2020 Jeep Wrangler grey parked on forest trail with couple backpacking

How to Find a Great Pre-Owned SUV for Off-Roading

Sometimes you want a vehicle that does a lot more than just get you from point A to point B. Off-roading can be a lot of fun when you’re confident your SUV, truck, or Crossover can handle it. If you aren’t sure, then off-roading can be more stress and anxiety than anything else. Whether you are looking to take to rocky trails, tackle inclines, or blaze through sandy dunes, make sure you look for vehicles with the right specifications to be great off-road. 

How Important is Ground Clearance on a Vehicle? 

Ground Clearance measures the distance between flat ground and the underside of your vehicle when in normal conditions. That distance is important to keep in mind when shopping for an off-roading vehicle. If the ground clearance is too small, you may end up bottoming out on rocks, sand, or mud. You can almost never err on the side of too much ground clearance unless you literally can’t climb up into the vehicle.  

See the New Jeep Gladiator in Action

Do You Need AWD to Drive Off-Road? 

Technically, a front or rear wheel drive vehicle can do some light duty off-roading, but it isn’t recommended. If you want a vehicle specifically to take it off-road, be sure to get AWD, because it can help you get over, on top of, or around obstacles where a front or rear wheel drive vehicle can’t. Take note that 4WD is another term for a similar technology, and plenty of automakers have trademarked names for their AWD technology. 

2020 Toyota RAV4 off roading driving down snaking path of gravel
2020 Jeep Compass orange driving through stream in forest

How Important is a Limited Slip Differential for Off-Roading? 

A great Off-Roading vehicle will have a limited slip differential. This part of the drivetrain helps to maximize the amount of torque being sent to wheels that need it most. Some automakers are more concerned about this technology than others, so choose your SUV, crossover or truck carefully. 

What Else Should an Off-Roading vehicle Have? 

If you have the above three things covered, most of everything else is just accessories. But if you find a vehicle with front and/or rear tow hooks, a hi- and lo- selector for the AWD system, and aggressive tire treads, it will work that much better.