Land Rover Series 3 Buyer's Guide

Land Rover Series III: The Essential Buyer's GuideHaving this book in your pocket is just like having a real marque expert by your side. Benefit from the author’s years of Land Rover ownership, learn how to spot a bad vehicle quickly and how to assess a promising one like a professional. Get the right vehicle at the right price!

Illustrated with 100+ photos and written to also serve as an owner's reference of vunerable points to monitor.


Consider as many factors as possible before making your decision. Series Land Rovers with diesel engines are slow and the petrol models use a lot of fuel. Series models have poor crash safety in comparison with modern vehicles. Prices vary widely. Check in published ads and online for price comparisons and offer less than the asking price first. Don't be impatient, the right vehicle is worth waiting for. Check all documentation carefully. There must be a V5 and MOT cert (UK) for a roadworthy vehicle. Insist on a receipt. An AA or RAC vehicle check (in the UK) is a good investment if you are not mechanically minded or not prepared to get under the vehicle and give it a thorough inspection all round. Many Series models are stolen each year, some exported, some broken for parts and some sold to unsuspecting people - In the UK, make sure you're not one of them by doing a DVLA VEHICLE CHECK on the number plate.
Budget for repairs/upgrades.

Test Drive
Check the clutch and handbrake by slowly releasing the clutch pedal whilst the handbrake is on. The engine should show signs of stalling as the clutch engages.
Inspect colour of the exhaust fumes: blue suggests engine wear (though could be leaking valve seals), black suggests a carburettor problem.
During the test, listen for unusual noises and check for leaks on completion of the drive.



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Series I
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Series II
Australia  UK USA

Series III
Australia  UK USA

Australia  UK USA


Tech Articles

Bodywork   Although the bodywork is aluminium-based you need to check for corrosion wherever the aluminium is in contact with another metal e.g. where the body bolts onto the chassis, where wings attached to bulkhead. Check bottom of doors and sides of windows for rust.
Bulkhead   Check the lower area and around the door hinges. If the bulkhead is badly rusted then the body will probably need to be removed to repair/replace it.
Chassis   Expect to find areas of the chassis where rust damage has been repaired or replaced. Check the the rear cross-member and outriggers especially. Check above the bump stops since this area is subject to stress if used offroad. Don't forget to feel on top of the box sections for corrosion weakness (i.e. holes!). If rust is extensive, don't buy unless the cost of repair is allowed for in the price. If rust is extensive then a chassis replacement may be necessary (£1,000+).
Differential   Drive a short distance on soft ground to test the 4WD is working and to discover if a non-standard differential has been fitted in the rear axle to improve economy (a common occurrence) - the vehicle will behave wildly in 4wd if the front and rear diffs are not compatible
Engine   It is common for Land Rover engines to give continued good service above 100,000 miles. Listen for even running and for knocking. Low knocking sounds may be due to worn crankshaft bearings. Higher rapid tapping may just be poorly adjusted valve clearances ('tappets').
Occasional blue smoke may be just leaking valve stem oil seals but continuous blue smoke is probably worn piston rings and bores.
Gearbox   During the test drive check all gears, including the low ratio ones. Listen for unusual sounds as you drive in each gear. Check the selectability of each gear. The SIII gearbox is not as strong as the SII. 1st and 2nd gear show wear and are prone to jump out of gear as they get older. On the test drive press the accelerator and release it in each gear to see if the gear selector jumps out.
Interior   Non Land Rover seats may have been fitted. Check that they have been fitted securely and both they and the seat belt mountings will pass MOT inspection.
Springs   Check for broken or damaged springs. Individual leaves should be a uniform thickness throughout. The vehicle should sit level if all springs are healthy. Check around the spring mountings for cracks or repairs.Any rusting in this area is a road test failure.
Steering   A small amount of steering wheel movement when driving straight on a good road is normal but if constant correction is needed then major steering component replacement may be necessary.
Transmission   Check for movement in the propshafts and, if present, decide if it is a worn universal joint or the differential needs replacing. Maximum turn allowable is 1/4.

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