Buying your perfect Land Rover

There's probably one thing that anyone who owns their perfect Land Rover will tell you is the secret to getting it. It's not the nicest thing to hear, isn't an easy thing to predict and can lead to a lot of frustration. I'm talking about TIME.  For me, it took me 8 months of looking, but when it finally slotted into place, it felt worth the wait.

Why perfection?

Everyone has their own ideas about perfection. When investing in a potential expedition vehicle that may be your home for a long period of time, costs a lot of money on and will bear the dependence of your lifestyle, getting a vehicle that fits your needs will pay dividends down the line. If you have the time to plan what your expedition is going to be about, then you will almost certainly have the time to find the right Land Rover for that expedition.

I originally bought a 200Tdi 110 Hardtop as my expedition vehicle. I had this for about 6 months before I realised that what I really wanted was a 300Tdi 110 Station Wagon. It was then another 8 months until I got my hands on one and another 5 months before I got rid of the first one!

7 out of 7

When looking for my expedition Defender, I had a list of 7 criteria that I would grade a potential Land Rover on, to decide if I wanted it and/or how much it was worth to me. To get all 7 would be perfection but a high score would also be acceptable. My list in order of merit was:

  1. Station wagon - a more versatile design allowing a combination of people or kit
  2. 300Tdi - This is an engine i've been familiar with and has no electronics.
  3. Good condition and reasonable mileage - Goes without saying! Mileage as low as possible but up to 180k is acceptable
  4. Service history - When coming to rely on something, it would be nice to know if it is reliable
  5. 1997+ -A newer model in the range that has the 300Tdi as standard.
  6. Not a County - I don't want the carpets, cloth seats or the sunroof, and the body coloured arches look weird
  7. White - Fairly fickle, but I prefer this colour as it reflects sunlight and in Africa in particular, white Land Rovers look official = less hassle

I had a broad price range of £5-8k but price wasn't included in the list of perfections, as I would rather spend money having the right spec rather than throwing out an option because of price.

In the 8 months I spent looking I went to see about 8 Land Rovers with this checklist in mind. There were a lot that scored about 5 or 6, but would fail on the condition or mileage - quite a big aspect.

In the end, I spotted a "perfect 7" on eBay. I made a 6 hour round trip after work to go and see it, made an offer and picked it up a week later. It was a bit of a mission just to go see it, but if you see something that scores highly on your list then you just know in your bones you have to find a way to go and see it. At the end of the day, I realised I had to be prepared to make a big effort to get what I wanted as even getting a score in the top 3 was difficult due to the desirability of factory fitted 300Tdi 110 Station Wagons.

I'm sure if you're reading this then you may have dreams of owning your perfect Land Rover Defender for your expedition. If so then don't dispair - they are out there - albeit now always getting old since they stopped production, and some with some renowned overland retailers charging a premium for good examples.

I can only say that stick to your guns and something good will come along eventually - even if you have to pay for it...!

The Big 6

Below is a matrix I made of the Defenders I went to see and their scores.

Station wagonxxxxxx
Good condition/mileagex/130kx/160kx/156k140k80kx/143k
Service historyxxx
Not Countyx
NotesRusty chassis, mechanically very goodSmokey engine, transmission slackHad new cambeltRusty chassis, bodged bodyMechanically sound, 200TdiGood chassis and spec

No. 5 had very low mileage for its year and the drivetrain felt it, but the chassis was horribly rusty and holed and was extremely overpriced. I ended up buying no. 6 and am very happy with it!

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