This issue I spent a lot of time researching an article on the best bargains to be had out there on the used 4WD market over the next 12 months. It seems like every single year there’s a new couple of mega-bargain trucks that for whatever reason represent incredible value. Often it’s because an updated model is released and the second-hand market becomes flooded, but other times it’s simply because it isn’t as popular as another option.

Take something close to my heart, for example – 80 Series Cruisers. Factory turbo-diesel 80s command ridiculous prices right now. We’re talking paying $16,000-$20,000 for a twenty year old diesel with 350,000km on the clock, just because it’s desirable. But what about the humble 1HZ non-turbo 80? You’ll pick up one in similar condition for $5,000 to $6,000. Bolt on a turbo, exhaust and intercooler, rebuild the injector pump and reco the injectors and you’ll have a truck that owes you maybe $12,000 at the most and will stick with any factory turbo.

But what if you take that example further again?

You’ll probably roll your eyes at me, but I can’t see how a diesel is the most economical vehicle to own these days when you can pick up a 4.5 fuel injected GXL 80 Series for $2,000. It’s gotta be the ultimate first-timers or budget 4WD. You get disc brakes all round, air con, GXL interior with power windows, a nearly bulletproof drivetrain, a full-sized wagon with massive amounts of storage space and the advantage of seriously affordable aftermarket gear.

“But Brenno,” I hear you say. “What about fuel economy/longevity/electrics and water?”

Well, I get 17L/100km on 35s cruising down the highway at 100km/h, and it costs me about $40 a week to run to work and back on LPG. The petrol motors go as long as the diesels and in fact are more tolerant to less-than-perfect servicing. As for water and electrics – after I finally got around to sealing the dizzy up with silicon I can now sit there with the garden hose on the engine and it doesn’t miss a beat. $100 replacement genuine in-tank fuel pump v $2500+ injector pump rebuild, the fact I can fix a petrol if it stops dead in the bush, and the list goes on…

So the question I’m asking, is at what point does a diesel become more expensive to own than a petrol?

Okay, to balance out the equation I’ll admit to a couple of things. I’ve been researching fitting up a turbo, intercooler and exhaust at a cost of about $8500. There goes my 10,000km service intervals – I’ll be right there at 5,000km oil changes too. And I will freely admit that there’s nothing like the sound of a turbo-diesel – it just sounds like a 4WD should. And sure, you can’t beat ‘put diesel in it and it’ll run’ simplicity. There’s no doubt diesels rule supreme out in the bush, it’s that it isn’t a forgone conclusion that they’re the cheapest 4WDs to own.