We could go on and on about the gear you need for Overlanding, but, this time we will start with the basics because you can’t go Overlanding without a vehicle. Here we go over the best family overland vehicles.
If you have a family and you are starting to get into Overlanding, it can seem a bit overwhelming.
With 2020 finally over, and spending nearly a year in your house social distancing, it’s time to start looking forward to the 2021 outdoor season. Whether you are a camper, hiker, or just all-around explorer, having a good family vehicle for Overlanding is an important piece of this equation.
Personally, I’m a bit experienced in this area seeing as I have a family and we love to go explore in our “Overlanding vehicle”. Over the years we have explored all types of vehicles like Toyota Tacomas, Tundras, Rams, heck, even RV’s (but don’t tell anyone, the hardcore will tell you that doesn’t count. That “Overlanding” word can be a touchy subject to some. Essentially, if you are out exploring in a vehicle and are self-sufficient (not relying on campgrounds and RV parks) then you are an Overlander!
Oh, and before your spouse asks, check out our list of Best Camping Toilets (male spouse or female, I’m not assuming here).
What Do We Use?
I have a 2013 Rock Warrior Edition Toyota Tundra. I have a camper shell on it and a Rooftop Tent. So far, so good. Room for all 5 of us and the dogs!
CJ has it all! CJ has a large family and his garage is packed with goodies. His wife has a 4Runner, he has a Tundra and they also have an Escapod Off-road tear-drop trailer with a RTT mounted on top. You could say they are a source for all my Overlanding GOALS.
When selecting a vehicle for Overlanding, many people start to get a bit overwhelmed. Between the gear, the hefty price tags, and the endless advice from YouTube and Social Media, it makes many people go into analysis paralysis, and in-turn, they stop looking or just grab the first 4×4 ride they see. Let’s not do that.
Taking the family along (in my opinion) is the best part, however, there are a few considerations to take into account before pulling the trigger on a new Overlanding family vehicle. Let’s take a look at the best Overlanding vehicles for families and I’ll point out which are best for each type of scenario to assist along the way.
A Couple Ground Rules
I must start our list picks with these two rules below, it needs to be said:
What You Will Need in a Family Overlanding Vehicle
- Four-Wheel Drive: Now, some will say you don’t need this and they are correct, however, if you plan to head off the pavement, its really nice to have that peace of mind that you have 4 tires working for you in snow, mud, or rain instead of two. After all, you’re most likely on your own out there. At a minimum, you will need some Overlanding recovery gear. If you don’t know where to start, check out our Guide to Affordable Overlanding Recovery Gear.
What You Won’t Need in a Family Overlanding Vehicle
- A Lift Kit: I don’t care who you speak to, you don’t NEED a lift to go Overlanding. Sure, does a little more ground clearance help on the less traveled Forest Service and BLM trails? Yep, but it’s definitely not needed. Picking a good line on the trail to follow will do a million times more for you than just a big lift kit.
And thats it! Everything beyond that is a personal preference. Don’t get caught up in Jerry cans and roof racks, you get that because you want to, not because you have to.
Disclaimer: While these are well-intended picks, It’s ultimately going to largely depend on your personal taste and your situation. So, with that said, let’s look at the best!
Best Overlanding Vehicle For a Family of 3 to 4
I chose mid-size for families of 3 to 4 because they tend to do the best on trails. You could be more comfortable, but smaller is better. Many of the trails you encounter when Overlanding are narrow and having a smaller footprint on the trail will let you go more places and have fewer tree branches and bush scratching on your doors.
- Toyota 4Runner- Toyota has made a name for itself thats starting to rival the Jeeper crowd. With that said, you will see Toyota’s a few times in this list.
- Jeep Wrangler JKU (4-Door)- You cant think about outdoor excursions without thinking about a Jeep. The JKU model is the 4-door model and will provide a good amount of room and still have excellent off-road capability.
- Toyota Tacoma: Another common name in Overlanding. It’s compact, capable, and trusted.
Best Overlanding Vehicle For a Family of 5 to 6
It’s time to navigate away from mid-size as we are now having more people than can safely be seated in a midsize (unless you have a 3rd Row 4Runner I suppose).
- Ford Excursion: A big diesel beast that can hold your larger family, and has excellent 4×4 capability. While they are no longer made, many can be had on the marketplace for a good price.
- Full-Sized Truck (Take your personal fav): I won’t go into Chevy vs Ford vs Toyota, etc, everyone seems to have their personal preference with brands. Just grab the 4×4 version, toss your gear in the back, and hit the road. Personally, I use a Tundra with a Camper shell that has a Roof Top Tent on the top, it works great. Mom and dad can sleep in the bed of the truck (inside the camper shell) and the kids can party in the RTT.
- Toyota Sequoia: A Full-sized SUV from Toyota that is roomy and capable. The Toyota Sequoia has also recently released the “TRD Pro” version which makes you Overland better when you have blacked out badges and premium leather. I’m kidding, BUT it does have skid plates that are helpful should you pick a line that likes to scrape your oil pan.
Best Overlanding Vehicle For a Family of 6+ (#VanLife)
- Chevy E350 Van (4×4): A classic van styling with big bow 4×4 capability. Bring the whole family and hit the road. Additionally, these have lots of options and add-ons you may want to get down the road.
- Hi-Roof Van (Ford, RAM or Mercedes): These are getting hard to find a deal on, but they do the trick for large families. They are big, roomy, and more capable than people give credit to. The Ford has an AWD option and the Mercedes has a transfer case 4×4 which is more desirable than AWD as it delivers equal power to all 4 wheels rather than AWD which delivers power to all four tires, but usually in mixed power (example 65% front and 35% rear). The RAM has an FWD option that seems to do well, but for me, I like a 4×4 option. Check out the Reddit board r/vandwellers for some inspiration.
Best Overlanding Vehicle For a Family On a Budget
- Used 4Runner: With a tough built engine and a great reliability factor, well-taken care of 4Runner will do the trick. These can be found with under 75,000 miles for around $15,000 to $25,000 depending on your location and patience.
- Used Tacoma: Same as above.
- Used Jeep: Be careful with these. Yes, a good deal can be had on a trusty and capable jeep, however, because they are such toys for people, many people buy them, tinker on them and then sell them. I would recommend finding a single owner who can show it was loved. Otherwise, you may be buying someone’s failed project.
- Used Nissan Xterra: These are great little rigs and if you find a good used one, it will take you to many places without issue.
All in all, it will come down to personal preference and your family’s individual needs. A family of 3 is going to have very different needs than a family of 7. So, look at your budget, your future plans, your family size, and just get what works for you. Hopefully, this was helpful and it puts you closer to finding that Overlanding vehicle for your family that works best.