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Tips for Buying Used a Land Rover Discovery

Looking to buy a Disco?

Ben Gribbin

Ben Gribbin

September 17, 2018

Award winning automotive writer with experience rebuilding Land Rovers.


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The Land Rover Discovery was first unveiled in 1989 and there have been 5 generations of the SUV to date. The early models were based on the chassis and drivetrain of the much more expensive Range Rover and was meant to appeal to a wider market. There was not really another car like it on the roads, the interior being unique with additions that had not been used in cars before. This, together with its external design that made it stand out from the rest, and a reasonable price tag, meant the Discovery was a popular buy from the start.

As well as the 5 models that have been produced for the UK market, there have been other versions for different countries, the idea behind this being that Land Rover wanted it to be a car that would sell worldwide. Some Land Rover enthusiasts prefer these models and import them from abroad.

If this is what you decide to do don’t forget to arrange shipping as soon as you can so it is not sitting in a dockyard for weeks. Professional car and motorbike transport is pretty easy to arrange these days, and it the best way to ensure your new vehicle gets to you in good shape. Remember to factor this cost into your budget too.

What To Look For

Although the latest version of the Land Rover Discovery had been on our roads for a while, you will still see all the older versions as well.  They were built to work hard and to last, and if they have been properly looked after they will still be good for a while longer yet.

If you are considering buying a used Discovery there are some things you should look out for. It depends on which model you are looking at as to what the problems are you need to spot.

  1. The MK4 is prone to electrical glitches, so if there is anything inside or out that is not working, as it should, you should consider not buying that particular car.  If an electrical fault relates to the air conditioning or air suspension, it can be very costly to put right.
  2. If you are looking at the MK3, apart from checking the electrical items are all work correctly, look underneath for obvious signs of oil leaks. If there are any worrying noises from the engine, walk away from the car.
  3. Discovery 2’s are now over 10 years old, but if they have been well maintained all the rubbers and gaskets should be in good condition. The most likely problem, and it does not occur very often, is a head gasket failure. These are hard to predict and to start with might look just like a small oil leak. However, if this does go wrong you are looking at a bill of more than £2000 to repair it.
  4. If you want to buy a Discovery 1, look for signs of white smoke or a loss of coolant. Check all the pipes are intact and the pressure builds up, as it should. If the gearbox is not smooth then steer clear of this car because it could be on its way out.

Like all car models, each version will have things it is prone to, but the Discovery was made as a workhorse and as long as they have been well maintained and serviced when they should be they will last for quite a few more years yet.

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