The Defender is the grandad of the Land Rover world and its roots can be traced back to 1948 to the original Series 1 (although the Defender name was only introduced in 1989). Loved by all, Defender drivers come from of all types of backgrounds, from farmers and Surf ‘doods’ to Her Majesty the Queen – Whether you want one just because you love them, or you need a workhorse vehicle, there is no doubt the Defender has many jobs and many more fans.
A few buying tips…
Defender Body Styles
Basically, Defenders come in two sizes – the 90 and 110. The difference is simply the numbers are with reference to the length (in inches) of the wheelbase. There is a 3 door short that looks amazing but isn’t very practical if you have a family, whereas the 5 door 110 is the long industrial version that can seat as many as nine people depending on the configuration.
The are many versions of each. One of the most popular is the Station Wagon, which has a solid roof and windows in the rear of the cabin – Does that sound luxurious? by Land Rover standards the Station Wagon is positively the Rolls-Royce of Land Rovers!
The Hard Top is a posh way of saying van or pick up! It has an open load bed behind the cab. These are typically nice models are most favoured by farmers.
Driving a Defender…
It’s an experience! Some say an experience you will never forget. You will either Love it or hate it. Each new engine came with improvements, performance and refinement, however even the most current Defenders can seem noisy, uncomfortable and unresponsive to modern SUV standards.
Buying to tow
Try to aim for a Defender post-2006. Obviously, this will be budget dependent. They come with a 2.4-litre Ford TDCi turbodiesel engine which featured common-rail fuel injection, a high-pressure system that helps improve refinement, performance and fuel economy. This welcomes an increase in torque (a measure of the flexibility of an engine), with the peak 265Ib ft delivered at just 2,000rpm.
It comes with a six-speed manual gearbox boasting a wider spread of gear ratios (20% higher in top gear), making the car better at pulling heavy loads. This improves the refinement and economy for motorway runs.
2.4-litre Defenders prices start from £8,000, but those will be Hard Top models used as commercial vehicles. For the Station Wagon models, the budget keeps going up over £12,000…..
Money no object?
Have you got a spare £18,000…? then the post-2012 Defender is the one to buy. It uses a 2.2-litre Ford TDCI engine and offers the best performance of the lot, together with the most mod cons.
The most affordable Defender
The cheapest Defender is most likely one of the earlier models: the 200 Tdi. Prices start around £3500 for a genuine example. Beware, as many earlier Land Rover 90 or 110 models have had this engine fitted retrospectively.
Launched in 1990, it is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, which it shares with the recently launched Discovery. It has 105bhp, which may not sound like much power today for a heavy 4×4 but back then it was more than respectable and features such as direct fuel injection, which was considered advanced for its time.
This gave the Defender a welcome kick up the backside, raising the performance from a painful plod to something approaching respectable. Fuel economy was improved in the process. The added oomph made it better suited to towing, too.
What to look for when buying a used Land Rover Defender
- If you are buying an older Defender and you don’t feel confident checking it over, I would advise paying for an independent inspection, either by the AA or RAC or by having the Defender checked by a Land Rover specialist. You may be able to negotiate with the seller to drop a car’s price by the equivalent inspection cost if you end up buying the car.
- Always check the Defenders’ paperwork carefully. Do the registration, engine and chassis numbers agree with the vehicle’s registration certificate (called the V5C)?
- Check the Defender has been serviced every year and diligent owners will have retained all associated invoices to accompany the vehicle’s service record book. Also, ask for MOT certificates, both past and present.
- Regardless of the vehicle’s age, it’s a good idea to get under the car and inspect the chassis. Reputable dealers will raise the car on a workshop ramp to allow you to do this safely; private sellers may be willing for you to poke around but take care and ensure you can do so without endangering yourself. Rust is one issue that needs checking for; chassis or suspension damage is another.
- Older engines should have had their cambelts and head gaskets replaced and turbochargers can wear out, as can the fuel injection pumps on the oldest 200 Tdi and 300 Tai engines. The synchromesh on gearboxes can wear, too.
- Don’t worry about dented body panels. They all add to the car’s character but while the body is aluminium, things like the door frames are steel and can rust.
- Remember to try the transfer box for the four-wheel drive system and engage the differential lock to make sure it works. Check it disengages correctly, too. Also, listen for knocks from the suspension.
Good luck and I hope you find the right Defender to suit your needs!