Do you have the itch to get out and explore the great outdoors? If so, choosing one of the best adventure vehicles for your excursion will make a significant difference. Outdoor enthusiasts often look for cars that can handle rugged terrain and remote travel.
Whether you want an off-road machine or a vehicle with plenty of gear storage, we have options for you. Get ready to explore the great unknown.
From rugged off-roaders to versatile SUVs, we’ve compiled a list of the best cars for outdoor enthusiasts. Let’s dive in so you can start your adventures.
Does Your Vehicle Say You’re Adventurous?
You may not want to judge a book by its cover, but you can often tell a lot about a person by their vehicle. This is especially true for those who are more adventurous. These people often prioritize off-road performance, cargo space for gear, and durability to withstand rugged conditions.
These vehicles often come with four-wheel drive, increased ground clearance, roof racks, and robust engines. However, as you might expect, some vehicles are more capable or durable than others.
These are the vehicles you frequently see cruising around recreation towns. You’ll also likely spot them in parking lots for trailheads or whitewater rafting, climbing, and skiing. If you see a gathering of these vehicles, you know adventure is nearby.
What Should You Look for in an Adventure Vehicle?
If you’re shopping for your adventure vehicle, there are a few key features you’ll want it to have. Let’s examine these features to help you select the best adventure vehicle.
AWD or 4WD
When searching for a car for an outdoor enthusiasts’ adventure, a significant decision you need to make is the drivetrain system. The best adventure vehicles come with all-wheel or four-wheel drive. Both can be viable options, but each has advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with all-wheel drive vehicles (AWD).
You typically always have AWD engaged, whether you need it or not. You don’t have to worry about turning it on when you need to use it or off when you don’t. This option is useful if you prefer light off-roading and stick to mild trails. While it may not be the best for off-roading, AWD vehicles typically are more fuel-efficient and cost less. These vehicles usually have an open center differential and clutch pack that can power both front and rear axles all the time.
The other option, four-wheel drive (4WD), is typically on trucks, larger SUVs, and vehicles explicitly for off-roading. These tend to be pricier and more capable than AWD versions. You can activate and deactivate these systems as necessary, often with a button. Unfortunately, using them on pavement and other solid surfaces can cause sometimes cause severe damage. 4WD vehicles usually drive both axles at the same time and equally. This can provide a much stronger drive system with less differential slip, which is better if you have tires leaving the ground on uneven terrain.
Another aspect of an adventure vehicle you want to consider is the tires. The right tires can enhance a vehicle’s performance and maximize safety. Tires with an aggressive tread pattern can provide traction in various conditions. You want tires with deep grooves and wide lugs. This helps you conquer mud, snow, and other challenging surfaces.
An all-terrain tire can help ensure your vehicle can handle different conditions. These tires balance highway comfort with off-road performance. They maximize your ability to explore and get you to and from soccer practices or work.
When selecting tires, consider the conditions and terrains you’ll encounter. Ensure the tires match the manufacturer’s recommendations and maintain them properly. This can enhance your vehicle’s performance and help keep you safe.
Pro Tip: For off-road adventurers, you’ll want to know What’s So Special About Off-Road Tires?
When shopping, note the distance between the ground and the lowest point of the vehicle. A vehicle’s clearance impacts its off-road and adventure capabilities. More clearance can help you navigate rocks, fallen branches, and uneven terrain without damaging your car.
You may come across standing water during your adventures. A vehicle with more clearance can traverse water bodies and cross streams better. This helps prevent water from reaching critical components like the engine, intake, and sensitive electronics.
You can confidently tackle challenging off-road conditions by choosing a vehicle with appropriate ground clearance. If you want to enjoy your outdoor adventures fully, this is a characteristic you cannot overlook.
Pro Tip: Hit the road in style in these Tiger Adventure Vehicles.
9 Top Vehicles for Outdoor and Adventure Enthusiasts
If you’re considering which vehicle is best for your adventures, we can help. We’ve found nine of the best adventure vehicles. Which one is right for you? Let’s look and see!
9. Honda Element
The Honda Element is a compact SUV that came on the scene in 2003. It quickly gained popularity among adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts. Unfortunately, declining sales led to Honda discontinuing it in 2011.
Its box-like shape allows it to maximize interior space and give easy access to the rear seats. These seats could fold to create a spacious cargo area. It was useful for bringing bikes, camping equipment, and other sporting goods. It had textured urethane flooring, which made it easy to clean at the end of a trip. The Element came with all-wheel drive functionality, which enhanced its capabilities.
Honda has a positive brand reputation in the auto industry. The Element is a practical everyday driver and can be a great adventure vehicle. Despite being out of production for over a decade, it remains a popular choice for adventurers.
8. Nissan Xterra
The Xterra is a rugged and off-road capable vehicle Nissan produced from 2000 to 2015. While it is an SUV, its design comes from the Nissan Frontier pickup truck. With a spacious interior, there is plenty of room to stretch out and bring gear or equipment for the ride.
When it comes to off-road capabilities, the Xterra doesn’t disappoint. It has roughly nine inches of ground clearance, optional four-wheel drive, and skid plates to protect sensitive components. While it is capable, it’s also easy to customize or modify. Many users installed lift kits, roof racks, and lighting to transform their vehicles into even more capable off-roading machines.
7. Subaru Outback
Subaru is a trendy brand in the outdoor and adventure community. The Subaru Outback is a crossover SUV from 1994. It combines the best of an SUV with the storage space of a traditional station wagon.
It comes standard with AWD, which increases its off-road abilities. This also increases traction and stability on less-than-perfect roads. Most models feature between 8.7 and 9.5 inches of ground clearance. While you may not conquer overly challenging conditions, it’s sufficient for light off-roading.
Overall, Subaru has a positive reputation among auto enthusiasts. The Outback is a versatile and dependable vehicle for adventuring and everyday use.
6. Toyota FJ
The Toyota FJ is a compact SUV that Toyota introduced in 2006 and released to the public in 2007. It modified the Toyota 4Runner platform to create a new off-road adventure vehicle. Despite its popularity, Toyota discontinued the FJ in the United States in 2014. However, it remained available in Japan until 2017 and in South Africa until 2022.
Outdoor enthusiasts favor it because of its sturdy construction and almost 9.6 inches of ground clearance. It came standard with an electronically-controlled locking rear differential and off-road traction control system. However, there’s a thriving aftermarket for accessories and options for modifications.
Toyota has a very positive reputation with consumers, including their cars for outdoor enthusiasts. Their vehicles are reliable and typically have no problem reaching 250,000 miles over their lifetime. If you’re looking for reliability and durability, take notice of the Toyota FJ.
5. Land Rover
Land Rover is a brand of luxury SUVs with tremendous off-road performance. These vehicles include the Range Rover, Discovery, and Defender. They released the first Land Rover vehicle, the Series I, in 1948. However, over the past six decades, the brand has begun focusing more on luxury and comfort than its off-roading capabilities.
Owners typically don’t thoroughly test its capabilities, so Land Rovers usually don’t see as much dirt as they can easily handle. Some models provide nearly a foot of ground clearance, which helps them conquer challenging road conditions.
Whether you want to add a roof rack or install accessories to make it even more capable, it’s straightforward. There are plenty of customization options to modify your vehicle to your needs and preferences.
One of the biggest downfalls for the Land Rover is the fact that it’s a luxury vehicle. These vehicles typically use premium parts, resulting in costly maintenance and repairs. Land Rover products can be an option if you are okay with paying a premium.
4. Toyota 4Runner
The Toyota 4Runner is a mid-size SUV that has been on the roads since the 80s. Is it the most capable vehicle on the market? Absolutely not. However, it provides plenty of cargo space and seating for fellow adventurers. It balances comfort and off-road features to help you navigate various adventure opportunities.
The 4Runner is still in production and is favored in the outdoor community. Toyota offers various options to help you build the perfect vehicle for your needs. The 4runner has always been a bit of a stripped-down vehicle compared to other more luxury vehicles, but this has added to its reliability. The 4runner has always been considered one of the most reliable vehicles on the road.
You can maximize comfort or choose a locking rear differential, crawl control, and multi-terrain select to build a vehicle capable of handling off-road adventures. There are plenty of products for aftermarket modifications to enhance storage, suspension, and performance.
Toyotas can typically log hundreds of thousands of miles and rarely experience significant issues when you maintain them properly. If you’re looking for a reliable car for hitting off-road trails as an outdoor enthusiast, the 4Runner is a practical choice.
3. Toyota Tacoma
The Toyota Tacoma is the first pickup on our list. It is a mid-size truck with many features outdoor enthusiasts look for in a vehicle. Toyota introduced it in 1995 and it is still in production. Not only is it great for adventures, but it’s also practical as an everyday vehicle.
Being a mid-size vehicle allows it to squeeze through tight spaces, which is vital for off-roading. The TRD trim level has a 3.5L V6 engine, 4WD, and 9.4 inches of ground clearance. If you’re worried about room for gear, you can opt for the longer six-foot bed. The adventure possibilities are practically endless with a Tacoma.
One of the benefits of Tacoma is that these trucks last a long time. While they’re not heavy-duty trucks, they’re more than capable. When you’re not adventuring, you can use it for routine projects. Whether you’re hauling wood or helping a friend move, the Toyota Tacoma is more than an adventure vehicle.
Pro Tip: Before you hit the road in a Toyota Tacoma, find out Are Toyota Tacomas Really as Good at Overlanding as They Say?
2. Jeep Wrangler
In the United States, few adventure vehicles are more popular than the Jeep Wrangler. Their 10 inches of ground clearance and 4WD systems make them capable of tackling challenging terrains. Remove the roof, doors, and fold down the windshield to connect with nature during your adventure.
As Jeeps have been around since the mid-1940s, they’re a familiar name in the community. However, the Wrangler became a trusted outdoor adventure name in the mid-1980s. Since then, Jeep has evolved the Wrangler to be one of the best cars for outdoor enthusiasts in its class.
With locking differentials, sway bar disconnects, and skid plates, it can dominate rugged trails, rock crawling, and water crossings. There is also an extensive community dedicated to modifying and enhancing its capabilities. Whether you add a lift kit, off-road tires, or install a winch, you can tailor your Jeep Wrangler to your adventures.
1. Toyota Land Cruiser
While the Jeep Wrangler may be the most popular option in the United States, the Toyota Landcruiser dominates internationally. This full-size SUV arrived in 1951 when Toyota released the first generation. However, it’s evolved through several generations and developed a reputation for being rugged and reliable. Unfortunately, Toyota discontinued it in 2021.
Toyota has built this truck to handle some of the harshest conditions without sacrificing dependability. Additionally, the Land Cruiser comes in seating configurations for five and eight passengers. With more than 16 cubic feet of cargo space, you’ll have plenty of room for any gear and equipment you want to bring.
Some well-equipped models feature 9 inches of ground clearance and can conquer 27 inches of water with no issues. The 5.7-liter V8 and full-time four-wheel drive can take you almost anywhere. However, adding a lift kit can take you and your Land Cruiser even further.
But Really, Any Vehicle Can Be An Outdoor Enthusiast’s Adventure Vehicle
It’s crucial to remember that outdoor enthusiasts don’t need specific cars to enjoy spending time outdoors. You can join in on the fun with whatever car you have. However, it’s essential to know the limits and capabilities of your vehicle. Failing to do so could result in a difficult situation.
Additionally, follow the recommended maintenance schedule and regularly inspect your vehicle. You don’t want to head out into nature and experience a catastrophic situation. When necessary, modify your vehicle to get the most out of it. We even compiled a list of the Best Mods to Make to Your Overland Vehicle Build to help get you started.
Which Adventure Vehicle Is Right for You?
Which of the best adventure vehicles is right for you? That’s a decision that only you can make. While it can be exciting to think about your future adventures, take the time to make an informed decision. Do your research and keep your budget in mind. If you spend all your money, you won’t have any excess funds for modifications or upgrades. Stay safe and enjoy the adventure!
Which adventure vehicle do you want to hit the road in? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
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