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Unlike the winter months, when 4×4 cars are in high demand and dealers can afford to inflate prices, in the summer people are searching for convertible cars and are therefore less likely to consider an off-roader. With a drop in demand for 4×4 cars, it is therefore more likely that prices will drop and buyers who are thrifty can get a great deal on a new or used four wheel drive car.
If you’re considering purchasing a 4×4, there are many things to consider to ensure you not only get the best deal, but you also purchase the right car to suit your lifestyle. Take a look below at Trusted Dealers’ guide to 4×4 cars.
Why buy a 4×4 car?
The demand for 4×4 cars has continued to increase as buyers recognise the added benefits of a high seating position coupled with all-wheel drive (AWD) capability. Furthermore, the choice of off-roaders has widened significantly with the addition of SUVs (sports utility vehicles) and crossovers (sportier car-like models) added to the mix. Certainly, buying a 4×4 car is an attractive option and offers a multitude of positives to include safety, security, excellent performance both on and off-road and heightened comfort.
Is a 4×4 car the right choice?
Before you make a purchase, it’s well worth considering if a 4×4 car is the right choice for you. Firstly, is four-wheel drive essential on your car? If you live on a farm, regularly cross muddy fields or unsurfaced roads, or you wish to tow a caravan or boat, the answer will probably be yes. However, if you mainly use your car for the daily commute to work or for the school run into town, there may be other more cost-effective options.
Manufacturers are now offering 4×4 versions of conventional family cars to help motorists get around safely during the winter months such as the BMW X1, the Audi A4 Allroad or the Skoda Octavia Scout. These models offer a raised ground clearance and extra underbody protection to help drivers tackle rougher road surfaces and wintery conditions. There is also the option of adding winter tyres to your car during the coldest months of the year. Winter tyres are built to withstand freezing temperatures and offer better traction and grip. If you really want a high-riding go-anywhere car but are on a budget, you could opt for one of the supermini-based compact SUVs with four-wheel-drive such as the Fiat Panda Cross or a 4×4 version of the Vauxhall Mokka.
SUVs and Crossovers
Sales of SUVs and Crossovers have rocketed in recent years as drivers who are attracted to the look and style of the 4×4 car seek to purchase a cheaper alternative. SUVs and Crossovers both offer a higher seating position for occupants, coupled with many of the features from 4×4 cars such as a higher ground clearance, maximum comfort and more overall internal space. Buyers then have the option of choosing two-wheel drive as opposed to four-wheel drive which helps save on fuel costs and boosts fuel economy. For more information on SUVs, take a look at our Guide to SUVs.
There has been a growing trend towards off-road style cars that only have two-wheel drive (2WD). Crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai ix35 and Skoda Yeti all offer front wheel drive options, whilst some traditional 4×4 cars such as the Land Rover Freelander, Kia Sorento and Volvo XC60 are now also available with 2WD. All-wheel drive (AWD) is another increasingly popular option, whereby power will only go to the rear axle when the car decides it is needed, otherwise power remains on the front axle. Cars such as the popular Toyota RAV4 are now available with AWD, and offers better fuel economy and a lower price tag than many proper 4x4s.
Should I buy diesel, petrol or hybrid?
Most owners of 4×4 cars will opt for a diesel model, the reason being that fuel costs will be lower. Modern diesel cars offer plenty of refinement and torque (pulling power), which makes them great for towing. Many buyers may be tempted toward buying a hybrid 4×4 car, which is a sensible option, however, it is important to look at the relative costs of diesel and hybrid engines – you may find that the diesel engine is more frugal despite the hybrid technology. There’s also a pull towards Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) such as the new Mitsubishi PHEV currently taking the market by storm or the Lexus RX and Porsche Cayenne Hybrid. These vehicles offer better fuel consumption and emissions than diesels depending on the type of driving you intend to do.
Not all 4×4 cars are practical, in fact, having lots of four-wheel drive kit under the car’s floor can limit the interior space and weigh the car down further. Boot space can also be reduced and due to the load floor being higher off the ground, it may prove harder to lift luggage in and out of the boot. If you have a larger family and you are looking for a car with seven seat capacity, plenty of practicality, good fuel economy and a vast amount of interior space, you may be better off considering an MPV (multi-purpose vehicle). If you’re looking for a genuine substitute for an MPV, some of the off-roaders available with seven seats include the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Kia Sorento or the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Are 4×4 cars still gas-guzzlers?
Four-wheel drive cars have built up a reputation for being “gas guzzlers” in the past, but in recent years, manufacturers have had to pay far more attention to fuel economy in order for 4×4 cars to remain a valid option in what has become a crowded market. Car- makers are now increasingly offering 4×4 models with greater fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions to compete against alternative SUVs and Crossovers. However, it’s worth noting that despite the improvements, 4×4 cars are never going to be the top choice of green car. According to Which? latest research shows that 95% of all diesel vehicles do not meet official Euro limits, with the top ten comprising of mostly 4x4s.
Due to the complexity of off-roaders, they are far less reliable than conventional hatchback cars or saloons. For example, a recent survey by Which? revealed that the second worst-performing car brand was Land Rover. Its Discovery 3 (2004-2009) was rated the least reliable car overall. With this in mind, it’s well worth considering purchasing a 4×4 that offers a more generous warranty than the industry standard 3 years or 60,000 miles. Kia is the industry leader at seven years or 100,000 miles, whilst Hyundai offers a five year or unlimited mileage warranty, and Toyota a five years/100,000 mile one.
Consider the cost
One of the biggest things to consider when purchasing a four-wheel drive car is whether you can actually afford it. The price tag on the vehicle may be within your remit, but you must also consider the long-term costs of owning and running one. Fuel consumption, insurance, servicing and parts will more likely cost more than regular cars, so choosing the wrong car could end up costing you a lot of money in the long-term. However, depreciation on 4×4 cars is typically less steep than other conventional cars, particularly if the brand name or model is highly sought after. Remember to do your sums before you buy and think ahead to when you plan to sell the car before you decide whether the purchase is the right one for you.
If you decide to opt for a 4×4 car, you’ll probably still spend the majority of your time on tarmac, so it’s important to consider how your off-roader performs on road. Choose a 4×4 Audi, BMW, VW or Land Rover model and you’ll have no problems driving on or off-road, or for heightened on-road performance we’d also recommend the Ford Kuga, Mazda CX-5 and Range Rover Sport.
Consider investing in a course
If you’re considering buying a 4×4 car for the first time, it is well worth taking a one-day course to learn how to use the full capabilities of the vehicle and ensure our own safety. Driving a 4×4 car is very different to driving a conventional vehicle, particularly if you are handling rough terrain, so it’s worth sitting with a someone who regularly drives one so they can help teach you. For example, learning how to drive on a muddy hillside correctly may prove invaluable when snow and ice cover the roads.