Despite what macho YouTubers and SUV ads might suggest, the best off-road vehicle is not necessarily the biggest, fastest or most expensive. It’s the one that can safely navigate off-road terrain with a driver with learned skills and technical driving abilities.

A good off-road vehicle should have plenty of ground clearance, low-end torque and flexible suspension. Let’s explore these features and why they matter.

What Makes a Good Off-Road Vehicle?

Whether you’re planning on crawling over rocks or navigating through mud, a vehicle that can tackle rugged terrain is key to an off-road adventure. However, not all vehicles are built to tackle off-road trails right away and many require special additions to make them capable of off-road driving. If you’re looking to upgrade your car to an off-road-ready ride, you can start by focusing on 7 major components that will help your vehicle perform better.

A four-wheel drive is one of the most important features to look for in an off-road vehicle. This is because, unlike standard cars that only power two wheels at a time, four-wheel drive vehicles distribute power evenly to all four wheels. This gives them traction when driving on snow, sand or ice. Additionally, it makes it easier to maneuver on uneven ground and allows you to climb steep hills that other vehicles might struggle with.

The type of tires on your vehicle is also an essential aspect of off-roading. The best tires for off-roading are usually specialized to improve performance on rough surfaces. You can find tires with tread patterns designed to grip mud, sand and rock. You can even find off-road tires with a beadlock design that helps keep your wheels securely in place over bumps.

Another factor to consider is the vehicle’s angles and wheel travel. This is because off-roading requires a high amount of articulation to overcome obstacles. You can improve your vehicle’s articulation by adding a lift kit and by installing larger tires that are more aggressive in their design.

Finally, you should also consider the underbody protection of your vehicle. This is because off-roading can slam your undercarriage into unyielding obstacles, puncturing critical components like the gas tank, transfer case and differentials. Underbody protection like skid plates, bumpers and rock sliders protect these crucial areas from damage and help you avoid costly repairs.

Finally, you’ll want to invest in off-road lighting. This is because off-roading often takes place in the dark or over thick greenery, where a set of premium LED lights can make all the difference.

Off-Road Tires

A good set of off-road tires is a must-have for anyone who regularly ventures off the main roads and into rough terrain. These tires are designed specifically to manage difficult terrain, including mud, rocks, and sand. They also feature tough sidewalls that can withstand impact and punctures from various debris on the trail. Unlike regular tires, off-road tires should be rotated frequently and kept properly inflated to extend their life.

The best off-road tires will have a higher tread depth and shorter knobs that are closer together for more grip on uneven ground. They also have a softer carcass and reinforced sidewalls that can better resist impacts and abrasions. Lastly, they should be properly installed and maintained to extend their life. A tire pressure gauge is a must to ensure you are at the correct air pressure for the terrain you are driving on.

Off-road tires are not suitable for paved surfaces, so you will need to reduce your speed and accelerate and brake more gently when you are on pavement. Additionally, if you are driving in a snowstorm or on ice, you should switch to winter tires to improve traction and handling.

When you are off-roading, your vehicle will need more low-end torque than you would use on the highway to get up to speed and pass other vehicles. For this reason, it is important that you choose a vehicle with a powerful engine and plenty of initial low-end torque so you can maneuver easily over obstacles.

Your off-road vehicle should also have a high ground clearance to help you navigate different types of terrain. This is especially important if you plan to drive over large boulders or other items that could damage your undercarriage. A taller suspension can increase your clearance, but this will reduce your effective gear ratio and add unsprung weight to the vehicle.

You can also improve your angles by fitting a lift kit and removing bodywork or accessories. For example, a two-door vehicle with short front and rear overhangs will have superior breakover angles than its longer counterpart.

Off-Road Suspension

Of all the upgrades that can be made to a vehicle to make it more off-road capable, a good set of tires is often viewed as one of the most essential. Regardless of whether the vehicle in question is a front-wheel drive econobox or an old Humvee, a set of all-terrain tires can give it much needed ability to traverse rough terrain without getting stuck or damaging the suspension.

For many enthusiasts, this is all the upgrade they need to get started off-roading – even if that means driving around in a vehicle that’s far from stock. If you’re serious about tackling more advanced trails and obstacles, though, you’ll want to consider upgrading the suspension as well. This includes shock absorbers and damping components that can handle intense impacts without excessive bouncing, as well as controls arms and linkages that allow wheel movement to be controlled (depending on the type of suspension, either dependent or independent).

Ground clearance is also essential for off-roading, since vehicles will need to go over rocks, logs, or other obstructions without damaging their underside. This can be achieved with either a larger set of tires or with a suspension that allows the road wheels to rise off the ground at will – but you still shouldn’t discount cosmetics too, like a flag, especially great flags from

A high ground clearance will also be necessary to avoid hitting a body or other object on the underside of the vehicle when attempting to climb a rock, log, or ditch. In some cases, this may mean installing a lift kit to add a few extra inches of clearance to the vehicle.

If you’re going to be doing any off-roading in American Fork, it’s important to invest in some form of winch recovery equipment as well. This will ensure you’re able to pull your vehicle or a friend out of a ditch, rut, or other obstacle if you end up stuck.

Some off-roaders like to use their vehicles to haul gear and other items to and from the trailhead, so a cargo carrier is often an essential accessory. However, a carrier should only be used to carry rated gear that is securely fastened and tied down. Otherwise, it can damage your vehicle and endanger other people who are also traveling off-road.

Off-Road Lighting

Regardless of what type of off-road vehicle you drive or where you go off-road, it is essential to have good off-road lighting. This helps you see the path ahead and avoid obstacles in your way, making off-road driving much safer and easier. Off-road lights come in various shades and brightness levels, so you can find the right one to suit your needs. In addition to color and brightness, you also need to consider the beam pattern and light type of your off-road lights.

For example, some off-road lights have a selective yellow lens that can cut through fog and dust more effectively than other colors. You can also choose between white or amber light, as both have different wavelengths that affect how well they cut through fog and dust.

The type of tires you choose is another important factor to consider when choosing an off-road vehicle. Some are designed to offer better traction on mud and sand, while others have a greater grip on rocks and riverbeds. In addition, you will want to make sure that the tires have a high ramp-over angle, as this will help you get over obstacles that are higher off the ground.

In addition to having a great pair of off-road tires, you will also need to have a strong and powerful engine to give you the torque needed to overcome difficult terrain. A four-wheel drive vehicle with locking differentials is a good choice because this will allow you to distribute power evenly between the front and rear wheels. This will prevent you from losing traction when you need it the most.

You will also need to have a solid suspension and underbody protection for your off-road vehicle. These will protect your vehicle from damage that could occur from rocks, ruts, or other debris you may encounter on your off-road adventures. For example, underbody protection such as skid plates will help protect your transfer case, oil pan, and other components from damage.

Even the best off-road vehicle will not be able to overcome difficult terrain without a skilled and experienced driver. While high-tech driver-assist features are all well and good, nothing beats the brute force of a good amount of torque.