Should I buy a 2WD or 4WD vehicle in Cambodia? (Review)

Got a question, idea, etc that doesn't fit in anywhere else? No problem. Just a simple place to chat.
User avatar
Posts: 560
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 8:36 am
Karma: 0

Should I buy a 2WD or 4WD vehicle in Cambodia? (Review)

Postby AE86 » Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:52 pm


I wasn’t going to review anything else for a very long time, but then the opportunity arose for an extended vacation the last few days and making use of two pickups, I couldn’t resist.

This is going to be mainly a comparison between a 2WD and 4WD pickup and not focus on the differences of the trucks themselves (i.e. trim packages or engine comparisons), just how the 2WD & 4WD trucks compare to each other in general. Reviews of these trucks will be on a separate thread.

2WD pickup (raised slightly). 2003 Toyota Tacoma


4WD pickup sideview. Early 2000's Toyota Tacoma.


So the choice, a 2WD or a 4WD truck/SUV.

There are so many avenues we can explore in comparing both to each other, so for this article I’ll focus on just 2 things and add my commentary on misc things.

1. Ground clearance & Off road capability

2. Overall running costs

1. Ground clearance: 2WD trucks need to be raised, 4WD trucks okay for semi rough roads.


For the 2WD (and this applies to most 2WD trucks like the Hyundai variant) in Phnom Penh for 85%? of driving, the 2WD’s factory ground clearance is okay. However, for any rough stretches of road or muddy areas, it’s far too low just like most cars here.


However, if you put on slightly larger tyres and raise the ground clearance with spacers (don’t go too crazy, only 2 or 3 cm at most), then a 2WD pickup works just fine. In this state it’s fine for just about everything including torrential rain, dusty semi paved roads around town or near the outskirts, and clearing the odd in the road obstacle.


You can see both the 2WD and 4WD are fairly close in ground clearance after the 2WD truck is raised.

For the record, my family’s business has used a 2WD diesel pickup for deliveries for the past 10 years and has only been stuck once, and that was in a very muddy area just after it rained.


For the 4WD pickup (using the Frontier for reference), it’s obviously much taller. This applies to Tacomas, Frontiers, Navaras, Rangers, Mazdas, etc. Although I didn't get a chance to take this Frontier off roading, my brother in law has owned a 4WD Ranger for the past 4 years has had no clearance issues anywhere in Phnom Penh on the stock ride height. However when venturing out into the wilderness beware, stock ride height in only good for semi rough roads. If you want to “go anywhere”, a bit more modification will be needed to make your truck truly off road ready.

We have a chicken farm near Laos, and the Ranger’s stock height is no good for riding around the “unpaved” areas, meaning where there is no road. We are forced to use dirtbikes in those cases.

2. Overall running costs: 2WD trucks much cheaper on fuel and maintenance than 4WD.



Fuel economy obviously varies greatly if your vehicle is either diesel or petrol, 4 cylinder or 6 cylinder (or 8), etc etc, but all things the same, a "real" 4WD vehicle will be 15-30% worse for fuel economy in general. Again, a very general blanket statement, but 4WD fuel economy is significantly worse so it should be taken into consideration.



Maintenance is also something people overlook on 4WD trucks. If you have a “true” 4WD truck, you need to change your differential oils (up to 3 differentials), transfer case oils, lube the U-joints if applicable, check the axles if it has independent front suspension (like virtually every truck newer than the early 90’s), and tyres are considerably more expensive. These are usually only required every 1-2 years in a dusty dirty wet place like Cambodia, but more often if you submerged the truck up to it’s axles.

This is just a broad statement again, it’s just to give you an idea.


Summary: City driving and some visiting to the provinces, 2WD is okay. Anything more than dusty roads and you’ll want a “true” 4WD.

If you’re in the city all the time, 2WD plus raised ground clearance is more than enough.

Now I’ll admit, 10 years of using a 2WD and our driver has never had a problem with getting stuck or bottoming out in Phnom Penh, and most of my cars have been 2WD in Cambodia with the exception of the Range Rover. No problems, just take it slowly on rough roads and potholes.


However, I’ve driven out to the countryside on many occasions and I would not be caught dead going in any remotely off road area without a “true” 4WD system. This means a locking centre diff and a full time 4WD system, not “All Wheel Drive” or “Smart 4WD” or any of that nonsense. A real set of front axles, a real centre differential, and a real set of rear axles.


I wont get into too much detail here, but essentially, some SUVs come with a part time 4WD system which engages on and off when it “thinks” you need the extra traction. This is not the same thing as having all 4 wheels locked to the engine and being driven 100% of the time.

Search on the internet for 4WD vs. AWD or locking differentials vs. viscous couplings and you’ll get a better idea.

So there you go, here's a basic rundown of 2WD vs. 4WD in Cambodia. Hope this has been helpful.

Reckless driving cucumber - 成
  • Similar Topics
    Last post

Return to “General Chatter”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 62 guests