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I started the above thread yesterday and (as usual) got some good responses.  As a bonus there were some suggestions on the choice of vehicle.  I decided to start a new thread since if someone were to search topics they might not find that discussion there.

For starters, like metal detectors, the choice of a vehicle depends strongly upon what and how it will be used, and even who will be using it.  Not only is there an obvious higher cost involved (well, unless you're talking about a Zed :biggrin:) but also the variety of required tasks is likely considerably larger.

I'm certainly not going to talk negatively about someone else's preferred choice.  Just like detectors, if it works for you then that's exactly what you need.  I'm going to concentrate on what works for me, or at least where I'm currently sitting in terms of my next vehicle -- I might change my mind and you might help me there.  In the other thread there were a couple (maybe more) suggestions of getting a Toyota 4WD Tacoma pickup.  Below you'll see why it's not the perfect fit for me, even though it's a great vehicle and, IMO, if I were locked on getting a pickup it would likely be my #1 choice.

I live in the midwest and I'm going to be driving at least to the Rockies (1000 miles one way absolute minimum; California is more than twice as far) two or three times per year.  Those are highway miles.  Efficiency matters to me.  Comfort, at the moderate level, matters to me.  Safety (e.g. blind-spot-alert) matters to me.  I need a vehicle I can sleep in (safely), that I can lock up securely (obviously no guarantees if a thief is determined enough).

Here are, in order of importance, my requirements:

1) Off-road worthiness -- as written this is pretty vague so I'll try to explain a bit.  First off, a minimum is four wheel drive (4WD).  All wheel drive ("AWD" -- unfortunately the disctiontion isn't clear cut here) and obviously 2WD (whether front or rear) aren't going to make it.  I want at least one wheel on each axle pulling at all times (when needed) and an extra low gear (not just the transmission 'L' gear).  Locking differential(s) and/or limited slip differentials are a bonus.  This requirement #1 eliminates a huge number of vehicles currently on the market, some of which claim to or try and give the impression they can be taken off-road.  (Well, anything can be taken off-road....)  Those typically are designed for slick pavement, meaning concrete or ashphalt.  And and many are designed to make you look cool.  Enough on that tangent....

2) Enclosed, unified storage, etc. volume -- what I mean is that one key unlocks the entire space.  This rules out a pickup truck.  Yes, there are extended cab pickups which offer more room, and there are sliding windows to give you access between the cab and the bed.  But those aren't enough for me.  (I want to sleep in the main volume.)  We've now trimmed down the choices another order of magnitude.

3) High fuel efficiency -- now this is where things really get cut down to a few, or none depending upon your definition.  (Using US units here) a huge number of 4WD's don't even get 20 mpg highway.  Of the remainder, most are in the low 20's.  Now, many/most will say "fuel is cheap..."  It's not just the cost for me.  I don't want to add any more CO2 to the atmosphere than is required to meet my needs.  But even the "cheap" part, if it remains true for the future (and I, for one, don't think it will if you're thinking 10+ years -- my vehicle's minimum life expectancy), consider this:  30 mpg vs 20 mpg at $3/gallon for 16,000 miles (a typical year for me, I'm anticipating) is $800.  That's a new detector every year or two!

4) Age & Cost -- obviously few of us is wealthy enough to ignore this.  In the US you can easily pay $50k for a new 4WD pickup.  I'd like to stay near or under $30k with $40k the max.  I'm not going older than a year or two for many reasons, not the least of which is rust from Midwest salted winter roads.  (As I've said before, you guys out West don't know how good you've got it.)  There isn't a non-stainless steel in existence that can handle our Midwest roads.  The key is to underwash the vehicle multiple times in the winter to minimize the damage, and do you trust a used vehicle seller to have done that?

I've considered quite a few vehicles.  Toyota:  Tacoma, 4-runner, FJ Cruiser; Chevy Colorado ZR2 (the new killer off-road vehicle); Ford Explorer; Subaru: Forrester, Outback, Crosstrek; Nissan Frontier and X-Terra.   All excellent vehicles if they meet your needs/requirements.  All fall short of my 1-3 filters above.  As far as I've found, only three vehicles make the cut and all are Jeeps.

No question the hard-core off-roader is drawn like a magnet towards a Jeep Wrangler.  Unfortunately they are about as aerodynamic as a ship's sail.  Fail on #3.  Jeep does make vehicles which satisfy at least 1-3 above:  from lowest to highest in cost:  Renegade Trailhawk, Compass Trailhawk, Cherokee Trailhawk, and Grand Cherokee (several submodels).  The Compass gets the best fuel economy (30 mpg highway) while even the heaviest of the bunch -- Grand Cherokee -- is rated at 24 mpg highway.  The Renegade is too small (and too cutesy) for me.  For a long time the Cherokee was the front runner, but 30 mpg vs. 25 mpg is a big plus for the Compass, sacrificing power (Compass only comes with 4 cylinder engine...), but surprisingly not much in interior room.  Compass Trailhawk (new) is under $30k; Cherokee Trailhawk is just over $30k; properly outfitted (for example: Quadra-Trak II transfer case and skid plates) Grand Cherokee can be found for high $30k's.  I'll be the most surprised of all if I end up with anything other than one of these three.

It really is all about priorities.  I'm always open to suggestions, though.  Something satisfying my 1-4 requirements and I'm all ears.

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Here’s a pic of my prospecting rig.  1988 Cherokee, lockers front and back, 4.6 L stroker engine, 5 sp manual trans. 4 inch lift with 33’s.  Goes just about anywhere I need it to.  Building a trailer

The best Four wheel oops meant leg transport for gold hunting

I've been driving the same 2001 Dodge diesel 3/4 ton 4x4 since it was new. This the 18th year. it now has about 307,000 miles on it, and well over 20,000 of those on dirt. It's never stranded me. I pu

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Well, trucks are like detectors with lots of choices and we all have favorites. Just like detectors I can only talk about what works for me and why. I have long been impressed with Toyota durability. It is easy to get 250,000 miles out of a 4-Runner motor so I buy mine used with about 50,000 miles on them. My last cost 17,000 at five years used instead of 40,000 new. They are so popular it is easy to find used like new rigs, and I am too rough on my trucks to buy new. My current truck has a serious case of manzanita pinstriping!

Which is why I prefer older models - the narrow profile. They are slowly ruining the 4-Runner for my use attempting to turn it into a Hummer. I need to get down half overgrown narrow roads and these big rigs just can’t go where I go.

Another big factor is the 4-Runner can engage true 4WD unlike many so-called four wheel drive vehicles these days that only have a limited slip differential type 4WD. When the going gets really bad you need true four wheel drive.

Other than that, the space I need to camp inside the vehicle itself is there. I have lived out of my 4-Runner for a month at a time in Alaska with a tent used when applicable. Sleeping in a truck is not technically considered camping and can get you overnight in places where a pitched camp is not allowed. Bring a frugal person I will overnight in rest areas more often than not and it has got me by in many a “no camping allowed” location.

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24 minutes ago, Steve Herschbach said:

Another big factor is the 4-Runner can engage true 4WD unlike many so-called four wheel drive vehicles these days that only have a limited slip differential type 4WD.

You mean all four wheels pulling simultaneously?  If so, I agree that's both a big plus and an uncommon feature.

I didn't mention 'looks' -- obviously the most subjective of all selection categories -- although that is something I care about.  The new 4-runner (and Tacoma) front ends/grills don't appeal to me at all.  The previous ones were way more attractive, IMO.  For whatever reason (consumer demand I suppose, and sad at that) there has been a trend by manufacturers to inflate the size of a lot of vehicles.  Chevrolet pickups (both 'full size' and 'midsize') are another example.  Even (more/less) fuel efficient Subaru has followed suit.

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20 minutes ago, GB_Amateur said:

You mean all four wheels pulling simultaneously?  If so, I agree that's both a big plus and an uncommon feature.

Yes, it is a big deal and many companies try hard to obscure the fact that their 4WD vehicles can’t engage true 4WD. Mine I have 2WD, all wheel drive (four wheels engaged but slippage allowed for pavement driving), and then true all four wheels locked to 4WD with both high and low range. The way to know if a vehicle has true 4WD is that it will buck like a pony if you engage it and try to corner on pavement. Strictly for dirt road or off road use. And being a Toyota I can do any of that without getting out and engaging wheel hubs - it amazes me when people have to get out of their truck to shift to 4WD - how 20th century! :laugh:

Looks? It’s my prospecting truck.

Number one complaint. I have the 6 cylinder which gives me good trailer pulling power but I only get 20 mpg highway with no load and it drops to 10 mpg pulling a 16’ trailer. Without the trailer I get a little over 300 miles on the 16 gallon tank. Poor mileage but good range. Luckily fuel prices adjusted for inflation are the lowest they have been in my lifetime.

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I've been driving the same 2001 Dodge diesel 3/4 ton 4x4 since it was new. This the 18th year. it now has about 307,000 miles on it, and well over 20,000 of those on dirt. It's never stranded me. I put $10,000 into it a year ago, and brought everything up to snuff. Now runs like new again. Even with that investment, the cost of ownership is under $3,000/year, with many years of use ahead. I put an aluminum flatbed on it when new, and it has hauled more equipment and supplies than can be believed. Or, pulled my little Alaskan camp trailer, with the 4 wheeler on the flatbed. I've logged every gallon of fuel put in it, and for all uses has averaged almost 17mpg. It would be the last of my possessions sold. Here's a pic of me stuck in the Wyoming clay a couple of springs ago. Had to wait 3 hours for it to dry out before continuing on.


P5120005 (1024x768).jpg

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Used is the go mates---- you can afford to pay for fuel if you havent spent 50K on a rig,

I def smash them and pinstripe them too--- I think most of my friends would agree with that--

Biggest mistake i made lately was trading my 1999 Yukon off for a "top heavy bad cornering. 2005 Toyota Sequoia... it does have plenty of room in it to be "frugal":biggrin: and nap though...

I gave 2500.00 dollars for the Yukon--put a new set of steel wheels on it and good tires, drove it for 40K and thought the front end was going south so i traded to S Scott---- So he goes and puts more air in the tires,(only had 20 pounds he says!) front end was fine!!!!!!!!--and the 4wd selector on the dash was bad---it cost him more in fuel to go get the part than it did for the little switch   ... So he got it all fixed up for less than a couple of hundred----- Arggggg....

BTW, He wont trade it to me for my 2005 Toyota!

So my point is for a prospecting rig ,or any for that matter, i prefer a used ride--- that extra 45K can be spent on more detectors!!!!!

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I had a Isuzu Trooper for 18 years from new and finally parted company with it after 250,000 miles,the engine was still running as sweet as the day i got it,bodywork was very good and without doubt the most reliable 4x4 that i have ever owned,possibly a bit agricultural looks wise,but its the reliability that i mainly am after.Fuel wise did about 32mpg from a 2.8 turbo diesel and pull like a train with a heavy trailer behind it.

Next detecting truck i had was a v6 petrol Suzuki Vitara LWB absolutely terrific engine and pulled like a turbine and off road ability was outstanding like the Isuzu had selectable 4x4 so ran on normal tarmac in 2 wheel drive,but by throwing the lever this introduced the front axle and never ever got me bogged down,and rest assured on some really wet farmland it earned its keep,had the Suzuki for about 6-7 years.

Current 4x4 is a top of the range BMW x5 and well over the top luxury wise for a detecting truck if i am honest,but boy do i enjoy driving it,its permanent 4 wheel drive and i guess is more of a 'soft roader' than a 'off roader' this thing has humongous wide tyres that are a fortune too replace,but as they say one does not have pockets in shrouds and i cannot take it with me.Its running a twin turbo diesel and pulls like a train and can get on a long journey about 38mpg which is mind blowing if i am honest out such a big truck,if you use sports mode then although it is ultra quick you can see the fuel evaporating before your eyes.

Prehaps its a age related thing but much prefer my creature comforts these days,although i could sleep easily in the Isuzu and Suzuki the BMW although bigger is not suited as much but i have slept in it a few times. 

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If you must go with a SUV type vehicle the only rig I would recommend is same as Steve H. A late model Toyota 4Runner in 4x4. You can't beat that 4.0L engine, driven 63 mph max it can get you over 20 mpg. Plus it has plenty of power to tow a travel trailer if needed, but don't expect over 13 mpg towing.  I hear they are soon planning on putting the 3.5L in the 4Runner I wouldn't recommend that engine/trans combination, too much downshifting amongst other bugs.

One other thing I would recommend if your going offroad very far, be sure and buy a set of tires with 3 ply sidewalls 8 plies tread or 10 plies if you got a large truck, such as the BFG TA/KO-2's or General Grabbers X3. There are not very many tire carcasses with 3 ply sidewalls on the market you will need these to ward off the sharp rocks from the sidewalls. They will get you there and back much better than standard tires. A lot of the 4 ply offroad tires look tough but are really not. Most of those have 2 ply sidewalls.

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Years ago when I was much, much younger, I had a tent and a 4 Runner like Steve's.  Now that I have a small Motorhome I bought an older (2000) Jeep Wrangler since it's a great tow vehicle that can be towed 4 wheels down as opposed to the 4-Runner which is not recommded to be towed.  I see that Winnebago has come out with a new 4X4 Class B Camper built on the Mercedes frame that looks great but not many people, myself included, could afford that steep a price tag which is up in the $135,000 price range.  Have to find a lot of gold to pay for that!!

RV and Jeep.JPG

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Gas mpg, try these CHEAP tricks. Go to Walmart and get some Mobil 1 Oil . Make sure to get the stuff that says FOR CARS OVER 75,000 MILES. I accidentally found this is the ONLY version of Mobil 1 synthetic oil to give an MPG boost. I get about 2-3 mpg more after using this oil in my 2010 Subaru Forester with AWD ,170 horse 4 banger, and automatic trans.And it feels like I have a V6 power wise with this oil vs my 4 banger, accelerates VERY quickly nowadays. I sure would like to know if this Mobil 1 oil will boost 4Runner  MPG?

  I also seemed to get an additional 1 mpg this winter after putting Mobil 1 synthetic gear lube in my rear differential. I dunno why you guys are bad mouthing AWD ? I love it ,never have got my car stuck yet. Goes thru 2 feet of snow with dedicated snow tires. Floats on top of mud holes without sinking in. Just wish it had more ground clearance for rocky trails...oh and Silver gas sometimes gets me 1-2 MPG over 87 Octane, not always, but sometimes, especially on the highway. Premium gas not cost effective. All season tires get  1-2 mpg better than knobby off road rubber too.


-Tom V.

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