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Suggestions for affordable/ dependable off-road capable vehicle

I recently posted a question asking about Jeep wranglers, but it seems the consensus is that an affordable wrangler will not be a dependable one. I want to spend around $5000, definitely less than $10000. I was hoping to get some suggestions from you folks who know more than me for something relatively dependable and off-road capable. Subaru crosstrek?

Define “off road capable”?
IMHO the Crosstrek lacks the clearance to climb over rocks and logs. And its AWD isn’t comparable to real 4WD.

But that’s almost irrelevant in your price range. You’re limited to whatever you can find at your price point that checks out to be in reasonable shape. If you were shopping for a new vehicle you could be choosy, but you have to realize that you’re not.

Subaru’s are not really “off road” vehicles. The are OK for graded dirt roads, snow, and other low traction situations, but they won’t go where a Jeep or 4wd truck will go.

One reason Jeeps have a poor reputation for reliability is that people take them off road and off road is very tough on a vehicle, any vehicle.

There are a lot of other reasons.

I don’t consider a unibody vehicle a good off-roading vehicle.

What kind of off road? Two people’s ideas of off road can be very different. I find that city dwellers ideas of off road may be something that a rural person thinks is normal. Then there is also the rock crawlers idea of off road is sometimes insane.

What is it that you need? 4WD? ground clearance?

What is the purpose? Daily driver with occasional dirt roads?

Trailblazer might fit the bill, pending an independant inspection of course, but yes what type of off road do you mean?

4WD and decent ground clearance are both things I believe I am looking for. I will likely be moving out west soon and am looking for something that I can take on poorly maintained forest service/ fire roads and back into the canyons of the four corners states. Anything come to anyone’s mind? Any advice is helpful as I do not know much.

Sounds like you need a Jeep with some knobby tires and a winch.

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Loving my 03 trailblazer is why I suggested it, after 170k and of course some repairs still doing road trips. Looks like 7.8 to 8" clearance depending on the year, skid plates to protect engine, 6 cyl, best of luck.
Or to quote an old song
Yeah, they (I) ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles
And they (I) ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go.
They (I) ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch 'em (me)
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

ps in another thread for car names, named it Cujo, Still working on letting the car know.

In case you want to hear my favorite rendition

On the other post I mentioned looking on youtube at our club, Jeeps West.
A truly off road capable vehicle is usually modified for that. You may find a Jeep for your 5 grand BUT you double that getting the way you want it

I think you should just relax and wait until you move to the west. You just might make friends with someone who can give you good advice or a club to join. In the meantime you can play on the internet and see driving trails and also look at used vehicle sites near where you will be going. You might even get there and decide that activity is not for you.

The '03 Trailblazer is not a bad suggestion at all. My sister in law has one of those. It has plenty of ground clearance and has never given her a bit of trouble since she bought it new.

Cool tune by Leon. I never knew he covered that one.

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An 03 is getting old, made them up to 09 I believe.
on an offnote @ok4450 You might enjoy an album called hank wilsons back, great in my book

Affordable, dependable, off road vehicle. Mutually exclusive, I’d say.


I agree the Trailblazer may be getting a bit long in the tooth but with as many that were sold some digging could probably turn up a nice, low miles one.
The one my sister in law has only has about 80k miles on it and the car is as clean as the day she bought it. No faded paint, no interior wear, and most surprising of all; no door dings.

As for Hank Wilson; yep I have the vinyl one in my stash of old records. Leon is still on the road although he’s not jumping up on top of the piano and doing guitar solos like he used to. My sister in TX saw him live earlier this year and actually got a chance to chat with him for a while along with taking a dozen or so pics

I inherited an 03 Trailblazer earlier this year (LT, 4WD, locking rear diff, only 32k on it). And I wasn’t terribly impressed with it’s ground clearance. It had the factory running boards on it, so that might’ve had something to do with it. We got about 11 inches of snow in earlier this year. Normally, I would use my old 1997 F-150 (4WD, limited slip rear diff, 32 inch BFG A/T KO’s) But I decided to give the Trailblazer shot. I backed it out of the carport and it made it about two feet before becoming high centered. I dug it out and pulled it back under the carport. Then went and cleared off the foot of snow on the F-150, hopped in and drove through the snow without a problem. IMHO, the Trailblazer just doesn’t have the ground clearance needed for anything more than a fire trail. There’s alot to like about it, it’s engine is very nice, too bad GM never used it for anything else other than the Trailblazer and it’s badge-engineered variants. I had no intentions of keeping it, as I didn’t need an SUV and already had a pickup. I ended up selling it about a month later to a family that lives down the street. They love it.

I recently parted with my 91’ Toyota 4x4 Pickup, it was very well maintained, sold with ~260k miles on the original engine, timing chain/ h20 pump/head gasket done for the first time at 250k.
I can’t say enough good things about the 4cyl 22-RE motor, if you can find an 89’-93’ year truck with under 300k miles and the appropriate maintenance records I think they’re the ultimate back-road vehicle. Plenty of clearance and solid 4WD kept me from getting stranded on more than one occasion (just make sure to put some weight in the back!) Was definitely sad to see it go.

Car Talk Lackey

Some of the best, most affordable off-road builds with a budget of no more than $5,000. It sounds impossible, but affordable four-wheeling toughness is in fact within your grasp. With a little scavenging, some patience, and a fair share of elbow grease, you’ll be hitting the (off) road in an impressive vehicle that didn’t leave you swimming in debt.

Old thread, though I want to say that Wrangler is a reliable rig for mild off-roading. For some serious off-road escapade, of course you need to improve its suspension, add a lift kit, get bigger tires, etc.