Can Any Vehicle Go Off-Roading? You May Be Surprised

There are so many types of cars on the market today. Some of these cars are designed for race tracks, some for city streets, and some for rugged trails. At the beginning of time, there was nothing but dirt roads; every car was an “off-road” car. That is not the case today. All cars are not created equal. Can you take any vehicle you want off-roading? Or can only certain cars go off-road?

Can any vehicle go off-roading? Technically, any car can go off-roading, but that does not mean every car will handle it well. Vehicles with low clearance and standard suspension are at high risk of bottoming out and getting stuck. While off-roading, it is best to use a vehicle that has high clearance, a stiff suspension, and good tires; all these factors will decrease vehicle damage and ensure your safety.

Off-roading tests the ability of the driver as well as the abilities of a car. There are a handful of cars that are looked at as the best off-roading vehicles. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t more that can go off-road. If you feel like your car can off-road, then you can always give it a shot, but do some research about your specific vehicle and the terrain you’ll be taking it on before heading out.

Why You Can Technically Off-Road In Any Car

As we mentioned to you before, nothing is stopping you from off-roading in whatever car you have. But remember that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.  

To better answer this question, many aspects of determining if a vehicle should be off-road or not depend on the type of vehicle and experience of the driver. A well-seasoned off-roader may be able to take just about anything off-road since they have the experience. Gauge your experience and understand your vehicle’s limits. Research the trail you are taking beforehand and understand how difficult it is. You’re not going to have nearly as many opportunities for help If you get stuck while off-roading, because you’re, well, off the road. 

Whatever you decide to do, always bring gear with you that can help you get out of whatever situation you may be in. Such gear may include shovels, tow straps, ropes, and battery cables. Always tell someone where you’re going before you leave and come up with a plan to act on if you’re not home by a certain time.

Reasons Why Low Clearance Vehicles Shouldn’t Go Off-Roading

Low-clearance vehicles can easily get stuck on uneven, off-road terrain. The distance between the ground and a low-level vehicle is so small the undercarriage can take a lot of damage from spots of rocks that jut up. The car can get stuck or have something vital like fuel or brake lines break. Other exposed parts of the undercarriage are also in danger of taking a lot of damage. 

The other problem with low-clearance vehicles and off-roading is if you get stuck or high-centered, there is sometimes very little you can do to get unstuck unless you go prepared with heavy-duty equipment to get you out. An experienced off-roader would tell you that approaching rough terrain should be embraced at an angle, but even that may not save you if you’re in a car with low clearance.

Is It Legal To Off-road In Any Car?

There are currently no laws in the United States that make it illegal to drive a certain type of vehicle off-road. That being said, certain trails are only for hikers, bikers, and horses. It is illegal to take any sort of motorized vehicle onto these trails. There are also specific 4×4 and Jeep trails in which it is legal to drive any vehicle, but it is strongly suggested that you have a good off-roading vehicle to drive on the trail. 

There are also many conservation and protected areas in the United States, so ensure you are on a legal and established trail before you just go off the road anywhere. If you off-road on protected land, there are hefty fines that come along with getting caught. You shouldn’t ever off-road anywhere that there isn’t an established trail, this is especially true in any type of national or state park. Not only can you get fined but you can get banned from parks and possibly face jail time considering the severity of your offense.

Off-roading In Any Car Vs. Off-roading In A Well Equipped Car

There’s essentially a night and day difference between off-roading in any car and off-roading in a well-equipped car made specifically for off-roading. Off-roading in any car, especially a low-clearance vehicle, will allow you to go on a limited number of trails. With a car that is not well equipped, you will have to stick to dirt roads that are well maintained and that aren’t uneven. You can probably handle roads that have small bumps and even some puddles, but that is going to be the limit of what you can do without needing a better-equipped vehicle. 

A well-equipped vehicle, that is specifically designed for off-roading, will be able to do a whole range of things. You may want to look up some of the off-roading trails attempted and completed by Jeeps and other vehicles because some of the things that these cars can make it through are amazing. A well-equipped car with lots of clearance, good shocks, and the right tires will make it over giant boulders, through crazy mud puddles, and even climb over walls of rock. 

Making sure you are prepared and have the right equipment can make a huge difference in your success when off-roading. All that would need to happen is for you to get stuck in a puddle of mud and suddenly you are trying to call up a tow truck (if you have service) and friends to help you get out. Make sure you have tow straps and shovels to help you in the unfortunate event that you get stuck. 

Familiarize yourself with the trails you will be riding so you don’t get lost or end up going down a trail that is much more difficult than you were prepared for. Having things like spare tires and extra fuel is also super important. Having a small toolbox and extra parts for simple components can also help prevent situations where you have to leave a car stranded. 

How To Safely Off-road In Any Car

First, do not try to push a car past its limit. Trying to get through a trail that is more difficult than your vehicle can handle will end up with the car getting stuck, something breaking, someone getting hurt, or a combination of the three. Keep to trails that you are familiar with or stay on trails that you have researched well so you can make sure that you don’t run into any unexpected obstacles. 

There are a ton of resources that you can use to get familiar with trails. Besides detailed maps provided by the BLM and other government entities, there are also vast resources provided on the internet such as bloggers who have traveled the terrains first-hand. You can use things like Google Earth to see detailed satellite views of trails. You can also search on forums to get tips and knowledge from other off-roaders that have ridden on those trails. First-hand experience of riding on trails is invaluable when compared to maps, so utilize these forums and apps that allow for comments so you can ask your questions if needed.

As stated before, when you are in a car that isn’t well equipped for off-roading, you must be equipped with any of the tools you may need. It is important to make sure you have a spare tire, tools for basic repairs, and if you are going somewhere without cell service, a satellite phone. Discuss your plans with a friend or family member who isn’t going with you so they are aware of your whereabouts and make a plan in case you find yourself in an emergency.

Related Questions

Can you take a rental car off-road? Rental cars generally cannot be taken off-road. Rental car companies and rental car insurance strongly advise against off-roading. Some specifically say no off-roading at all. Collision insurance can be purchased for rental cars, however if the damage is extensive enough and was done when off-roading, then it’s possible you won’t be covered. Click here to view the full article.

Does off-roading damage your car? Off-roading will damage your vehicle as it will exert more force and torsion on every system, wearing out parts a lot faster than normal use. The most common damage done to vehicles when offroading is scratched paint, dented rocker panels, damaged lower control arms, and scratched oil pans. Larger damages can include a broken driveline or transmission. Click here to view the full article.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. His passion for cars is his daily motivator and is constantly working on his projects such as restoring his 1966 Bronco, 1968 Firebird, or modifying his 2022 Bronco.

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