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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 2020 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown driving off-road through the desert after visiting a used Chevy dealer.

The Best Pre-Owned Chevy Models for Hitting the Trail

I was eight years old the first time someone got annoyed with me enough to turn to me and, in exasperation, simply exclaim, “Would you get lost!?” It was a rhetorical question, of course, but on one level, I took it to heart; rather than continuing to play with them, I went off on my own and went for a walk around the playground. I remember looking at trees nearby and thinking that’d be the perfect place to get lost. While I can’t say for certain, I think that was the moment I fell in love with going off-road; while not the first time I actually hit the trail, it was that moment of looking into the wilds and wondering what was in there.

These days, I’m free to go exploring when I see those distant woods calling out to me, and while I love hiking and camping, there’s something about off-roading that hits different. When someone finds out that I’m into off-roading, and they’ve considered it for themselves, they usually ask me how to get started. A lot of people have visions of aftermarket supplies and conversions, none of which are really necessary to explore an easy trail for the first time. Instead, I suggest they go to a used Chevy dealer and find a vehicle in good shape that will treat them well on the trail; then they can make changes if they get a taste of it.

Let’s check out some of these best models for going off-road…

The Chevy Colorado

I know a lot of people who swear by models like a Jeep Wrangler for hitting the trail, and while I can certainly see the merits of those vehicles, they’ve never been for me. I think a midsize truck is the perfect option for hitting the trail, which is why the Chevy Colorado is one of my first suggestions when someone asks me about good vehicles for going off-road. The smaller-than-full-size profile makes them great for navigating and maneuvering through tight spots while still giving you all of the functionality of a pickup.

With the Colorado, that long meant choosing a Z71 trim, though now the impressive ZR2 off-road package is available. Either will ensure that this is a midsize truck ready to go just about anywhere you can imagine—and it’s been around since the early 2000s, so plenty of them are out on the pre-owned market. The Z71 suspension has been available throughout the Colorado’s lifespan, while the ZR2 debuted with the 2017 model year. Both of these are great picks when looking for an off-road truck; the ZR2 delivers more robust capability, but it’s more than what’s necessary for a first-timer heading off-road.

The Chevy Silverado 1500

I personally think a midsize truck is perfect for hitting the trail, but I know plenty of people prefer full-size power and performance, which is where the Chevy Silverado 1500 comes into play. This is a great pick for anyone who needs a full-size truck for work and getting through the week and wants to use the same pickup to relax and have fun on the weekend. You’ll find more powerful engines in the Silverado 1500, and its larger size can be a benefit in some situations, especially with the large wheels and tires you can get on it. This is also a solid choice for anyone with a family of three or four people or a similar group of friends who wants to bring folks along on the trail.

The Silverado 1500 has been on the market since the 1999 model year, so there are plenty of them to choose from when you’re looking at used trucks. With the Silverado 1500, the key things to look for are an older Z71 trim, a Trail Boss trim, or a ZR2 trim, which is the ultimate off-road option for this model. The Trail Boss trim first became available with the 2019 Silverado 1500, while the ZR2 made its debut with the 2022 model year as the new peak off-road version of this truck.

A red 2021 Chevy Trailblazer is shown driving.

The Chevy Trailblazer

Although I’m a fan of using a truck to go off-road, I have plenty of friends who aggressively prefer taking an SUV out onto the trail—and I can’t fault them; its cabin and cargo space are both great to have. If you’re in that camp, then there are a couple of Chevy models to look for that can work well as a used off-road SUV. The first is the Trailblazer—and it’s important to note that I’m referring to the current model, which is a subcompact crossover, not the older Trailblazer from the early 2000s.

If you’re looking at used Trailblazer models, then you want to specifically keep an eye out for the ACTIV trim, which is designed for the outdoors and heading off-road. The small size of this model makes it terrific for navigating tight areas that can be hard to manage in something larger while you still have a surprisingly spacious interior with plenty of comfort and tech features to enjoy. The biggest downside of looking for a used Trailblazer for hitting the trail is that it’s only been on the market since the 2021 model year; that means you won’t necessarily find a huge selection of them as pre-owned vehicles, but those you do find will be from recent model years, which means they should be in great shape.

The Chevy Tahoe/Suburban

Finally, we have a pair of options that I’ve grouped together for the sake of simplicity since they generally have a lot in common. These are both larger Chevy SUVs with three rows of seating, making them fantastic choices if you need something big and have a lot of passengers to bring along with you. The Suburban has been around in SUV form since the 1960s, though it’s certainly been through a lot of changes in that time; the Tahoe hit the scene for the 1995 model year and has been a favorite for many drivers ever since. You won’t want to go quite that far back for an off-road-oriented model, but it’s good to know they’ve delivered reliable power for so long.

Of these two models, the Tahoe is slightly smaller, and the Suburban is the largest SUV in Chevy’s lineup, giving you more room inside for passengers and cargo. I wouldn’t personally want to take something as big as the Suburban out on the trail, but I can understand some people would want it for outdoor adventures with their family or crew. You’ve been able to outfit the Z71 trim on the Tahoe and Suburban since 2015, and that’s the setup to look for if you want to take your SUV where few others would dare to tread.

A blue 2023 Chevy Tahoe is shown driving in a city.

Other Things to Consider

As you’ve seen, certain trim levels stand out and can be found across different models, offering great off-road performance year after year. Both the Z71 and the ZR2 are iconic off-road options from Chevy and the ones you want to look for as you consider what’s available. With something like the Trailblazer ACTIV, Chevy reminds us that they can throw a curveball out there every now and again with a name that’s different from others, which is why a little research helps make things a lot simpler.

While these are all great off-road options, it’s still important to look at some specific features and details like whether they have skid plates, the condition of the engine and drivetrain, and any available packages or options that might’ve been chosen when it was sold as new with more off-read features to enjoy. This makes it easier to find the perfect vehicle and be out on the trail, having fun and exploring the unknown.

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