For Love or Money

I bet we have all cringed while reading some vehicle classified ads. Beneath a lengthy catalog of modifications and improvements, a number is listed in bold font, “More than $$$ invested.” Then there is the asking price, a desperate and futile attempt to recoup the funds sunk into the project.

For many overlanders the build-out of a vehicle is every bit as enjoyable as putting it to use for its intended purpose. Many people spend endless at-home hours researching modifications and tinkering in the garage. It is a rabbit hole from which many never return. It starts with a lift, transitions into a bumper, and before long, the interior panels are piled on the floor as a web of electrical wires and air lines are plumbed to every corner. When all is said and done and the final overland triumph completed, it may be better, but is it worth as much (or less) than before?


A couple of years ago while searching the internet for vehicles to slip into our La Aduana series I stumbled across an all too familiar example of an overly optimistic listing. The truck up for grabs was genuinely amazing and built with every overland trick in the book. It was expertly crafted, well cared for, but the price raised an eyebrow.

With a KBB value of $17,000 and a list of modifications totaling more than $26,000, the seller had pinned a price on his truck of $64,000. I thought that number suggested a faulty calculator, or at the very least a wonky typo. Reading further into the advertisement, the owner had factored in build labor, a few repair costs, and there was obviously some hopeful blue-sky added to the final ask. I’m sure many would-be buyers thought the owner had lost his senses in a rapacious fit.

Build-fever is an all too common affliction, one gripping a close friend of mine right now. I doubt even the cup holders in his truck are stock and if he could convert it to a hovercraft, I know he would. Nearing the end of his options for adding, altering, and modifying, he’s started to develop the telltale signs of a wandering eye. I have seen it before, the allure of a bone stock project an irresistible siren song, a chance to begin anew. When I asked him if he was going to sell his current truck, he immediately tossed out a dollar figure that made me wonder if he hadn’t bumped his head installing his snorkel.


I wouldn’t say I view my friend’s plight with a sense of pity, but certainly––empathy. I’ve been there. I lived through that moment when the price of the modifications I installed exceeded the value of the truck itself. I once tried to explain to my wife as she looked on nonplused, how the sum of the parts when added to the whole, were effectively worth––all of nothing.

Truck builds are many things to many people. They are diversions from the workday grind, inspiration for future adventures, and for a lot of overlanders are nothing more than an enjoyable hobby. The satisfaction drawn from transforming a regular daily driver into a globe conquering expedition vehicle is rewarding, but seldom financially so.

When it comes time to build, and then part with an overland vehicle, one painstakingly assembled at a great investment of dollars and time, it is always good to remind yourself that you did it for the love, not the money.

Recommended books for Overlanding

Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide
by Tom Sheppard
From $136.99

Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.