14 July 2020
With so many to choose from, what secondhand Land Rovers should you buy and what should you avoid? Here's our ultimate buying guide…
The British love tradition, especially in winter. December is spent shopping for Christmas, then once the festivities are over we go shopping for Land Rovers.
Anyone in the motor trade will tell you that January is the slowest time of the year for buying most cars – but not 4x4s. The threat of floods, blizzards and tree-toppling gales is enough to get folk scurrying to buy four-wheel drives. And in the UK the best-selling 4x4s are Land Rovers.
But high demand can mean higher prices, so it is important to know which are the best bargains. And which are the ones to buy? We’ve picked the brains of some of LRM’s in-house experts for advice on what to look for, as well as which overpriced models to avoid.
Uncertainty in the economy, a mixed reaction to new models and diesel worries have had an effect on the market for used Land Rovers, but buyers are still needing 4x4s and dealers with the right cars are busy. But values of some models are softening, say the experts.
Before you start shopping, remember that well-maintained original-spec vehicles will always hold the highest prices and be the most desirable. Be prepared to haggle. But above all, enjoy your search for your ideal Land Rover.
Yesterday’s workhorses are today’s classics
What used to be the most affordable entry point into Land Rover ownership are now being picked up by collectors. This is especially the case with Series IIs, although Dave Barker reckons there are still plenty of Series IIIs around at a sensible price that are ripe for restoration, but advises owners to keep them as original as possible.
“These are the cars everybody wants, offering everything we love about Land Rovers,” agrees Alisdair Cusick. “We’ve now had a decade of the classic car scene hunting for them and higher prices today reflect that more people than ever are interested in all things Solihull.”
But are the days of overpriced old Land Rovers ending? Tim Hammond hopes so: “The trouble is, a lot of people got greedy. They saw other vehicles for sale for vast amounts of money and they hoped their own heaps were worth the same. They weren’t. Prices had to come down because they weren’t selling.
“I think the days of buying a Series III and sticking an ex-Disco Tdi engine under the bonnet are over, too. People are turning the clock back and putting the original 2.25 engines back in. The more original the car, the more it’s worth.”
What comes across loud and clear is that an all-original SIII is the best leaf-sprung buy, preferably with a 2.25 petrol engine because the diesel is woefully slow. Parts are still cheap and they are relatively simple to restore if you are looking for a project.
Verdict: 4/5 stars “Series III is a reliable bet”
“I bought my G4 Disco 3 because it’s a piece of Land Rover history: one of 100 made for the iconic G4 Challenges in 2006 and 2009” Andi McGuire, Owner and G4 Owners Club secretary. Studio photos: John Colley. Other pics: JLR
They look good and they are probably the most versatile models Land Rover has ever produced, with a huge carrying capacity and flawless towing ability. But there is no such thing as a cheap one.
“The cost of buying a cheap Discovery 3 or 4 can bite you hard in the backside,” warns Steve Miller. “If you’re new to Land Rover ownership it will be enough to put you off the green oval as it quickly evaporates your bank balance.
“Buy with your head, and study the bills and service history. Look the vendor in the eye and ask if there’s anything wrong with it. And if they look you in the eye and say ‘no’, follow your gut instinct. If in doubt, leave it out. The market is flooded with them, and like London buses, another one will be along soon. You can find Disco 3s advertised for £2500, but they’re not cheap, they’re expensive — the inevitable repair bills will see to that.”
Discovery 4s are proving popular for Mark Smith at Woodside Garage in Bedfordshire. “Range Rover Sports are hard to shift but Discovery 4s appeal to everyone,” he says. “We have people who prefer them to the new D5, others who use them as an alternative to a Defender. We keep plenty in stock, and people like the HSE spec.”
Dave Barker points out that a competent home mechanic can do a lot of the repairs and servicing, but says a good diagnostic tool is essential.
Verdict: 3/5 Stars “A lot of bang for your buck”
“As a daily drive I can’t fault my Freelander 2. It’s been reliable since the word go and off-road it’s more than capable. Just make sure to keep on top of the service schedule” James Goodwin, Freelander 2 Owner.
Freelander 1 and 2 are very different vehicles – fetching very different prices – but we’ve lumped them together here because they fill the same soft-roader niche in Land Rover circles. Yes, we know they are excellent greenlaners and will handle soft and slippery surfaces as well as any other Land Rover (and better than some), but they don’t have a low box and enough ground clearance for heavy-duty off-road work.
But for those of us who don’t buy Land Rovers to go mud-plugging at weekends, both models of Freelander fit the bill nicely as affordable and reliable family cars that will take you to the places Mondeos and Golfs can’t reach.
Values for Freelander 1 (1997 - 2006) have bottomed out and you can expect to find a good one for £2000. Freelander 2 (2006 - 2015) prices start at under £4000, with £7000 finding a good ’un.
“FL2 is a super buy for a family car, and likely the least-troublesome used buy of all Land Rovers,” says Alisdair Cusick, who recommends buying the latest model you can afford, because it will boast the highest spec.
Verdict: 4/5 Stars “Brilliant value”
“I first fell in love with the colour, then the iconic shape, followed by the purr of the Puma engine. ‘Solace’ is the perfect off-roader and I’m always confident she will get me through” Caroline Gammon, Defender Owner.
The lifespan of the coil-sprung Land Rover utility is astonishing: starting in 1983 with the One Ten and continually evolving until production ended early in 2016. That means there are a lot of models to choose from, ranging from the agricultural upgraded Series engines to the Ford Puma TDCi, taking in Tdi, Td5 and V8 petrols along the way.
All these models are highly desirable, with prices to match. The final years of Defender production saw the veteran model elevated to cult status, and with demand came ever-higher (some would say silly) prices.
“It doesn’t take long to find Defenders for sale for far more than they’re worth, but for a fairly niche vehicle, there are only so many buyers out there at any one time,” says Steve Miller.
“Late-model Defender prices are still way too high, but I think that will change as some Defender owners start to buy the new model. The market will then be saturated with the original model and prices will fall.”
It’s a sound argument – and one that’s even more convincing if you factor in the fickle whims of fashion. Defender’s days as a trendy must-have are surely numbered, which means those in less-than-perfect shape are going to fall by the wayside.
“The Defender market has changed,” says Alisdair Cusick. “Cars now need restoring, not just cheap and readily-available axle swaps, or bulkhead patches. Some owners don’t realise this.”
Dave Barker reckons early Ninety and One Ten are fast attaining classic status – preferably as original as possible. “Best by far would be an original factory V8 Ninety, or a One Ten with sliding windows,” he says.
“Later Tdi/Td5/Puma Defender prices are dropping as it loses the fashion icon image, but prices will continue to stay high as there will always be a demand for such a timeless icon.”
The peak prices being asked for some Defenders appear to have been the first to take a hit, helped by the imminent arrival of the new Defender. “Td5 Station Wagons are still retaining their money, but later Defenders are now dropping,” says Ben Digby-Clarke from The Thatched Garage. “Most people with £30,000 will want a new model.”
There is certainly no slowing down in demand for good Defenders, but it looks like values will start to slide for all diesel models, as politicians increasingly wage war on what has for many years been Land Rover’s main source of motive power.
Verdict: 5 Stars “You can’t beat a Defender”
Our Editor, Pat, enjoys the view from the top of new Defender (sadly, not his own)
Will you be buying one? If not, why not? The long-awaited replacement for the original Defender has finally arrived and there’s no doubt that it is the most advanced and capable off-road vehicle Land Rover has ever created, but there’s a hint of Marmite about it: enthusiasts either love it or hate it. There’s also a clear message that many will be holding out for a year or two to see how all that new technology beds in.
It’s a reluctance that’s easy to understand. After all, it wouldn’t be the first model to launch with a few teething problems. As Dave Barker says: “I’m sure the new Defender is a super Land Rover, and as good as the new Discovery and Range Rovers, but it will have the same mechanical complications they have.”
Steve Miller agrees: “I can’t imagine I’ll be behind the wheel of the new Defender any time soon, although I may consider a low-mileage original if prices become more realistic. But then, I might have to wait a few more years…”
There’s also that little matter of secondhand values, as Alisdair Cusick explains: “I wouldn’t buy one, simply because I don’t like to buy into depreciation. I already have a modern car, and my Range Rover Classic and Series I give me the Land Rover fix I want, while allowing for DIY tinkering. Crucially, they are depreciation-free.”
Verdict: 3/5 Stars “Yet to prove itself”
RANGE ROVER L322
“My L322 is a supremely comfortable grand touring vehicle — very important now that I’m an old man — and it’s powered by a V8, the best engine ever made” Frank Elson, L322 owner
Prices of the third-generation Range Rover (2002 - 12) have been in a freefall for a few years now. Depreciation on luxury cars is high because the sort of people who can afford the eye-watering prices of new ones aren’t interested in buying secondhand ones.
This means they soon fall to within reach of the ordinary buyer who fancies something a bit bigger and brasher than his usual fare. But when things start to go wrong, and he realises how expensive it is fix them, his L322 suffers. After all, you can’t bodge sophisticated top-end modern motors — or can you?
Dave Barker reckons it’s not as unlikely as it sounds . . .
“The L322 is fast becoming the Land Rover of choice for many as prices drop,” he says. “They’re great on and off-road and, yes, they can be run on a budget. There’s a lot of technology, but it doesn’t matter if it fails as long as you are not bothered about having working TV screens and all-round cameras, etc. Without them they are still great Land Rovers – a great drive and stylish.”
Alisdair Cusick says L322s are cheap for a reason: “A good one is very hard to find. They are ramp maintenance intensive, and you can expect years of skimped maintenance.”
But he adds: “Conversely, well-maintained ones are superb, modern cars, but will take time to find. The TDV8 is the pick of the bunch, but TD6 models will do galactic mileages if the car is well-maintained.”
Verdict: 3/5 Stars “Posh enough for you?”
RANGE ROVER CLASSIC
“A late Range Rover Classic is the ultimate development of the original. It takes in the clean design of 1970 with a superbly-matched V8 driveline and modern interior” Alisdair Cusick, Classic Owner
There is a fifth-generation Range Rover imminent, but for many enthusiasts none have ever come close to the original, which was in production from 1970 to 1996 and is known as the Classic. But buying one is not for the faint-hearted: early models in pristine condition can fetch £60,000 or more, while the more ordinary clapped-out rust-buckets can turn out to be very expensive to restore. Is there such a thing as an affordable Range Rover Classic?
Range Rover enthusiast Tim Hammond says: “You’re unlikely nowadays to find an original Classic with a valid MoT under £4000. Classics under that money are certainly going to be needing attention. You need to spend £5000 to £10,000 to get something half reasonable, in good condition, but I’d never use the term ‘rust-free’ with a Classic.”
Fellow owner Alisdair Cusick agrees: “You’ll need to weld well to restore one. Bonnet, front inner wings, footwells, sills, rear quarters and lower tailgate will all be corroded.
“Finally, think: what work will it need; who will do it; at what cost, and where will I get the parts?”
Both agree that you should avoid LPG conversions (a sign of skimping) and recommend late models for the best bargains.
Verdict: 3/5 Stars "Not for the faint-hearted"
RANGE ROVER P38
The Cinderella of all Land Rovers, with a reputation for going wrong. Would you take one to the ball?
“Would I buy one? No,” says Dave Barker. “But they are now as cheap as they can be and have replaced the Disco 1 as the vehicle of choice for the pay-and-play off-roaders and mud-pluggers. They can be run into the ground until they fail, then just scrapped.”
The P38 was launched prematurely in 1994 with a host of new – and virtually untested – technology, which very soon afterwards started going wrong. Today, the remaining survivors still suffer with poor engines, electrical and air bag problems.
“Will they become classics? I don’t think so, but there will always be a collectors’ market for special models and those with history. Maybe it’s the right time to look for that special 38A and save it now before they all go the same way. You don’t know what you’ve got until it's gone.”
Verdict: 2/5 Stars “Always a gamble”
Disco Sport – the replacement for the Freelander 2 – has probably been around longer than you think. The early models, with Ford diesel and petrol engines, were introduced five years ago and we are now seeing prices fall, with high-mileage examples for sale at less than £15,000.
If you are buying a diesel model, these early models are probably safer bet than the Ingenium-engined models (2016 model-year onwards) that replaced them. The problem with oil dilution on these later vehicles, caused by an awkwardly-placed diesel particulate filter, has been well documented in LRM – and the controversy rumbles on.
Either way, the pre-Ingenium models are definitely the best value as well as the safest investment. Right now they’re a rarity on the off-road courses but we reckon it won’t be long before they start to turn up on the greenlanes, because their off-road handling is superb and a substantial improvement on the Freelander models that preceded them.
Verdict: 3/5 Stars “Take care to choose the right model”
RANGE ROVER EVOQUE
The Evoque has been around even longer than the Discovery Sport and next year will be celebrating its tenth anniversary – not that many Land Rover enthusiasts will be breaking out bottles of bubbly to celebrate. It is a model that has never captured our hearts, probably due to its bizarre launch, when ex-Spice Girl Victoria Beckham was credited with helping with its design.
Have attitudes softened since then? Possibly not. “I don’t think many consider it a real Land Rover let alone a Range Rover,” says Dave Barker.
“It was never an enthusiasts’ car. It’s an image vehicle, which means the image-driven buyer will move on to other car brands and prices will continue to drop.”
Despite falling prices, many see the Evoque as mechanically sound but not a serious bearer of the green oval. The Freelander 2, with which it shares its platform, is cheaper and carries a lot more credibility within the Land Rover fraternity.
Verdict: 2/5 Stars “Spice of life? Probably not”
“Since owning one, it has been the best, most reliable and versatile vehicle I’ve ever owned. I wouldn’t swap it for the world” Amy Clarissa, D2 owner
The first two generations of Discovery have a lot in common: they were best-selling 4x4s that were truly versatile and great for towing. They also suffered terminal rust and virtually crumbled before your very eyes.
On the Discovery 1 (1989 - 1998) the steel body panels rusted, while on Disco 2 (1998 - 2004) it was the rear chassis. These fatal flaws have prematurely consigned a lot of Discos to the scrapheap, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Replacement body panels on D1s are cheap and I would argue that a D2 on a replacement galvanised chassis is just about the most future-proof Land Rover you could ever own.
So long seen as engine-donor vehicles for Defenders, are old Discos now becoming more desirable? The answer is a resounding yes.
“If I wanted a project car, I’d look at a late Disco 1 or 2 V8, sold for repairs, and choose carefully with a fault I could correct,” says Alisdair Cusick.
Dave Barker says original Discoverys are now as collectable as early Range Rovers, while good second-generation models are popular and fetching good prices. Powered by either Tdi/Td5 diesels or Rover V8 petrols, what is not to like?
VERDICT: 4/5 Stars “Rapidly attaining classic status”
Pete Blanchard of P.A. Blanchard & Co deals mainly in ex-military vehicles. He says demand is still strong generally but the speculators are starting to be disappointed: “I think the bubble is slightly deflated on the classics. When I look at the auction prices there are a few cars which have failed to sell.”
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU THINK ABOUT?
Finance: Cash vs loan vs HP vs PCP
“With the interest rates low, it’s cheap to borrow money now,” says Mark Calzoni at Simmonites. “Or people have the money in the bank and are finding it’s earning nothing. So they are treating themselves to a new vehicle.”
If you are taking out some form of finance to fund all or part of the purchase, doing a little research could save you a lot of money.
A dealer might go out of their way to get your monthly payments low, but may stretch the finance over six years or even more. Will you really want to be still paying for a car in 2026?
PCPs and leasing have revolutionised the new car market and are starting to be made available on used cars too. These are more affordable as you only pay for the depreciation and the interest on the loan, rather than the total value of the car. However, bear in mind that it will never be owned by you unless you pay the balance at the end of the loan period.
You’re unlikely to get these offered on older cars, so your alternatives will be HP (usually organised by the dealer) or a loan from a bank or broker. The monthly payments could actually be similar to a PCP or lease on a new car, but you will own the car at the end of the term.
Get a quote for both, and pay attention to the total amount you will pay once you have finished paying the loan off. Watch out in the small print for extra fees such as admin charges.
What happens if it goes wrong?
Modern cars are complicated. Sophisticated electronics and air suspension can strike fear into the heart of a DIY Land Rover enthusiast. Repairs are rarely less than £100 for anything, but the cost is falling as cheaper fixes are engineered.
There are still some repairs that can’t be done on the cheap though, so when buying a modern Land Rover, consider what will happen if something goes disastrously wrong.
Even routine maintenance is pricey: “We get a lot of Discovery 3s which come in for an MoT and leave with a £2000 bill. And our labour rates are low! It’s typically handbrakes and rear suspension,” says Mark Calzoni at Simmonites.
If buying from a dealer, it’s likely you will be offered a warranty to cover disasters, but they vary in quality, so check the terms of the cover.
“Some have a claim limit of £1000 which isn’t going to get you anything much on a Range Rover,” said Lawrence Whittaker from WarrantyWise, a serial Land Rover owner who has data on repair costs for thousands of cars.
If you’re buying privately, or from a dealer with an unconvincing warranty, then consider taking out a private policy to cover repairs. Bear in mind that the company providing cover will insist on a full service history or the cover will be invalid. We got a quote for an 86,000-mile, 2012 Discovery 4 which worked out at around £650 for a year, which might seem cheap if you’re faced with an engine rebuild.
Insurance and road tax
We need road tax and insurance just to stay legal, but there are ways to save money on both.
Price comparison sites are a good place to start to get an idea of insurance costs, but it’s also worth talking to a few specialist brokers.
“There’s a limit to the information you can provide online,” says Andrew Evanson of Lancaster Insurance. “Having a conversation with a broker allows you to show that you are a true enthusiast, something that insurance companies look favourably on. You can describe your car and modifications in detail, allowing them to build a tailored policy for you.”
Road tax can be a shock too, because of emissions-based rates. Check the cost carefully before you buy. For example, a Range Rover registered on the March 23, 2006, will be £341 per year while an identical car registered a day later will be £570.
There is good news, though. As Land Rovers have become more emissions-efficient, the road tax has come down. A late Discovery 4 is £230 a year cheaper to tax than earlier models and a L405 Range Rover with the SDV6 engine can be taxed for just £300.
The biggest threat to your Land Rover isn’t rust or mechanical failure. It is the threat of being stolen.
Trackers can be great at helping to get a stolen car returned, and cheaper units can now be bought for less than £50 plus the cost of a pay-as-you-go SIM card. Professionally-fitted and insurance approved units are at least £600, but check if the car you are buying already has one fitted which you can reactivate. Many owners let the subscription lapse but the tracker company will be happy to make it live again. Ask the vendor for the details or look for paperwork in the history.
One of the cheapest ways to protect your car is to use a marking kit to make the car and its components easily identifiable. This will help the police and potential buyers identify it easily and will make the car less attractive to thieves. Kits such as SelectDNA’s 4x4 kit cost £64.99 fromselectadna.co.uk. If you buy a car with any form of marking, take the time to check it matches the owner’s description.
Buy from a dealer and you can trade your existing car in, arrange finance and – most importantly – have legal protection if something goes wrong. The law says that a car bought from a dealer must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described. If it’s not, you can reject it and ask for a refund in the first 30 days.
Bear in mind that they may not accept your rejection though, and you may have to fight them in court. For this reason, it’s worth going with your gut and buying from a dealer who has a reputation and business they will want to protect rather than a trader who can shut down at the first hint of trouble.
Away from the dealer forecourt, you’re not so well protected: “If you buy from a private seller then you’re not covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015,” says Joel Combes from motor trade law experts Lawgistics. “The maxim ‘caveat emptor’ – let the buyer beware, applies.”
This means some dealers may pose as private sellers to avoid liability. It’s likely to land them in hot water, say Joel. “Masquerading as a private seller is a criminal offence and a dealer can find themselves prosecuted.”
Others may try to limit their liability by putting ‘Trade Sale’ in advertising. “If it is not a genuine trade sale (between dealers) then the Consumer Rights Act will still apply and the attempt to restrict a buyer’s rights could result in a prosecution,” says Joel.
Rebuild / re-chassis?
Unless your Land Rover has sentimental value or you are after an unusual specification, the decision to rebuild will be down to economics. Is it financially sensible?
However, if your car has given you years of faithful service then a rebuild should ensure it lasts another 20 or 30 years and it’s always going to be cheaper than buying a brand new car.
“The best Discovery 2 values have risen and overtaken the depreciation on a Disco 3,” says Mark Calzoni from Simmonites. “We had guy from Norway to re-chassis his D2. He was happy with his car and just didn’t want the next generation.”
Before you do the sums, bear in mind that it is not just the chassis you will be replacing. While the body is off it would be crazy to re-use old, worn parts of the suspension, brakes and wiring, for example. The eventual bill is unlikely to be less than £5000, even if you do the work yourself.
Look to the long term and it might be an investment. If you intend to keep your Land Rover, a rebuild will also ensure it is one of the survivors. As other examples are scrapped over time, yours will become rarer and increase in value.
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