Acquiring a Land Rover – Should I buy new, or used?
Quite intriguingly, since the period of UK national ‘lockdown’ ended, the car sales scene has gone haywire, reports Iain Robertson, crazy trade prices are but one aspect, yet, among the high demand brands, Land Rover has percolated to the top.
Residing, as I do, in the largely agricultural County of Lincolnshire, which is an historical heartland of Land Rover business, serviced by three main dealer outlets and a couple of specialists, ‘Landy-spotting’ is a very easy game. From classic Defenders, to top-line Range Rovers, every model is well represented. However, Lincolnshire is not alone, as JLR’s ‘strangle-hold’ on the agri-scene is exercised all over the UK and, while many of its models can be described fairly as ‘expensive’, it is no surprise that the brand proliferates within the corporate sector too.
Buying new demands caution. Examples of the latest Defender, which is pleasingly ‘Tonka Toy’ to the eye, remain thin on the ground, not least because of tear inducingly steep list pricing, intended to fill a massive company ‘hole’ in JLR’s finances. With Autobiography specification Rangies topping six figures with remarkable ease, it is predominantly corporate funding that keeps Land Rover buoyant. Cash-rich firms seem to have no issue with finding the deposits and either financing the chairman’s latest transport on monthly leases, or by buying outright.
Yet, buying new also introduces the potential of unreliability and warranty work mopping up the mess. Although most of this type of reparative work is fairly rudimentary, with problems related to complex electronics outweighing mechanical issues, VOR (vehicle off-road) and dissatisfaction levels are tested to extremes, resulting in a challengingly large number of ‘returned’ vehicles to dealers. By the time a Land, or Range Rover model has reached its third birthday and the end of the factory warranty period, to be fair, most of the problems have been resolved and ironed out.
Therefore, apart from the customary caveats, acquiring new, or relatively new models, as long as the prices do not terrify you, is much the same as for other high-end brands. Residual, or trade values have not been as reliable as first owners may have liked and at least 25% of the original invoice can be wiped out immediately following delivery. Under normal circumstances, depreciation levels can lead to a vibrant second-hand market. However, the pandemic has led to some unexpected spikes in trade values.
Buying used Land Rover products can prove to be fascinating. There is an expected period of around four to eight years of age, at which optimum dependability levels are at a peak, which is inevitable, when you consider that the manufacturer’s three years warranty should have dealt with a number of niggling and even some early high-price repairs. Yet, buying privately will demand care. Thanks to a renowned reputation for unbeatable off-road capabilities, it is worth the extra investment in having a specialist check over the object of your desires. While severe damage is unlikely, as these cars are built sturdily, typical knocks and scrapes can lead to subsequent failures, notably on technology-led Discovery and Range Rover models suspended by air.
The appeal related to used Range Rovers losing upwards of 75% of their initial invoice values is substantial. Keith Arnold Cars, an independent Land Rover specialist local to me, has sold immaculate, low mileage, nine-years old Range Rover Autobiography models for around 20% of the original price tag (less than £20k). A key benefit is the quality of the firm’s paintwork, which is not only resilient but loses none of its lustre even at up to 12 years of age. Although rust can occur on steel panels, such as rear doors and hatchbacks, as long as it is dealt with quickly, rot is seldom an issue. Later alloy-bodied models are better in this respect.
Yet, it is worth highlighting that decade-old, 90-100,000-miles models can show their age with failed turbochargers on both TDV6 and TDV8 engines, while self-levelling suspension issues may demand air-bag replacements and even automatic transmission problems. Steering knocks and joint wear are common. On early DPF equipped versions, blockage and specialist clearing may prove necessary. None of this should be regarded as a surprise, as these vehicles are now displaying age-related mechanical and electrical problems. However, dealt with by a non-franchise specialist, such as Jack Land Rover (email@example.com), which will reduce labour rates significantly, extending a vehicle’s life by another 8-10 years is de rigueur.
A well-used Land Rover, or Range Rover, will always benefit from a thorough valet. Even those specified originally with fabric trim can spruce up remarkably well but do check that all trim panels and hinges for folding seat mechanisms are present and operable. Leather is always the better option and applying hide food can return it to pristine condition. Carpets are usually very durable and even heavy/muddy usage on the driver’s side can recover with a decent scrub and wet/dry vacuuming. At the end of the day, apart from the higher priced directors’ cars, many of which have never been used as they should be, Land Rover products are workhorses.
If there is one particular highlight, apart from the runaway values related to early Defenders and even Mark One Rangies, which are now joining the ranks of collectible classics, it lies in the Freelander line-up. As the first of the modern SUV-class from Land Rover, the Freelander is no less competent than its larger brethren but has the advantage of less intimidating dimensions. Although assembled in India, Jordan and China, Halewood (on Merseyside) production of Freelander 2 ended in 2014 (the original 1997 Freelander lasted until 2006). Used values are buoyant at present, with all versions in great demand. Again, Keith Arnold ensures that his stock of economical Freelanders is in prime condition, with earlier K-Series (both 4 and rarer V6 petrols) and BMW 2.0-litre diesel models representing exceptional value for money and later, 6-speed automatic, TD4/SD4 HSE versions (Ford/PSA engines, 150-190bhp) commanding top money.
Conclusion: Whether acquiring a Land Rover, or Range Rover model for its off-road competence, perceived class, or its fashion statement, ensuring that it is in good condition is essential. Maintenance and road tax costs can be high and 27-30mpg average fuel economy from either V6 or V8 turbodiesels is normal.