Land Rover Defender Buyers Guide

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The Land Rover Defender is the direct descendant of the Land Rover Series 1 first introduced in 1948. The Defender is still a bare bones basic vehicle by modern standards but is more refined and comfortable than the early Series 1 2 and 3 models that it replaced. This Defender buyers guide covers all the models from 1985 to 2016.

No Defender buyers guide would be complete without singling out the Tdi and Td5 Defenders. Both these models are firm favorites and rated as the most popular Defenders available.

Defender History

1985 – 1990 Land Rover 90 110 and 127

The early Defenders from 1985 to 1990 didn’t carry the Defender badge. They were introduced after the series 3 in 1985 and were called Land Rover 110 and Land Rover 90 as well as a 127 model. They were available from 1985 to. The bulk of early 110’s had V8 engines, but 2.5 petrol and 2.5 turbo diesels were also available, utilising 4 speed gearboxes and in some cases the 5spd LT77. They still had split doors like the Series 3.

1990 – 1994 Defender 90 110 130 V8 and 200Tdi

Then in 1990 the Defender badge was introduced and the models were 90, 110 and 130. Defenders between 1990 and 1994 had V8 or 200Tdi engines and 5 speed LT85 gearboxes. You can tell the 200Tdi by the sir intake being on the left and not the right.

1995 -1999 Defender 300 Tdi BMW 2.8i

From 1995 to 1999 the 300Tdi engine was introduced as well as a locally developed BMW 2.8i petrol engine all running through a refined R380 5spd gearbox. In 1997 the 3 year factory warranty was introduced. The 300 Tdi was more refined than the 200Tdi and one of the most popular Land Rover engines if not the most popular. Defender 300tdi models have become quite sought after as they are the last “non electric” type engines to be manufactured and have proved to be quite reliable and cost effective to maintain.

1999 – 2006 Defender Td5

In 1999 the TD5 was introduced, it was slightly more refined than the 300Tdi (quieter and smoother) and produced slightly more power, however it used more fuel and had some electronic management. The R380 gearbox was slightly up rated for this new engine. The TD5 is also claimed to be a favourite Land Rover engine and was used from 1999 up to 2006

In 2003 the Defender received a minor upgrade, with a strengthened one piece rear door, new square style mag rims, cup holders and central locking.

There were also a model called Kalahari available in SA during this time that had the 300Tdi engine and lower trim levels.

2007 – 2016 Defender Puma 2.4L and 2.2L

In 2007 Defender received another upgrade with significant changes to the iconic body shape including the shutting off of the wind flaps in the firewall and raising of the bonnet for the new engine. The new 2.4L Puma engine and gearbox was derived from the Ford transit van. Drivetrain changes included ABS and traction control. The interior was also upgraded with a new dash console, improved heater and forward facing rear seats in D90 and 110. In 2011 a more refined 2.2L Puma engine was introduced.

The last Defender was produced in January 2016

Defender Buyers Guide

The first thing that applies to all used Defenders is that their market value has skyrocketed in recent years. This applies to almost all models and vehicles that are in good condition. The only cheap Defender that you will find are either in very bad condition or heavily modified and abused. Typically the vehicles used market value is very similar to what the original purchase price was. Eg in 2022 a Tdi will cost around 170k, a Td5 around 240k and a Puma around 400k+. This is a complete contrast to normal second hand car price logic where used prices are less than 50% of the orginal price of the vehicle.

There are a lot more 110 Defenders available than 90 models across all the year models. There are still quite a few 90 Puma vehicles around and a few 90 Td5 vehicles. But 90 Tdi are very scarce and only a handful are for sale during a year.

Since Defenders stopped production in 2016 you will still find some very good condition late Puma models with low mileage. These are obviously at the top of the price range. You can apply any normal used car buying tips here as you will find service histories etc. Some of these later models have not even been offroad so they are in great condition.

The Defender Td5 is a favorite model as it has a blend of simplicity with usability. These engines have proved super reliable and have clocked up hundreds of thousands of kilometres. Now and again you will find a relatively low mileage model less than 200 000 km but it will be priced accordingly. Most vehicles have however been used and modified so you have to look carefully at what you are buying.

The Defender Tdi vehicles are usually very old like 25-30y old. Mileage is high typically around 300K and many of them have had redone or replacement engines. Most of the vehicles of this age are bought and then rebuilt and restored with new upholstery, paint and rebuilt drive trains. These rebuilt versions can sell for almost double the price.

Early 110’s are available on the second-hand market costing slightly more than Series III’s, but have newer technology in the coil springs and full time 4 wheel drive, which improve drive comfort and handling. In the Defender models comfort is further improved with power steering and in the S/W county models accessory levels are higher with power steering, aircon and interior trim.

If you have never owned a Defender check these reviews to see what it is like

Tips for Buying a Used Defender

So some lessons learned buying used Defenders are to be a bit thorough when looking at a vehicle. Its difficult because there is so much to take in so a Defender buyers guide and a checklist is probably a good idea.

Ultimately everything on a Defender is replaceable and that is what makes them so appealing. But the replacement parts have become scarce and expensive. So the more that you need to replace the higher the cost ultimately

You need to look past the dirty and warn parts and look for completeness. The more complete the vehicle the better. This you can see visually in the body, trim and all the fittings. Look at all the detail and don’t overlook small parts or broken off items.

Any good quality work done on the engine or drive train to bring it back to new is a bonus and counts for a lot.

Red flags for me are lots of modifications. Most often on older vehicles these modifications are not done properly and so you end up with more problems. . Bottom line is these vehicles are getting older and becoming scarce. So make sure that you are fully aware of the cost to fix or restore any items that are missing or broken.

Land Rover Defender Buyers Guide Pricing

’85 – ’90 110, 127 2.5D, V840 – 150 K
’90-’94 D90, 110, 130 v8, 200Tdi70 – 130 K
’95-’98 D90, 110, 130 300Tdi100k – 220 K
’99 – ’07 D90, 110, 130 Td5200 – 300 K
’07-’16 D90, 110, 130 Puma250 + K

Checklist Guide for Buying and Old Defender

  1. Overall condition
    • Telltale sign or things to come
    • Completeness – missing parts
    • Modifications and non standard parts.
    • Paint condition.
    • Spot welds
    • Unpainted rivets
    • Checker plate
    • Rust spots
    • Bent damaged parts
    • Rims condition
    • Trim condition
    • Wiring condition
    • Wheel bearings loose
    • Record of services and repairs – detail and completeness
  2. Rust Check – Costal vehicles and European vehicles with salt roads need to be checked for rust
    • Front and back chassis sections
    • Poke the chassis with a screwdriver and listen to the sound if its solid.
    • Outriggers
    • Mud collecting on chassis at springs
    • And check all over the chassis for rust or welded patches.
    • Footwells
    • Fire wall, pillars
    • Door bottoms
    • Back door
  3. Check for leaks
    • Diesel fuel pump
    • Engine sides
    • Engine front, engine back at bell housing
    • Swivel pins
    • Power steering
    • Intercooler back marks oil leaking – turbo or intercooler leaking
    • Radiator and water pipes – white sediment/corrosion
  4. Check oils and water for mixing
    • Radiator – thick, milky or gravy-like substance
    • Oil – Bubbles on the stick, a brownish residue just above the oil level
  5. Driving checks
    • Ease of starting
    • Smooth and easy sound of engine – no alarming noises
    • Smoke on start up when cold
    • Smoke with idling – injectors and timing
    • Smoke with acceleration
    • Gears engage properly
    • Difflock works and engages
    • Low range engage and work – inactivity selector seized
    • Transmission clunk pulling off – transmission wear
    • Steering vibration or play
    • Vibrations or loud noises at different speeds
    • Loud or loose feeling suspension knocks

What type of Defender buyer are you?

Perfect Condition Get in and Drive

The first type of buyer is looking for a perfectly running vehicle with no problems and in perfect condition to get in and drive. Then you need to look for a low mileage vehicle with full service history. This would typically be a more recent Puma model or a pristine TD5 model.

Good condition older Defender

These vehicles will have been looked after but still need a bit of attention. They are good running vehicles with wear and tear and some broken bits. Mostly they are complete with no major damage or rust. Good candidates for a Defender rebuild.

Any Condition and Damaged

Anything goes here. These vehicles have had a hard life, been abused or seriously neglected. They would have some major modifications or issues. Buying one of these will mean that you know what to look for and what repairs will cost and have the resources to get it done.

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