We take a look outside of the borders of North America to check out five popular vehicles that are used for overlanding internationally. 

The following story is produced in conjunction with Front Runner Outfitters.


Purchasing an overland vehicle for international travel is a costly exercise. Before doing just that, you need to consider which vehicle best suits your specific needs and planned adventures. 

The modern international overlander has a much broader range of vehicles to choose from today, especially once you start considering vehicles like the INEOS Grenadier or a Mercedes-Benz Unimog. To help you choose, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular overland vehicles of all time.

Unfortunately some of the models shown on this list are not available here in the States, but we can always dream.


Photo Craig Kolesky

Land Rover Defender 110

Photo Craig Kolesky

Land Rover Defender
Land Rovers first saw the light of day at the 1948 Amsterdam Motor Show. The 80-inch utilitarian Series One’s on display were made for the military and farmers, yet adventurers with a wanderlust soon took a massive liking to them, and they quickly became the overlander’s vehicle of choice.

Then 42 years later, the Land Rover Defender as we now know it was born. It’s often said that a Land Rover is usually the first motor vehicle seen by remote-dwelling tribesmen. The world fell in love with the iconic shape of the Defender, and soon the military, game parks, and anyone who needed a real workhorse had one too. Especially overlanders, who could bolt on bits like a roof rack, spare fuel tank, and water tanks. As Defenders were sold almost everywhere, getting spare parts for them was not a problem.

Sadly, Land Rover stopped producing old-style Defenders in 2016, shortly after the two millionth Defender rolled off the production line. This led to a massive increase in their popularity and price. The jury is still out on whether the new Defender, with all its electronics and computers, is equally capable.


OVR LC100 at Holcomb Valley Big Bear California

Toyota Land Cruiser 100 Series (OVR LC100)

Photo: Jerry Tsai

Toyota Land Cruiser
The Toyota Land Cruiser is, without a doubt, the most common and reliable vehicle spotted on remote overland tracks worldwide. Production of the Land Cruiser began in 1951, and by the end of 2019, they had already sold over 10 million of them. Remember when the old Defender production ended? They had only sold just over 2 million of them.

While the FJ40 and FJ45 are now highly collectible classic Land Cruisers and go for top dollar, the 80-Series, launched in 1990, cemented the Land Cruiser as a global overlanding superstar. The high-in-demand latest Land Cruiser, the 200 Series, has further elevated the status of the people’s choice on the overland circuit.


Photo Ian Niklaus

Toyota Tacoma replaced the Toyota Hilux in North America

Photo Ian Niklaus

Toyota Hilux
One of the most memorable bits of motoring journalism ever happened on Top Gear, the British TV show, during which the host and notorious vehicle wrecker Jeremy Clarkson tried to kill a 1998 Toyota Hilux with 190,000 miles on the clock.

He washed it out to sea, dropped a caravan on it, set it alight, and smashed it with a wrecking ball. After each catastrophic attempt at killing it, the red Hilux pickup would somehow fire up and miraculously drive away again. For this reason, overlanders use them for very tough trips; it’s not uncommon to see one that has done over 750,000 hard miles.

The early Hilux pickup had a solid front axle, which made them a pretty hard ride, but the one thing that overlanders love about them is that they get you to where you want to go with minimum fuss and then get you back home again. It’s without a doubt the toughest utility and overland vehicle available.

In 1995, the Toyota Hilux was discontinued in North America and replaced with the Toyota Tacoma. If you take a safari trip in Southern Africa and are looking to rent a 4x4, chances are good it will be a Toyota Hilux as they are still loved and used in other parts of the world thanks to their reliability and robustness.


Photo Falk Siegel

Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen

Photo Falk Siegel

Mercedes Geländewagen
The boxy-shaped Geländewagen was launched in 1979, and since then, it has served aid organizations, overlanders, and remote communities with great distinction in the most testing terrain imaginable. While the AMG models are attracted to the urban jungle, the basic, no-frills 464 commercial version is perfect for the most extreme overlanding tracks.

Thanks to its three-ton payload, the Geländewagen can carry lots of gear, water, and fuel, while the three locking differentials make it a super capable off-roader. The heavy-duty axles can handle a bump or three, and there is the hugely practical fact you can rinse out the rubber mats and interior with a hosepipe after a muddy or dusty trip.

Front_Runner_stan entdecker_beach

Front Runner founder Stanley Illman and his trusy Mercedes 463

Photo: Front Runner

We asked the Front Runner founder Stanley Illman why he used the 463 commercial Mercedes Geländewagen as a base vehicle when he built the Mercedes Entdecker: “Having traveled about 400,000 km over 30 years through the most remote and hostile terrain in Africa in Mercedes vehicles and never once needing a tow, we knew the Mercedes 463 was the platform on which to build the ultimate expedition vehicle.”

They might be pricey, but they are, without a doubt, the real deal.


Photo Front Runner

Nissan Patrol

Photo Front Runner

Nissan Patrol
If a vehicle is much-loved and respected in Australia by overlanders and all those driving about the dirt tracks of the Outback, then you know it must be very good. There is no other country in the world where the Nissan Patrol receives as much admiration as it does in Australia. During the heydays of the tough vehicle-breaking Outback Challenge, most people used modified Nissan Patrols for the event.

The first-generation Patrol came out in 1951 and looked a bit like an over-inflated Willys Jeep; it was only when the 4th generation Patrol came out in 1988, and it got coil sprung suspension, live axles, and power steering that the world began to take notice of this behemoth off-roader that was available as both a pickup and SUV.

Photo Front Runner

Nissan Patrol (left)

Photo Front Runner

Sadly, in 2014, Nissan discontinued the sale of the Patrol worldwide except for a few select countries such as South Africa and Nepal, where the fifth-generation Y61 Patrol is still sold and popular. You still see them in use by the military and aid organizations, especially in rural areas with rough tracks. The bulky Patrol has proven virtually unstoppable on challenging overland trips.


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