How Many Miles Can a Land Rover Defender Last: Are They Reliable?

1995 Land Rover Defender 90 Exterior

When I started this blog it was all about Jeeps but let’s be honest, they are not the only off-roading vehicles out there. I’ve always had a soft spot for Land Rovers and recently I’ve been looking more in-depth at the Land Rover Defender and one of my first questions was about what mileage you can get out of these.

So how many miles can a Land Rover Defender last? Looking at an average across ten of the highest milers recently on sale on Auto Trader, the number of miles that a Land Rover Defender can last came out at 227,823 miles.

There are some subtle differences between the Defender 90 and 110 models which I’ll cover in my analysis below.

Analysis of Land Rover Defender mileages on Auto Trader

A brief introduction to the Land Rover Defender

The “Defender” name was introduced in 1990 by Land Rover to distinguish the previous Land Rover 90 and 110 with the newly launched Discovery model, as they thought a name was needed rather than just numbers appended to the Land Rover name. The main engine was the 200 TDi 2.5 unit and body styles included the 2-door 90 and the larger 110 (most commonly found in 5 door, station wagon format).

In 1994 the 200Tdi engine was replaced with the 300TDi, although it had the same capacity of 2.5l. In 1997 the Defender had stopped selling in the US due to its inability to meet tougher safety and emissions testing requirements. In 1998 the Td5 2.5l five cylinder unit was introduced on the Defender and in 2007 the Td5 was superseded with Ford’s 2.4l diesel DuraTorg unit. Finally, in 2012 the 2.4 Duratorq engine was replaced with Ford’s 2.2 versions in order to meet Euro V emission standards.

In the UK, a special edition, the 50th Anniversary was launched in 1998 and featured a Ranger Rover 4.0 V8 in the 90 body style.

Defender production ended in January 2016 after an impressive 26 year run.

Mileage research

One of the ways I could have researched Land Rover Defender mileage would have been to speak to dealers of poll some owners. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to that sort of data so I went on AutoTrader.co.uk and simply searched for all Defender across the UK, then sorted by highest mileage. I then picked the top 10 vehicles in terms of mileage to get an idea of what mileage to expect.

I have summarized the data in the table below.

YearSeriesEngineMileagePrice
20021102.5 Td5276,800£7,000
19911102.5265,000£5,990
19921102.5240,000£10,989
1994110300 Tdi225,080£3,999
19991102.5 Td5225,000£6,994
2002902.5 Td5221,829£9,990
19971102.5208,271£9,950
20001102.5 Td5208,255£7,500
1994902.5206,996£10,000
1996902.5201,000£13,990

Based on my research, the average mileage of a UK Defender was 227,823 miles with the highest being 277k (a 2002 110 model). Model years ranged from 1991 to 2002 with the average being a 1997 model year. Average selling price was £8,640 with the lowest being around the £4,000 mark. I was quite surprised by these prices, as although there were some crazily priced examples, I expected the prices to be higher as this car is no longer in production.

The longer wheelbase 110 models featured more prominently in the top 10 (7 vehicles) and also had the highest mileage. The highest mileage Defender 90 was a 2002 model with 222k miles. When it came to engines, all had a version of the 2.5 turbo diesel and there was nothing to say one particular engine was better or worse than the other. None of the later Ford 2.4 or 2.2 turbo diesel units featured in the top 10 high mileage list.

I could not find any used 4.0 V8 50th Anniversary editions on Auto Trader to compare but I’m guessing these will have lower mileages due to their potential appreciating value. I also took a quick look at the Defender 130 but there were very few of these to draw any meaningful conclusions. The highest mileage example was a 1998 300 Tdi with 148,000 miles on the clock.

2000 Land Rover Defender 110 Interior

Land Rover Defender Service Intervals

For UK and EU Defender models the initial manufacturer recommended services intervals were as follows for non-Td5 engines (1990-1998):

  • Every 6,000 miles – includes an oil and filter change.
  • Every 12,000 miles – includes air filter and fuel filter renewal as well as renewal of the main gearbox oil.
  • Every 18,000 miles or 18 months – includes brake fluid renewal.
  • Every 24,000 miles – includes coolant renewal
  • Every 36,000 miles – includes brake service air filter renewal along with braking system hydraulic seals and all flexible brake fluid hoses.
  • Every 48,00 miles or 18 months.
  • EVery 60,000 miles of 5 years – includes timing belt renewal.

As with all high mileage cars, it’s important to see records that the required servicing was carried out. For this specific model (Td5), I would recommend checking that the 60k miles or 5 year services were completed at a dealer or good independent as these are services that should not be skipped due to the replacement of the timing belt.

2003 Land Rover Defender 110 Exterior

Were There Any Major Recalls on the Land Rover Defender

The Defender was not immune to recalls during its 26 year production period but could have been worse considering the amount of time it was in production. Some of the major recalls are summarised below:

  • Sudden loss of brake fluid caused by front caliper brake hose chafing.
  • Braking imbalance making the vehicle unstable, caused by incorrect specification of the front and rear hub assembly fixing bolts.
  • Possible front wheel detachment caused by fracturing of the front axle tube. This may only happen in very extreme circumstances.
  • Failure of the seat belt mounting bracket caused by incorrect manufacturing specifications. In the worst case, this could result in the mounted detaching in a vehicle collision.
  • Loss of parking brake efficiency caused by oil entering the parking brake drum and contaminating the brake linings due to an oil leak between the output shaft and drive flange.

Some quite serious recalls then but not horrendous as the car was in production for 26 years! As always, make sure that any recall work was carried out by an authorised agent, especially as some of the recalls were for safety-critical components.

How To Make Your Land Rover Defender Last Longer

Here are some general tips on how you can make your Defender last longer:

    • Make sure you keep up to date with your Defender’s servicing. Even if its an old vehicle and you don’t want to pay dealer prices, then it still worth having a go out some of the simpler servicing yourself.
    • Pay attention to any new issues that crop up and don’t ignore them, as I know from personal experience, these will often become much bigger and more expensive issues down the road.
    • Also, carry out the required oil and filter changes according to the Defender’s schedule. This is key as the oil condition will be a key factor in getting high miles. Make sure you use decent quality oil and filters as well.
    • Similarly, keep an eye on your Defender’s fluid levels on a regular (I would say weekly) basis. This includes oil, coolant and brake fluid. Top up or investigate the leakage as required. Checking inside the oil filler cap will also give you an indication if the water is contaminating the oil.
    • Warm up and cool down. As with exercising, make sure that you let you Defender idle for a few minutes before setting off and likewise, let it cool down before switching off the ignition, especially if its been running at high speeds or off-roading.