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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For It's simply unrivalled in the mud

Against It's unrefined, slow and thirsty

Verdict It's the perfect farmer’s cart

Go for… 110 County Station Wagon

Avoid… Incomplete service history

Land Rover Defender 4x4
  • 1. Because it’s always in demand and there aren't many around, prices remain pretty high
  • 2. It's built to be the best off-roader in the world and everything about it is designed with that aim - and to great effect
  • 3. Check that any Defender has been maintained regularly, and that previous owners have not overdone it off-road
  • 4. The driver's seat is pretty much of the 'if you don't fit, tough' variety
  • 5. Owners report few problems, although cynics will say that's because there's so little to go wrong
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Land Rover Defender 4x4 full review with expert trade views

It’s hard to imagine a car that is more dedicated to its task and which makes fewer compromises than the Defender. It's built to be the best off-roader in the world and everything about it is designed with that aim in mind.

As a result, you can’t assess it as you would a conventional car. Performance, comfort and refinement simply aren’t issues. Instead, this is a car designed to be a utilitarian tool, and it does that superbly. The excellent four-wheel-drive system, good ground clearance and strong diesel engine make it just about unstoppable off-road.

However, even by the standards of other 4x4s, it’s poor on-road. It bounces around all over the place, there’s precious little adjustment in the driving position and refinement is dreadful. You certainly wouldn’t want to tackle a long journey in it, and creature comforts don’t extend much beyond power steering.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Still holds its value very well. SWB County Station Wagon is best model

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

When you’re talking about the Defender, there’s no point worrying about updates and face-lifts – there haven’t really been any in its history. Unlike most of us mere mortals, the Defender has managed to maintain its looks throughout its life.

Perhaps the most important consideration is to buy a model with the Td5 diesel engine that was introduced in mid-1999. This is a much smoother and stronger unit than the previous model.

Unlike most other cars, you don’t really need to worry about trim levels, either. None of the models has ever really had much in the way of equipment, anyway.

Instead, choosing between the various models will be a question of deciding what you want to do with the car. There are short- and long-wheelbase models (three-door 90 and five-door 110, respectively), with the larger model having an extra row of three seats in the centre, giving it more versatility.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Holds value well, must be tidy, late ones with Td5 and power steering

James Ruppert
Used car guru

You might expect a car like the Defender to be very cheap on the used market. However, it’s such an effective tool that it’s always in demand and, because not many cars have been sold new, prices remain pretty high. On the other hand, running costs shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. That demand means residuals are strong, so you won’t lose too much when you sell it on, and most models are in group nine for insurance, making them cheaper to insure than any Freelander.

Admittedly, fuel economy isn’t great – the Defender will struggle to reach 30mpg – but it’s not far behind the Daihatsu Fourtrak in this respect, and much better than the petrol-engined Jeep Wrangler.

Don’t be put off by the fact that maintenance is generally rather expensive on Land Rovers. Those figures are inflated by the likes of the Range Rover and Discovery. In fact, the Defender’s tough, its engines are rugged, and the body panels are cheap to replace.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Still holds its value very well. SWB County Station Wagon is best model

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The Defender is a solid machine, so the poor showing of other Land Rover cars in customer satisfaction and reliability surveys needn’t put you off.

In fact, judging by the reviews posted by owners online, the Defender is fantastically reliable. Of course, cynics will say that’s because there’s nothing on them to go wrong. But, the fact is that the Defender is a no-frills machine designed to one job, and it does it very well.

As with any serious off-roader, though, you should check that it has been maintained regularly, and that previous owners have not overdone it off-road.

Last, but not least, check that any recall work has been carried out. There have been a few recalls over the years, but perhaps the most critical related to the engine of cars built from September 1998 to June 1999, while two recalls also concerned the car’s brakes.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Holds value well, must be tidy, late ones with Td5 and power steering

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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