Building an off road machine can be a daunting task for the inexperienced. You will buy and fix and fail and laugh and scream and throw things and try to figure out why you started in the first place.

This is why so many people have their garages filled with parts everywhere and a half built, half unbuilt truck sitting there collecting dust instead of dirt and miles. So we thought what would be the best off road vehicle to build? Where do we start and how the hell can we even begin?

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways you can make it much much easier to finish that winter project and get it up and running in the hills when it gets warm. There are many factors to take into account. 

The first is a budget. You can have the sickest truck in the world but if you can’t afford to put gas in it or buy the right tires it won’t do you any good. You have to know what you’re getting yourself into and how you can get out of it if you need to i.e. finish it or sell it.

The top 5 things to take into consideration for the best off road vehicle to build are:

  1. Start with the end in mind
  2. Budget
  3. Parts availability
  4. Technical ability
  5. Resources available

Starting with the end in mind will force you to find out what you want to build i.e. A rally car? A side by side? A wall climbing monster? An ATV? A 4×4 you can drive from your garage to the dirt and back with Starbucks cups safely cradled un their cup holders and wireless cell phone chargers?

You’re going to find out what vehicle platform you will need and that is where you can start to plan for the rest.

Budgeting correctly will determine how much fun you can have. Are you willing to drop $20,000 on a newer truck that is already ready to go? Or maybe you want to buy a banger for $2,500, gut it, and slowly upgrade parts one at a time? Whatever you decide your budget will limit how fast you can get out there and on what set of wheels would be the best off road vehicle to build.

Don’t let this discourage you either. Some guys out there with a shiny new Renegade or Tundra and they’re scared to get it dirty? Then they get passed by those two guys in the banged up Bronco or T100 that is charging harder than everyone else. If you’re investing all your savings into a machine then you may be scared to get it out there and see what it can really do.

Parts availability is crucial to your build. You may find a great deal on an older Expedition 4×4. It has a V8 and maybe some accessories so you’re off to a good start. But maybe it needs a lift kit, or you quickly realize it doesn’t have enough power to move it’s fat ass in the dirt and it’s just too awkward to move.

The parts you want are fitted for other trucks. The universal fit parts available are few and not designed for off roading. You can get some close but maybe they’ll cause other problems you will have to fix down the road.

Maybe it would be easier to sell it and start over or just give up?

Your Technical ability should be taken into consideration as well. This includes your access to parts as well. We all have been to Harbor Freight to “rent” parts for a day or two. But having a set of wrenches to use for this long term and recurring project is crucial. Also is the ability to use them. Buying older trucks that are easy to work on will save you a lot of time, money, and energy in the long run. 

Working on that Expedition would be a nightmare. A lot of things may require two people and a lot of aspirin. Most Jeeps or 80’s Toyotas would be child’s play in comparison.

The resources available to you are crucial as well. Shop manuals, forums, youtube, friends, mechanics, or neighbors all serve as resources. Buy a brand you constantly see in the hills and you may have a world of knowledge at your fingertips.

Buy an older or not so common off roader and you may be learning a lot of things on your own. This is something to take into consideration. But for some people figuring things out on their own maybe the best part of the whole process.

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My first restore was a 1982 Yamaha 650 Seca. I had a shop manual but I did a lot of things on my own and I loved it. I trusted my work enough where I wouldn’t kill myself on the freeway. In the next few years I did find missing parts around the garage. Doing it over again I wouldn’t change the process. But that’s me. And that’s what I enjoy and I know that about myself. Hopefully you do as well. 

Building an off road machine can be a daunting task for the inexperienced. You will buy and fix and fail and laugh and scream and throw things and try to figure out why you started in the first place.

Taking all of these things into consideration the following is a list of top road vehicles to build for 5 different builder types:

The Novice

Probably the most exciting place to be. Everything is new to you. You don’t understand everything and your first influences may shape how you move forward. After some weeks you quickly realize how little you know and you jump around from truck to truck.

This type will need to do more planning than the rest. This is your first build. This will decide whether you love off roading or will frustrate you enough to turn you away. Maybe you have a limited budget and no experience, but you have been reading everything you can online and you spotted a juicy listing on Craigslist. Do you pull the trigger or wait for a better opportunity? We got you.

The 1st Upgrade

You’re no rookie anymore. You have your first ride and you quickly understand what it lacks and you’re ready to make an excellent decision. Maybe you’re tired of doing more repairs than riding. Or you’re constantly sitting shotgun in your friend’s monster. You want to do more but you want a better machine to do it.

The Wrencher

You spend time fixing rides for a living or you have a garage filled with flips your fixing up. How can you take advantage? You may not have an unlimited budget to work with but you can fix a junker better than anyone else on this list. Buy a junker and fix it up? Get an obscure ride and mod it when needed? What are the best rides for your skill set?

10 Best Off Road Vehicles Under 10k (10 Real World Examples Your Should See)

The “I Got Money To Burn and I Want To Tear It Up This Weekend”

Possibly the best situation here. You have little limits to what you can get. You don’t have the experience to understand how you want to ride but you can an awesome machine and learn quickly. You’ve been watching youtube videos about renegades with 6” lifts climbing up walls or watching off roading fail videos over and over.

You want a brand new Gladiator to jump off cliffs on your next vacation. Or maybe your friend knows someone that knows someone that is selling a retired race truck and you want to buy a legit workhorse. Where do you start?

The Comfortable Retiree

You have more time than anything. Maybe you did some off roading years ago and now you have the free time to get back into it. What has changed? What is different and what can you do to get back to it quickly?

Now that you know who you are. Let’s take a look at some of best off road vehicle to build for each type of builder.

What is Best Off Road Vehicle To Build for The Novice?

If this your first project so you are going to want to take things slow and find the best deal you can.

What is Best Off Road Vehicle To Build for the Wrencher and the Upgrader?

You know exactly what you want and now you only have to see the truck and you’ll jump on it

What is Best Off Road Vehicle To Build for the Retiree and Mr. Moneybags?

You are thinking about how fast you can go. Or you want to keep up with the Jones’. Money will make up for any lack of patience. Check out how easy it is to find what you want when you have the cash.

Have a good one and stay dirty.