Land Rover Defender
- Off Road Ability 100%
- Versatility 65%
- Mechanical Simplicity 80%
- Reliability 75%
- Load Capacity 55%
- Part Availibility 80%
- Availability of Accessories 95%
- Fuel Efficiency 60%
- Comfort 35%
The Land Rover Defender. Has a more iconic overland vehicle ever been built? Rugged good looks, simple design, thousands of accessories and unbeatable out-of-factory 4x4 ability have made this one of the most popular expedition vehicles ever built. For many, choice of vehicle boils down to nothing more than a passion for these vehicles.
The Last ever defender has just rolled off the production line after 65 years in production, but this will do little to affect the popularity of these vehicle as a base for an overlander, at least for the next decade or so. There is a plethora of information online about the ins and outs of this vehicle as well as a huge database of video tutorials and forum entries to assist with preparation, maintenance and repairs. As an overview:
The Defender comes in three wheelbase options, 90″, 110″ and 130″. The 110 being the most popular choice for overland travel. the short wheelbase of the 90 is undoubtedly the best performer off road, but its small load are makes it an unlikely choice for trips longer than a few weeks. The 130 makes a great overland platform, but its long wheelbase and monumental turning circle make it a little more of a challenge to live with and drive daily, this is offset by the increased storage space and payload, and is certainly a vehicle worthy of consideration.
The 110 is the obvious choice, its large load area and various configurations make it a great base for almost any trip. The hard top model is possibly the most popular for 2 people, allowing for access hatches to be cut into the sides and offering a huge and versatile storage space, one that is also possible to convert into a small sleeping area.
The 300tdi is the most obvious choice, legendarily reliable and easy to work on, with no mission critical electronics. Unfortunately they are becoming increasing difficult to find, as production finished in 1998, with low mileage examples demanding high prices. The later TD5 and TDCi models are becoming definite contenders now, as diagnostic tools are becoming reasonably priced and easy to carry. engine performance and fuel economy across the range are all similar, with slightly better performance out of the most recent engines. Part availibilty is still good across the board. the only deciding factor (the same when choosing any expedition vehicle) is the debate between new and reliable and old and easy to fix.
Living with a defender is certainly not one of the most comfortable options an overlander has. The front seats are narrow and offer no scope for an arm rest, air con is a no-go on all but the latest models and the cab is utilitarian at best. unless you were to drive a pickup model with a drop in tray camper or cut a pop top into a 110, the obvious sleeping and living arangement is to have a good awning and a good roof tent.
The defender comes into its own with the availability of specific items for modifications. From suspension lifts, roof racks, roll cages and bumpers, if it is available for a 4x4, it is available for a defender. This plethora of parts has led to a healthy amount of market competition and as such, it is much cheaper to modify a defender than most other overland vehicles.
Which modifications you choose to add will massively depend on the duration and location of your trip, but a few seem ubiquitous:
- Roof rack; massively increase your ability to carry items as well as serving as a base for your roof tent.
- Roof tent; the most simple way to turn a standard defender into an overland vehicle
- wheel carrier; the notoriously flimsy hinges which support the rear door and spare wheel usually wear down over time, a cheap and easy to install wheel carrier fixes this issue.
- roll cage; certainly not vital, but the rof support of the defender are very weak, if there is any chance you will roll it, a cage will likely save your life
- Other; most expeditions will see uprated suspension, bullbars, long range fuel tank, a winch and a good system to organise the interior as other vital additions
You can pick up a standard defender for around £1000 now, but realistically for a 110 hard top with no modifications but in good mechanical condition, you will have to look between £6000 and £10,000. A fully prepared expedition defender can be picked up for around £12000, with newer overland models for around £18,000.
“There is something about the shape of a defender you see one coming and know everything is going to be ok”
Values are approximate and for reference only
Av. Fuel Economy
Approx Cost (Buy and Prepare)
Overlanders Using Defenders