What automatic used 4runner should I buy that will be best for both rugged roads and daily driving? Specific project plans inside...
previous AskMeFi question has helped me out a bit, but I need some specific advice with regards to 4runners.
I spend a few months out of every year driving to various parts of North America to photograph, and recently I have added backpacking to the mix. I usually car-camp or stay in motels when not backpacking and quite often the roads I need to use to get to my intended trailheads or photographic locations are very very rugged. It has gotten to the point where I am missing photographic opportunities because I drive a 2 door coupe that can barely handle an ungraded dirt road.
My plan is to buy a used 4runner and do to it what this guy
has done - adding a bed in the back so I can camp in my vehicle when not out on the trail. It also needs to be my daily driver. Luckily I don't drive all that much when not out adventuring, because I bike to work...so we're talking trips to the grocery store, hardware store etc.
I settled on the 4runner for several reasons: 1) 4wd capable 2) reliable 3)Can be converted to sleep inside [yes, not comfortably, but understand my alternative is usually sleeping on the ground]
I am led to believe that the early to mid 90's models tend to be more reliable, but that the 1999 and onward models have better gas mileage. Is there any truth to this? To me the post-1995 models look overbuilt and from an uninformed standpoint I would much rather have an early 1990s model...so I'm looking for someone to tell me why that might be a bad idea when compared to a later model.
I do not drive stick and would be looking for an automatic with 4wd as opposed to all wheel drive. Most of the roads I intend to drive on are dirt roads of varying quality in the southwest and mountain roads in the Rockies...and ideally I'd like a vehicle capable of tackling something likeThe Old Mojave Road
without it being a dedicated off-road toy. Am I asking for too much?
I work with my hands a lot and am a fairly technical person, but I have never been a "car guy" so a vehicle that isn't a pain in the ass to maintain is a necessity (I'm thinking Land Rovers and older Jeeps, CJs, etc). Is a 4runner even right for this?
I want a hardy suv that is large enough for me to sleep in if necessary that can handle very rough road in remote locations and also will act as a daily driver. I think the 4runner fits the bill...am I right, and if so what should I be considering?
-Are there other suvs I should consider for this sort of use?
-What year used 4runner would be best suited to this purpose?
-If prioritizing for ease of maintenance, what sort of performance might I sacrifice?
This purchase is about a year off, so any info would help me continue the research process. Thanks!