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4 Top Questions to Ask Yourself When Shopping for a 4×4

Are you in the market for a 4×4? If you have minimal to no experience shopping for one, you’re probably wondering how to begin. Your first order of business is to develop a profile of the vehicle you want. This is necessary because four-wheel drive vehicles come in a wide variety of models and load designations, which means you also have a wide variety of choices to make. Below are four questions you should ask yourself to find a 4×4 that best suits your needs.

1. Live Axles or Independent Suspension?

If you plan to deal with heavy loads and/or rocky and sandy surfaces in your off-road treks, a vehicle with front and rear live axles can give you that all-important ground clearance under the axle and differential when the path to be taken gets too uneven. Likewise, a live axle setup can be extremely helpful in situations when one wheel is pushed up, as this forces the opposite wheel down, aiding traction on that side of the vehicle. Independent suspensions fare much better on the road, as they are easier to tune for good handling and ride comfort. The TL:DR version: if you’re an avid off-roader, go with live axles. For general four-wheel driving, an independent suspension will serve you well.

2. Pickup or SUV?

This particular question was easier to answer in the past, when the distinction between pickups and utes were a lot more defined. Now, with the paradigms set by today’s car manufacturers (think Hilux-Fortuner and Strada-Montero Sport), your only consideration between the two is whether you’re planning to haul cargo or passengers with your 4×4. If it’s the former, then go with a pickup. If the latter, then choose an SUV.

3. Gas or Diesel?

Similar to choosing between a pickup and SUV, deciding between a gas or diesel 4×4 used to be a lot simpler back then–if you prioritize performance, go gas but if you want an expansive off-road range and the ability to wade through creeks and ponds without sputtering , then it’s diesel for you. Today though, diesel engines are just as high-performing as gas engines, thanks to turbo technology and the addition of electronics that control high-pressure injection systems. Nevertheless, fuel economy remains a diesel hallmark. Also, many car makers are dropping their gas engine options from their 4×4 lineups altogether, so don’t be surprised with the limited options you will get with gas-powered 4x4s.

4. Automatic or Manual?

Again, with many modern 4x4s the choice has already been settled because most of the models today are solely automatic. Although automatics offer a world of convenience, manual gearboxes certainly have plenty of positives, starting with the full control of the vehicle that they give you. They also offer superior engine braking mainly because of the direct connection between the wheels and the engine. So if it’s a manual 4×4 you’re going for, you may have to go by way of a used vehicle purchase.

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