The history of the Land Rover Defender is a bit of a convoluted one. Many might think that the original Defender dates back to 1948, but it would not be until 1983 that the “Defender” name was added to Land Rover’s lineup. While the modern Defender is certainly a luxury vehicle, in the past, it was a no-frills SUV, focused on dominating off-road and handling some of the world’s most rugged terrains. So, if you want to buy an old Defender, which model years are best, and which one should you avoid?
Should you buy a Land Rover Defender?
To keep things from getting too complicated, we will focus on Defender SUVs built for the North American market, and there are a range of options worthy of consideration. Land Rover brought the Defender to the United States starting in 1993, and at first, there were two versions.
These were known as the Land Rover Defender 90 and Defender 110. And as North American Specification (NAS) defender models, they were heavily modified when compared to the global market. By 1998, there were some serious changes in regulations, and Land Rover opted to remove the Defender from the States.
Which Land Rover Defender should you buy?
If you really want a British 4×4 SUV, the new Land Rover Defender is the one to get. Frankly, even by 90s standard, the first iterations of the NAS Defender were fairly bare-bones. So, while they do offer serious charm, daily driving one is not necessarily practical. Plus, they are becoming significantly more expensive than they were in the past.
The 2020 Defender and 2021 Defender both offer modern luxury. But, they still retain classic Land Rover personality. These features include an optional jump seat and a system that can monitor how much water you are fording. Plus, if you are a fan of old-school SUVs, you will likely appreciate the Defender 90 with its two doors and standard steel wheels.
There’s no getting around the fact that the new Defender SUV is not cheap. But, Land Rover is now a luxury brand, so you do get a number of sought-after features. Especially if you browse all of the options available to this competent off-roader. And, if you are buying new, the safety net of a warranty does not hurt.
Which Defender is best avoided?
While there’s no getting around the fact that the old Land Rover Defender is an icon, it is a purpose-built vehicle. Unless you buy a modified one, you are not really going to get a lot of comfort features.
That said, clearly, folks are interested in these SUVs because, according to MotorTrend, some sell for north of $100,000. Because the Defender is so old, folks have begun importing versions that were sold elsewhere. But the NAS Defenders are what really bring in the high dollars. So, unless you have a large budget, buying one that is actually is likely going to be a difficult task. And in terms of features, safety, and comfort, the new Land Rover Defender just makes more sense for most cases.