$5000 Expedition Vehicle Showdown: Land Rover vs. Land Cruiser

While some people’s idea of an off-road vehicle is cage with a 600hp engine, suspended on long soft springs and 40” tires. I tend to be more reserved. I always wanted an expedition-type vehicle; ability to comfortably travel on- and off-road with family, over great distances. The off-roading would be limited to sand dunes, muddy roads, small streams, and occasional snow. There is a number of great choices for an entry level expedition vehicle but if we’re on a fixed budget (and who isn’t), we need to start low, and for around $5000 here is a clean first generation Discovery and an 80-series Land Cruiser.

This 1994 Land Cruiser is well broken-in with almost 220,000 miles on the big-o in-line six. The owner is saying that the cooling system has been recently completely redone and that it comes with a book of service records. Most importantly this Cruiser has the highly desirable factory locking differentials. The exterior looks great, rust free-ish but with some faded paint. Unfortunately there are no pictures of the interior. 

With an updated radio from a Scion, for that OEM look, and some M/Ts on steelies, this Cruiser is pretty much stock. It also comes with factory wheels wrapped in A/T tires. The fact that the factory running boards are still attached to it means that it has not seen much off-road abuse. The seller is asking $5000 which seems like a remarkably good deal until you recall that there are almost 220,000 miles on it. 

In the 1990s era of large SUVs, the Land Rover Discovery was king. It was the vehicle that had it all: commanding view of the road, room for rugrats and all their stuff, snooty European badge and it gave the owner the feel of outdoor freedom, even if it was only used for trips to the mall or soccer practice. Much like the trophy wives that drove it, all that glamour comes with high maintenance. Reliability is seriously bad and the cost of parts and repairs is ridiculously high. 

With that said, this 108,000 mile 1997 Disco seems to be almost in a class by itself as it has the benefit of having what seems like a competent enthusiast owner. The ad is well written (if a bit wordy), touching on many points and specific modifications which usually need further explanation. For instance, the problematic ABS system has been disabled and a ton of preventative maintenance completed, such as resealing of the dual sunroofs (non-sunroof Discos are more desirable, FYI).

Pictures are good too, they show a very clean vehicle. The seller also has records but only in electronic version, but probably arranged in a nicely formatted spreadsheet. Asking price is $5950 and with the amount of questionable Discos out there, it is probably negotiable.

So… Which of these two $5000-ish expedition vehicles is the one for you? Is the high-mileage Toyota which has some unanswered questions or the clean Disco with half the miles?

 

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