Land Rover or Land Cruiser, and Why? Part 1: The Land Rover Aficionados (Overland Expertise Pool)


A typical campfire discussion: Land Rover vs Land Cruiser. The pros and cons, jokes about the other and the passion for your own. The stories are never ending, including the well-known tongue-in-cheek remarks such as:

Do you want a car that looks good on the picture, or one that will always bring you back?

If you go to the desert, you take a Defender; if you also want to return home, you take a Toyota.

Tongue-in-cheek remarks aside, what if you are planning an overland journey?

What vehicle do you choose, and why?

I emailed some of our overlanding friends and I posted on two Facebook groups for input. 19 people responded, 1 having traveled with a Land Rover as well as a Land Cruiser (see Belinda Behling’s comparison next week). The result: 10 Land Rover & 10 Land Cruiser aficiados.

Which means, the campfire discussions are by no means coming to an end 🙂 

With so many people responding, and a lot of them way beyond the requested ‘one paragraph’ (which I love!), I decided to split the topic into two blogposts.

This one is in honor of the Land Rover. Stay tuned for next weeks episode on the Land Cruisers (update: here it is!)


Overland Vehicle: Land Rover with Pop-up Tent (©CoenWubbels)
Land Rover with Pop-up Tent (©Coen Wubbels)

01- Gert Jan ter Haar

Vehicle: Land Rover Series 3 & Land Rover Defender 130

Why: We drove to southern Africa with Milady Landy, for some 6 months. Equipped in basic style, with rooftop tent. We’ve had a fair share of ‘maintenance’ and spend quite a lot of time on repairs, which led through a change of travel plans. Despite the challenges during our Africa adventures in 2017 we did decide to turn traveling into a lifestyle. 

After a lot of thought between, among other vehicles, Land Rover or Land Cruiser, we opted for the Land Rover Defender 130 for our world journey that we started in October 2019. Price of purchase were part of that, but also the space that the 130 offers. I am 2,03meter tall (6ft6) and with a pop-up roof, the vehicle offers enough space to live and sleep inside.

During our journey in our new Milady Landy to, in and from Marokko over the past 10 months, we’ve had no problem driving the tough pistes and drove comfortably on the main roads full of regular traffic. It’s a great car and yes, every once in a while it requires maintenance and repairs, but that’s a necessity for every car, including Land Cruisers as I read in Karin-Marijke & Coen’s stories.

Gert Jan & Sonja shares their stories on Milady Landy

Recommended Books on Land Rover (Travels)

(click on the images to look inside)

Products from Amazon

02- Charlie Webster (Starry Nights & Insect Bites)

Vehicle: A 2002 Land Rover Discovery Td5

Why: We have found that there is a worldwide Land Rover community that just has no equivalent if we’d been in a Land Cruiser. We’ve made so many Land Rover friends along the way and across the world people that own older Land Rovers always love them. But the presence of Land Cruisers across the world is so much higher and that definitely has a lot of advantages.

In India we had to wait four weeks for a new door to be shipped from the UK because our car was never made in India so the replacement part we needed did not exist there. Finding a mechanic who knows what they’re doing with Land Cruisers would have been pretty easy in every country we’ve been to so far which definitely cannot be said for Land Rovers.

So as a whole I think that if you aren’t ‘into’ cars/Land Rovers, and wouldn’t know how to fix most problems you may encounter then a Land Cruiser is a much better choice. But if you are those things then 100% take a Land Rover.

Charlie & Chris share their adventures on Starry Nights and Insect Bites. I also interviewed them for our blog, find it here.

Overland camping (@Starrynightsandinsectbites)
A 2002 Land Rover Discovery Td5 (@Starrynightsandinsectbites)

03- Koos Ockeloen

Vehicle: 1965 Land Rover Series 2a 109

Why: I am driving a Land Rover, but it’s for a reason it has a Toyota drive train. I drove around in Australia for year with a HJ60, some 13,000 kilometers off-road and it never let me down. Incredibly simple, reliable technique. It’s for a reason that you see so many Land Cruisers in Australia. Also in Africa, Land Rover lost from Toyota.

My Land Rover has never let me down on a journey. Having said that, if I had the money I’d like to have an 80 series. 

Read More: How to Keep your Overland Vehicle, Low-budget Style

1965 Land Rover Series 2a 109 (©Koos Ockeloen)
1965 Land Rover Series 2a 109 (©Koos Ockeloen)

04- Jesse Kaijen (Wazungu)

Vehicle: Our first overland journey (Africa) was in a Land Rover Defender.

Why: On average I spent 1 day a week underneath the Defender, fixing it. But what a fantastic car! The previous owner had it rebuilt into a rally support vehicle and came with 3-inch (!) lift with double shock absorbers and double coil springs. On bad stretches we were ‘floating’ over the road surface and were very comfortable. The advantage of the Defender was that it could be repaired anywhere.

If I’d ‘had’ to choose, I’d pick a Defender for its looks and for a Land Cruiser for its reliability. On the other hand, all those bush repairs are great for good stories.

Jesse shares his family roadtrip adventures on Wazungu.

Defender (@Jesse Kaijen)
Meet George, the Defender (@Jesse Kaijen)

05- Hannah Scurfield

Vehicle: 1983 Land Rover Series III (I’ve only spent a maximum of 3 months on the road)

Why: I’m a Land Rover nut and follow a lot of overlanding Land Rovers. Most of them are the older Discoveries, Range Rovers or any of the Defenders because they’re pretty easy to work on if something goes wrong.

I feel like many dissing the reliability are more appropriate for the later models of Discovery and Range Rover that have engine management systems and electrical things that need troubleshooting with a computer and aren’t as easy to maintain without a specialist (which is kinda true of most newer cars).

The Land Rover community around the world is very special and welcoming, but I’ve nothing to compare it to. I’ve driven them through some pretty sketchy places and we got left alone or positive reactions because we were in an old Land Rover.

But like I said, maybe it would be the same for a Land Cruiser, I have no experience to compare. Perhaps the reason it’s difficult to pick is because they’re both equally good and have a passionate community. But if you’re looking at older Land Rovers you can still get reliable car, I’ve had a 1983 Series III daily driver that never had any issues and kept motoring for a decade before I had to sell it.

Read More: The Essential Series – Recovery Gear; What do we Carry

@Hannah Scurfield
@Hannah Scurfield

Recommended Books on Overlanding with a Land Rover

(click on the images to look inside)

Products from Amazon

06- Marit Van Meekeren

Vehicle: Land Rover Defender TD5

Why: Looks the best of all and is, at least with our set up, relatively lightweight and economical in fuel consumption. The Defender took us through 50,000 kilometers of southern Africa practically without a hiccup. Of course you need to nurture your Lady Landy, read maintain, and your steering abilities are important.

And yes, overlanding is not something you do because you don’t like adventure, so when something fails or breaks, you’ll need to fix it. And if you can’t do that yourself, in Africa you’ll always find somebody with a solution.

The Landy takes you anywhere!

You can find photos of Marit’s journey and amazing wildlife on Poldershoot Fotografie

Landrover Defender TD5
@Marit van Meekeren

07- Mireille Ter Berg

Vehicle: Land Rover Defender

Why: Ed and I haven’t done an international (overseas) trip but did drive some 50,000 kilometers through Europe with our Defender, with one major break down in Norway.

Why a Defender? It looks cool, is reliable, brought us everywhere we wanted, and it was no problem to get maintenance and small repairs/adjustment done all along the road. I love Land Cruisers too. Some of our friends have one and love traveling with their vehicle too.

You have to pick the car that feels good and safe. I think the Defender is tough and a true ‘diesel train’!

Read More: 3 Super Convenient Car Window Shades for your Overland Vehicle

Land Rover Defender (©Mireille Ter Berg)
Land Rover Defender (©Mireille Ter Berg)

08- Sandra Kenyon (Landy Ladies Overland)

Vehicle: Lara, a 2014 diesel 2.2 Land Rover Defender 130 HCPU

Why: We bought her second hand with only 70 delivery miles on the clock, with the sole purpose to convert her into our dream overland vehicle. We wanted our finished camper to be small (no more than 6 meters long), have a fixed double bed, loo and shower, to have excellent insulation properties and the ability to exist off grid for relatively long periods of time.

For us living in the UK, we didn’t really have the option to choose a Land Cruiser, as it meant we would have had to import one which matched our criteria for the camper conversion. We also wanted a double cab. This was high priority for us, due to having two dogs.

We had previously owned a Land Rover Defender 110 with a roof tent on it, and we also had a VW Autosleeper campervan. Our aim was to combine the comfort of the VW, with the off-road capability of the Defender. We also have a slight passion for Defenders!

While we are restricted with the gross weight of 3,500kg (we had her upgraded to this, as weirdly the Defender 2.2 130s aren’t the standard 3,500kg of every other LWB Defender!), we have everything that we need. Indeed, we are about to remove our LPG oven, as we don’t use it.

We are also about to upgrade our solar/battery set up, as 5 months on the road has shown us that we don’t have an efficient system for energy collection/storage. We have also upgraded her suspension, she rides on full 4-corner VB air suspension, and Koni shock absorbers. We have also upgraded the anti-roll bars to 30mm front and back.

Thanks to all this, we have a very comfortable ride, with very little body roll. All in all, and with hindsight, we are very happy with our choice, and quite honestly, even if the Land Cruiser option had been readily available to us, we would still have chosen the green oval!

Sandra & Alison share photos of their adventures on Landy Ladies Overland

 2014 diesel 2.2 Land Rover Defender 130 HCPU (©Sandra Kenyon
Meet Lara, the 2014 diesel 2.2 Land Rover Defender 130 HCPU (©Sandra Kenyon)

09- Graeme Bell (A2A Expedition)

Vehicle: Matufa, a 2002 Land Rover Defender 130 TD5 2.5L Turbo Diesel. Originally double cab, converted to a camper in late 2016

Why: In 2008 we began planning a journey from Cape Town to Kilimanjaro and were faced with a dilemma. Should we attempt the journey in our 1980s Series Land Rover station wagon or was it time to invest in a modern vehicle? The Series was paid for, mechanically simple and had wonderful aftermarket seats but a not so wonderful 4.2 L Chevrolet engine. It was slow and noisy, thirsty and not incredibly reliable.

The decision was made to scour the second hand market for a more suitable vehicle which had space for a family of four and the load carrying capacity a family demands. We looked at Toyota Land Cruisers, Unimogs, Nissan Patrols and the Toyota Hilux. These vehicles had a reputation for reliability but were all quite expensive and had limitations of load and space. A double cab Land Cruiser would have been perfect but we would have to obtain a bank loan to be able to afford even a ten-year-old model.

We then came across a Land Rover Defender 130, a vehicle which was half the price of the double cab Cruisers and which boasted a higher load rating, while being a Defender. After weighing up the pros and cons we realised that the Defender was not only the most suitable vehicle it was also the most affordable, besides, at 1.95m tall, I did not fit well behind the wheel of the Land Cruiser pick up!

To be honest, the Defender 130 is the vehicle which we wanted originally. In 2009 we paid $9000 (at the current exchange rate) for the Defender which had 140.000 kms on the odometer and which had belonged to a farmer in the dry interior of South Africa. That Land Rover has been our home for almost a decade and we love her more than a machine deserves.

The pros of owning a Defender (vs a Land Cruiser):

  • The Land Rover community is global, huge and passionate, parts are relatively cheap and readily available internationally.
  • The Defender is a real looker, an icon which is considered in the top 10 of coolest cars of all time. A Land Cruiser is number 83.
  • Which Land Cruiser, you ask? I have no idea. There seems to be a new model released annually and the Land Cruiser is everything from a miners truck to a footballers luxury ride. It’s all too bloody confusing. Is it a J series or a BJ or an FJ? I don’t know and neither do you, probably. 
  • The Defender is a lightweight aluminium body built on a sturdy steel box frame, and the vehicle has a high load carrying capacity.
  • We get to spend all that extra money I could have spent on a Cruiser travelling and doing amazing things.
  • The Defender is as tough as nails and incredibly capable off road, some say it will kick a Cruisers butt.
  • Defender people know how to fix things!

The cons of owning a Defender (vs a Land Cruiser):

  • Everyone assumes that, because you drive a Defender, you are incredibly good looking, intelligent, manly and a really great person. They are right of course but who needs that pressure?
  • Someone once said the perfect Defender would be built by Toyota. Yes, the old Land Rover can be temperamental, I admit it.
  • You have to suffer Land Rover jokes made by smug Toyota people who act as if they are the clever folk who built the Land Cruiser. I have news for you guys – Land Cruisers break just like any other vehicle!
  • Oil stains. We can’t visit any friends without leaving permanent stains on their driveways. Land Rovers mark their territory, apparently.

Graeme and Luisa travel with their two kids Keelan and Jessica. Follow their adventures on A2A Expedition and You Tube. Graeme has written 5 awesome books about their travels – find them here.

Land Rover vs Land Cruiser – What’s Your Story?

So here it is, 9 passionate stories on why people opted for a Land Rover for their great overland adventures (#10 will follow next week, where Belinda shares her Land Rover vs Land Cruiser experiences).

Are you a Land Rover aficionado? If so, why? I invite you to join the Land Rover vs Land Cruiser conversation in the comment section below!

For the Land Cruiser aficionados, or those on the fence, stay tuned for the Land Rover vs Land Cruiser discussion next week, where 10 Land Cruiser owners will share why they drive around the world in a Land Cruiser.

Update: Here are the Land Cruiser aficionados!

Check it out: The Landcruising Adventure Duffle Bag Collection

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