Better overlanding 'truck' options in today's market for <$100K (USD)?

Sid Post

Observer
Forever and a day, I wanted an EX-German military Unimog with high-speed axles but, now that I have some money, they are really expensive and hard to find. I want something mainly for the continental USA but, it needs to be capable of remote Alaska, Canada, and South America. I don't expect to ever travel to Africa in an overlanding context. and most of Asia is not an option either. I could see myself in Australia though at some point.

I want something relatively big and heavy but, not so big and heavy that it would not be viable in a traffic jam on the Interstate going through some major city with construction chaos or be so wide and heavy it would not travel across wooden bridges safely or make it through 'mud holes'.

I am basically shopping this now against a new Grenadier which in my configuration is ~$82K (USD). Realistically, I need about half that to get a basic shell on a truck chassis so, at a similar price range overall, what are the better options in today's market?

I'm thinking about MAN trucks, LMTV/FMTV ex-USA mil trucks, and similar things. I could even see a domestic commercial truck (i.e. Kenworth, Peterbilt, International, etc.) being a viable starting point in Class 6. In terms of powertrain, I want something capable of running ~75MPH on a flat road without a huge headwind though, most travel is going to be ~60MPH or less generally. A huge positive for old-school tech so I don't need a laptop to figure out what is broken and I can get it repaired at most highway truck shops.

So, to start with the 'wants':
  • A diesel engine that can be supported at independent shops
  • Prefer Caterpillar, Cummins, and Detroit Diesel engines
  • Prefer a manual transmission
  • Needs to be a reasonable width for urban and highway travel
  • Needs to be light enough to travel through soft sand and mud holes without sinking excessively
  • Needs to have a reasonable payload for the shelter or a big piece of a crashed travel trailer.
"don't want":
  • DEF engines
  • high-tech engine content (i.e. advanced electronics and emissions)
  • Anything over 26,000lb max weight loaded!
  • Anything with non-standard tire sizes
  • A fuel HOG!
  • No UNICORNS from foreign markets!
 

Sid Post

Observer
I would prefer something akin to a MB Unimog with high-speed axles. The Grenadier is a totally different class of vehicle but, to me looks better than the pickups people use and could be used for normal day-to-day driving as needed. If I can't find a good reliable 4x4 "truck" I will need to opt for a heavy-duty pickup option.

With the price of a good pickup running ~$100K give or take these days and the Grenadier being ~$82K, I am down to those two if I don't get a nice truck chassis to start in the $40K~$50K range. I am also a little put off by a new pickup due to all the electronics and pollution controls which seems to be addressed reasonably in the Grenadier.

I'm hoping someone currently in the marketplace post-COVID can help point me to a good 4x4 Truck to start with rather than an F-350/Ram-3500/etc. or the Grenadier here in the USA, though I'm not opposed to importing a "truck" if it can be supported here.

For the record, I have owned and totally wore out a Toyota Tundra with the I-Force 5.7L and tow package at the start of the current generation. It had headers, airbags on the suspension, and a lot of other aftermarket stuff on it as well. At the time, lift kits and similar things were a bit hard to come by and expensive since I was an early adopter of the current generation. The 2007 Dodge Cummins pickup has over a 1/4 of a million miles and is in need of either a major rehab or replacement.

So in summary, I am thinking primarily a heavy 'truck-based' overlander with a MB Unimog style 4x4 being a prime candidate. I prefer options like that or similar. If current 'street pricing' is too high for the chassis or complete rig, I will have to reconsider heavy pickup or Grenadier or similar options to keep overall costs under $100K rolling down the road on its first adventure! I simply cannot afford a $250K Overlander truck and will NOT buy a motorhome.

My going-in plan is to buy a good cab chassis "Class 5/6" TRUCK and put the back portion of a crashed fifth wheel on it for living quarters. I saw an LMTV set up this way at the Colorado Overlanding Expo last year and really like what that gentleman had done. Not sure I would want an LMTV though or a 6x6. That rig certainly went to a lot of remote places in comfort with great support for all sorts of enjoyment on the 'road less traveled'.

So in summary, a 4x4 truck is preferred. If I can't find one priced in my range, I have no other choice than a pickup/SUV-style option.
 
This vehicle can be easily switched by Unicat (where it very recently arrived from South Africa) to LHD with factory parts. CTIS can be added using OEM parts (a gigantic asset as far as not getting stuck/self recovery, by first hand experience). And axle gearing currently unknown, but the fastest factory option was 4.96, giving 2090 rpm at 60mph with current tire size, perfect for the motor, which is a totally non-electronic OM366LA., even MORE ubiquitous worldwide than a Cummins B series.
HOWEVER, if you like this vehicle, abandon all thoughts of 75mph, even with 4.96s (right now it may have those, or 5.31, or 6.38). It’s not designed for that and the highest speed safe on brand new 14.00R20 XZL+ (has dual load/speed ratings 164G/161J printed on sidewalls) is 62mph. Other brands same size are also only J speed rated.
 

rruff

Explorer
So in summary, a 4x4 truck is preferred. If I can't find one priced in my range, I have no other choice than a pickup/SUV-style option.
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm still confused. A huge HD truck + camper vs a SUV... these are completely different use cases. The reason for the HD would be to have loads of living space and gobs of stuff along. An SUV is at the opposite end of the spectrum for something you plan to live in. And you don't need to go that small for budget reasons.

A simple (common) alternative would be a 350x-550x 4x4 pickup plus camper, or a Fuso based rig. If it's newer than 2006, I'd go with gas motors on those. I don't know how much experience you have with big HD trucks, but I hear that they are not nearly as nice to drive as modern pickups, even with a heavy load.

Exactly what sort of camper and amentities and equipment do you prefer? Would you build or finish the camper yourself?
 

Todd n Natalie

OverCamper
A simple (common) alternative would be a 350x-550x 4x4 pickup plus camper, or a Fuso based rig. If it's newer than 2006, I'd go with gas motors on those. I don't know how much experience you have with big HD trucks, but I hear that they are not nearly as nice to drive as modern pickups, even with a heavy load.
Kind of what I was thinking as well. 80K should buy a 1 domestic reg cab 1 ton and a pop up. It would split the difference between a HD truck and a Gren.

Like you said it depends on the use case. As the OP mentioned touring North / South America, I don't think I want to travel the interstates for hours on end in a Mog... But, that's just me.
 

SDDiver5

Expedition Leader
I think I kind of understand what you're trying to do, but also dont lol.

My opinion: I would stay put for a little longer, more and more of the covid built vehicles are coming for sale. I think you will be able to find what you're looking for or some in between sweet spot. All signs are pointing towards a selling off of expensive unnecessary toys season.
 

nickw

Adventurer
I would prefer something akin to a MB Unimog with high-speed axles. The Grenadier is a totally different class of vehicle but, to me looks better than the pickups people use and could be used for normal day-to-day driving as needed. If I can't find a good reliable 4x4 "truck" I will need to opt for a heavy-duty pickup option.

With the price of a good pickup running ~$100K give or take these days and the Grenadier being ~$82K, I am down to those two if I don't get a nice truck chassis to start in the $40K~$50K range. I am also a little put off by a new pickup due to all the electronics and pollution controls which seems to be addressed reasonably in the Grenadier.

I'm hoping someone currently in the marketplace post-COVID can help point me to a good 4x4 Truck to start with rather than an F-350/Ram-3500/etc. or the Grenadier here in the USA, though I'm not opposed to importing a "truck" if it can be supported here.

For the record, I have owned and totally wore out a Toyota Tundra with the I-Force 5.7L and tow package at the start of the current generation. It had headers, airbags on the suspension, and a lot of other aftermarket stuff on it as well. At the time, lift kits and similar things were a bit hard to come by and expensive since I was an early adopter of the current generation. The 2007 Dodge Cummins pickup has over a 1/4 of a million miles and is in need of either a major rehab or replacement.

So in summary, I am thinking primarily a heavy 'truck-based' overlander with a MB Unimog style 4x4 being a prime candidate. I prefer options like that or similar. If current 'street pricing' is too high for the chassis or complete rig, I will have to reconsider heavy pickup or Grenadier or similar options to keep overall costs under $100K rolling down the road on its first adventure! I simply cannot afford a $250K Overlander truck and will NOT buy a motorhome.

My going-in plan is to buy a good cab chassis "Class 5/6" TRUCK and put the back portion of a crashed fifth wheel on it for living quarters. I saw an LMTV set up this way at the Colorado Overlanding Expo last year and really like what that gentleman had done. Not sure I would want an LMTV though or a 6x6. That rig certainly went to a lot of remote places in comfort with great support for all sorts of enjoyment on the 'road less traveled'.

So in summary, a 4x4 truck is preferred. If I can't find one priced in my range, I have no other choice than a pickup/SUV-style option.
What's wrong with a domestic 1T vehicle, you are losing me with your thought process TBH.

If you want a HD version of your Tundra, with more payload than a Gren along with what could be considered a domestic Unimog, get an AEV specced Ram like what @ramblinChet did here, which is every bit as capable as a Grenadier in typical 'expedition' offroad capacity (IMO):


1684947783214.png
 

Sid Post

Observer
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm still confused. A huge HD truck + camper vs a SUV... these are completely different use cases. The reason for the HD would be to have loads of living space and gobs of stuff along. An SUV is at the opposite end of the spectrum for something you plan to live in. And you don't need to go that small for budget reasons.

A simple (common) alternative would be a 350x-550x 4x4 pickup plus camper, or a Fuso based rig. If it's newer than 2006, I'd go with gas motors on those. I don't know how much experience you have with big HD trucks, but I hear that they are not nearly as nice to drive as modern pickups, even with a heavy load.

Exactly what sort of camper and amentities and equipment do you prefer? Would you build or finish the camper yourself?

I started driving a Class 8 truck when I finally got my Driver's License (Class C) with a Timpte Super Grainwagon. I also went with a Custom Cutting crew one year cutting wheat all Summer and I pulled a huge combine with a wheat truck when we moved.

As I get older, the thought of living out of a backpacking tent is enough to cause me to not travel as much as I really want to. Since I hate big city life generally right now and huge tourist crowds which are a total buzz kill for me when traveling, this generally takes me to remote spots.

Places I took my motorcycle in my early adult life would have been life-threatening if I got stranded for whatever reason but, I also typically hiked for travel fitness before I left, a 9-mile route with ~60% of body weight in a backpack in the open desert. Part of that was ~4 Gallons of water and ~5 pounds of food and a sun shelter in case of a turned ankle or a broken leg.

Realistically today, I am not healthy and fit enough to travel light on a Motorcycle to areas where I might need to survive on my own for two weeks without water waiting for help to arrive.

I don't want a rolling "Mansion" either. I have done the family vacation thing in a Motorhome and I really did not like the Motorhome aspect. Mechanical issues were a real irritation at inopportune times and overall maintenance was a huge irritation with shoddy construction. Then there was the issue of places we could not go because of the vehicle itself.

On the flip side are the people I know with Subarus and Jeeps which, while nice vehicles are not enough IMHO for a reasonable option for me at this stage of my life.

The F-550/Ram-5500 and Vanlife are where I think I have a great fit for some reasonable living arrangements, reasonable size, and some off-road ability. With prices being over $100K right now with the post-COVID travel boom, I need to consider if this really will take me to where I would like to go. At some point, I will go to Australia. Whether I do other parts of Asia or the Pacific Rim will depend on politics and general safety largely driven by politics.

As I think about getting farther "off-grid", a better vehicle is either going to be something akin to a Land Cruiser or Land Rover or its larger cousin along the lines of Unimog with its portal axles. What I think it too much is something 6-wheel drive or over ~26K pounds loaded and ready to roll.

The Grenadier looks to be the current Land Cruiser or Land Rover without all the shopping mall and social media follower impressing features. Do I really need Nintendo screens in the back of headrests or Blu-ray players for each seat position?

A Unimog will take me off the beaten path with confidence to places I can't go in an overloaded "pickup" based option. As long as I don't go crazy it wouldn't get excessively tall or excessively heavy either like the "pickup" options frequently do IMHO.

A Land Rover or Land Cruiser these days is going to run anywhere from ~$60K to over $100K depending on specifics which makes me think a Grenadier in the mid-$80K range is going to be a viable option on the 'small' end and I think more reliable than most options I see today at a similar price. It could also see service other than traveling the world too!

A Unimog U-1300 as a single example I am somewhat familiar with is $50K~$60K which leaves me ~$40K to build myself or buy a shell with basic features like a kitchen, shower, and a good bed. A short underpowered U-1300 though is probably not a good choice for me so, this option remains an open issue.

I want enough room to spend a rainy day inside without feeling like I am in a prison cell with a few creature comforts but, I also don't need to duplicate my house!
 
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Sid Post

Observer
I think I kind of understand what you're trying to do, but also dont lol.

My opinion: I would stay put for a little longer, more and more of the covid built vehicles are coming for sale. I think you will be able to find what you're looking for or some in between sweet spot. All signs are pointing towards a selling off of expensive unnecessary toys season.

That is where a "Vanlife" option would come into the picture. Vanlife is probably a reasonable thing CONUS but, no way would I want to do that in more remote areas.

I will likely look at gently used "Vanlife" options in ~3 years to travel with when I don't need to go really far off from the beaten path.
 

Sid Post

Observer
What's wrong with a domestic 1T vehicle, you are losing me with your thought process TBH.

If you want a HD version of your Tundra, with more payload than a Gren along with what could be considered a domestic Unimog, get an AEV specced Ram like what @ramblinChet did here, which is every bit as capable as a Grenadier in typical 'expedition' offroad capacity (IMO):


View attachment 779776

Something like that doesn't have enough 'grey water' or 'fresh water' capacity for me. Sleeping options are a bit less than ideal for me as well. I'm trying to get away from a more 'camping' mode of travel so, a reasonable shower, toilet, and kitchen with fridge matters today unlike years past when I'm really out in the boonies.
 

rruff

Explorer
I did most of my boondocking from 1990 to 2003 when I lived out of a '84 Toyota 2wd. Currently building a fairly large camper (nearing the end!) on a long bed Tundra 4wd... that was intended to be for 2 people which is why it's large. When I asked my wife what amenities she wanted, she said nothing more than what we had before (she was camping with me that last 2 years)... which was pretty much nothing... so I thought a 1/2 ton would be adequate. The camper is a place to hang out on the rare bad weather days, and cold nights. Mostly storage (outdoor accessible is best), and places to sit and sleep. Showering, pooping, cooking, etc are done outside. They can be done inside if necessary, but it's more work. No heat except for a couple candles or burner. No fridge, either. Moving with the seasons and camping in remote places makes it so much easier and more comfortable to live this way.

If I had it to do over just for myself, I think I'd be in the cheapest Tacoma 4cyl 2wd with a stick shift, locker, regear, mild lift, bigger tires... and with a smaller camper of course. Better maneuvering and parking, better on the trails. Plenty of luxury and easy living.

I guess what I'm getting at is that when living in a vehicle, the "less is more" aspect is pretty acute, at least for me... even though I'm old. The more "home like" luxury you embed, the more cost, maintenance, weight and size compromises you make. Even stripped down, it ain't backpacking... with >20x the amount of stuff I could carry on my back, and how easy it is. But in the sense of being in the wilderness away from everything and spending a lot of time outside, it is a lot like backpacking... which is what I like.

So....

Something like that doesn't have enough 'grey water' or 'fresh water' capacity for me. Sleeping options are a bit less than ideal for me as well. I'm trying to get away from a more 'camping' mode of travel so, a reasonable shower, toilet, and kitchen with fridge matters today unlike years past when I'm really out in the boonies.
Hence the dilemma. I don't think I can relate to the desire for more as I age. Even though I could afford it, it isn't worth the tradeoffs to me. I will upgrade to a stool I can sit on while I poop, as my knees are not handling the squatting so well. I might even get a fridge since they are so cheap now... but probably not. Plenty of good foods will keep for a week without cooling, which is enough.
 
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