How we found our Landcruiser and got it registered in Germany

by | Car Talk | 2 comments

After you have decided which vehicle you want, the search for a suitable specimen begins. Buying a Landcruiser is an investment and should be well considered. It could be your home for the next months, years, or at least for the next vacations. Usually, this is a long process. It took us around six months and thousands of kilometers across Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands. But it was worth the work, read the full story below. Additionally we want to guide you through your search for a Landcruiser based overland vehicle.

Finding the best suitable Landcruiser

We start with a couple of things you should consider before you start searching for an overland vehicle:

  1. What’s your budget?
  2. Are you a skilled mechanic?
  3. How much time do you have left until the start of your trip? And how much of it can you spend on rebuilding your rig?
  4. What are the must-haves that the car should already have?
  5. In which extent are you willing to compromise?

Some people start with an almost empty car. They may have the time and skills or the money to build everything from the scratch. This is obviously the most time consuming way. But in the end you will have the car exactly how you want it. On the other side you can buy a ready-to-go car with everything included. Depending on the condition of the vehicle, this is either expensive or you have to compromise on a lot of things. On the other hand you save lot of time not having to prepare the car. After those thoughts, the most people may be somewhere in between.
In this case it will help you to follow our procedure. We don’t fit the “We do everything on our own!” or the “What does the world cost?” group either.
We started with a list of things, our Landcruiser should already have. As we don’t have the fattest purse, it was clear we had to compromise. For us, the most important aftermarket part, our Landcruiser should already have, was a pop up roof. A roof costs around 10,000 € new. If we had had to install it, that would have easily blown our budget. Other things we set value on were the availability of differential locks, heavy duty suspension and an auxiliary diesel tank. Simply all those things that cost a whole lot of money new, that you will never see again if you sell your vehicle.
The interior, on the other hand, was not as important to us. We thought, we would be able to do this on our owns or be flexible enough to life with whatever was already there.
We were both working full-time, but we still had enough time before leaving for our trip and already blocked the summer holidays for our new car. We calculated the expenses we would be able to do. Then we visited, as usual, the World Wide Web. We did research on different websites and forums like the German Buschtaxi-Forum, the HUBB and expeditionportal. As the search for a Landcruiser HZJ is quite a niche market this insider forums may be the best place. But we also visited the common car sales websites as mobile.de. Sometimes they have good offers as well.
First, we compared our list and financial calculation with the vehicle in question. We compared the cars to one another in an Excel sheet, searched for the costs of the already built-in features, considered the age and driven kilometers. Many inquiries were sent, phone calls, even in Anna’s very basic french, were made. As mentioned, this is a niche market so the cars may be located in very distant places. It’s important to filter the cars after a telephone call or E-Mail rather than wasting a day or more driving around, noticing that the car is too old/expensive/etc on site. (although you certainly will meet great people, happy to invite you to a coffee and to tell you their stories!).

Questionnaire

For about six months, we visited every Landcruiser for sale in Germany, in Switzerland and Austria. We covered thousands of kilometers and visited different (around ten), always friendly and helpful Landcruiser owners. We noticed that all of them had their special history with their car and none of them was happy to sell it. We liked almost every Landcruiser we inspected. Some were newer, some more rusty. All of them had some special self-constructed parts or features. Before and after every visit we filled out a questionnaire and our Excel sheet grew and shrunk. Some of the cars were just above our financial limit, some were clearly beyond our mechanical skills. It wasn’t easy, but we wanted to be as satisfied as possible and come to a compromise we could work with.

Finally, we found the best suitable Toyota in Gouda, Netherlands. Ann and Pieter traveled many parts in the world with this HZJ78 and we had a great afternoon full of fascinating stories from their journeys. And some Gouda cheese, of course.

Things to check before buying a Landcruiser

Doing research for the best vehicle for us, we found several tips to be aware of before buying a Landcruiser. From different sources we built a list of the most important/vulnerable/noteworthy things. Besides the first good impression we checked the following list on all the vehicles we visited. It is up to you in which extend you want to do it, but you might stay as safe as possible – even more if the seller is not into cars and maintenance too much.

Vehicle body:

  • Rusty spots? – check the doors, tailgate, hinges, sills, gutter, exhaust pipe and window frames. Also take a look below the windshield seal.
  • Repaired/grouted spots (e.g. mudguard)?
  • Cracked sealings?

Inside vehicle:

  • Lift up the carpets: wet or rusty spots?
  • Dirt/dust/water in cavities?
  • Cracked sealings?
  • Adventurous self-built constructions (e.g. electrics)?

Engine compartment:

  • Rusty radiator (feel with your fingers deep down)?
  • Open the oil tank: Are there bubbles while the engine is running? – problem with outlets.
  • Condition of the engine? Any Smoke, especially when starting it cold?
  • Electrics: a lot of self-built stuff? Complicated expansions?

Take a look at the underbody:

  • Quality/age of protective undercoating? Abraded or bare spots? A perfectly new one might hide rusty spots.
  • Unclear water or oil loss (have a look at the carport floor if possible)?
  • Rusty wheel arches?
  • Rusty axle balls? They should be clean and greasy.
  • Any broken flat springs?
  • Open the oil refill screws from manual gearbox, transfer gearbox: Is there enough oil? Old greasy mass?
  • Signs of heavy off road usage:

  • Dents in fuel tank?
  • Dents in skid plate (if existing)?
  • Small stones, rust in vehicle frame?

Others:

  • Wheel bearing clearance?
  • Steering play?
  • Wheels – age, size (the bigger the more strain for the wheel bearing), condition?
  • Is there a trailer hitch? Condition? May mean use of heavy load…
  • Age of exhaust pipe/alternator/coolant pump/battery/radiator/heater plugs/visco fan?
  • Everything signed in the papers? Any missing documents?

Test drive:

  • Any weird sounds/noises using the different gears during different speed? Smooth change?
  • Good adjusted steering?
  • Problems in engaging in the four wheel drive? Manual free hubs? Problems in turning them?
  • Smooth engaging and turning off the differential locks?
  • Problems in using the gear reduction?
  • Use the brakes. The brakes are pretty bad on a Landcruiser anyway. But they should stop you at some point.

How to find a suitable Landcruiser in a nutshell

  • Look at expired ads and specify a realistic budget
  • Talk to overland vehicle owners, visit nearby ones and take a look at their vehicles
  • Write a list of the must-haves (i.e. pop-up roof, auxiliary fuel tank, auxiliary heater, heavy duty suspension) and do some research, what post-equipping those items would cost you
  • Watch overland forums and classifieds for vehicles that are worth considering
  • Call the seller and go through your list of must-haves and your questionnaire, ask for rust and maintenance condition
  • Take a look at different vehicles, test drive them and check for the points mentioned above
  • Don’t buy the first vehicle you see
  • If the first vehicle you see looks too good to not buy it, ask for a second opinion of somebody who knows that vehicle type (e.g. in specific forums like buschtaxi forum in Germany)

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Transport to and registration in Germany

We bought our vehicle without any valid license. Since we did not want to risk loosing our driver’s license, we decided to not bring it to Germany ourselves. The only legal solutions in Germany are either towing it on a trailer or driving it with red dealer plates. We got hold of Mr. Debus from MD Logistik to transport it to Dinslaken, Germany. There, we wanted to do the first necessary repairs to get the TÜV-certificate for the German registration. Mr. Debus owns a vehicle transportation business and everything went pretty smoothly for us. Unfortunately, he had to struggle with an empty fuel tank after 40 km. Well, that double filler neck for the two tanks can be confusing. Unfortunately, Ann could not tell him which neck to use, either.
Therefore, he was quite relieved when Anna met him and the Landcruiser in Dinslaken. After some weeks and the good job done by Hansi from Allrad Welt the car got its TÜV-certificate. Hansi cleaned the underbody and renewed its conservation. He rebuilt the rear bumper (with sandblasting and powder coating) and did some smaller stuff like renewing some dampers. The broken windshield was also a deal breaker for the German TÜV-institute, so we had that one changed as well. Hansi is specialized in Landcruisers and was a great and uncomplicated help for us.

Then new bureaucracy followed. Anna had to register the Landcruiser for the short period of three days in the local registration office – it has to be done in the town where you bought the car (we didn’t buy the car in Dinslaken, that’s true, but it was the first town in Germany where we actually got it). Then finally we could drive home to Stuttgart. In our hometown later we went to the local registration office, registered it finally there (making an appointment via Internet was really time saving here!). Then, of course, we had to pay the taxes and prolong the car insurance we already bought for the short time registration. Our Landcruiser could move in its new home for the next months – in the barn of Heiner’s grandmother.

This is how we found our Landcruiser. Did we miss something here? How did you find your perfect car? Was it hard? Write a comment!
And feel free to leave us a note, if we have missed something important to check when buying a Landcruiser!

This is the second step of our Overland Vehicle Preparation Series. You can read all steps here.

CONTINUE READING

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