Editor’s Note: We love scouring the internet for reasons to spend money we don’t have on cars we daydream about owning, and these are our picks this week. All prices listed are bid amounts at the time of publishing.
Trucks and SUVs were made to take punishment, whether from off-roading through Moab or offloading the family at the mall. The big behemoths have time-tested endurance built into their architecture, and some have proven more likely to go the distance than other cars. So when you pick an SUV or off-roader with honest low-mileage (not the ones that just read low because the odometer has reset after 999,999 miles) it’s almost assumed that you’ll be driving it for quite some time — with proper care and maintenance. Here are five low-mileage off-roaders ready for a new home and many more miles to come.
1977 Ford Bronco
Location: El Dorado, Arkansas
What we like: Finding Broncos of this era in all-original — and good — condition is rare. And as far as modified examples go, some can be unattractively outrageous. This example’s Hollywood green-screen paint job, an original Ford option (called Medium Emerald Green) will take some getting used to, but the rest of the car looks equally period correct enough to make a good-looking classic daily driver or weekend trail-pounder.
From the seller: “It has a great running 302 V8 that has been rebuilt [and has] less than 5,000 miles [on it]. It has an aluminum Edelbrock intake with a Edelbrock four-barrel carb.”
What to look out for: This Bronco is extensively restored and refurbished, so it’s tough to say what to look out for. Broncos in general are pretty spartan vehicles so not much can go wrong, but if minor parts do fail, there are few support sites available.
Expert opinion: “The Bronco’s ninety-two-inch wheelbase, too short
for serious towing, was ideal for both off-road rock crawling and around-town maneuvering. Unlike the CJ or the
Scout, the Bronco rode on coil springs up front rather than more common leaf springs, and it could be ordered with V8 power.” –David Zenlea, Automobile Magazine
1998 Toyota 4Runner
Location: Oakland, California
What we like: It’s crazy how SUVs like the 4Runner were built to tackle the road less traveled, yet end up being the truck less traveled. This Radiant Red 4Runner only has 30,000 miles on it and has the potential for at least 200,000.
From the seller: “The truck was ordered in Radiant Red over a cloth Oak interior with chrome running boards, carpeted floor mats, and the convenience package from new. Power comes from a 3.4L V6 that is backed by a four-speed automatic transmission and two-speed transfer case, and a clean Carfax report is provided.”
What to look out for: Frame rust is the most common complaint with this generation 4Runner, but considering the incredibly low mileage and condition, that doesn’t look like an immediate problem.
Expert opinion: “Great looks and ground-pounding performance make the 4Runner an ideal choice for people who love the great outdoors as well as those who just want to look like they do.” — Edmunds
1991 Mercedes-Benz 300GE
Location: Seattle, Washington
What we like: From right around the time G-Wagens started getting luxurious, this 1991 is nowhere near the level of today’s G-Wagen, but you can see it’s better than the Land Rovers and Land Cruisers of the day.
From the seller: “Additional equipment includes a brush guard bolted to the front bumper as well as a hard-shelled factory spare tire carrier. AMG five-spokes are mounted on a 94.5-inch wheelbase and wear 18-inch Bridgestone Dueler street tires. The braking system was refreshed in March 2018 with new rotors, calipers, and pads.”
What to look out for: Owners seem to log the most complaints about head gaskets and clogged radiators. The reason the radiators clog is that of the faulty head gaskets allowing fluids to swap — be preventative and change the head gaskets before any signs of trouble.
Expert opinion: “The first major refinements came in 1981 and included an auto’ box and air conditioning; a year later it got comfier front seats lifted from Benz’s car line-up, auxiliary heating and wider tires. Having generated some column inches with a Paris-Dakar rally win in ‘83, MB kept piling in the kit; by ‘87 it was fitting the G with electric windows, a power antenna and luggage covers. In 1989 it got its first full pimp out – to celebrate the G’s tenth anniversary, in came permanent four-wheel drive, wood trim, ABS, a top-spec interior and three electronically-locking differentials.” — Matthew Jones, Top Gear
1995 Land Rover Defender 90 NAS
Location: Enumclaw, Washington
What we like: If you wanted to go out and get a bone stock Defender and then add on as much as this one is carrying in gear and accessories, you’d pay a whole lot more than what the going bid is.
From the seller: “Accessories include a Front Runner roof rack, body protection, an Old Man Emu lift kit, GBR axles, TrueTrac differentials, new VDO gauges, custom storage and more. Power is supplied to all four wheels by a 3.9-liter V8 and five-speed manual gearbox. This D90 is sold with its original window sticker, a clean Carfax report, maintenance records and a clear Washington title.”
What to look out for: This Land Rover’s mileage is still considerably low for its age but it’s up there. That said, this Defender underwent a considerable amount of refurbishment and all the problem areas look like they’ve been addressed already.
Expert opinion: “Those expecting to find an interior similar to those found in Land Rover’s other products will be greatly disappointed. The Defender represents the definition of bare-bones, with a simplistic dashboard designed in the mid-1980s and a utilitarian cabin fashioned to be more easily vacuumed out after a Serengeti trek.” — Edmunds
1978 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40
Location: Chatsworth, California
What we like: This is certainly the ‘reach’ option on the list, but to have an FJ that’s practically brand-new might be worth the extra coin.
From the seller: “This FJ is in absurd original condition, with all original finishes, and not any signs of rust. This is considered the nicest example known in the world by experts in the marque.”
What to look out for: We’ve met the seller, Jonathan Ward. With is ridiculous attention to detail, if he says this thing is clean, you can believe it.
Expert opinion: “The ride is smooth, despite the short 90-inch wheelbase, but a relatively wide track and well sorted leaf spring suspension help keeps the driver feeling confident with the vehicle’s overall handling characteristics, although there is still some body roll due to the high centre of gravity and tall body structure. The manual steering is heavy at lower speeds, but the vehicle tracked straight and true at all times during my test drive. Power steering became an option in 1979.” — Russel Purcell, Driving