/ Motoring

Are you for or against 4x4s?

Skoda Yeti

If all you want from an SUV is a higher ride, better visibility and acres of interior space, you can get these from a two-wheel drive model. So why buy its four-wheel drive counterpart?

Not only will a 2WD model cost less to buy, but you can get a new front-wheel drive Range Rover Evoque for £29,200. The cheapest 4WD model is nearly £2,000 more. And the difference in fuel economy is also likely to mean savings of more than £150 a year.

So why would you choose to buy a 4×4 instead? Yes, I understand that during the few snowy days we may have each year, you’ll be the only one able to get to work. Or if you’re a good Samaritan, you could spend the day rescuing people stranded in the snow in their grip-less townie cars. But is that really worth the extra spend?

Why buy a 4×4?

Buying a 4×4 could be a sensible move, as I’m starting to discover, having just bought a house that’s at the end of a 10-mile long country lane.

Plus, if I buy a desirable 4×4 at the right age, it’s not actually likely to lose much value in a couple of years of ownership, so I’ll beat the usual new car scourge of depreciation. The difference in price between a 2003 Land Rover Defender with 120,000 miles under its belt and a 2005, 130,000-mile model, both advertised on autotrader.co.uk, is just £250 – that’s £125 a year in value loss.

Easier to repair 4x4s

In contrast with most modern cars, there are precious few complex electrical parts to go wrong with a 4×4. That’s something that definitely can’t be said for my very temperamental six-year-old Renault Modus, which at present decides for itself whether or not it will illuminate the central console and other switches in the dark.

If I did buy an older 4×4, it won’t have the engine and other major mechanical components tucked up in impenetrable casings. I should be able to get my hands on all the oily bits, and maybe even fix some of them myself if they go wrong.

And I could save a lot of money on parts too – Google ‘Land Rover Defender exhaust system’ and you’ll get plenty of results for under £50. Do the same for a new Range Rover Evoque and the prices shoot up past £500.

Do you own a 4×4? If so, what were your reasons for choosing it, and what features are most important to you?


Don’t assume that there’s less to go wrong on a 4×4. I bought a new BMW X5 six years ago, and lots of things have gone wrong over the years. The most annoying thing is the geometry (a bit like the tracking), because it can’t withstand an uneven road surface very well, and when the geometry gets knocked out, it causes excessive tyre wear, and the tyres are around £300 or more each.

The performance on 4x4s is a big advantage, especially when accelerating from stationary. You can really feel the extra grip that the car has on the road. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Lamborghinis are also 4×4.


I had a 4×4 a couple of years ago. I quite liked it at first but eventually realised the thing had abilities I simply didn’t need 99% of the time and, it had a drink problem, got though tyres quicker than I liked and because of the complexity of the transmission was more prone to going expensively wrong.

If you live on a hill, it’s great you can get up that hill on the few days a year it’s covered in snow and ice. However I found most Winters “going” wasn’t really the problem with any car, “stopping” was the problem and 4×4’s are really no better at that than any other car.

Don’t think I really need or will get another. I’ll spend the petrol savings, the repair savings and the tyre cost savings afforded by my mid sized hatchback on me (or the gas bill).


I have never owned a 4×4 as I live in the city and a normal car suits me just fine. I do however find 4×4’s a real hindrance to my comfort and safety. In car parks they take up more than a fair share of a parking space and overflow into mine. I then find that I’m unable to open my door fully so entering or exiting my car, with a sometimes dodgy back is almost impossible. They reverse without thought to smaller vehicles and use their size to dominate. If I follow a 4×4 in traffic I have no idea what is happening ahead as they block my view. The same applies if we are side by side and they are waiting to turn right, I can’t turn left until they move as again I can’t see when it is safe to move. If I’m in a collision with a 4×4/urban tractor, I know I or my supermini will not come off best. Perhaps Motoring Which? has some statistics on the outcome of such accidents. Perhaps all normal sized cars should be fitted with a periscope so we are aware of what is happening around and about 4×4’s.


For most people the 2WD drive version and a set of winter tyres will give them everything they used on the 4WD drive version for less money.


I have never bought or considered buying a 4WD car. Extra cost, more to go wrong and possibly poorer fuel economy are the main reasons.

Pretium says:
29 November 2013

Having owned a Freelander I would say that the major requirement that seems to be missing is reliability. A head gasket blew at 70,000 miles and throughout it’s life with me the electrical connectors were anything but! Apart from the above, oh, and a rear window opener that was always jamming and poor servicing by a Landrover specialist, it was a nice 4×4. I will not be buying another.

ESPUK says:
29 November 2013

I am very happy with my Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0 crd. A mercedes engine and gearbox mated to Jeep suspension allows me to live in the deep campo for three months every year which pleases my doctor as well.
Non 4wd visitors have to park at the entrance to the valley where I live having previously arranged a pickup time (poor mobile signals in mountains) which is ideal for ensuring only welcome visitors arrive.
My (mostly Spanish) neighbours in the valley are also 4wd owners from luxury to donkey power and still behave as a community in the poorest region of Spain, helping each other as needed.
They are simply the appropriate vehicles for this region and cope with flash flooded river bed roads as well as motorways. Having bought a four year old it has cost less than 400€ in repairs over the last 4½ years with low fixed costs for this 67 year old.

Michael Keen says:
29 November 2013

I bought my first Discovery new in 1995, having first seen the car at the London motor show when it was launched. 235,000 miles later I reluctantly decided to get part with it because of rust and replaced it with a second hand, low mileage series 2 TD5 model. I tried a series 3 but found it a bit of a “tank”. (Incidentally, my old Discovery is still going strong as an off-road special with more than 250,000 miles on the clock!)
I have no experience of other 4x4s, but with Discoverys, you either love them or hate them – and I love them.

john says:
2 December 2013

Interested to hear that you nada good experience with your discovery. I had heard that they had a lot of reliability problems.