Purchasing a used 4WD is essentially the same as purchasing any other used vehicle, however, the primary difference is the purpose of a 4WD which means that you’ll need to inspect some additional areas. While buying a used 4WD is always an exciting process, it’s important to keep in mind that you should keep your emotions out of the equation and base your decision on facts alone.

To ensure you make the right decision, today we’ll be offering you our top buying tips for used 4WDs so you (hopefully) won’t find any nasty surprises when roaming through the outback!


The first step in purchasing a used 4WD is setting a budget and knowing what type of 4WD you wish to purchase. If you have any special requirements such as towing a boat, then this needs to be factored into your decision. Do you want petrol or diesel? Automatic or manual? Establishing a budget and understanding your needs will help you narrow down your options to two or three different models which are suitable for you.


Once you’ve established a budget and narrowed down what model you want, you can then start your research. Don’t limit your search to online platforms like carsales.com – you’ll likely find the best bargains where you least suspect it. Search the newspapers, trading posts, and online websites to get an idea of what type of model your budget allows, the condition of the vehicles, and how many kilometres they’ve done. Certain makes and models have common issues such as the transmission or steering and also consider the availability of parts and servicing costs.

Inspect the interior & exterior

The interior of the 4WD is an excellent indicator of how well the previous owners looked after the vehicle. Ensure that upholstery is in good condition and there are no dangling visors or handles which indicates that the owner likely took the same care mechanically. If you find that there’s a mouldy smell or silt in crevices, chances are there may have been some flood damage. On the exterior, check the bolts for signs of scratches which indicates some adjustment or replacement after an accident. Also, check for any cracks in the bumpers and inspect the side panels for any uneven paint or surfaces which indicates body work after an accident.

Check the chassis

The chassis of the vehicle will give you a decent indication of whether or not the vehicle has had a hard life. Try to get an idea of how much off-roading has been done by checking for any rust underneath the vehicle and look for any scratches, dents, broken bash plates, and dented diff housings. Check for any cracks in the chassis, the subframe, and the springs along with the inside of the tyres for any abrasion and chipping. And lastly, check for any oil leaks which is a dead giveaway for problems with the vehicle!

Under the bonnet

When inspecting the engine, check for any leaks from crucial components such as the brakes and transmission. Also, inspect the oil for any foamy residue which indicates a leaking head gasket and a big red flag! Ensure the coolant isn’t brown or grimy in appearance along with inspecting critical systems for wear and tear such as cracking, rust, and drying. Keep in mind that heavy off-road driving will generally emphasise rust and corrosion of the vehicle.

Test drive

Undoubtedly the best way to examine the condition of the 4WD is to take it for a test drive. Before and after starting the engine, select every gear in a manual gearbox to ensure the gear shifts are smooth and quiet. Good quality vehicles will start without difficulty and without excess smoke. Listen for any noises or rattles when the engine’s cold as hot oil usually masks any noises. When driving, listen and feel for any clunks or knocks coming from the driveshafts, CV joints, and differentials. You’ll also want to inspect high and low range 4WD and check the diff locks are in good condition. Drive at different speeds in automatic 4WDs to ensure acceleration is smooth and no clouds of smoke exit the exhaust.

Inspect the service history

A good quality 4WD is regularly serviced and the only way to know for sure is to check the books. Look over the dates carefully and check for any major issues the vehicle has experienced in the past. As a general rule of thumb, don’t purchase a used 4WD that has no service history or irregular servicing which can lead to premature damage and expensive repairs.

One final point to remember is that modified 4WDs usually means the vehicle has been regularly used off-road and has more wear and tear than your standard after-school pickup 4WD. If you opt for a vehicle with modifications, always ask to see the relevant warranties and installation receipts, and always avoid those 4WDs with DIY modifications!

If you have any further questions or you’re searching for 4WD products or accessories to make your next 4WD trip more enjoyable, reach out to the professionals at TJM Australia by phoning 07 3865 9999.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here