How Do I Choose the Best off-Road SUV?

Dan Cavallari

To start your search for an off-road SUV, do some research to find out which SUV models will suit your needs best. This will mean determining how much time you will spend driving off-road as well as how much time you will spend driving on-road. Read reviews about the off-road capabilities of the SUVs you are considering, as well as the on road performance of the vehicles if you intend to drive on paved roads often. When you have narrowed down your search and found a few off-road SUV models in which you are interested, it's time to go test drive.

Determine how much time you will spend driving off-road before buying an SUV.
Determine how much time you will spend driving off-road before buying an SUV.

Before hopping into the off-road SUV for that test ride, however, be sure to do a visual inspection of the vehicle. Look for rust on the body, dents in panels, and scratches either on the body or on the undercarriage. The amount of scratches is sometimes a good indication of how much time the vehicle has spent off-road, and while a lot of scratches is not necessarily a bad thing, it is a good indication of what types of damage to look for during your inspection. If the vehicle is new, you will not have to worry about scratches or dents, or guessing whether the SUV has been used off-road, which means you can concentrate more on vehicle performance.

Off-road SUVs tend to be smaller and lighter than those built for mostly on-road driving.
Off-road SUVs tend to be smaller and lighter than those built for mostly on-road driving.

Some off-road SUV models come stock with extras such as roof racks, winches, and other items that may cost money after the initial purchase. Take note of any included extras that may cut down the price of the vehicle after purchase, and if the off-road SUV is used, be sure to test out these extras to make sure they work properly and will not need more maintenance or replacement later on. Check the tread of the tires as well, especially on used vehicles, to make sure the tires have plenty of life left in them and they are appropriate for the amount of off-road driving you will be doing.

Take note of the types of components included on the off-road SUV. A used SUV may feature upgraded components, which can save you money later on, but that SUV may also feature sub-par replacement parts, which will end up costing you money in the long run. Look underneath the car to check for any oil or fluid leaks that may indicate damage to the engine or other components.

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