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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Patuel

How we chose our adventure car

When it comes to cars neither of us is an expert. Coming on this trip Sean had never done any overlanding and Alyssa had no idea how to drive a manual, probably a good joke somewhere there…

Before arriving in South Africa, we tried to do some research, we started looking up reputable brands like Toyota, Land Rover, Nissan, etc., and tried to narrow down our car choices. We considered things like mileage, year, make, extras like a bulbar, winch, snorkel, and all the important 4x4 accessories that individually start to add up. Based on that information we came up with a budget of $21,500 CAD (R300K // $15,600 USD)

Through our research, we noticed that Toyota dominated the African market, but you were paying a premium for the name. Then depending on which countries, you were going to, other Chinese/Japanese brands also had a strong presence. It was very important to us to find a car with a strong brand presence so we could easily find spare parts if needed along the way.

To be 100% transparent, before even leaving we had our hearts set on a Land Rover Defender, so it's fair to say we're a little biased. This was the idealistic African Adventure car, but we wanted to make sure we covered our bases.

We arrived in Johannesburg on the morning of September 8th, 2023. That same day we went to check out 2nd hand defenders at Emmerentia Auto. The owner, Warren was exceptionally helpful, he led us to 3 different Land Rovers: The Puma, TD5, and the Kalahari (300TDI engine).

Here’s a quick recap of what we liked and what we didn’t like

Defender Pros:

  • Lots of storage space

  • They look amazing

  • Diesel

Defender Cons:

  • Very loud, kind of like a tractor. The most quiet would be the Puma

Puma Pros:

  • Really comfortable


  • The engine was built by Ford, not Land Rover.

  • Most expensive

  • Everything is electronic

TD5 Pros:

  • Extra power, nice bit of kick while driving

  • Meets the budget


  • Some electronics may or may not need a diagnostics kit.

  • The aircon didn't work very well and pointed right at your knees.

Kalahari Pros:

  • Unique engine build with only 55 made in South Africa

  • No electronics, which will make it easy enough to fix on route

  • Meets the budget


  • The aircon didn't work very well and pointed right at your knees.

Our next stop was Toyota, unfortunately, by the time we got to Toyota, we were warned off by many wary South Africans as Toyota happens to be the most targeted vehicle by criminals. Toyota accounted for roughly a third of stolen cars in the country, talk about a worst-case scenario. With the Toyota Hilux bakkie and its Fortuner SUV at the top of the list, it also happened to be our top car choices. Crime aside, we loved the Toyota Fortuner and test-drove the car in automatic as this would be one less hurdle later.

We spent a week visiting dealerships, comparing cars and prices but after visiting over 10 4x4 dealerships in Johannesburg and Pretoria and scouring FB marketplace we ended up back at Emmerentia Auto.

We test-drove the Kalahari one more time before signing the paperwork and making it all official.

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