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Choosing a proper Vehicle

There are many things to consider about the vehicle. Most important of all might perhaps be that it be robust, so that you will not suffer a breakdown in the middle of nowhere. Other useful features include:

4 Wheel Drive

  It is possible to cross the Sahara without 4WD, but once you come into the sand, you will surely be happy if you have it. A good 4WD will be able pull you through most cases without having to resort to digging. Even when you seem to be completely stuck, you can sometimes drag yourself out, centimetre by centimetre with the Low 4WD gear. 

Large Fuel Tank

It can sometimes be difficult to find petrol / diesel whilst travelling. Sometimes, the pumps are broken, other times there is simply a shortage. With a large tank, you will be able to cover more distance between petrol stops, and you might even be able to skip the cumbersome jerrycans. Many 4WD vehicles can optionally be fitted with an extra reserve tank, adding some 60 litres. In such case, you should use the fuel in the extra tank first, and drive on the main tank only when the extra tank is used up. Otherwise, the balance of the car may be disturbed. When calculating the fuel needed for a certain distance, always leave a good margin, especially on the off-road areas. You never know if you will suffer a leak, if the next petrol stop is out of fuel, or if your car simply consumed more than expected. Use of 4WD and air-condition, for example, contribute to increasing the fuel consumption of your car.

Ease of Reparation

Beware that not all car models can be easily repaired. If you can't repair the car yourself, then you should know that some cars are easier to service than others. Models that are common in the countries you are travelling in will always be better known by repairmen, and it will be much easier to find spare parts. In Niger, well-known vehicles include Toyota Land Cruisers, Peugeots and to some extent Land Rovers.

Air Condition

Obviously, this will help you feel a lot more comfortable in your car. The desert gets very hot in the middle of the day, and if you drive with open windows there will be sand in the air. It will also reduce your water needs. However, do not use it as an excuse for bringing less water, and make sure you're still drinking plenty. The downside of using air-condition is an increase in fuel consumption.

Seats that double as Beds

On some cars, you can make beds out of the front seats by removing the head rest, then bending them back until they are at level with the back seats. This may not be the most comfortable bed in the world, but is very practical when you just want to stop for the night, and then get going early in the morning.

Clearance under Chassis

It is important to have a high clearance between the ground and the chassis. Much of the traffic in the Sahara consists of trucks and lorries, which creates ruts with deep wheel tracks. Cars with a good clearance and a protected chassis can drive in these ruts without trouble, whilst cars with a low clearance should avoid them or use a special driving technique, which consists of having one wheel in a trench, and the other on top of the middle hump.

You should also check the underneath of your car for things that stick out. A common problem can be the towing hook. Any such thing will act like a plough once you come into the sand.

Dark Windows

Dark windows in the back of your car will make it less warm and stop beggars from seeing everything you're carrying along.


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