud or deep snow.
It also needs to have four-wheel-drive, of course. Not full-time four-wheel-drive, and definitely not all-wheel-drive. It needs to have the real deal. You need to be able to lock the rear differential to limit the amount of slip you get when you’re trying to get out of a nasty predicament.
Tow hooks bolted onto the frame are a good idea, too, in case you need to pull someone else out, or if you need someone to help you out of a mud hole.
After you find some vehicles that have all those features, you can decide which of the candidates best fit your needs.
If you don’t need a full-size truck, the Nissan Frontier might be what you’re looking for. The Pro 4X version I drove last week has all the necessary features, and comfortably loaded, it’s only going to set you back about $35,000.
Do that homework before you buy a truck, though. It’s a big investment.