4×4 South Africa – Top Considerations to Rent or Buy (2024)

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It was our dream to travel to Africa. And what better way than to plan an open-ended African road trip across this incredible continent?

The first adventure was to 4×4 South Africa.

Getting off the beaten path on a self-drive safari is freedom at its best.

As foreigners, our first decision was whether we should rent or buy a 4×4 South African vehicle.

So, if you are travelling to South Africa, this article will help:

  • Explain the benefits of driving a 4×4 vehicle over a 2×4
  • Where to purchase or rent a South Africa 4 x4 vehicle?
  • Make your decision as to whether to buy or rent a 4×4 overlanding vehicle in South Africa
  • Explain how, as foreigners, we bought and own our South African 4×4
  • Equipment Considerations for a 4×4 South African Vehicle
  • Upgrades completed on our 4×4 in South Africa
  • Should you consider an accredited 4×4 training course in South Africa?
elephant by a car in Addo
Getting right amongst the action!

READ MORE: Driving in South Africa: The Definitive Guide

Planning a Trip to South Africa?


The benefit of travelling in a 4×4 over a 2×4 is that you have the freedom to go almost anywhere where you want.

If your plan is only to visit the main National Parks, for example, to self-drive through Kruger National Park then a 2×4 vehicle would suffice.

But if you want to explore more of the country, and want to maximise your opportunities to get off-road to lesser travelled locations then a 4×4 is a must.

Additionally, if you want to go further afield, such as overlanding Botswana or Namibia, you will definitely need a 4×4.

Off-road or on-road, in wet, dry, rocky, muddy or sandy conditions, 4x4s are made to tackle the harsher terrain.

The advantages of a 4×4 are:

  • Improved height advantage over normal sedans, meaning you will have better game viewing,
  • Improved ground clearance and
  • Off-road vehicle specifications enable the vehicle to handle tougher conditions.
4x4 rental south africa with a rooftop tent that we purchased
Picking up our trusty steed for Africa’s 4×4 trails!
4x4 with doors open at Klaserie
Exploring Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, South Africa


4 x 4 Rental Through an Agency

No doubt about it, there are plenty of 4×4 rental company options to choose from.

Not only will prices vary, but so will the vehicle options.

A trusted and experienced 4×4 rental agency is Motorhome Republic, which deals with reputable 4×4 companies in South Africa, such as Britz and Avis Safari.

Motorhome Republic works for you; acting as the ‘work-horse’ to find the best-priced 4×4 rental deal based on your requirements; at no extra cost to you.

They do the footwork and also have a Price Beat Guarantee.

We used them when we travelled through Europe for a year and they were incredibly helpful and negotiated the best deals for us.

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We recommend using Motorhome Republic to find you the best deal – they search all the local reputable African rental companies, including the most popular (we’ve seen them everywhere here), Avis and Britz

They do all the hard work for you and have a PRICE BEAT GUARANTEE

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4X4 Rental Using Bushlore

Another option is to use Bushlore, one of the main 4×4 rental companies in South Africa.

The go-to man at Bushlore (the Johannesburg branch, South Africa), when you want to rent or buy, check out pricing, or simply have someone ‘local’ answer your queries, is Dieter Marx ([email protected]).

You can check out Bushlore’s rental vehicles and rates here.

Just a quick note, Bushlore offers a minimum rental period of 5 days for rentals within South Africa and a minimum rental period of 7 days for rentals outside of South Africa. 

4x4 camping at a campsite
Campsite in the Eastern Cape, South Africa


We ended up dealing with Bushlore which has its main office in Johannesburg, South Africa.

They have a large 4×4 rental fleet with support offices in most of southern Africa: South Africa (Capetown, Johannesburg), Namibia (Windhoek), Botswana (Maun, Kasane), Zambia (Victoria Falls) and Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls).

The major drawcard for us was that Bushlore retire their pre-equipped 4×4 vehicles and put them up for sale.

(Note: we have no affiliation with Bushlore).


As we are long-term travellers, we decided that 4×4 rental was not feasible and decided to purchase a 2016 double cab 4×4 Toyota Hilux pre-fitted bush camper in South Africa (cost was ZAR 395,000).

For us, this was the most cost-effective means of transport for our long-term travel plans in Africa.

It allowed us the freedom to go where we wanted when we wanted. We also completed an after-market fit out of the 4×4 using a third party for what we wanted.

This additional cost was ZAR 50,000 and included:

  • Replacement steel front bumper
  • Rock-sliders
  • Fabrication and fitment of a fixed aluminium ladder to access the rear accommodation part (the original method was to use a stand-alone step-ladder which we had to place into position. It wasn’t that stable and it was only a matter of time before one of us would have tripped up causing a fall. (In 2023: we have since removed this ladder to gain more internal space and reverted to using the external step ladder)
  • 3x weatherproof canvas side panels that fit onto the existing pull-out canopy to create an extra ‘room’ for protection from the sun, wind, and rain
  • Removal of the back seats and addition of an aluminium security box plus the fitment of ammo boxes for food storage (canned goods). (In 2023: the aluminium security box has since been removed to provide more storage in the rear seat area)
  • Fitting out of the accommodation part of the vehicle with a cargo net for clothes, canvas multi-pocket storage for smaller loose items, and securing the mounting bracket for a 20-litre Lifesaver filtered water container. (In 2023: the 20-litre container is now secured in the rear seat area for easier access)

It’s worth mentioning that Bushlore offered us the single-cab Toyota Land Cruiser, which is the ultimate model for extreme 4×4, just as good for camping and ready for any 4×4 trail, but the Hilux was tough enough for us.

It was cheaper, and we put the money we saved towards the upgrades.

hilux at SAni pass
Descending the Sani Pass was a good testing ground for both vehicle and passenger!


Entering into a 12-month buyback agreement with Bushlore meant that although we had bought the vehicle outright, on paper the ownership and registration would be retained by Bushlore.

This was because we were foreigners and did not have a South African driver’s licence or a Traffic Register Number (TRN).

Under this buyback agreement, when our first year with the 4×4 had expired, we could choose to either opt to sell the 4×4 back to Bushlore, sell to a South African citizen or keep the 4×4 ourselves.

A year was nowhere near enough for the planned travels, so we had every intention of keeping the vehicle.

Bushlore would then arrange a TRN for us, meaning that they would transfer ownership of the 4×4 into our name, but Bushlore would maintain the ongoing vehicle registration in their name, leaving us to find our own South African vehicle insurance provider.

Buying a vehicle sight unseen from a foreign country is potentially a risky venture, but Bushlore was great to deal with. We had a lot of emails back and forwards followed by a couple of calls. They took the time and walked us through the whole purchasing process.

 You can check out Bushlore’s pricing on their different second-hand 4x4s.

Update: Bushlore has stated they are unable to assist foreigners in acquiring a TRN for vehicles bought from them.

Sale contract on the 4x4 South Africa vehicle
It’s a great feeling when you finally have the fully signed contract!


( Feb 2021)

Approaching the end-of-year buyback period, we still had much of Africa to explore, so it was a no-brainer to move ahead, take ownership of the Hilux, and forego initiating the buyback agreement.

We were in Norway at this time, so all this was done remotely, relying on Bushlore, who, again, came through for us.

Bushlore arranged for my own TRN, which allows a foreigner to purchase and own a vehicle in South Africa, at a total cost of R3000. So I was a step closer to ownership.

But at this point in time, our Hilux, although bought outright a year ago, still remained in Bushlore’s name.

The next step was to arrange my own vehicle insurance; without this, the vehicle ownership transfer could not take place. I did some research and tried my luck with some South African insurance companies but I was told that without a South African ID number, I could not proceed.

I took to the Overlanding Africa group on Facebook, a treasure trove of useful information by super helpful people, and put my question on the forum.

South African car rego papers
South African vehicle registration papers

Following up on some recommendations, I settled on an insurance broker in Namibia, Herman Krause Insurance Brokers, who could offer both 3rd party and comprehensive insurance for all countries in Southern and Eastern Africa we intended to overland.

It was a straightforward process — I simply had to forward full vehicle details with modifications, personal identification and vehicle registration papers. I explained to the insurance company that the vehicle was not yet registered in my name and that this was part of the process I needed to follow to transfer it to me – there were no issues with pushing ahead with the insurance.

Now, with my own vehicle insurance in place, Bushlore could take the vehicle for a roadworthy inspection. It failed twice but passed on the third attempt – just little issues, luckily.

The transfer was now purely an administrative exercise, and I soon received my certificate of ownership (NATIS), roadworthy certificate and the new licence disc in my name.

As we had no fixed address in Africa, Bushlore kindly agreed to have the annual renewal of the licence disc sent to them, which they would then forward to us, wherever that was in Africa. (2024 Update: this process of using Bushlore as an intermediary is working just fine without any hiccups)

Now, we were truly the proud owners of our own Hilux 4×4 bush camper.

Campsite in the bush
Campsite at Oudtshoorn, Western Cape


There are certainly different options for 4×4 equipment and 4×4 camper accessories that may be a good fit for what you need.

Here are a few of the important ones to consider:

Sleeping Arrangements with a 4×4

The big question here is ‘Where do I or do we sleep’?

Options vary from a traditional ground tent to a more versatile rooftop tent. A ground tent allows you to leave it erected on-site and then drive away, whereas you will need to pack down your rooftop tent before you head off.

For our rooftop pop-up hard shell tent, it takes about 10 seconds (no joke) to get the tent up in place – a simple matter of opening 2 latches. Different designs of soft-shell rooftop tents take longer as there are metal tension poles to put in place for the window awnings.

Another positive for our style of a rooftop tent is that the bedding remains made up on the mattress when you close it so that you just pop the tent open, and voila, your bed is ready-made. The pillows need to be taken off the mattress to close the tent top properly.

Another benefit of having the hard-shell top is that this allows for the installation of a solar cell that charges the second (auxiliary) battery.

Cold Food Storage

Our Hilux has one 40-litre fridge/freezer which we choose to operate just as a refrigerator. Why? Well, frozen food was kept frozen but unfortunately also froze everything else in the compartment including fresh fruit and vegetables even though these items were placed at the top of the compartment.

Newer model fridges/ freezers may do a better job than ours however I now see that 4×4 vehicles are equipped with two units, one acting as a refrigerator only and the other as a freezer.

4×4 Awning

Whether it’s raining or you need shade from the sun, a pull-out awning is a must-have item. In addition, we purchased some vertical panels that attach to the awning to block both the wind and rain.

4x4 with rooftop tent up, awning extended and side panels in place
4×4 with rooftop tent up, awning extended and side panels in place

A Second Battery

In times when you aren’t driving, the refrigerator will draw power from a second battery which can be charged via a solar cell. Alternatively, you can rely on campsites with mains power.

Ideally, the second battery should be a deep cycle battery which is ideal for longer sustained use.

Car Jack

Does your 4×4 have the correct load capacity?

The vehicle weight increases markedly with the extra cab and accessories fitted on the back and as such, the original car jack might now be under-rated for the lifting task.


Running with two spare tyres is the preferred option.

Make sure you have good-quality brand tyres. You’ll get the mileage out of them as long as the tyres are treated properly. Running with two spare tyres is the preferred option.

Fuel Storage

You should ideally have long-range fuel tanks or extra jerry cans for fuel. Driving in 4wd does decrease the vehicle’s economy and fuel stops aren’t always to be found when you need them.

Snatch Strap

Does the Snatch strap have an adequate load rating? Consider the shock loading on a snatch strap. Mine is rated at 10 tonnes.

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Below are two videos of our Hilux 4×4 Bushcamper.

In the first video, we step through the standard equipment of the 4×4 and in the second video, we discuss the upgrades mentioned further in this article.

Our 2016 Toyota Hilux Bushcamper walkthrough - the Africa 4x4 adventure is about to begin!
Walkthrough of our 2016 Hilux with stock standard ‘rental’ layout and equipment prior to any modifications
Walk-through of our 4x4, 2016 Toyota Hilux following modifications
Walkthrough showing the modifications


  • Upgraded the original aluminium rock sliders with steel rock sliders
  • Upgraded the original front bumper with a steel bumper
  • Added two tow points on the rear of the vehicle
  • Fitted the hi-lift jack to the underside rear of the vehicle
  • Removed the rear bench seat and fitted 2 x ammo boxes (hard plastic containers) on one side for food and a lockable, aluminium security box on the opposite side (the security box is now removed)
  • Fitted a seed net above the rear seats to store jackets and hats etc.
  • Added pocket storage: on the vehicle dash for maps, pens, insurance papers, etc, on the vertical bulkhead behind the rear seats and inside the rear cabin
  • Added an external mains power socket and 2 x 12V plus inside the cabin
Our Toyota Hilux 4x4 rental South Africa after we bought it and now in a workshop for upgrades
Our Hilux undergoing some upgrades
  • Added 3x mains power sockets inside the cabin
  • Mounted a Lifesaver water filtration jerry can inside the cabin in the read passenger area
  • Added shelving into some of the existing storage compartments
  • Fitted a seed net between the bull bar and the radiator
  • Fitted mosquito screens to the rear door and side window area of the cabin
  • Upgraded snatch strap
  • Tow bridle
  • Upgraded with a load-rated jack
  • Upgraded loose towing shackles with a higher load rating
  • Added a hinged aluminium ladder to the cabin floor that folds down to the ground to allow access from the ground into the cabin itself and stores inside the cabin and flush with the cabin door when the door is shut (ladder now removed for more interior space and using a portable fold-out step ladder)
  • Installed an additional sliding bolt to lock the rear cabin door from the inside

When buying a second-hand 4×4, consider having the suspension inspected by a suspension specialist.

Source an independent overall vehicle inspection, even when the vehicle has a valid roadworthy certificate. If any faults are raised, this may give you extra bargaining power to lower the asking price, and regardless, it’s good to know the overall condition.

Photographing wildlife from the hilux
Photography opportunities galore in Klaserie


Feb 2021

I started to have some problems with the Hilux being difficult to start. Over the course of a month, the situation didn’t change and the breaking point was when the vehicle needed towing from a bush camp in Klaserie near Kruger National Park into Hoedspruit.

Long story short… 2 weeks later … the fuel pressure rail was replaced.

The likely root cause of the problem was dirty diesel, also contributions pf sediment from the fuel hoses and fuel tanks being all gunked up.

All fuel hoses were replaced and fuel tanks were cleaned.

However, I wanted more safeguards against sub-standard fuel compromising the fuel system again.

Racor pre-fuel filter_4x4 South Africa
Racor pre-fuel filter rated to 10 microns

I was informed that the water-separating ability (87%) when using a 30-micron filter was not sufficient for the new common rail engines. So, after a bit of research, I invested in a Racor inline pre-fuel filter (rated at 10 microns); superior to the Toyota’s OEM fuel filter rated at 30 microns.

The cost of the 10-micron filter unit kit and spare filters (x3) came to R4700, which is not an insignificant amount but certainly worth it for the peace of mind of knowing I won’t need to revisit the same fuel system problems in the future.

Mar 2021

The rear suspension was sagging slightly. I could have done away with the conventional springs and instead chose air springs, but the cost was way too high. Instead, I opted for an extra blade in the leaf spring suspension. This also gave an overall additional lift of about 1.5 inches.

extra-blade-in-the-rear-leaf-spring-suspension of a 4x4
The extra blade made a big overall improvement

Jan 2023

In quick succession, I had two major repairs completed by Toyota.

The first was the replacement of the front steering rack that I previously had re-conditioned. After driving Moremi National Park and its many water hazards, I punctured the rubber lower bushing allowing water ingress.

When parked and the bushing drained, I noticed a fair amount of oil in the puddle. I consulted Toyota and was told that the steering rack bearings were leaking oil and this involved a whole replacement; re-conditioning was out of the question.

The second major maintenance was replacing the rear wheel bearings, which was not originally planned.

I actually had our Hilux in for a replacement of one of the rear wheel speed sensors, which not only gives speed information but houses the electronics that govern if 4WD can be engaged.

Certainly critical equipment.

Our Hilux 4x4 jacked up on the stands without the rear wheels
Not a sight that leaves a smile on the face
Rear axle shaft for a 4x4 that is up on the hoist
The rear wheel shaft with bearings – now readily accessible

Long story short, during the test drive to test if the speedo was now reading correctly and the 4WD could engage, the Toyota mechanic heard a slight sound (I couldn’t hear it) and pinpointed possible bearing issues.

I cringed.

He was right and within 24 hours the job was completed.

Another prevention measure completed at the same time was to add a Toyota bushing protector for each of the lower bushings.

Front lower bushing protectors fitted during the steering rack replacement

Mar 2023

New front shock absorbers.

One of my front shock absorbers (Monroe), originally fitted to the vehicle when I bought it, had developed a leak.

I did some quick price comparisons and settled on the South African-manufactured Gabriel heavy-duty shock absorbers. Apparently, this brand is also fitted to the Toyota Front Runner.

new-front-shock-absorbers being installed by a guy on a 4x4
Installation of the new front shock absorbers

Also in March, I had the front brake rotors skimmed as I was experiencing some shuddering on the front end when braking sharply.

This was one of my cheaper fixes.

front-rotor-off-for-skimming on a 4x4
The front rotor is off for skimming

I’m not upset about the maintenance costs, but they add up.

I know I bought a second-hand 4×4 South Africa ex-hire vehicle that no doubt comes with some hard mileage. But, in the back of my mind, I do question the frequency and thoroughness of the previous maintenance.

Sani pass mountain decent on dirt road
Sani Pass descent – the Hilux was faultless (back in 2020)

Don’t start your trip without your comprehensive Tracks4Africa – South Africa map


I mean why wouldn’t you?

You have just rented or bought yourself a 4×4 South African vehicle and now intend to go off-road. Are you familiar with that particular vehicle and how it handles the higher centre of gravity from all that extra weight from the rooftop tent and other accessories?

Give it thought! It makes perfect sense to test this vehicle in controlled conditions under the guidance of an accredited instructor.

4x4 drive through a game park
4×4 test drive with Protea 4×4 through the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve

We highly recommend ‘Protea 4×4’. 

Owner/instructor, Jannie Rykaart, of Protea 4×4 has more than 20 years of 4×4 experience and gave us a thorough and informative one-day 4wd course covering both the theory and practical elements.

Protea 4×4 is based in the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve, an hour’s drive from Johannesburg, so if you’re picking up a vehicle from Johannesburg, then it’s right on your doorstep.

2 guys with a driving certificate of competence
Myself and Jannie

He also completed a walk-through of our newly purchased 4×4 and equipment, giving us some really good advice.

Another bonus is you get to drive the 4×4 tracks of the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve which are often within arm’s reach of many of the reserve’s beautiful animals.


Whether you rent or buy a 4×4 South African vehicle will depend on your own circumstances, such as how long you intend to travel and of course, your budget.

Hopefully, the pointers above can help you make the best decision.

Personally, we did a lot of homework prior to our purchase and were also lucky to cross paths and do business with some great people here in South Africa.

Good luck with your 4×4 rental or 4×4 purchase.

Go out and enjoy as much of this beautiful African continent as you can. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences as I’d really like to hear how others have tackled the whole vehicle buying issue in South Africa as a foreigner.

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Lars, grew up in the Australian countryside and discovered his love for nature early on. Leaving Australia at 20, he began a life of travel and exploration. As a co-owner of Lifejourney4two with Shelley, Lars captures their journeys through his photography. Join him here and see the world through his lens.

4 thoughts on “4×4 South Africa – Top Considerations to Rent or Buy (2024)”

  1. Nice and informative read Lars, thanks! I was wondering during your travel have you also visited other countries than SA? I’m asking as we are making plans to travel from SA to Kenya and visiting all countries nearby for an intensive periods (1,5 to 2 years). Maybe even getting the car back to Europe to travel other continents from there.

    I’m also curious what you ended up doing: keeping the car on your name for the travel for over a year of selling the car to bushlore?

    • Hi Richard, Appreciate the nice feedback. So far we’ve visited South Africa and Lesotho. When we return to South Africa (currently overseas) we’ll begin to make our way north and east with an aim to reach Uganda and if possible when things simmer down, through Ethiopia to Egypt. I’ll send you an email directly to answer your queries on the car as my response may well be long-winded but in short, the car is a keeper!

  2. Great reading, but not mentioning any prices makes it a little pointless as a research piece. 🙁

    • Hi Jurre – glad you found the article interesting. As mentioned, I cover ‘considerations’ when renting or buying. There is a lot of variance in the pricing which is dependant on: a) if renting: what model vehicle you want, how many people will travel in the vehicle, duration of travel, which rental agency you approach; or b) if buying: what model and the kilometres it has travelled, what modifications the vehicle comes with, how willing the seller is to drop the price. When it comes to vehicle modifications, it’s important to discuss what you need and whether you choose original products or after-market products. Happy to share my experience with pricing. Lars.


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