Why a Ute? Why Toyota Hilux?

last updated 26/10/2021

I started my offroading and camping career in a soft top Suzuki Sierra worth less than my wife’s Thermomix. What a fun, cheap, durable and capable vehicle! For the trip around oz it was decided that a 90km/h top speed and headache inducing cabin noise level would not be acceptable so a vehicle upgrade was required. My vehicle of choice – Toyota Hilux. The model I ended up getting was a 2007 SR5 dual cab manual 3L turbo diesel D4D. There are many reasons why I chose to generally get a 4 cylinder diesel manual ute, and reasons why I wanted it to be a Hilux. Keep reading to see.

Ute vs Wagon

I wanted a ute. They are built to carry loads with a strong chassis and a tray that can hold a heap of gear. They afford more space than a wagon, which is critical if not towing. Removing the rear row of seats from a Landcruiser or Prado gives you maybe 1200mm of length from the back of the middle row of seats to the tailgate. The length of the dual cab Hilux tray is 1600mm. This meant I could fit one of the longest drawer systems and still have room for a water tank. The Hilux with a canopy on it looks like an extremely long wagon. The cabin and tray area combined are very long. For details on my drawers, click here.

Hilux tray with drawer system

The vast space in the back of a Hilux, with a drawer system installed.

Hilux tray with drawer out

Drawer extended. These drawers are 1280mm long. At the front of the tray, just behind the cab, there was enough room to fit a 55L poly water tank.

Hilux is long.

Utes are made to carry a load and therefore usually have pretty good payload capacities – another reason I chose a ute. See table below comparing payload capacities of various vehicles, sorted from highest to lowest payload. Specifications are for 2014 year models. Note for any cab-chassis models I’ve added 200kg for the tray.

vehicle kerb mass kerb mass with tray gross mass payload
hilux 2wd cab chassis petrol 1375 1575 2780 1205
landcruiser 70 series single cab chassis 2065 2265 3300 1035
hilux 4WD dual cab petrol 1840 1840 2810 970
hilux 4wd cab chassis diesel 1680 1880 2835 955
landcruiser 70 dual cab chassis 2205 2405 3300 895
hilux 4WD dual cab diesel 1920 1920 2780 860
landcruiser 70 wagon 2295 2295 3060 765
landcruiser 200 petrol 2660 2660 3350 690
kluger 2065 2065 2740 675
prado diesel 2320 2320 2990 670
prado petrol 2250 2250 2900 650
landcruiser 200 diesel 2730 2730 3350 620
rav 4 diesel 1640 1640 2190 550
FJ cruiser 2000 2000 2510 510
rav 4 petrol 1630 1630 2130 500
suzuki alto auto 905 905 1250 345

A two wheel drive hilux has the highest payload out of anything Toyota Australia sells! The 4WD hilux is up towards the top too. Pretty good option if you want to carry lots of gear reliably and do it within the operating limits of the vehicle. You don’t get much extra payload capacity with the big wagons, and often you get less. Most of the vehicle’s extra strength goes into carrying its own bloated bulk! With a dual cab ute you get the load carrying ability whilst having the flexibility of a 5 seater.

A ute is also lighter than a bulky luxury wagon. The difference between a Hilux and a Landcruiser is a good several hundred kgs depending on model which saves fuel and unnecessary wear (the difference is 810kg between my dual cab diesel hilux and a 200 series diesel landcruiser). If bogged, a lighter car could be the difference between being able to extract yourself or requiring external help. Unable to self extract from being bogged on a remote beach on a rising tide? You better call your insurance company. Reduced weight minimizes that risk. Light weight also reduces load on everything related to touring and offroading – drivetrain, tyres, track surface and the environment.

Leaf Springs

I’m not some whingy modern consumer who demands a “more comfortable ride.” Instead, I demand less time in the rat race and more time exploring the world. My car is for reliably transporting me and my stuff to places where I want to go. For this application, leaf springs are best.

Despite claims of leaf springs being an outdated design, the design is inherently strong and will always be stronger than other arrangements given the same design constraints and costs. Leaf springs have two fixing points to the chassis, instantly halving stress per suspension mounting whilst simultaneously distributing the load more widely across the chassis. This is particularly good for the chassis when carrying heavy stuff, since there is not a single point above the axle acting like a fulcrum where the chassis may become fatigued. Instead the load is distributed both in front of and behind the rear axle. In dynamic conditions load is spread over 3 points since the shock absorber takes some load. This means three fixing points compared to the one for coil-over-strut suspension, which means roughly 1/3 the load per mount. The suspension mounts for leaf springs are directly under the chassis rails, so load is directed straight into the mount. Other arrangements have brackets or strut towers on the side of the chassis rail, where the load is directed in a way that tries to twist off the mount which leads to a higher risk of failure. Leaf springs also serve to locate the axle, negating the need for locating arms or rods and providing a simpler, stronger design. Another disadvantage with coil springs is that for heavy loads they end up being too long, potentially interfering with deck space. If you try to keep them within the space constraints of a typical ute or truck with a tray then coil springs are probably going to be too soft to support much of a load.

So, for me, for an outback tourer heavily loaded in remote areas, leaf springs are a must. Not only do they have all the advantages described above, but I’m also perfectly comfortable driving around in my leaf sprung vehicle. I’ve never felt discomfort from a stiff ride. People pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for that stiff ride feeling in exotic sports cars. Why are leaf springs uncomfortable? Because sophisticated middle class people should have bulky four wheel drives with a soft ride? Do you get bruises on your ass? I go camping in the bush, voluntarily exposing every inch of my body to dirt, dust and biting insects and going without showers for weeks. I do this for fun. I’m not going to care about some bumps in the road or some marketing rubbish that tells me softer is better! If you want to maximise comfort stay home on the couch.

Some people suggest the reason that leaf springs remain in new designs is due to some sort of tax incentive in Thailand, where the Hilux and many other utes are made. How do you explain every other ute with leaf springs? What about all the American built pick-up trucks with leaf springs?

Ford F150

Here is an American Ford F150

Ford F150 leaf spring

The Ford F150 has leaf springs and so do most of the other makes and models of large American pickups. Why? Because of Thailand tax rules? I doubt it!

mahindra pick-up leaf spring suspension

Here’s a Mahindra Pick-up. Designed and built in India. Note the leaf springs. Wow those Thai are influential!

kenworth T909

Here is a 2014 Kenworth T909 6 x 4 truck. Its got a 15 litre engine and has a maximum total mass including trailers of 130,000kg.

kenworth leaf springs

Here’s the leaf springs on the Kenworth truck. Thai tax rules!

More Truck-like Handling

Apparently some of the later models of utes have “more car-like handling.” This has completely no appeal to me in the same way that softer suspension has no appeal to me. I have adequate driving skills and perfectly good arms and legs to be able to easily control my hilux. Why is more car-like handling better? How does that help me with my goal to carry me and my stuff to remote areas? Why do I need to make something that is already incredibly easy, even more easy, just because marketing tells me it’s better?

If competitors and newer models have more car-like handling this implies that my Hilux has more truck-like handling. A vehicle that has more truck-like handling means it has other truck-like attributes. For example the ability to carry heavy stuff reliably in heavy duty environments. This is exactly what I want.

To have more car-like handling means making compromises such as increased complexity, reduced strength, increased cost and sacrificing overall quality in order to maintain total cost within market expectations. These compromises are ok for going to the shops and dropping the kids to school but not for carrying hundreds of kilos of gear on rough tracks into remote areas. Forget about the bullcrap marketing and bring on the truck-like handling I say!

Rear Drum Brakes

A Hilux has rear drum brakes. Like leaf springs, many people believe drum brakes are an outdated design and should be immediately discontinued across the board.

Let’s first rule out the Thailand tax rules again. Many vehicles, including the Amarok and Mahindra, that aren’t built in Thailand, also have rear drum brakes. Even some American designed small cars have rear drum brakes (you’ll see why American pickups have rear disc brakes further down in the article).

Drum brakes can lock up the wheels. So, in terms of stopping your car, you can’t get any better. The maximum friction of the tyres can be exceeded by drum brakes. Disc brakes are better at staying cool and resisting fade. Up front the Hilux utilises disc brakes which makes sense since the front brakes suffer 2 to 3 times the heat loading of the rear brakes due to front brake bias. Since the rear brakes have a much lower heat loading it is extremely rare that they would suffer from brake fade. Actually I’d have a guess that Toyota have designed the system so that both front and rear approach brake fade at roughly the same time. This design criteria means fully utilising each component without wasting resources incorporating excess capacity that can’t fully be used.

So rear disc brakes offer practically no advantage. The disadvantage of disc brakes – higher cost and a more complicated and expensive hand brake. You want more cost for a less reliable, more complicated hand brake with no performance benefits for the intended application? No. The best solution for this case are rear drum brakes.

Why do many cars have four wheel disc brakes? Why do American pickups have rear disc brakes? Mainly it’s marketing and fashion. It appeals to fashionable people. Rear drum brakes are not trendy – they don’t look as nice through your 19 inch mag wheels. Four wheel discs are also useful in circumstances that require repeated high speed application of brakes – for example racing. So if you are fashionable and / or racing then 4 wheel disc brakes are the right tools for the job. For carrying you and your stuff reliably and economically in remote areas – front discs and rear drums are perfect. Forget about the marketing bullcrap.

You might argue that, for the small extra cost, manufacturers should just bite the bullet and go with four wheel discs across the board. In isolation this seems like a reasonable thing to do. But apply this philosophy consistently throughout the entire design of a vehicle, whilst simultaneously maintaining costs to meet the target market, and you end up with a very fashionable pile of crap. Like a Jeep.

Diesel Clatter

My model hilux , with the D4D 1KD-FTV diesel engine, is quiet enough at all speeds to be able to chill out to some tunes and easily hold a conversation. But the engine is still easily recognisable as being diesel. Heavy duty, truck-like diesel. Yeah, that’s the sound of getting shit done. That’s the sound of heading off to the bush. It reminds me of childhood camping missions with my old man in his old 60 series diesel landcruiser.

Apparently some newer diesels are quieter and sound less diesel like. This has exactly zero appeal to me. My car is already quiet enough to listen to music and comfortably have a conversation. Why does it need to be quieter? Because of marketing? I find it amusing that, in some forums, I see people discussing how a certain engine is much noisier than another, with the quieter one assumed to be better. Then in another part of the forum they’re talking about putting in a bigger exhaust and removing the muffler and then reporting how good it sounds. So both quieter and louder are simultaneously better! Spend money upgrading to the quieter new model. Spend more money on after market parts to make it louder.

Manual vs Auto

All of the vehicles I’ve owned have been manual transmissions and will continue to be. Manuals are more fun to drive, are able to be push started and use less fuel which can lead to a substantial saving over the life of a vehicle. Manuals fail more gradually in my opinion so there’s time to do something before you’re stranded which is handy if you’re out bush. You can also move the vehicle with the starter motor in an emergency, say if you stall during a water crossing. Or you can start the vehicle in gear if you want to prevent any chance of rollback, for example when starting on a steep hill. Also, if planning to keep a vehicle for a long time, complicated modern automatic gearboxes might be no good. When they eventually fail you might end up with a hefty repair bill replacing solenoids, sensors, actuators, servo motors and clutch packs, which on a heavily depreciated older car, might mean a trip to car heaven.

Autos sap motors of their life, making them feel dull, sloppy and boring. I experienced many times where a person, accustomed to automatics, has driven a 4 cylinder manual and stating something along the lines of “perky little car you got there.” Actually it’s just a standard crappy old 4 cylinder, it just hasn’t had its life sucked out of it by a lumbering auto gearbox.

Manuals give better control. The gear it’s in is always the gear you want it to be in. Offroad, they provide better engine braking and more responsive power which makes them safer on steep terrain. Provided you’ve got low enough gearing, in a manual you can chug along smoothly and slowly on very steep terrain, ascending or descending at basically idle rpm, without having to touch the brake pedal or accelerator pedal. The direct drive means stepping up over a rock or ledge is smooth and requires no extra throttle input as the drivetrain immediately loads up and pushes the vehicle up the obstacle. Dropping down a rock or step results in immediate engine braking and a safe and slow descent, again with no adjustment required to throttle or any requirement to touch the brakes. Going slowly on the steep stuff in an auto requires constant adjustments to the throttle to make it up over obstacles and then immediate backing off of the throttle and application of brakes when dropping down obstacles. The throttle and braking cannot be done with perfect anticipation which often results in failure to advance up obstacles and dropping down obstacles too quickly. Note an auto can be better over rough terrain if a vehicle doesn’t have sufficiently low gearing. The auto allows some engine slip at crawling speed through the torque converter, whereas on a manual you need to be constantly playing with the clutch, sometimes letting it slip excessively, to achieve the same result.

In sand autos can suffer from overheating issues, especially up very long sand dunes or when bogged churning through very deep sand. Some people prefer autos in sand because of their quick gear change. It’s a valid point, but I think the disadvantage of a manual mostly comes down to poor gear selection and not airing down tyres enough. With experience you chose the right gear for the job. With correct air pressure you should be floating on top so changing gears in a manual is easy. Depressing the clutch won’t suddenly stop your vehicle if your tyre pressures are good. Still it’s not possible to always pick the perfect gear and autos do have their advantages in sand.

Automatic gearboxes also promote unhealthy driving behaviour, such as accelerating hard towards a red light, or accelerating hard towards a stopped vehicle in slow traffic. It is crazy to burn fuel and wear out your car in that manner and an automatic gearbox makes it too easy to do. Just squeeze the throttle slightly and it will keep accelerating, keep changing to higher gears, right up until you need to slam on the brakes. I’ve noticed myself doing it when driving an auto even though I easily avoid doing it in a manual. A manual means you are more conscious of your speed. Speed is directly correlated with throttle position so it’s more intuitive to regulate, rather than in an auto where a fixed throttle position can yield a forever accelerating car as it changes gears. It takes more effort to constantly accelerate and slow down in a manual. You are more likely to try to pick a more reasonable speed to suit the traffic or approaching red light. In doing so you save fuel, reduce wear, save resources, reduce driver stress, reduce the risk of an accident and reduce your impact on the environment.

Another reason I prefer manuals – I have perfectly functional arms and legs and I enjoy using them! If I didn’t want to use them I’d stay home. I don’t want to make driving more boring than it already is. It’s not like I’ve got other stuff to do whilst driving. Might as well make it a more engaging experience.

Auto’s do have advantages which may be handy for some people, these are just my reasons for wanting a manual.

Four Cylinders

I want to use as least fuel as possible on my touring. This improves my touring capability since it means I have more resources to fund it. In my opinion more than four cylinders are unnecessary – rarely there might be a good reason for it but usually not. Modern four cylinders will tow just about anything and have plenty of power. Many people are towing large caravans with four cylinder vehicles without a problem. They have as much power as larger engines of a few years ago. Regardless of your views on global warming, we are using energy at an unsustainable rate. With everything we do we should be optimising our energy usage so that we conserve the environment. For really heavy towing, like a 3.5 tonne caravan or fifth wheeler, a larger engined vehicle may be better, even though a 4 cylinder ute is rated to tow it. A larger engine should be less stressed and more reliable in this sort of application, ,and a heavier vehicle will afford more stability. But if you do want to tow a fifth wheeler then perhaps you need to have a think about what you are trying to achieve when travelling the outback. Replicating your house is not what you are trying to achieve. If that’s your goal then stay home. If travelling then scale down, simplify and enjoy nature. Save some energy for future generations and free up some beer funds. Experience the wilderness rather than isolating yourself from it in a fancy box. If you really need more power from a smaller engine consider fitting a diesel performance chip. This will come at the expense of reliability.


I don’t want gimmicky electronic engagement of 4WD or hill descent control or traction aids. What does it provide that simple mechanical 4WD engagement and a low range manual gearbox doesn’t? Nothing, except complexity and points of failure. Sounds good to fashionable people but not for me. Hill descent control is ridiculous in my opinion. Vehicles 60 years old can do the same thing with a low range gearbox and without the complexity of sensors, actuators, computerised processors, hundreds of lines of programming code and all the added wear associated with rapidly pulsing the brakes. Actually vehicles 60 years old could do it better, since a low range box will not only control descent speed, prevent locking up wheels and negate the need to touch any pedals, it also provides motive force to smoothly mount any steps, ledges or rocks encountered during the descent. Better performance, simpler, more reliable and 60 years old. Hill descent control is crap!

I don’t want constant 4WD either. Carting around an extra differential, turning all those extra shafts and gears, and doing it whilst on a high traction surface and cruising on a highway? Seems wasteful to me. Save weight and fuel with selectable 4WD. It may be fun in a full time 4WD to be able to plant your foot around a corner in wet conditions but it’s a big price to pay. I’d rather not plant my foot, save the environment and buy more beer.

Commercial utes are generally simpler than other 4WDs. The focus is more on reliability and functionality rather than keeping up with technology for its own sake. The Hilux also has fewer gimmicks than other brands of ute. My experience suggests Toyota have sacrificed gimmicks to allow more investment in strength and durability. Sadly more gimmicks are creeping in – it’s a law of nature. People are (falsely) convinced that gizmos buy them happiness and so motor companies put them in.

Hilux interior

The simple yet functional interior of the Hilux. Note the old school 4WD selection gearstick – the most fun way to engage 4WD. Only tough vehicles have two gearsticks.

Reputation for Strength and Reliability

Hilux has a reputation for strength and reliability. In mining they are used almost universally – there must be some history as to why this has come about. I’ve been on mines that experimented with some other brands. They suffered from problems such as interior panels falling off, electric window buttons failing, stereo failing, electronic 4WD engagement system failing, limp mode being randomly activated, catching fire, gears crunching and general development of rattles around the cabin and strange noises from under the hood. They don’t like constant exposure to corrugations and dust. The Hiluxes suffer no such problems. I’ve also noticed, when driving down rough dirt tracks at high speeds, that other utes feel tinny and unstable. I’ve experienced the vehicle stability control being activated as the vehicle nervously squirms around after hitting a big bump at speed. The Hilux on the other hand feels solid and stable. The money you hand over for a Hilux goes into good quality components, durable finishings and a strong, reliable drivetrain.

As a whole Toyota is a pretty reliable brand. In vehicle reliability surveys across all major brands, Toyota regularly comes in first or second. When Toyota comes second, usually Lexus is first (another Toyota brand).

With the Hilux you are getting a model with a great reputation for reliability within one of the most reliable vehicle brands. A double win for reliability.


My frugal nature, desire to maximise my time in the outback, fully functioning arms and legs, bruise resistant ass, desire to not tow, experience on the mines and requirement for robust reliable transport meant it was an easy decision for me to choose a manual Hilux as my outback touring truck. So far it has performed without a glitch. It’s also comfortable and drives surprising well. Despite the truck like handling, it’s the best handling vehicle I’ve ever owned. Wind and road noise at cruising speed is low (remember I used to have a soft top Suzuki Sierra). I’d love to use less fuel. I average maybe around 10.5L/100km on the trip whilst touring  depending on my cruising speed and how much offroading I do –  well above the 8.5L/100km calculated according to ADR testing. Mind you when you’re carrying a ton of gear and have stuff on the roof and throw in a bit of offroading as well you can expect to consume extra fuel. Overall I’m very satisfied with the car. I hope I get to enjoy it for many years to come.

A ute is not a perfect tourer. They will always have less mod cons, a less comfortable interior, less powerful engine and a less refined ride than a luxury 4WD. You also can’t (legally) carry 8 people. These are the things to weigh up when deciding the best tourer for you.

A Note on Hilux vs Landcruiser

Since the Hilux and Landcruiser ute have similar payloads and towing capacities, you might think that the Landcruiser is a big fat waste of vehicle. This is only partly true. The Landcruiser is a more heavy duty design. This means that if you are consistently pushing the limits of payload and towing, and if the vehicle will likely endure abuse, aggressive driving, towing offroad and shock loads, then the Landcruiser should last longer. At light to medium loads and with careful driving both vehicles should have similar longevity. The Landcruiser has to endure carting around its own bloated self which contributes to excess wear, and it’s not like you can stop 4 cylinders in the big V8 engine from moving when not needed. All of the vehicle wears out all of the time even when under-utilized. It wears itself out just from keeping itself going. But the Landcruiser is more likely to withstand abuse and heavy loads for long periods of time.

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See also:

Our Hilux Setup

Hilux Fuel Efficiency

Why No Diesel Performance Chip?

Design Compromise

How to Catch Barramundi

How to Improve Fuel Efficiency

Touring / Travelling Phone and Internet Setup

XXXX Gold – The Great Mystery of the Top End

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more articles by outbackjoe

31 replies »

  1. Hi Outbackjoe, I have a 1999 3ltr diesel Hilux and want to do some driving on Moreton and Fraser Islands. Could you tell if it is OK to leave the hubs permanently engaged while on the island. I will be driving from soft sand to hard packed wet beach sand and would rather not have to manually continually engage and disengage those hubs.
    Thanks so much for your help.
    Regards – Steve

    • Yo Steve yeah leave ya hubs locked dude. Unlocking them yields a very minor decrease in wear and improvement in fuel consumption. Over the life of the vehicle it might accumulate to be worth unlocking when not using 4wd for a long time. But for when you are going to engage it often just leave the hubs locked. On Fraser you’ll keep 4wd engaged permanently anyways. Have fun, cruising around those islands is awesome.

  2. Hi outbackjoe. I bought a second hand hilux ute some time ago. its a 2000 model 4wd 4 cylinder 2.7 litre petrol. Its in pretty good shape. and I like the fact that it does nt have any complex electronic features. I changed all oils and spark plugs, air filter. Its very strong and reliable in off road conditions. The only things which I don t like is , its giving me about 12l/100kms ( approximately, i think ) unloaded. and have to rev the engine up a lot to get some decent power while climbing a hill. any suggestions ?

  3. Great site. It’s wonderful to have someone who can back up their opinions with some simple physics and some nice hard numbers (I found the page on failure fascinating, I really enjoyed it. The tyre pressure article also). I have just bought a 2010 Hilux 4wd diesel twin cab and am in serious head nodding agreement with pretty much everything I have read on your site so far … However (here it comes … ) I must disagree a bit about Manual vs Auto. I agree that with an manual transmission you are more focused on driving the car, but autos have a couple of advantages that you skipped : They pretty much won’t stall – this can be a problem if you are an inexperienced 4wheeldriver and we all are at some point are we not? Also I dispute “Automatic gearboxes also promote unhealthy driving behaviour, such as accelerating hard towards a red light, or accelerating hard towards a stopped vehicle in peak hour traffic”. This sounds like more of a personal behavioral issue than a legitimate criticism of the hardware. I posit an alternative – most of the travel I do in my Hilux is (unfortunately) about town, quite a bit in traffic and it is simply easier and more relaxing (hence less tiring and so safer ?) to do this in an automatic. Now at this point I should point out that I originally intended buying a manual for pretty much the reasons you have outlined but after waiting a long time for the perfect Hilux to emerge on someones lot so I could snaffle it finally compromised on the auto (my first). However in a flurry of rationalization I have become a bit of a convert and have come to appreciate its advantages. How far are you going to go on that starter motor by the way? Again thanks for the best 4wdriving site I have found out here in wild wild web land.

    • Yo Nick thanks for your feedback. Yeah I am biased on the manual vs auto but this article is about why I got my car and not meant to be a comprehensive manual vs auto analysis. So I’ve not mentioned the advantages of an automatic. But I still reckon that all things being equal (including behavior) an auto gearbox increases likelihood of poor driving habits. Put your foot down and it keeps up changing and accelerating with no regard for having to stop at the red light or whatever is ahead.

  4. Hello Joe,
    Thank you for the well thought out and delivered articles. It is nice to have a sensible voice in the 4wd mob. I have read quite a few of the pieces, but can’t come at reading the barramundi one as I would end up depressed. I live about as far away as you can get from barra, here in Tassie. Also, most of the time if you put your windows down you would freeze.


    • Yo Brett you’re welcome dude. No barra where you are but maybe trout instead? I’ve tried trout fishing in SW WA but not luck. Was cold though, is Tasmania even colder? Anything below 30 degrees is too cold for me. Read the barra article and take your car to the mainland and head up north and catch one. You won’t regret it.

  5. Hey Outbackjoe, I was also struggling with the auto vs manual, but made up my mind and getting a manual. They say great minds think alike. Have a good one.

  6. I just came across your website while researching the aspects of using a 4WD wagon / hardtop vs. a ute when touring in Australia. I poked around the rest of your site and really liked your logic and reasoning, which clearly comes from experience in the engineering world. Lots of great information, well presented and substantiated with great arguments.

    There was one point however which seems to run counter to your otherwise flawless logic, as for example demonstrated in your discussion about “cheap insurance” on the maintenance topic. And this point is your statement about sustainability:

    “Regardless of your views on global warming, we are using energy at an unsustainable rate. […] Save some energy for future generations and free up some beer funds.”

    I notice this over and over again, even among scientists, who advocate that energy (or resources more broadly) must be saved so that there is something left for future generations. This argument is flawed, because if the resource is truly finite, then it must run out eventually if we keep using it. The only way to really conserve it is to not use it all. So saving a resource today makes future generations no better off; it only delays the inevitable. This is not sustainable at all!

    But this is not the only reason why the sustainability argument if flawed. The other is that it is completely impossible for us to predict which resources future generations will actually require. History has shown time and time again that what previous generations considered valuable and scarce resources became useless or widely available only a few decades later. Examples include naturally occurring graphite (which used to be mined and due to its scarcity was highly restricted and regulated, but can be synthesized much more efficiently and cheaply today) or yew trees (which were the prime materials for long bows, but became worthless for this purpose once fire arms were invented). Bottom line: technological progress makes it impossible to predict which resources will be required in the future, and therefore which resources must be conserved today.

    I fully concede that there is a CONSERVATION argument that goes along with using resources – i.e. not destroying the environment while obtaining or using resources. The climate change argument falls in this category. This is a very valid concern, but it is not about saving energy for future generations. It’s about not destroying the planet.

    • Hey Dan

      Not destroying the planet is valid? Not destroying it means the planet is healthy in the future? Your argument immediately makes no sense, since eventually the sun will become a red giant and swallow the earth, so conservation is, in your words, only delaying the inevitable. Your philosophy “if it’s finite then it’s not worth protecting” equally applies to conservation as it does to resources. You have contradicted yourself.

      Predicting the future is irrelevant. If you use resources then there’s less of it left. That will impact the future for sure, exactly how we don’t know, nor is it important. If you reduce resource use then you reduce the future impact, whatever that may be.

      There is no way to consume resources without damaging the environment. Conservation and resource use are the same thing. You can use the same resources but do it in a way that conserves the environment better. This reduces damage to environment. Or you can reduce the amount of resources you use. Again you reduce damage to environment, since the damage caused by your consumption is scaled down with your reduced use. Or you do both – reduce use and do it in a way to minimise damage. Doubly good.

      Think of it as trying to maximise happiness. Resources, the environment and the entire earth will eventually end. But let’s try to maximise the amount of people that can benefit from the resources and envirnoment we have.


  7. Thanks for your response, Joe.

    Just to be clear: I don’t advocate using resources just for the fun of it, and I don’t mean to imply that I don’t care about what happens to our planet after I’m no longer on it. Far from it.

    My point is that saving energy / resources so that future generations can use them is not an actionable objective.

    Let’s take the example of oil for a minute. If you assume that oil will last for 100 years at current usage levels, then by how much should we cut our current usage to meet the objective of “saving it for future generations”?

    Should we cut it by 50%, so that it lasts us for 200 years? Or maybe bring it down by 90% so that it lasts another 1,000 years? Which is preferable, and where does it stop? Wouldn’t it be better for the first generation after oil runs out if we would’ve just saved a tiny bit more?

    If we want to maximise for the number of people who can enjoy the benefits of oil (paraphrasing your suggestion here), what does that specifically mean? Wouldn’t we have to reduce our consumption to virtually zero? And how much benefit is there if we cut back the usage considerably *per person*?

    And what happens when it eventually does run out, say in 200 years? Where’s the difference to what would happen if it ran out in 1,000 years, or in 100?

    Your hypothesis is that we’re basically screwed once we’ve used up a resource, and whatever benefit we got from it can never be obtained in the future from that point forward – that’s why it makes sense to prolong the benefit (but it’s still impossible to say by how *much* we should prolong the future usage, because there is some sort of inter-temporal social justice argument going on here).

    My hypothesis is that this event is NOT the end of the world or even only a step down in human development, because history has shown that humans will find a different way of generating the same benefit through using substitutes or new technologies. And it doesn’t really matter if that happens in 100 years, 200 years or 1,000 years from now.

    I don’t disagree that usage of resources and environmental destruction can often go hand in hand. But the difference is that we can derive actionable and quantifiable resource usage constraints based on scientific data in order to prevent the destruction of our planet (and this is indeed an event we cannot recover from!).

    To keep with the fossil fuel example, we can come up with emission targets to prevent climate change reaching the tipping point, or acceptable pollution levels that prevent forests dying or humans suffering from health problems. We have data to support these restrictions, and in most cases the data doesn’t say that we should stop using a resource altogether.

    We don’t have any such data for the objective of “saving a resource for future generations” – because that objective cannot be achieved, and any target between 0% savings and 100% savings cannot be justified based on logic or science (and must therefore be arbitrary).

    PS: Sorry mate – I didn’t want to hijack your blog for this, but it’s something that I am confronted with on a lot of political levels these days and it leads to poor policy- and decision-making. I’ll leave it at this. Thanks for the awesome information on the site.

    • Hi Dan

      The fact that you find it difficult to put a figure on appropriate fossil fuel usuage is irrelevent. The point is less use = less damage to the environment. I am sure it’s possible to commission a study that would advise appropriate level of fossil fuel usage to maximise long term human happiness, if it’s a number you need to make you happy. Picking a number for carbon emissions is no different. It’s just picking a number on a continuous spectrum. I don’t really care about the number. I prefer to understand the spectrum.

      Are you suggesting that we judge stuff based on how easy it is to dream up a “KPI” for it? I don’t really care how easy it is to dream up a number. The concept is more important than the number.

      Actually I think having a “KPI” is a bad thing because it distracts you from what you are trying to achieve. I have found it in my work on the projects I work on, that since KPIs have become trendy, the focus becomes micromanaging the KPIs, exploiting the KPIs and reporting the KPIs. It becomes a big, wasteful, inefficient bureaucracy which sacrifices what you are actually trying to achieve for the sake of the KPIs. In the old days these projects were just a small group of dudes knowing exactly what’s required, focused on getting sh!t done to achieve that. No KPIs.

      So, based on my experience:

      understanding less fossil fuel use = more for the future and better environment

      is more important and gives better results than targeting X carbon emissions. Understanding the concept means that protecting the environment becomes inherent in our thoughts and behavior rather than an externally enforced target. Having an emissions target means wasting energy managing, measuring and reporting on the target. It means inventing ways to adhere to the target that may exploit a loophole and actually be bad for the environment, which is against the intention of the target.

      Companies supply what the public wants. If we want to use less resources and protect the environment then companies will abide. Emissions will drop, fossil fuel use will drop, the environment will be better, future generations will be happier. All without any emissions target. The emissions target forces companies so supply something that the market does not want. It’s better to teach people that, actually, you don’t need a V8 4WD to commute to work or go fishing, it won’t make you any happier, and it damages the environment and leaves less fuel for future generations. Actually it makes you less happy since you now have less money to go fishing with. Less happy, bad for the environment and less energy for future generations. Seems like a no brainer to me. This is what I am trying to convey in my articles. This is better than taxing the company that makes V8 powered fuel guzzlers.

      I never said anything about being screwed or the end of the world. It’s about maximising happiness. It’s about understanding opportunity cost of depleting resources now. It comes at future expense. There’s always opportunity cost.

      Consider the following:

      – All resources are finite.
      – Using resources damages the environment. Consumption = environmental impact. The intricacies of how to measure the impact are irrelevant. In general, reducing consumption is good for the environment.
      – When a fossil fuel is exhausted it is replaced with a different source of energy.
      – If an environment is destroyed it is replaced by another environment, which equates to the line above and invalidates your “fossil fuels will be replaced so don’t need to be protected” point.
      – Fossil fuels and any technologies that replace it will not last forever.
      – The environment won’t last forever. This invalidates your “it’s gonna run out anyway” point.
      – The earth wont last forever.
      – The sun won’t last forever.
      – Regardless of new or developing technologies, using energy = less energy for the future. The proof is the second law of thermodynamics. So any energy use is at the expense of future generations. There’s always opportunity cost.

      Given the above, can you propose a philosophy that would discriminate between resource use and the environment in the way you describe? Don’t use examples, or stories, or percentages. Don’t refer specifically to the environment or resources. I want a pure philosophy. Given the points above, I think you’ll find such a philosophy is logically impossible and thus discrimination between resources and the environment is arbitrary and makes no sense.

      My philosophy is:

      maximise happiness based on benefits of using now vs opportunity cost of using now

      This equally applies to the environment, resources, money in the bank or fine wine. I see no problem with the logic.


  8. I agree with you on a lot of your points here. But I am curious, did you ever consider an older bone stock (pre 2002) 12 or 24 valve cummins diesel? I understand that would be breaking the 4 cylinder limit, but there are many qualities that make it a very close contender. You may not even have an opinion on them, but if you do please share.

  9. Outback Joe

    I have read a lot of your blog posts and great deal of the comments.
    What is consistent is that you never concede any good points raised.

    You talk about saving resources for the future. You could do a much better job if you sold your Hilux and didn’t travel.
    That would be far nobler than touring around the country, piously criticising all who do meet with your reverse engineered view of how we should live our lives.

    There are many points in your logic that seem perfectly logical, except that they are wrong and are not based on your actual experience, but your selective google research.

    So you say save resources for future generations. So they can use the fuel you save and those fossil fuels still get burnt and released into the atmosphere. Driving around in your Hilux as conservatively as possible so others can use the fuel you saved will not help the environment. Not driving your Hilux at all will do something. That would be a strong message with conviction to send to governments and companies.

    All your arguments about what everyone should do are reverse engineered around your own personal decisions.
    Half of what you have written is based on extrapolation, not hard evidence. Case in point, you say engines pre EGR and post EGR have both lasted 1,000,000km. However you have no evidence of the difference in maintenance between the two scenarios. Your supposition is based solely on the fact you can see two vehicles advertised for sale with the same Kms.

    You have reduced all science behind the automotive industry down to your understanding and observation, or any research you have done that supports your decisions and arguments.

    You have undertaken a lot of effort to put all your thoughts into a blog. This makes me suspicious as to your real motives.

    • Haha sell the hilux? Don’t travel? More noble? What the hell you on about dude? I’m not here to prove I’m noble. I’ve never seen anyone miss the point by such a massive margin. The point is, if you’re gonna do something, why squander resources when it doesn’t improve your enjoyment? Might as well do it efficiently, be able to afford more of it, and a nice bonus is the environment is better off.

      Using less resources isn’t good for the environment? You’re a genius!

      Such retarded comments make it hard for me to find the motivation to respond and to keep it nice.

      You should read the emissions article before commenting about it. There’s a lot more mentioned about EGR. Or have you read it and understand that when all points are combined a pretty good case has been made but you couldn’t think of any better criticisms other than I haven’t commented on maintenance? I’m talking about vehicles with high mileage on their original engine.

      I’ve got a diesel hilux with EGR and, according to the manufacturer’s service handbook, the maintenance is less than old diesel engines. This is consistent with my experience as well. There are many hiluxes with high mileage. What’s your point?

      What are your good points that I should concede? I don’t see any, to me your post is useless waffle. Nothing constructive, just blanket criticism and dumb logic, in an attempt to discredit. Clearly you have an agenda. Can you specifically refer to cases where my logic is wrong, and use your logic to prove it?

      With such a dumb comment about the environment, combined with useless waffle and blanket criticism, it makes me suspicious of your real motives.

  10. It’s a shame that you take the easy way out and just accuse someone’s argument as waffle.
    Did you actually read my comment? I made the same point as Dan Anderson, that trying to save fossil fuels for the next generation is not sustainable. You didn’t address this logic, you attacked it.
    You have done that twice now, that’s pretty dumb. You had the chance to counter the argument but you chose to attack it as waffle.

    I made the point I had read all you articles and my criticisms were leveled across them all. The idea that my criticisms were just about your emissions blog comes from your imagination, not my comment.

    You mad a comment about manufactures creating cars with suspension that is ideal and does not require modification to improve it. Your argument is flawed when the manufacturer themselves decide to upgrade the suspension in a subsequent model or upgraded spec vehicle. What does that then say about the previous model’s suspension? Was the manufacturer right or wrong?

    Up until November last year it was illegal to raise the suspension of a vehicle fitted with traction control. The automotive accessories industry funded research to test this notion. To conduct this research they enlisted the services of one of the original developers of traction control. The gentleman found it laughable that manufacturers in Australia would take this position based on the wide operating area traction control was designed to cope with.

    The VSB was changed in November 2015, counter to the mandates or manufacturers.

    Here is a logical argument that demonstrates that manufacturers do not always get things right and that after market professionals often have valid science and expertise.

    If you dismiss this as waffle then you are dismissing your own arguments on this blog.

    You have the opportunity here to reply logically.

    • Hey Paul I don’t think that you get my articles, or you choose not to, probably because you have a conflict of interest with after market stuff and big four wheel drives, either selling it or squandering money on it and needing to validate yourself.

      The suspension article doesn’t say the manufacturer’s suspension is ideal. That’s so far away from anything I’d ever say on this blog. Can you check if you’re on the correct website please?

      Clearly don’t get it, or you do but have an agenda, and I can’t be assed wasting time repeating what is already clear in the article. You’ve made no effort to understand the article. Why should I spend time responding? The article says there are compromises in everything and the manufacturer has chosen a reasonable compromise. People don’t need to rush off and get new suspension like some people would have you believe. There is no right or wrong. The fact that you ask what is right and what is wrong means you’re way off understanding the point. After market suspension can be better in certain applications, but is not universally better. I have after market suspension myself, which I state in the article. How can you say something so ridiculous like I think the original suspension is “ideal” whilst I clearly state I have after market suspension? Why should I spend time responding to such a massive misquote? It wastes my time, your time and dilutes the important information with useless waffle which makes the blog less useful to other readers.

      I don’t see how your waffle about the law and traction control and suspension is relevant. Sounds like you are just spewing up irrelevant information to make it appear like you know something, and then calling it “logic”. How does it relate to my articles? What’s the law about after market modifications got to do with the original design? The manufacturers don’t want to be accountable for after market modifications. Sounds like a reasonable position to me. What’s that got to do with the original design?

      Do you need me to repeat my responses to Dan? Nothing lasts forever. Consumption = Environmental Destruction. There is no way around it. Less consumption = less environmental destruction. Where’s this ridiculous school of thought coming from, that you can consume as much as you want without negative impact on the environment? Sounds like people are desperate to justify their massively wasteful lifestyles. Such desperation leads to dumbass arguments.

      Paul I don’t want to go around in circles. You misquote articles, miss the point, make blanket criticisms and post irrelevant stuff. What’s my motivation to engage with that? My blog isn’t right for you. Accept it and move on. Or try to understand, and you might find you can be simultaneously happier, richer and enjoy a cleaner environment.

  11. You give yourself way too much credit, but I guess you need it to come from somewhere.
    Good luck spewing your opinions as facts.

    I’m actually glad you missed my point, it confirms what I suspected.

  12. Hi outbackjoe,
    I enjoyed very much reading your blog. I live now in argentina, but had lived in the aussie bush for several years.Use to have a hilux ute and done a bit of travelling around. Over here, I have a 1996 hilux sfa,and it`s great fpr travelling around providing comfort it is not your number one concern.over here you don`t get everywhere the diesel you need for the more modern engines,plus spare parts and so on are not so easy to find, so an older vehicle it is much better.
    keep up writing mate ! an remember the old latin saying



    • Cheers Oscar ha yeah I’ll keep that saying in mind. Those old hiluxes are great. Transport optimised for moving people and their stuff, rather than for fashion and status.

  13. Hey Joe, some great articles in here.
    Ignore the haters – lighthearted blogs are no place to get pedantic.

    I’m finally making the (backwards) jump to a 4wd from light, fuel efficient hatchbacks.
    My new location no longer allow me to stay on paved roads year round
    I’ve settled on a hilux, which is how I found your website.
    Seems with a turbo diesel, some slight mods, and accepting that I can’t drive as fast as I’m accustomed to, I should be able to maintain my average consumption (~8/100).

    Can you give any advice as to how long hilux engines tend to last?
    My mates in the land cruiser camp seem to think that while I might be doing a solid for the environment in the short term by going hilux over landcruiser, the durability of a landcruiser may result in less landfill over the life of the vehicle.

    What would you say to the argument that I’m just buying landfill scrap if I drop 20k on a mid 2000’s SR5 with upwards of 200k on the dial?

    Thanks for the thoughtful articles

    • Hey Rick depends what you want to do. If you buy a hilux and load it to near full payload and tow at near rated capacity and use near full throttle all the time then it probably won’t last long. You’d be better off with a landcruiser. But if you drive gently and you’re not carting around several tonne then a landcruiser is under utilized and wasteful and a hilux would last yonks whilst saving you thousands of dollars in purchase price and fuel and other ongoing costs.

      I’ve heard of taxis lasting 600k+. Nothing special about those vehicles, they’re not even diesel. It’s the lack of cold starts and cold short commutes.

      Cold starts and cold short commutes kill engines. A hilux that does no short cold stuff and is driven nicely and serviced properly should last 600k+. If you need something to go fetch some milk then you won’t get much out of 300k. You’d be better off with a push bike or scooter or small petrol powered car.

      In terms of buying a 200k hilux there is no special consideration. It’s the same as any second hand vehicle. Do the best you can to purchase one in good condition and with good history and you might get lucky and it lasts 600k. Or it could blow up immediately. Whatever you do avoid short trips on a cold engine if you want to increase the odds of it lasting.

  14. I know it’s an old article but I have to disagree with a lot of your points. I drove around the world in a landrover defender 110. No AC, completely stock. The only problem I incurred was a snapped roof rack from driving over a 4ft deep trench in the road at 60kmh.

    After 12 hours driving we would stop. hot, dusty, sore and tired. There is nothing wrong with roughing it but nowadays I drive an Amarok and we can handle washboard roads in complete comfort- almost silence. Enjoy conversation, cover bigger distance. Average 7l/100km and when we stop for the evening we aren’t tired out and can relax and enjoy out camp. 120,000 km later I would never no back to my loved Landy.

    In terms of reliability. My mother’s ROK has 700,000k on it and I wouldn’t hesitate to set off round the world tomorrow in it.

    Agree that manual is a must though!

  15. Disagree about manuals being more reliable than autos- With regards to newer cars anyway. All of these vehicles are built to a price point, and clutches seem to be a big failure point on modern diesels (ask any 70 series owner). A modern automatic delivers extremely similar fuel economy, the 2018 Hilux has a 300ml difference between the two on a L/100km measurement (Toyota website). Offroad an auto is king for almost everything other than long downhill slopes- Modern autos with downhill assist go a long way to negating that disadvantage, manuals do it better, but the auto isn’t that far behind. I’d also rather be able to load up a torque converter to sneak over a tricky obstacle than be constantly feathering the clutch and accelerator pedal trying to get the correct amount of movement happening, autos are a lot easier to pilot over tricky terrain and you’ve got less chance of smashing driveline components from bouncing around (goodbye CV joint). Finally, the modern off-road tools of traction control, stability control and downhill assist all work better with an auto. Automatics have advantages on sand, and if you drive them like you’re supposed to (lock up the torque converter) you won’t cook them. They are more complex without a doubt, but realistically if something serious happens to either transmission you’re going to be getting towed out- You might be able to get a manual going (it all depends on what fails, if you fry a clutch you’re not going anywhere)- and unless you’ve got specialised tools and parts you can’t do anything about it without a workshop. Did I love my old manual 40 series and 80 series LC? For sure. My 150 Prado would leave both dead in the water off-road- And you’d have to spend piles of money on either of them to get them to keep up. I understand you like simple things, but there’s probably a reason you don’t drive a Hilux made in the 80’s with front and rear live axles, a bog simple 2.8 diesel with no turbo, no electronics and no A/C or FM radio- Newer tech is nice, it works and it’s superior and safer to drive. Your average serious offroad 4wd or dual cab ute is amazingly capable from factory and it’s a shame more people never use them for what they’re designed for- Most doing an incredible job of being both an offroad machine and a soccer mum taxi. To end, I love manual cars, and if I was going to ever own a v8 or drift car I’d take one over an auto every day- They give you more connection to the road and they’re satisfying and enjoyable to drive, but they’re not better than a manual.

  16. I’d also like to point out that if you’re using the truck analogy- Most new trucks are autos as they can push big power through them without smashing things, and autos tow better than a manual- It also removes a point of failure, that being driver abuse.

  17. G’day Joe, what do you think of the new Hilux 2.8 diesel motor as opposed to the old 3.0 litre? I’m pretty close to getting one or the other. I’m like you I will be getting just the SR model nothing to fancy. Love your comments and advice. Thanks for your time. Mick.

    • Hey Mick the 2.8 is a good engine. Efficient, torquey. Only thing reliability is not proven yet. Also I dunno if I’d want to be a tester for toyota to weed out the teething problems of dpf. Plus all the other gizmos that come with the truck i don’t like much.

      If the 2.8 is reliable and dpf is reliable it’s probably better but either engine will do the job, can’t go wrong with the 3.0.

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