Complete Guide to Buying a 4×4 Ute and Camper in Australia

Buying a 4×4 ute and camper “Lap of Australia” that lets you go off the beaten path — our reached guide to what you need, specs, and models, plus what to avoid.

4x4 camper in Australian outback

Over the previous few weeks we’ve been researching heavily what 4×4 camper set up to buy so we can depart around Australia, with the goal of seeing a lot of nature and also visiting local Aboriginal communities (when depart there is permitted) as part of “Going Home“.

A lot of republic travel around Australia doing the “vanlife” thing in a standard van, bask in the venerable Toyota Hiace.

The problem among using a van — or indeed very vehicles — is that they’re two-wheel right only. Using a 2WD vehicle does let you do the lap of Australia but desire not let you go onto many of the lumpy and sometimes muddy roads. For that, you need a 4WD (or 4×4, whatever you desire to call it).

What we ruled out

  • We can’t tow a caravan. Caravans are comfortable and expedient for families. But if you’re towing a caravan it requires you won’t be able to enter some of the additional remote regions in Cape York or Arnhem land.
  • We don’t want to tow a camper trailer. There are one really slick camper trailers out there that are 4×4 ready — rugged and ready for repositioning off-road. But it gets tiresome setting up camp every day for months. Those are better suited for two-four week trips.

For this reason, we began to target slide-on campers that go on top of a utility tray.

But the interrogate of “what 4×4 ute to buy” if you’re trying to travel economically is a difficult one. Which models are reliable? Which possess all the features you want? Which ones are the easiest to facility in a pinch? That’s everything we set out to procure out

Note: We’re learning as we’re touching along. We have more to learn! This is based on extended research and talking to owners and mechanics, but it’s ongoing. If you have anything to add, please show us.

What features do you will in a 4×4 ute?

To go around Australia means going over long dull straights as well as winding dirt roads and sometimes muddy 4×4 tracks. There also are occasional river crossings where you can’t get out of your car because of crocodiles.

It gets hot and humid, and at times cold and damp.

Understanding these states, here’s what we realised are the key features we’d mind in a 4×4 ute we’d use for camping.

  • A single-cab or extra-cab chassis/utility. These advance in many names — sometimes it’s a single-cab chassis, sometimes it’s an extra-cab ute. A single cab way there are just seats for the driver and passenger (and a bit in the middle). Extra cab gives a tiny bench seat leisurely, suitable for storage, small children, or a dog. Dual cab is additional suitable for a family or if you are towing a trailer (which we ruled out).
  • A cab chassis perform (with a tray), not a pickup. A cab chassis has a bare succor or a worker’s tray on it. A pickup has a tub and that would be redundant for mainly cases. If you’re towing a caravan or desire make do with a smaller camper, what is more a pickup would be fine… it’s unprejudiced not ideal.
This 4x4 ute is a pickup, which isn't an ideal structure for a slide-on camper.
A 4×4 ute in pickup format (with the bet on tub)
  • Air conditioning. It gets hot up north in the dry season and hot consume south in summer. Working, reliable A/C is a must-have.
  • Cruise control. Having cruise control has a great deal of benefits. It lets you keep an unwieldy vehicle at a decent run. It reduces fatigue because you have one less thing to monitor. And it will avoid you getting speeding tickets — speeding cameras and police in Australia are very aggressive.
  • Four-wheel ability (4WD, AWD). You absolutely need this, this is what this article is about!
  • Diesel fuel. Diesel is more economical and environmentally qualified, and diesel engines are more torquey (can pull more load). Most of the 4WD utes are diesel anyway.
  • Manual transmission. Manual is less probable to fail, cheaper to repair, is throughout 10% more economical, and isn’t hard to learn to nation. (Fuel economy isn’t just about dollars — if we’re towing a consign around, it behoves us to try to be environmentally worthy where we can.)
  • High GVM (Gross Vehicle Weight): You’ll hear a lot of specs including tare weight, dry weight, and GVM. You basically essential a 4×4 ute that has high enough GVM to carry passengers and a fully-loaded slide-on camper and anything else that sits on the back (e.g. a motorcycle).
  • Semi off-road tyres. You’ll essential these to get through mud. (You can fit these afterwards).
  • A bull bar (called a “roo bar” in Australia). You might hit an animal. Tragic, but don’t let it strand you. (You can fit these afterwards)

In America, these kinds of vehicles are called “trucks”. In Australia, they’re called “utes” which is short for “utility vehicles”.

Caution: you don’t just determination any ute. See below on “what to avoid”.

What to behold For When Buying a Used 4×4 Ute

I’ll do a bigger post on “what to discover out for when buying a 4×4 ute” later. But here’s a start.

This is a big interrogate as a lot can go wrong among them! And it’s a bit different to buying any old car because a ding or two doesn’t commercial, but bad suspension or drivetrain can waste a deal.

Unless you’re experienced at buying outmoded work vehicles, get a professional inspection done. A competent inspector will take a trustworthy hour to do a thorough job and desire cost about $100-150.

It’s well worth it because they’ll encourage you avoid buying a total lemon, and by a decent purchase, they’ll help you negotiate inoperative the price — saving a lot additional than $150 in the process.

I personally know one humanoid who’ll help me inspect any 4×4 ute I buy in the Sunshine waft area, but I suggest you contact mechanics that specialise in defense certificates (or “roadworthy certificates”) and ask if they’ll also do stout inspections. They have to be licensed mechanics to do either.

Just a few things that you might get on a motorcycle that passes a confidence certificate but which wouldn’t pass a pre-purchase inspection:

  • Bad clutch — you’d lone see this from driving it. It’ll fling in high gear that you don’t gape in low gear.
  • Warped discs — you’d lone notice this from driving it and braking. The safety certificate test just checks that there’s enough pad left on the brakes
  • Old tyres – the defense certificate test just measures tread depth. But if the tyres are 10 days old (from disuse) then you might be stuck plus a bad tyre in the middle of nowhere. (here’s a quick guide I wrote on my other blog on reading tyre codes)
  • Dodgy charging system — if it starts, it’ll pass the safety certificate test. But if the alternator is shot or the battery is old
  • Faulty ABS unit (hard to test)
  • Faulty air conditioner, cruise control, other engine parts (you might consider it’s fine but it may not be!)

There are a few things to check for:

  • High mileage. The ask of “how many kilometres is too many?” is a big one. In general, you should aim for less than 125,000 km.* The simple reason for this is that you can put 25-50,000 km on the truck, and as long as you keep it in worthy condition, you’ll be able to sell it exclusive of too many issues.
  • Rust. Many 4×4 vehicles are carried to places like Phillip Island and other places where they’ll get splashed plus salt water. Saltwater that isn’t washed off want cause rust.
  • No service history. Trucks can continue forever if they’re served well. Unfortunately, they might not be. beget sure you know the scheduled maintenance intervals and what’s critical, including changing the alternator and timing belt recently. If your alternator belt goes in the complex of nowhere, you get no charge. And if your timing belt dies, you break your engine.

* Note: Consistent ceremony is at times more important than mileage. But I consider mileage as kind of a “vanity metric” — it’s primary when you’re selling it.

What models 4×4 ute necessity you get for a slide-on camper?

There are a few models of 4×4 ute that fit the invoice. Here they are.

Because you can’t get slightly features in every year, I’ve done a bit of research to see what ages you should buy.

Toyota Hilux 4×4 7th Gen, 2009-2014


The best — and collected vaguely affordable — 4×4 ute you can get for towing a camper (or putting on a slide-on camper) is the Hilux.

You can also get a great more expensive Landcruiser in utility format but it’ll damage a lot more.

The 7th generation Hilux stayed fundamentally the same internally since 2004, which means you can pick up an older model (with reasonable kilometres) and be positive to find the engine parts as obligatory. However, like other vehicles in this front-runner, get a 2009+ manual Hilux so that you can get wing control.

You can, of course, get a 2014+ 8th generation, but it’ll cost you a lot additional and the depreciation will be higher.

Toyotas carry what one mechanic informed me is the “Toyota Premium“. Yes, they’re a high-quality vehicle that rarely breaks listed, and is easy to repair with many affordable parts, and for that people end up paying more.

On the then side, a Hilux 4×4 ute is going to beget its value well. If you buy one that has done 100,000 km, what is more put 25,000 km on it, you’ll liable sell it for not far from the same brand — provided you service and clean it regularly.

For a 2010-12 model among under 150,000 km and the features you desire, you can expect to pay $25-30,000.

Mitsubishi Triton 2009-2014

2010 Mitsubishi Triton Single Cab Chassis 4x4 ute - astronomical for camping

This KA/KB from 2005 model was the same in this year range, similar to the Toyota Hilux. But it was merely in 2009 that cruise control became available.

Mechanics like the Triton because it’s a edifying machine for which it’s easy to salvage parts and is easy to repair (when needed), but which doesn’t carry the “Toyota Premium”.

For a edifying example with the features needed for long-distance travel, you’ll spend around A$18-20,000.

Mitsubishi released an all-new Triton in 2015, which means the prices for those are higher. But the 2009-2014 range is still spacious and has a plethora of parts available.

Mazda BT-50 2011-2019+ OR Ford Ranger

Mazda BT-50 2011 more cab, a great 4x4 camper ute
2011 Mazda BT-50 additional Cab

It was only from 2011+ that the Mazda BT-50 got wing control, so that’s the first year which it became a valid option for us.

According to Wikipedia, the second-generation BT-50 (the ages mentioned, from 2011 to 2019) is actually a rebadge of a Ford Ranger. Externally, they’re a bit different, but fundamentally they’re the same car — and they still share a few exterior panels. That’s a salubrious thing, because it means it’s supported by a wide dealer network in Australia. So, even more places to get parts, and more mechanics who’re comfortable with succeeding on it.

I’d recommend buying a 2011-2015 model BT-50. In 2016 they got a facelift and one interior modifications which made them more expensive. If you buy a 2011 model you get all the engine features of the later models, which means it’s easy to find parts and get it serviced.

Similar to the Triton, for a used 2011+ BT-50 with throughout 100,000 km you’ll spend around $18-20,000.

Isuzu D-Max 2009+

2009 Isuzu D-Max (photo from Carsguide)

The fourth and last option for a 4×4 ute suitable for moving off-road is the Isuzu D-Max. I’m partial to this one because secretly, I want you to call me D-Max (this is fair a check to see if my friends are reading this…)

You need 2009+ to get soar control, although it’s rare to find a model that old with few kilometres, in good condition, and with a manual transmission.

What models necessity you avoid?

Aside from the models mentioned to buy above, there are a few that you necessity avoid.

Don’t buy a Nissan Navara 4×4

Nissan Navaras detain to be cheaper than the other Japanese 4×4 utes. But as one mechanic told me — “you get what you pay for”.

This isn’t to say they’re lemons. They’d be great work utes. But if you’re planning on being in the address of nowhere for a while and buying customary and buying one with 100,000+ kms on it and you’re not a mechanic then it may not be a worthy bet. (Again your mileage may vary — this is unprejudiced what I’ve been told.)

Don’t buy a stout Wall V200 or a Foton Tunland.

It might be tempting because they’re the majority cheap. But there are many stories on various pages in regular failures of common components and it taking weeks to help them.

I have no problem buying Chinese products, and you might choose to take this gamble if bucks are your ultimate priority. But it comes among risks.

The Great Wall V200 had a bunch of recalls that really slit confidence

  • “More than 9000 diesel-powered ample Wall V200 utilities have been recalled due to a fault that could get the wiring harness to melt.” CarAdvice
  • “But help to the original question regarding a second-hand big Wall as a family toy: The short answer is no, don’t do it. make quality seems to be the biggest predicament and plenty of Great Walls have rattled themselves to end over the years. They’re simply not built well at all…”
  • “You can say the same thing near much of the interior, really. It’s radiant, functional; and it is what it says on the box… by a small tinge of overall cheapness… That feeling of cheapness doesn’t go away once you start crawling around underneath the steed, either. The air intake is in the engine bay and mounted greatest low; as is the alternator. The torsion-bar front suspension looks solid enough, despite offering next to no up-travel afore hitting the bump stop. The leaf-sprung sponsor end looks OK, but the rear spring hanger on the chassis looks decidedly conventional. In comparison to what else you can consume $30,000 on for a dual-cab ute, it’s quite hard to recommend the immense Wall Steed. It’s not a bad ute, but it’s also not that good.

That final scathing review came despite the author acknowledging “a margin of Australians greet a Chinese-made vehicle among a bit of xenophobic flair…” so I’d presume his appraise was not based on xenophobia.

Don’t get a “Sport Utility”.

There’s a kind of ute in Australia arranged a “sport utility”. These are basically a 4-door sedan among the rear cut off and a tray fitted. They’re almost all powered by 6-8 cylinder petrol engines and 2WD only.

A sport utility you must not get
A HSV Maloo Ute

This kind of “ute” is the Australian equivalent of a “truck” in the US at what time owned by someone who doesn’t intend to do things indulge in go off-road or use it for replace. The same kind of person who’d own a Ford F150 Raptor would likely own a Holden SS Ute.

You don’t determination a sport utility; you want a work ute.

Sport utilities are decent for towing things (or causing fast, looking cool, or doing everyday tradesman perform while still being a good car to do people errands), but they don’t have the towing capacity of a perform ute (or 4×4).

This article was available by with title Complete Guide to Buying a 4×4 Ute and Camper in Australia.
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Author: apprentice

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