A few weeks ago, I revealed to you my new DougCar: a 1997 Land Rover Defender 90, painted in yellow, with a nice soft top that flaps around a lot on the highway and sounds like you’re seated inside a Quonset hut during a tornado.
Many of you were pleased. Others were accepting, even though you recommended something else. But then there was a third group: The group who insisted there’s no possible way a 1997 Defender 90 could be worth $70,000, because "they’re like 50 quid here in England, bro."
Well, bro, I don’t live in England. A quick check of Autotrader, here in the United States, reveals that there are currently 33 different 1997 Defender 90 models listed, with an average asking price of nearly $87,000. Even assuming some of these are priced to the moon in an effort to grab ultra-wealthy buyers who treat $87,000 like you and I treat a dried-out Sharpie, I think we can safely say a nice Defender 90 can obviously be worth $60,000 or $70,000 in good shape.
Nonetheless, I am aware that a Defender is very expensive in America, and very cheap in Europe, which has led to you people consistently asking me: "WHY DO YOU PAY $70,000 FOR A DEFENDER WHEN YOU COULD HAVE ONE IN EUROPE FOR NINE EUROS?" So I pondered this for a bit, and I came to the following conclusion: In Europe, you pay like $8 per gallon for gasoline. Here in America, we pay like $2.80. So: WHY DO YOU PAY EIGHT BUCKS FOR GAS WHEN YOU COULD HAVE IT IN AMERICA FOR TWO BUCKS? Got ya there, European people!
Assuming you are not yet swayed by my arguments, I decided to create a little used Land Rover comparison so you could see things a little more clearly.
Here’s what I did: I borrowed a used Range Rover from the latest body style — also worth around $70,000, depending on year and condition — from my friends at Automobili Limited, a high-end used car dealership here in the Philadelphia suburbs, and I pitted it against my Defender in a series of tests. This, I assumed, would demonstrate once and for all why my Defender is so valuable, as I presumed it would clearly be better than the Range Rover in every way, and you people would get off my back.
So I compared the vehicles in several highly objective tests that you can see in the video above, such as, for example, ease of entry. This is when I discovered that it is easy to enter the front of the Range Rover, and the front of the Defender, and the rear of the Range Rover, but if you plan on entering the rear of the Defender, you will look like you’re on one of those game shows where you’re wearing a helmet and giant brightly-colored foam hammers hit you while you cross a river made of spinning logs.
The Defender does not fare much better in terms of, for example, ride quality. I say this because the Range Rover is plush and wonderful and beautiful and quiet and relaxing, while the Defender sounds like a military cargo plane that is currently taking heavy fire. Except it’s slower.
So then we move on to equipment. The Range Rover has a button in back that will automatically lower the rear row of seats. It also has a center touchscreen with every function you could possibly think of, including massaging seats. It will tell you if there’s a car in your blind spot. It comes with a rear-seat entertainment system, with a remote control. It has heated seats. It has cooled seats. It has six climate control vents for the rear passengers.
The Defender is a little simpler. It has just one button in the center control area. Fittingly, it activates the hazard lights.
Next up is reliability. The Defender, I think we all agree, should be far more reliable than the Range Rover, simply because everything in the Range Rover is so advanced and electronic and futuristic that it will surely break all the time. Except that, the day I filmed this video, the Range Rover behaved perfectly, and reliably, and excellently, and the Defender has a check engine light, a small oil leak, and what I believe is a small coolant leak. Other than that, though, they are surely on equal footing.
When we get into subjective categories, you might think the Defender has an advantage. For example, the Defender looks a lot cooler than the new Range Rover, right? You’d THINK that was the case, except that every single non-car enthusiast I’ve had in the Defender, or around the Defender, or near the Defender, has said the exact same thing: Cool Jeep!
So, at the end of the day, here’s what I learned: In every single measure, objective and possibly even subjective, the Range Rover is a better vehicle than the Defender. This should be the moment where I concede that the Europeans were right, that I’m wrong, and that it’s stupid to pay $70,000 for a Defender. Instead, I’m happy to report I filled up last night for $2.56 a gallon. TAKE THAT, EUROPEANS!!!!! Find a 1997 Land Rover Defender for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.