I remember from our planning phase, in 2003, that Coen was much charmed by a Land Rover Series—one of the earlier models. I, on the other hand, had no clue what a Land Rover or a Land Cruiser looked like and I set my own priorities for our home on wheels: no black car.
What to Buy – Land Rover vs Land Cruiser Debates
At the time, there were no Facebook pages or Instagram accounts to get information. As I remember, there was only the Lonely Planet forum – not exactly a place to ask for overland vehicle information today but at the time it was the only place that existed (or we knew about).
The answer on the Lonely Planet forum was unanimous: Go for Land Cruiser. Easy to fix, all over the world. After 17 years on the road I do have some critical note on the ‘all’ of it, but never mind. Our Land Cruiser has served us well (you can read about our BJ45 here and here).
Land Rover vs Land Cruiser– it’s an ongoing discussion, heated or jokingly. To get some answers for the people who are wondering what the heck to buy for their first overland journey, I asked fellow overlanders why they bought a Land Rover or Land Cruiser.
19 people responded, 1 having traveled with a Land Rover as well as a Land Cruiser (great comparison; see Belinda Behling’s story below). The result: 10 Land Rover & 10 Land Cruiser aficiados.
May the discussions continue!
In our last blog we paid honor to the Land Rovers.
In this blog post, we give space to Land Cruiser overlanders to share their motivation for their overland rig. To sort of gap the bridge between Land Rover and Land Cruiser, we’ll start with Belinda who with here husband Markus did two long overland journeys: one in a Land Rover and one in a Land Cruiser.
I think reading through the comments (on the Facebook groups), the moral of the story is that both the LC and LR communities seem pretty passionate!
01- Belinda Behling (2Experience)
Land Rover Defender 300 TDI, 2007 — Netherlands – South Africa – India – Netherlands
Land Cruiser HZJ75, 2014 — Netherlands – Bangkok, southern Africa
Engine – Driving on altitude
The Land Cruiser’s engine is heavier but has no turbo. So in the mountains it crawled uphill. On smooth asphalt in Europe this can be annoying because soon you’ll have a string of fast cars nudging you, but once off-road it doesn’t matter because you’re driving slow anyway. The Defender with turbo worked better in this respect. But both vehicles get there. Guaranteed.
Once at the top, you also need to get downhill again. A true overland vehicle, heavy with rooftop tent / pop-up roof, and often a lot of gear and equipment, often is heavier than intended and this you notice. Both vehicles didn’t brake very well. A steep descent is each time an adventure that makes our hands sweat. In this respect the vehicles responded similar. If we have to choose, I’d reckon the Defender is a bit worse off but the difference is minimal.
Engine – Driving in soft sand
The Land Cruiser clearly is a winner. in the white desert of Eypte we had to quit a dune trip because the Land Rover simply didn’t make it uphill. It was too heavy and the engine wasn’t strong enough for all that weight. The Land Cruiser, on the other hand, worked its way easily through the deep sand ruts in the Kalahari, where I believe that the Defender would have struggled greatly.
Nothing is as personal as taste, but if I have to choose, I prefer the looks of the Defender.
Definitely the Land Cruiser. This, however, doesn’t make the Defender unreliable. Only, the Defender has small issues more frequently. Without exaggeration, every 5,000 kilometers, the Defender struggled with something. Never a problem that stopped us from driving, but they were issues that required attention.
With the knowledge from the first journey, we left for our second with a big bag full of tools which, in hindsight, we brought for nothing. With the Defender I could change fuses while driving and not taking my eyes of the road. Fuses blew so often, that my hands exactly knew where to find the faulty one. The Land Cruiser, by contrast, we had for 5 years and still didn’t even know where the fuses were located. A fellow overlander showed them to us when at one time we wanted to check them.
In Africa you find parts for the Defender everywhere. This is not the case as much in Asia and we often came across overlanders waiting for parts from DHL for weeks. Toyota workshops, on the other hand, you have in every city. In Asia, Toyota has an advantage.
Our 300 TDI was an oldie but ran like a charm and even tough the car sweated oil everywhere, the engine never used up a drop of oil. The Land Cruiser, however, didn’t sweat at all but if we made it work hard for a while, we did have to top up a bit of engine oil. Which, according to experts, is normal.
With the Defender, on the other hand, we regularly topped up the oil of the differentials and gear box. At the time we put a lot of money in getting the Defender ‘sweat-free’ but we didn’t succeed. But now you know – if the Defender stops sweating, that’s when you have to start to worry.
The Defender was a bit more economical than the Land Cruiser. The Defender managed 9,2kms/liter and the Land Cruiser a bare 8 kms/liter and for that we had to work (not driving faster than 100 kms/hour on the highway).
The Defender has coil springs and drives much more comfortably on asphalt but has a lot of bodyroll on terrain. Our Land Cruiser has leaf springs. This creates a much more Spartan feel (speed bumps will catapult you through the air if you don’t slow down) but is much more stable on rough terrain. Additionally, the leaf springs turned out to be more reliable.
During our trip with the defender we’ve had to replace 14 coil springs (7 pairs). With the Land Cruiser we have been driving for 10 years with the same leaf springs and shock absorbers.
One of the great parts of a cool-looking overland vehicle is that fact that local people chat with you more quickly. Because they are curious about our car, we’ve had many great connections. This, by far, is the fun part of the vehicle. In this respect, there is no difference – both vehicles drew a lot of attention.
Which Overland Vehicle Wins?
Our personal preference is for the Land Cruiser. This is partly for practical reasons (reliability, strong, and spar parts), but the most important reason is living comfort. Our Land Cruiser, although very small, has a unit (with heater) so we can live inside. Here we could close of the outside world for a bit. With the Defender we had only the rooftop tent and couldn’t do that. This is the main difference for us.
Even though a rooftop tent is great for sleeping I would never exchange it for our little home with unit and small couch anymore. Something simple as being able to change clothes while standing up without having to step outside makes a big difference.
No difference. With both overland vehicles we have priceless memories and in the end that’s all that counts.
Belinda & Markus share their adventures on 2xperience.nl
02- Jorge Gonzalez (Live Work Wander)
Vehicle: A turbo diesel 75/78 Series Toyota Land Cruiser with a Maltec camper conversion (the series and year of ours is a complicated story)
Why: Toyota Land Cruiser: Overlanding’s Bestfalia
Recently a friend sent me a snippet of a podcast conversation between two former U.S. Special Forces operators. The discussion was about the vehicle Mike Glover – CEO of Fieldcraft Survival and former US Army Special Forces Green Beret – and his team used in Afghanistan. The vehicle they had in their area of operations ‘broke down constantly’. Which vehicle that was, isn’t important for our purposes here (but it rhymes with Land Rover).
Interviewer, ‘Do you wish you’d had a Toyota Land Cruiser in that environment (Kunar Valley, Afghanistan)?’
Mike Glover, ‘If we could’ve had Land Cruiser’s there, it would’ve been a game changer for us.’
I’m just gonna come out and say it: Toyota’s Land Cruiser is the vehicle for harsh environments. By logical implication then, it follows inescapably that a vehicle that is the best in harsh environments is also going to be the best for the kind of overland travel we like to engage in.
We have been living on the road for a little over 6 years and in that time we’ve primarily jaunted around North America in VW T3 Westfalia’s (one was a 2wd, the other a 4wd aka Syncro). They broke down a lot. Sometimes daily. We didn’t like this. In fact, we registered our disapproval with that state of affairs often and emphatically.
So we set them on fire* because that’s what the baby Jesus commanded and then bought a used turbo diesel 75/78 Series (the series and year of ours is a complicated story) Toyota Land Cruiser with a Maltec camper conversion. Other than opening the hood to take a photo of what reliability looks like, we never once found ourselves on the side of the road repairing that thing.
We traveled in our 78 for 9 months, ranging over some of the harshest and most remote routes we’d attempted in our time on the road while also visiting some of the most incredible places we’d seen in that time. The 4×4 system in the truck was rock solid permitting us to traverse terrain in a slow, safe, controlled manner.
The living space, although much smaller than we had in our Westfalias, was functional and comfortable enough. Parts support for these vehicles is, so I’ve been told, globally extensive though I wouldn’t know because ours never needed any other than wearable stuff like break pads and fuel filters.
The vehicle is also very easy to work on because whoever is in charge at Toyota looked at our experience with Volkswagens and said, ‘Have you seen LiveWorkWander’s YouTube series where their VW is always broken? Let’s build the opposite of that. Thanks.’
And while the Cruiser is not nearly as photogenic as our T3 Syncro, what it lacks in looks it more than makes up for in rugged reliability and capability which is its own form of beauty. To us, that what makes Toyota’s 70 Series Land Cruiser overlanding’s uncontested Bestfalia.
For more on our Land Cruiser and the story behind it, take a look at this video.
*We didn’t set them on fire. We sold them and made them someone else’s problem. Same same but different.
Overland Vehicle Choice – the Discussions:
- 4WD a Must? – Driving from Europe to Southeast Asia
- 4WD a Must? – Driving in South America
- 4WD a Must? – Do We Consider a Different Overland Vehicle?
- 4WD a Must – Meet Overlanders with an Awesome 2WD Overland Vehicle
- Land Rover or Land Cruiser, and Why? Part 1: The Land Rover Aficionados
- Land Rover or Land Cruiser, and Why? Part 2: The Land Cruiser Aficionados
03- Reni Kaspar (Swiss Nomads)
Vehicle: Different Land Cruisers
Why: When we started our first trip around Australia we bought a Toyota Land Cruiser Troopcarrier to explore the country because it’s so widely spread and spare parts are available in every corner of this huge country. We fell in love with the Land Cruiser from the first second.
After three trips with three different Land Cruisers we finally brought our baby, a Toyota Land Cruiser VDJ78 series in Australia to travel the world. For us it is the perfect car for overlanding.
The Land Cruiser is a very reliable car and we never had bigger issues nor dramatic repairs. In the meantime we know the Land Cruiser very well and can fix a lot of things by ourselves. Spare parts are available in most countries. We also love the size of the Troopcarrier. It is small enough to get almost everywhere but big enough to comfortably live in it.
Our Toyota Land Cruiser is a VDJ78 model, year 2007, runs on diesel and has a high-top (read all specifics here). We prefer the high-top for different reasons. We can stand inside, it is roomier and has more storage space than one with a pop-top.
The high-top is made of fiber glass and therefore absorbs noise better without adding to much weight to the top heaviness. Also wind and rain does not affect us to much. The only downside of a high-top is that it doesn’t fit in a container. But that’s the only thing.
04- Max Pijnappel
Vehicle: 2001 Land Cruiser HZJ78 (4.2l Diesel)
Why: Although I like the looks of a Land Rover, I immediately fell for the Land Cruiser after a South African rental company asked me, “Whether I wanted a car that looked good on the pictures, or the one that would always bring you back from the bush?”
The Land Cruiser, especially with this engine, is the most reliable (even Land Rover drivers will agree) car in its sort. Parts are to be found anywhere (though America will be hard) and its mechanics are dead simple, so you or someone around can repair it easily in the rare event it needs more than regular maintenance. The 1HZ engine will run on the worst fuel you can find and it will hardly ever be impressed with whatever you throw at it.
From the start, the lay-out of the Land Cruiser (with 2 front doors only and a huge cargo area, which is not too well accessible from the outside) has flirted with me to be converted into a pop-top. With it the car becomes the platform for a very small camper, where you can sit inside and move around a bit. Plus you sleep ‘inside’, while literally be good to leave in seconds – the pop-top makes it so much more comfortable than a RTT (although at a considerable cost.).
What to do differently next time? Keep it lighter! Almost impossible to do afterwards, but you will be adding so much weight that it really does pay off to choose for weight over comfort/endurance/style/price/. Or at least make it a main consideration for everything on the car.
We had a lot of dune/sandy beach driving in our trip and the extra weight makes the car have to battle the sand instead of ‘just driving over it’. And if you really need to take the weight with you, be extremely picky with where to put it.
05- Robert Van Den Hoven (Double Dutch Downunder)
Vehicle: Different Land Cruisers
Why: Our first 4WD in 1980 was a Nissan MQ because i heard that the Nissan Patrol was the first car that crossed the Simson Desert. However, it didn’t take long before I realized that the 60 Series Land Cruiser (1983 model, 5 speed manual) was a much better car, especially off-road.
During that time we drove a lot of hard core 4WD in the mountains, deserts and during the wet season here in northern Australia. I remember well that in those days, the 60 Series owners were considered softies because the 40/50 Series Land Cruisers (FJ55) were the super strong and perfect off-roaders (no diff-locks at the time). But they were not comfortable vehicles to transport people from A to B. I came to realize that all farmers in the outback all drove Land Cruisers (Land Rovers weren’t even considered). Also the 6 cylinder diesel engine was a winner.
When the new 80 Series was produced (1990), we changed the 60 series (203,000 kms on the odometer) for an 80 series. It was one of the first with ARB airlockers (front and rear). The main con was the tires (Dunlop Grandtreks). During our first trip, we ruined all four of them. At first we wanted to buy the 70 series Toyota because that was the preferred car of the farmers and it is super strong (still very popular in mining, farming and outback communities. Hard to destroy but expansive considering the very plain interior).
Our next vehicle was a Toyota Land Cruiser 100 Series, with which we toured Australia for some 4 years and planned to drive around the world with, too. We changed the 6 cylinder for an 8 cylinder 6.9 Turbo diesel. Having said that, by the time we decided to go around the world, we realized we wouldn’t be doing much more off-roading like in Australia and settled for comfort (a 4×4 Fuso FG 84 built into a motorhome, and today a Mercedes Atego 4×4).
To us it seems that a Land Rover owner is a purist or hobbyist that has plenty of options when you really want to go off-road. But to us nothing beats a Toyota Land Cruiser when it comes to reliability and worldwide availability of spare parts and service/maintenance. It’s a big car, comfy and strong. Because I’m not technical, reliability is important to me.
The Toyota limited slip differentials are not really top performers but that’s easily solved with ARB airlockers. Our cruiser drives about 14 liter / 100 kms while I hear the Land Rover drives about 9 liters / 100 kms. On a 40,000-km world trip that is a mere difference of 40 liters per week. Depending on where you drive (Europe and Australia fuel is more expensive than elsewhere), this is not much for a year-long trip or may add up.
06- Roma Romagnoli
Vehicle: 2000 Land Cruiser Troop Carrier 78 Series from New Zealand
Why: Land Cruiser all the way. It didn’t let us down on our ten month long journey from New Zealand to the UK. It’s still going strong as we explore Scotland on our weekends now.
Interesting detail. Before we bought it it was been a corrections vehicle that took prisoners out to do reforestation work. On the inside it has lots of carved out name tags from the prisoners.
Roma shares her photos on Globo Overland.
07- Laurens Gomes
Vehicle: Land Cruiser Prado 120 series 4.0l v6
Why: This vehicle was perfect for our 25,000K adventure through South America. We improved and strengthened the Land Cruiser in different ways. This resulted in an overland vehicle that was compact, not too heavy and that did well anywhere: the city, long-distance roads and extreme circumstances where the going can be tough. A nice extra was the right balance between comfort and cost.
The entire project cost about 20,000 euros including rooftop tent, fridge, and so on. Our secret weapens were our custom-tuned shock absorbers, which was originally built for the Toyota Tundra that we used in Baja California.
08- Kate Morgan Cameron
Vehicle: Toyota Land Cruiser 1991 HZJ75 Troopcarrier diesel with a naturally aspirated 1HZ 6 cylinder engine, one of the most reliable engines ever made, which is what I love most about it.
Why: I love the simplicity of the 1HZ. It’s purely mechanical, no electronic injection, or complex programming, just crude, bullet proof engineering, and a truck that’s notorious for racking up a million kms, and going forever despite the toughest treatment. As someone who loves travelling solo with my partner in remote areas, all those things are invaluable because it means if something goes wrong, we can (and do) fix it ourselves.
I also highly value Toyota’s prolific presence the world over, which means every outback mechanic has common parts sitting on the shelf, and high quality aftermarket products (such as Terrain Tamer) boast their support in towns across the globe. With careful upkeep and maintenance, we’re able to take our vehicle through the toughest tracks in the world without a second thought and know she’ll take us there without a hitch.
The Troopcarrier body, which is basically a big old bus, offers the perfect platform to build a cosy home on wheels. I love that I can take it through the roughest tracks, and over the wildest terrain, and then pop the top and have her set up with a hot cup of tea or a cold beer in my hand within just a few minutes.
In my mind, there’s no better vehicle for overland travel than the Land cruiser troopcarrier, and no better troopcarrier than the White Ox (though I admit that on that last point I’m definitely biased!).
Kate & Jade shares their adventures on TheWhiteOx.com
09- Ferenc Elekes (Overland Site)
Vehicle: I own two Land Cruisers, a 1978 FJ40, and a 2006 Prado 120. For longer trips, Evelin and I use the Prado, and the main reason is its incredible reliability.
The 2006 model is equipped with an automatic transmission and a 3.0L diesel engine. I was specifically looking for this model as it is widely available in Europe and between overland trips (varying between 2 weeks to 6 months duration) it serves as our daily driver.
It’s a strange feeling sometimes to drive a car on the streets of Budapest that’s been through the Sahara Desert and was driven on the beaches of Thailand as well.
I also really like the Land Rover Defenders, but before making a decision on what vehicle to purchase for overlanding, I found that Defenders do not even come close to Land Cruisers when it comes to reliability.
In connection with that, Toyotas these days appear to be better covered by their dealership and service network than Land Rovers. There is no corner on the Planet where you won’t find a Toyota service or at least a mechanic who knows his way around Land Cruisers.
Ferenc & Evelin share their adventures & lots of practical overlanding advice on Overlandsite.com
10- Ernesto (Overland the Americas)
Vehicle: We have chosen a Toyota Land Cruiser 78 (Troop Carrier or Troopy) 4.5L turbo Diesel 2019 to travel around the world.
Why: After traveling for 4 years in our trusty Toyota 4Runner through 23 countries in the Americas we realized that we needed a vehicle that could allow for a small inside ‘livable’ space, would have better fuel efficiency, a little more power (torque) and would maintain the reliability we came to love from our 4Runner.
We decided that the Land Cruiser 78 was the best fit for our world adventures because of its life long legacy of dependability, ruggedness and capability.
With a Payload of 935 kg / 2,061 lbs, an average 20mi/gal (8.5km/l) for a whopping fuel range of about 950mi / 1,530 km using its two 24gal / 90l fuel tanks, a 430 N⋅m (317 lb⋅ft) of torque and with front and rear locking differentials among other features our Land Cruiser is the dream vehicle for the type of travel we do.
Also, I (Ernesto) grew up around Land Cruisers so there’s a nostalgic piece. I have come to know how fun and capable Land Cruisers really are. My dad’s first car was a Land Cruiser 55 Series also known as the iron pig in the United States. In his college days he primarily used it for the search and rescue team that he founded in the Venezuelan Andes. As a 3 year-old, I remember riding in the front seat standing up. No seat belts at that time. For each of his jobs, my dad was always assigned a Land Cruiser. A 40 Series, a 60 Series and finally a 70 Series.
Venezuela had a Toyota assembly line and built Land Cruisers for decades. It was one of the very few countries in the world where these vehicles were assembled other than in Japan. So in Venezuela, Land Cruisers became hugely popular. They are still used today for agricultural purposes, as passenger vehicles, touring vehicles, ambulances, and in various government fleets such as the national guard, the army and in police departments.
Nostalgic bias aside, there are so many things to love about the Land Cruiser. It’s simple, it’s dependable and it can also be easily accessorized. For example, our new Troopy has manual windows, a manual transmission and manual locking hubs but it also has the added modern bullet proof 1VD-FTV (V8 4.5 turbo diesel) engine.
I’m undeniably a Land Cruiser enthusiast. Land Cruisers are overbuilt, their engines are under-stressed and I trust that they are the best damn overland vehicles in the world.
Land Rover vs Land Cruiser – What’s Your Story?
So here it is, 10 passionate stories on why people opted for a Land Cruiser for their great overland adventure(s).
Are you a Land Cruiser aficionado? If so, why? I invite you to join the Land Rover vs Land Cruiser conversation in the comment section below!
For the Land Rover aficionados, or those on the fence, check out last week’s blog post on Land Rovers being the preferred overland vehicle.
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