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What off-road vehicle to get for 16 yrs old?

Pickups have weight distribution issues…though in SoCal that is probably not as big of a problem as someplace where it snows. Any truck-based SUV should do just as well as the 4WD pickups they are based upon, will probably be a little bit safer, and may get marginally better fuel economy (pickups have terrible aerodynamics, too). Don’t limit the search to pickups unless she will actually need to be hauling large things or dirty things. And fortunately for you, whatever you buy it’s a buyer’s market for trucks.

And if you know how to ride between the ruts, a Subaru will probably work. That’s a big if, especially with a teenage girl, and even then I say probably because I only have your description to go on. Actually, depending how bad the mud is, and how deep the stream is, ANY car may work if you drive it right, but 4WD does make that kind of driving less of a white-knuckle experience.

Oh, hey, if you’re worried about fuel economy, how about a Suzuki Samurai? Just make it abundantly clear…literally beat it into her if you have to…that she absolutely must drive slowly, especially around corners, and that she cannot drive it like it is a car.

Some people seem to feel that you’ll do harm to vehicles designed for off road use. If driven carefully and slowly and used for it’s intended purpose, vehicles designed for off road last just as long as their on road brothers, with very little additional wear and tear. The keys are, getting the right vehicle and use as intended.

Crawl underneath and you can tell quickly which can and which can’t.
Besides, it’s fun.

It does not have 11" under the rear differential, maybe under the axle tubes and front diff.

That’s an interesting idea… I thought the Samurai had issues with toppling over though, is it a safe vehicle for a new driver? She’s pretty good on the dirt road BTW, she has been driving my Landcruiser for the last 6 months every day, and only occasionally misses the straddling part of navigating the ruts… of course when she does the LC is pretty forgiving, not quite sure how that will work if there is less ground clearance. You couldn’t really take a regular car on the road in its current state, you just need the higher clearance for the multiple ruts (it’s downhill so every time it rains the ruts rearrange themselves…) Along the liners of a Samurai, how about a Nissan Xterra?

I’d stick with a newer car/truck, much better safety equipment.

Sorry but what’s a Ranger? 99% of the time 2WD will be fine, it’s only when it’s wet that 4WD makes a difference.

You’re right to be skeptical about GC. But, I share jt’s enthusiasm for Toyota trucks for inexpensive off road, not because of their ground clearance below the pumpkin, but their overall engineering for the task. As you follow a 4Runner vs a Durango for example down the road, you’ll notice the difference in suspension component exposure and placement of skid plates and vitals. Toyotas just don’t have as many parts exposed to rough usage, usually placed higher,better protected , with smoother surfaces or all of the above, Don’t take our word…take a look. All mine have been animals off road compared to the really crappy Rangers and especially Dodge products. Ask any off roader…
I bought Toyotas for that expected purpose, not as an after thought.

It is a ford pick up truck. Not full size but not tiny either. I had a tiny toyota pickup, terrible traction but got tires called mud grips for it, the ranger did better for traction with the regular tires.

a horse

She went to school with me, and I drive a 2001 Landcruiser, which works great on that road, but as you know has terrible gas mileage. I actually also own a 1999 Landcruiser which needs a bunch of work if she were to use it (new brakes/rotors, 2 new tires, CV boot, leaky windshield), but again I was hoping for something smaller/less gas guzzling. Any opinions out there about a Nissan Xterra?

Taking all paved to school would be almost an hour each way, going down the short cut on the dirt road is only 35 minutes.

It’s not my driveway but a private road over a mile long going down the hill - last time we asked a contractor for a bid to pave it we were over 250K, so a car that can handle the road conditions is definitely cheaper:)

If a Honda CRV might work, how about a Toyota RAV4? Are you suggesting an older CRV because of my price point or because the older models would be more appropriate?

It won’t save much gas…repeat, 4 cyl 4 wd compact PU truck. they do better off road because they are shorter.

I own a 94 4runner and plan to give it to my grandson in about a year when he’s 16. I bought it new and have never had a better vehicle. It has 225K on it and gets just under 20 mpg on the highway and about 17 all around. Up till about 95, the 4runners were built on the truck chassis. It should be less prone to rollover and survive an accident better than some vehicles (an unfortunate, but necessary thought for a 16 year old). They’re not powerful enough to be hot-rodded too much. If you get a used one, the rear coils might need to be replaced for your driving and make sure the timing belt is good or plan to replace it. Mine is a V6 automatic with the larger tires 10.5 by 30, I think. I highly recommend one. It should offer some of the same advantages as your Landcruiser, but much less maintenance and better mileage.

Up till about 95, the 4runners were built on the truck chassis.
They still are.

I think a good vehicle would be a 2002 Nissan frontier my parents used ti have one of those and it was pretty good off road we had the se wig re step rails and roof rack and those were good too. And also maybey the same year pathfinder? Both have good ground clearance.

I had a lot of different 4x4 vehicles just never in CA. I would choose a Jeep Cherokee or Grand Cherokee over the rest due to cost & availability. More bang for the buck! The only advantage the 4runner provides is more space inside. Tires sound like the most important thing.

A mule or donkey would be better. That is what is used for trips into the Grand Canyon because they are more sure footed than a horse.