Buying Guide 2021

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By Tom Barnard

22 July 2021

Buyers_Guide_2021 : credit: © Alisdair Cusick

What sort of Land Rover could you buy with £7500? Here are our top ten suggestions…

You don’t need us to tell you that 2020 was a disaster of a year in many ways. But there have been some positives which have come from the seismic changes brought about by being locked down.

For a start we are all commuting less (and not going out as much), which means we don’t spend as much time in traffic and get to be with our families more – or an extra hour in bed. We’ve not been allowed to go abroad as much either, which has meant there could suddenly be a large chunk of holiday money burning a hole in your bank account, earning very little interest.

Perhaps now is the chance to use all of that cash you have saved to buy the Land Rover you have always promised yourself. Choose wisely and it could prove to be a better investment than any savings account. There’s no need to worry about the wear and tear of the daily commute if you’ll not need to use it every day and it’ll be a much better car for any future staycation adventures in the UK.

We are not the only ones to have had this idea, according to the Land Rover specialists we spoke to. Even in the midst of lockdown complications buyers are seeking out all sorts of Land Rovers, from the classics to the most modern.

Ross Munro, General Manager, LR Motors, told us: “In times of economic uncertainty, investors tend to put their money into safe commodities, such as gold and Land Rover Defenders. In the past six months or so, the price of Defenders has been rising quickly again. Buyers know they are unlikely to lose money on one.”

This has led to a run on the best quality stock, he says. “The low mileage stuff is selling really well, whether it’s the last of the line or earlier Td5s. On the one hand you have people who want to buy them and say they will keep it forever and pass it on to their kids, but farmers are seeking out the utilitarian stuff, too. They held onto their old cars and waited to see what the new car would be like. Now they realise it’s not the tough, robust machine like the old one, so they are all coming in and buying late-model Puma Defenders off us.”

It also seems some drivers are starting to begrudge paying hundreds of pounds every month in finance, lease, insurance and road tax for cars which simply aren’t being used as much now. A cheaper Land Rover can be bought for the price of a deposit on a new SUV and doesn’t need to be handed back – it will still be owned by you in three years. You won’t be stung for refurbishment costs for every scuff and stone chip either.

For the ultimate in hardy Land Rovers, ex-military Wolfs and Lightweights are in particular demand according to our trade sources. Part of this is because they are collectable, becoming rarer and the supply of fresh vehicles from the Ministry of Defence has almost dried up.

Buyers looking for these models need to be wary though, as stocks of military surplus parts are also dwindling and prices of these high-quality genuine components are rising steadily. It means they are no longer cheap to restore or fix properly, and some restored examples might have used inferior repro parts.

On the other hand, complex cars like the Range Rover P38 and Discovery 3 are becoming cheaper to repair and the reproduction parts can actually be better than the originals. “It’s the air suspension which tends to cause the most concern on these cars, and often owners will look at the potential bill for parts and give up,” says Kieran Manning, from X8R. “But we remake the components which tend to fail and make them better, and it works out much cheaper to rebuild than replace.”

So could now be the time when you can finally take the plunge and buy the Land Rover you’ve always wanted? We’ve selected our favourite candidates which you could buy with your lockdown savings.

 

DEFENDER

Despite rising prices, £7500 will buy a solid Defender

Despite the arrival of the new model, the prices of the classic Defender keep on rising. £7500 is enough to get you a scruffy but solid example which will give you years of service if looked after properly and offer significant scope for improvement and modification. The earliest 90, 110 and Defenders will be in this price range, as will the Tdis and high-mile utilitarian Td5s.

Buy a good one and it will be a better investment than money in the bank, and a lot more fun.

 

 

SERIES IIA

Not the collectors’ choice but a classic workhorse

While the Series I is seen by most enthusiasts as the ultimate in classic Land Rovers, our budget isn’t going to get you anything which doesn’t need to be swept onto a trailer. However, the Series II (and IIA, of course) still has plenty of old world charm and simplicity while being a bit more usable – and cheaper to buy. Parts are easier to find, too.

Our budget isn’t going to find you the best, but it will get you a nice running example with an MoT and plenty of scope to tinker and improve. Or just use it as it is and enjoy.

Pete Blanchard from P.A. Blanchard and Co: “I’d put my £7500 into a really nice short wheelbase Series IIA station wagon with a Safari roof. It’d have to be a seven-seater. They are lovely but incredibly rare, as the 12-seater 108 was exempt from car purchase tax when they were new and the seven seater wasn’t.”

 

SERIES III

The more safety conscious SIII makes for a great daily drive

For years the Series III was the most unloved of the Land Rovers, as they had less charming looks than the I and II but retained all of the disadvantages. But now the SIII’s day has come, and a decent example will be priced at the same sort of level as a comparable IIA. Most will now be tax and MoT-exempt, making them a cheap way to get around whatever the weather. Three went through the recent Anglia Car Auctions classic sale with prices ranging from £5400 to £16,200. Our budget will also get you a straight and mechanically refurbished ex-Navy
hard top.

Ciara Gregory was given her ex-army Series III 109 FFR by her husband as a birthday present: “I’d always wanted a Land Rover and my husband steered us towards a SIII as he had happy childhood memories of his family owning one. We’ve slowly rebuilt it and use it all the time as it makes every journey seem like an adventure.”

 

FREELANDER 1

Good off-road ability, roomy, comfortable and way under our budget

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These are still seen by many as bangers, with prices held in the doldrums by a reputation for unreliability which isn’t offset by the usefulness of Land Rover’s bigger models. But every Land Rover model is collectable eventually and early Freelanders are starting to attract the attention of enthusiasts. Later models became much more attractive when the BMW diesel engine was slotted in, creating an economical and fine-performing small SUV which drives like a car, but still has enough off-road ability to ensure you can keep moving in a muddy field. For our budget you could buy two really nice examples – or buy one and kit it out for an adventure.

Ron Brown has owned a pre-production five-door EXi for four years: “They might not have the ultimate off-road ability of other Land Rovers, but they were the most capable in the sector for many years. For an affordable way into Land Rover ownership you could do worse than look at a Freelander. Prices are rock bottom, and there are plenty out there.”

 

FREELANDER 2

Freelander 2 is a big improvement on the original and £7500 will get you a top spec version 

The second version of the Freelander followed the Land Rover tradition of moving upmarket, becoming plusher, more spacious and refined while still retaining decent soft-road ability. They make a perfect family car which can do the commute or school run comfortably and economically all week and then effortlessly tow a caravan and keep you moving in the snow when needed.

Our theoretical budget will be plenty to get you a well-cared-for SD4 from around 2011, with low to average miles and a stamped service book. Treat yourself to one of the higher-spec versions and you could almost convince yourself it’s a mini Range Rover.

Steve Miller, LRM Ad Manage, bought his Freelander 2 in 2019: “Currently there are lots to choose from online, and I recommend buying the very best you can, ideally from a reputable specialist. Any issues will no doubt have been rectified. The Freelander 2 does everything I need, despite not really using it off-road at all. It tows the family caravan perfectly well, too. Auto or manual ‘box, I would choose either. Leather interiors is nice, and like Tom says, it’ll be just like a scaled down Range Rover. Sort of…

 

RANGE ROVER P38

Not perfect, but a fantastic machine and potentially good investment

Look carefully and you could find a running P38 Range Rover for £500. And then you could spend the rest of the £7000 of the budget getting it working properly. This generation of Land Rover’s flagship has been unloved and undervalued for years, mainly because they have a reputation for going expensively wrong. They were turned away by even the most hardened Land Rover mechanics as “too much trouble”. So why are we recommending them? Because now there are specialists who can make them work properly and the values of cherished examples are rising fast. An early car which hasn’t been molested is a decent investment, while some of the poshest special editions are already out of our price range.

Andreas Freitag bought his 1998 4.6 HSE in 2012 for €3500 in Frankfurt: “It was originally priced at €7500 but the price went down rapidly when the car caught fire on the test drive! Now it brings him a great deal of pleasure especially as it has been tuned to ‘Arden’ spec: “I catch myself pushing the sport mode button and giving the old dinosaur a kickdown start. It accelerates like hell and nobody expects it!”

 

RANGE ROVER L322

One deeply capable off-roader but with luxury on-road manners

This is the Range Rover which became a real alternative to luxury saloon cars, with build quality and luxury which could stand up to scrutiny from Mercedes S-Class buyers.

It still cuts a dash – even the Queen sees no reason to trade in her L322 – but the oldest are now nearly two decades old. Cars like this can present big bills to unexpecting owners, leaving these once peerless cars just one MoT or warning light away from a breaker’s yard.

Move up to the realms of our £7500 budget though and suddenly you’ll find a good supply of well-cared for L322s from around 2008. The 3.6-litre diesel is a marvel; oddly you’ll be better off finding one which has covered 100,000 plus miles as it’s likely to have had its expensive turbos replaced.

Ross Munro, General Manager, LR Motors: “For £7500 I’d probably try and find a nice L322 Range Rover. A 4.4 V8 diesel as that’s the best engine and maybe the Westminster model for the best combination of looks and equipment. They are great value – it’s such a lot of car for the money.”

 

DISCOVERY 1

First generation Discovery will provide 4x4 adventure on a budget

Classic Range Rovers are cherished. Defenders continue to grow in value. So how come a car which uses most of the same hardware as these cars but clothed in a more practical package is still so criminally undervalued? To be fair, early examples of the Disco 1 are already considered as collectors’ items and make decent money, but we reckon they’ve got a long way to climb yet.

An early V8 three-door which has been unmolested is a solid-gold investment, but any straight and rot-free Disco 1 is worth cherishing. For our budget, you could either find a solid car and invest in some light refurbishment or find a ready-done original car and keep it in tip-top condition.

Andrew Evanson, Lancaster Insurance: “As cars like the Defender and Range Rover Classic rise in value, you can see the early Discovery becoming more collectable, too. But I think they still look good value, and make a practical yet fun way to invest your money. I’ll have a V8 three-door please!”

 

DISCOVERY 2

Better off-road than previous version but buy wisely

It might look very similar to the 1 on the outside, but the second generation Disco was a huge leap on from the first car, with more technology and far better performance on the road, thanks to the Td5 engine and trick suspension. It’s certainly not vice-free or as simple as its predecessor, but many buyers seek out the best Disco 2s purely because they are seen as a more reliable alternative to the later D3 models, which still make a perfect daily driver. As a result, there is a big overlap in values, with tidy 2s worth more than a 3 with the same mileage.

Some are even being restored, with new galvanised chassis now available to ensure a good D2 will last for at least another two decades of work and family duties. Prices for tatty cars are still low, but a cherished post-facelift ES with fewer than 100,000 miles will easily command all of our £7500 budget.

Sandie Law moved up to a Discovery 2 after trying one when her Freelander failed its MoT spectacularly. She was hooked, especially when she realised they cost no more than a Freelander to buy: “It’s not so car-like to drive and parking can be tricky but it feels so much more solid.”

 

DISCOVERY 3

The right one can make a great value family SUV

There have been a lot of horror stories about Disco 3s, with tales of financial ruin caused by seemingly-routine maintenance. There’s no doubt that you’ll need to go into ownership with your eyes open, but there are more specialists now who aren’t scared by a D3 and have clever ways to fix the common faults without melting your credit card.

Find one that has been looked after properly and it can be an exceptional all-rounder, almost like the car equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife. It’s a comfortable seven-seat family MPV, a huge van, sturdy tow car, capable off-roader and comfortable motorway muncher all in one.

Tatty 3s are worth more as parts than a complete car these days, but our budget will buy you a well-cared for example with plenty of life left in it. Choose one based on its service history and condition rather than age or mileage. Lower spec models will always be less desirable and worth less as a result, but could make more sense for you if you need a workhorse.

Craig Cheetham was given his Disco 3 by his father-in-law as he traded up to a Discovery 5. “It’s a bit of a weird spec really, as it’s a TDV6 S with a manual gearbox, but with loads of optional extras that would have made it more expensive than the model above it when new. It’s a great family car and aside from a faulty handbrake module, it has so far been quite reliable.”

 

Insurance

If you are abandoning a company car then the thought of getting your own insurance might be a little daunting. But Land Rovers can often be covered under a specialist or classic policy, meaning it could actually cost less than a boring family car. The key is to actually talk to a broker, says Andrew Evanson of Lancaster Insurance: “We would always advise people to speak directly to a specialist, as there is a limit to the information you can provide when going online.

“Owning a Land Rover can be a real passion and talking to us allows you to show that you are a true enthusiast. For instance, you may be part of a club or have spent time modifying your vehicle. Having a full picture will then allow them to build a truly tailored policy to meet your needs.

“Also if your pride and joy is part of a collection, whether that includes other Land Rovers or different marques,  it’s worth mentioning as it can sometimes lead to discounts if all your vehicle policies are ‘under one roof’.”

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