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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A grey 2023 Nissan Frontier Pro-4x is shown from the front while off-road.

A Guide to the Finding the Best Pre-Owned Off-Road Truck

Finding a great truck for an off-road adventure can be a real challenge. Finding a good deal on that great truck is even more challenging, but buying a used truck can be a good way to go when you know what to look for when examining the vehicle. Also, understanding what makes an off-roading truck qualified to venture off the beaten path and into the wilderness is important for preventing both truck and driver from getting stranded far from civilization. So when someone is looking for a used truck dealer near Champaign and Urbana for their off-roading adventures, they should equip themselves with adequate knowledge before venturing out.

A good off-road truck needs several key features to allow the safe traversal of hidden trails, rocky pathways, and no roads at all. Off-road suspension, sway bar links, skid plates, locking differentials, and lift kits are just a few of the features which make off-roading possible and safer. Off-road travel can lead to places far from conventional roadways, and when exploring such remote places, a truck is often the only means to get back to town. Off-road enthusiasts do their best to ensure their trucks are kept in good off-road configuration and condition to ensure a safe trip and return home. Finding the right trim kit and model in a used truck will help off-roading ventures be safe and successful.

Key Off-Road Equipment

The most important feature off-road vehicles need is 4WD or AWD. Four-wheel drive is the preferred drive system for off-roading due to its ruggedness, versatility, and durability. All-wheel drive is capable of some light-duty off-road adventures, but if one is looking for a truck primarily for off-roading, 4WD is the way to go. An off-road transfer case—the mechanism by which 4WD delivers power to the wheels—will greatly improve 4WD performance off the road.

A blue 2022 Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2 is shown from the front at angle.

Another important consideration when off-roading is to get locking differentials—ideally for both front and rear. A locking differential is an essential feature because it prevents all the power from going to a wheel that is spinning in place, such as in a mud puddle. This system works by distributing power only to the wheels that have traction. Driving off-road can put trucks in many situations where one wheel has poor traction, which could leave the vehicle stuck without a locking differential since the truck would wastefully direct power to a freely spinning wheel. Trucks with locking differentials would purposefully neglect unutilized wheels and direct all available power to those that have contact, greatly increasing torque and traction.

Suspension is also a top priority for off-road trucks because, when traveling on uneven terrain, the suspension undergoes a lot of extra bending, tension, and unusual angles. Good sway bar links, off-road shocks, and a rugged axle are some of the key features to upgrading the suspension for a qual

ity off-road truck. Many debate the efficacy of totally independent suspension versus straight axle suspension. While both offer advantages in different situations, a straight axle suspension provides more consistent reliability and durability and is the most common on commercially available trucks.

Skid plates and clearance are more important factors in off-roading. Skid plates are metal plates added to the bottom of the truck to cover key components to protect more delicate parts from getting damaged while driving off-road. Adding a lift kit and/or bigger wheels also provides greater clearance, so the underside of the truck is less likely to hit objects. A higher clearance also increases the size of obstacles that can be cleared by your truck. Bigger tires also increase clearance and make getting on top of certain obstacles easier since there’s more surface area and grip to each of your tires; the bigger the tire, the smaller obstacles are relative to it. Most of us have seen monster trucks with massive tires roll over full-sized vehicles; this is the same principle but on a smaller scale.

Some of the Best Off-Road Trucks to Buy Used

Ford, Chevy, Nissan, Toyota, and Ram all provide some great off-road trims for their trucks. Ford makes the F-150 Raptor, an off-roading buildout of the standard F-150. 2010 marked the year of the first Ford Raptor, though it was known as the SVT Raptor at that time. Skid plates, off-road suspension elements, a locking rear differential, and a lift kit were added to make the Raptor a capable off-roading truck. Chevy makes a few different off-road trims for their Silverado 1500—the Trail Boss, the Custom Trail Boss, and the ZR2. The Silverado’s best off-road trim, arguably, is the ZR2; with better off-road suspension, large skid plates, and off-road tires, this Silverado can get you where you need to go.

Nissan’s off-road trucks use the trim model name Pro-4X. Both the Titan and the Frontier can outfit as a Pro-4X. Nissan provides a great off-road package with a solid skid plate, improved suspension for off-roading, a locking rear differential, and large tires to increase clearance. The Toyota Tacoma TRD is a great off-road trim with improved dampers, skid plating, and increased tire size to provide great clearance. The Ram Power Wagon is a powerhouse of an off-road vehicle with a V8 HEMI, 33-inch tires, a tall suspension, and both front and rear locking differentials.

Every brand offers some quality off-roading trucks, and everyone has their preference for brand, features, and specific trails on which they are looking to venture. Finding the perfect off-road truck will depend greatly on what the needs of the individual are, what their budget is, and if they want to make modifications or take it off-road right away. While many trucks are capable of light-duty off-road functionality, more heavy-duty off-roading will require a truck specifically modified or built to perform well off-road. Standard suspensions cannot handle extreme off-road situations.

Once the ideal off-road vehicle has been found, the buyer will want to begin a thorough inspection of the vehicle to ensure that the previous owner has not abused it. Off-roading is hard on vehicles, and without proper driving techniques and maintenance, a truck can be left in poor shape. Thankfully, the aforementioned off-roading trim packages are durable and hard to damage, which increases the probability these used trucks will be in good working order. Having a mechanic familiar with off-roading do an inspection of a potential pre-owned purchase is a great way to ensure the quality of the vehicle before buying.

An orange 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor is shown from the front while going off of a jump after leaving a used truck dealer.

The Perfect Used Off-Roader at Illini Nissan

A used truck for off-roading can be difficult to find, but the freedom and flexibility it offers can be hard to pass up. Buyers will want to familiarize themselves with the many features that make off-road trucks unique, including their suspension, skid plates, locking differentials, tires, and clearance. These are but a few of the important features required for a safe and successful off-road trip, whether across the farm, ranch, or into the backcountry. Understanding these important parts and features helps the buyer better know what to look for when searching through dozens of used truck listings—and what better place to look than Illini Nissan?

Our communities of Champaign and Urbana trust us for our honesty and our expertise. Our finance department is fair and flexible, and our service and parts department is staffed with seasoned technicians readily available to maintain or repair your vehicle; a good off-roading truck can last for many years if it is well cared for and properly maintained. If you want to experience the freedom and functionality of a proper off-roading truck, come by Illini Nissan and get on your way toward your off-roading adventures!

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