What should an off-road enthusiast look for in a used car?

Where Can I Find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)?

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. A VIN displays the car's unique features, specifications and manufacturer.

The VIN can be found in a couple of places including on the car's registration label (1), on the compliance plate in the engine bay (2) or on the passenger side windshield (3), or on one of the door posts (where the door latches when it is closed) (4). See the image below:

Look for the VIN in these other locations:

  • Insurance card/Insurance policy
  • Vehicle title and registration certificate


Love adventuring and hitting the roads less taken around Australia? Finding new places and exciting routes through the bush, and traversing rocks, mud slides and rivers is always a fun time. It's even more enjoyable when you've got the right car, and all the best gear to go along with it. Your current car might not be up to scratch for your off-roading dreams, so look at buying a used vehicle instead. Whatever car you decide to inspect, make you find out its history with a CarHistory report.

Part of the fun of owning a car that you take off-roading is that you can customise it, and make it more suited to crossing rivers.

There are some cars that are just better at climbing over rocks, and powering up a slippery hill. Manufacturers design cars that can be customised easily so you can do absolutely anything you want - vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, for example1. Complex Australia suggests this is the most suitable off-road car (short of building one yourself), because it comes from the factory ready to go1. However, part of the fun of owning a car that you take off-roading is that you can customise it, and make it more suited to crossing rivers and bush-bashing.

What cars should you consider buying to take off-road?

The first step in finding a car that you want to buy is to narrow down the body style - for off-roading, the best option is a four-wheel-drive SUV. These are built to sit higher off the road (so there's lots of ground clearance). This allows you to drive over rough terrain without damaging the underbody. When you hit a pothole or a deep puddle that didn't look quite so deep when you were approaching it, you'll be glad your car sits a foot off the ground!

Of course, many SUVs are tall, like the Toyota LandCruiser. It has a height of 1.97 metres, and can safely wade through water up to a depth of 70 centimetres 2. What many off-road enthusiasts do is 'lift' their cars to be even taller. This has a number of advantages - the ground clearance will be greater, so you can clear large obstacles more easily. It will be taller and look more menacing when you're driving around town (which isn't so much a practical advantage, but it's still something many people want!). You can also wade through deeper water.

Driving through deep puddles and mud is much more fun in a suitable car.


What about if you're crossing rivers?

If wading is your primary goal when off-roading, you'll also need a snorkel3. When your car's nose dips underwater, there won't be any air intake, meaning the engine will only take in water, and can be flooded3. However, if you have a snorkel (which comes out the side of the engine bay, and attaches above the cabin), the engine intake will always have access to air, until the top of the snorkel also goes underwater.

To save yourself money buying and installing a snorkel on your used car, find a model that has one already installed. Make sure it's a professional job, though, because if there's a leak in the pipe or it's not attached correctly, you could find water leaking into the engine when wading through even the smallest of rivers.

The odd scratch or crack on the exterior won't make so much of a difference.

Buying a used car that you intend to take off-roading means you won't be as worried about what condition it's in. You'll be driving through bushland, smacking into tree branches and careening over rocks that scratch the front and back of your car. The odd scratch or crack on the exterior before you buy it won't make so much of a difference, because you won't be all that precious about what it looks like! What's more, the interior will take a beating when you're out off-roading, so that's another part of the car that you don't need to fuss over.

To check out how well the used car you want to buy has been looked after, make sure you get a CarHistory report before you buy it. Otherwise, enjoy the wide world of off-roading in Australia!

1. Complex Australia. The 25 best off-road cars. Accessed February 2017.

2. Toyota Australia. Toyota LandCruiser 200 GX Turbo-diesel Auto. Accessed February 2017.

3. Road and Track. A guide to off-roading for the uninitiated. Accessed February 2017.

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