Buying guide: used Land Rover Freelander
Want an uber-classy 4x4 that drives brilliantly everywhere? Here's how to choose correctlyWant an affordable car that’ll take you anywhere? Then Land Rover’s Freelander should be on your buying shortlist, writes Ray Castle of motors.co.uk. It may be the ‘baby’ among Land Rovers. But it can still cut across muck’n’mire with an ease that’ll leave most of its same-size rivals floundering.
And there’s something about Land Rovers that stands them apart from the pack. The marque’s 4x4-only heritage boosts its image no end. Add to that the car’s classy looks, handy size and practicality and it’s hardly a surprise that they have sold so strongly – or that they are in such demand second-hand.
How much should I pay?
The earliest ones date from 1997 and R-reg and you’ll get one like that for as little as £2000. Petrol-powered models far outnumber diesels for this money and, while three-door models were available back then, they are far less common than the five-door versions.
About £5000 buys a seven-year-old example showing 80,000 miles. Compared to older cars, these will have more equipment as standard. Air conditioning is fitted to all but the entry models, which are badged ‘S’.
Spend another £3000, and you’ll get a face-lifted car from 2004 with, say, 60,000 miles, and the newer generation Td4 diesel engine, too.
Bump the budget to £10,000 and you’ll get the last of the ‘original’ Freelanders on a 06 plate – the heavily revised Freelander 2 appeared the following year. Expect it to have covered fewer than 40,000 miles.
Finally, spend £15,000 and you’ll get a cracking Freelander: the ‘2’ model with its upgraded looks and cabin and a punchy diesel engine. For this much, you’ll get a 57-registered car with 20,000 miles or fewer.
Which model is best?
Easy. Go for the mid-level GS model with five doors, powered by the Td4 engine. This model has air conditioning, alloy wheels and twin front airbags. Pick one from 2002 and you’ll find it has added kit including Range Rover-style jewelled headlamps (left). This engine came from BMW, so it is a cracker and you’ll find it in cars made from 2000. As it happens, the diesel-engined GS has long been the best-selling Freelander so finding one to suit your budget shouldn’t pose problems. If you’re looking for an older car, go with the 1.8 petrol engine. This is noisy and not that powerful but is a better bet than the slow and gruff 2.0 diesel you’ll end up with otherwise.
‘S’ trim models are bare inside and should consequently be a fair bit cheaper. At the other end of things, the ES is luxurious (leather seats come as standard) and makes a terrific buy if priced right. Remember that while top-spec models like this cost thousands of pounds extra when new, they should be only a couple of hundreds of pounds dearer second-hand.
Land Rover offered plenty of extras with Freelanders when new and you should always go for second-hand cars loaded with them. The hill descent control, which enables the car to ‘walk’ slowly down a muddy bank, is particularly worth getting.
Where’s the best place to buy one?
If buying one up to five years old, a Land Rover dealer is an excellent bet. The marque’s Approved Used offers pre-checked vehicles backed by at least a year’s warranty. If the car is old enough to need an MoT test, a separate warranty is provided in case it fails. There’s even a 30-day/1000-mile exchange policy.
As you’d expect, Freelanders sold through this scheme won’t be the cheapest you’ll find, but the package brings the level of aftersales care close to what you’d expect with a new vehicle. Car supermarkets often have them at prices to undercut main dealers – but don’t expect the warranties offered and after sales care to match those of dealers. You pay your money...
Independent dealers specialising in off-roaders are a good bet, too, particularly for older, ‘value’ cars. These are a good place to compare Freelanders against their arch rivals, such as Honda’s CR-V and the Nissan X-trail.
We also suggest that you keep a watching brief on private ads, too, where you might hit on a cherished one-owner car that adds up to a bargain.
What should I watch for?
Four-wheel-drive makes for a complicated car. But the good news is that you can make basic checks on the car’s health without needing specialist know-how or tools. We’d suggest you go shopping for one in old clothes – so that you can get underneath and check for damage. We’d take a torch to help out, too.
You’ll be looking for two things: bent panels, resulting from off-roading, and oil leaks. Look also at the exhaust to check for leaks or rust and check that the protective rubber covers on the car’s drive shafts are in good nick. While you’re there, shine that torch everywhere to hunt for oil leaks or body rust.
Move on to the tyres. A matching set of name-brand rubber suggests that the car has been looked after, while a mis-match of cheap tyres tells the opposite story. Check the tread, too, for signs of uneven wear, which hints at mis-aligned suspension.
Inside the car, check for water stains on the roof lining caused by leaks from the tailgate and sunroof and, similarly, ensure that the carpets are dry and free of musty smells or mould stains. Ensure, too, that the glass in the tailgate raises and lowers at a button-press.
Finally, take a test drive of at least 30 minutes and try the car at all speeds from town to motorway, in all gears and in all ride settings. Take a friend with you and have them sit in the back to listen for clonks from the drive train or suspension or rattles from the exhaust.
To view and buy new and second-hand Land Rover Freelanders on motors.co.uk, click here
To read the motors.co.uk review of the Freelander - and watch our video - click here