Most 4×4 SUVs and trucks can handle dirt roads, rocky terrain, and maybe even a bit of high-intensity bouldering. But if you really want to know what it feels like to whip across a desert dune at high speeds, you’re going to have to get something that was purpose-built just for such an adventure. Of course, we’re talking about dune buggies.
There was a time when, if you wanted a dune buggy, you had to build it yourself from the ground up. Thankfully, however, things have changed quite a bit. Now, you can go down to your local powersports dealership and buy something off the lot that’s ready to hit the road and head on out to the sandy fields of your nearest, driest landscape. Whether you want something that’s small and inexpensive to tool around in or you’re in the market for a desert-going supercar, you’ll find it here on our list of the eight best dune buggies you can buy.
Nothing beats an original. And it doesn’t get more original than the Meyers Manx. Originally introduced in 1964, the Meyers Manx (an off-road refit of Volkswagen’s Beetle) took the world by storm and single-handedly created the dune buggy category. Though the original company went belly up in 1971, they were refounded in 1999 and now offer a wealth of options to get you out on the sand. Including available body kits, chassis, and a wide array of individual parts, this DIY option is one of the most inexpensive ways to get behind the wheel of an iconic dune buggy.
Joyner Sand Viper 1100cc EFI
If your primary goal is to get rip-roarin’ out on the dunes as quickly and cheaply as possible, the Joyner Sand Viper might just be your best option. With a baseline price just over the $10k mark, this ready-to-roll dune buggy boasts a top speed of 70 miles per hour courtesy of its water-cooled four-cylinder engine. Mated to its 11-gallon fuel tank, hydraulic disc brakes, 14″ of ground clearance, and a 1,102-lbs capacity — this beast offers a whole lot of fun and capability in an inexpensive package.
BMS Sand Sniper T-1500 4S
In direct competition with the Joyner above — including a comparable price — the BMS Sand Sniper T-1500 4S is different in some very notable ways. For starters, it comes with seating for four rather than two. It also has a bit of a power advantage, boasting 108 horsepower to the Joyner’s 86. Of course, that also comes with a bit more weight. It also has its own roof rack, in case you want to haul some other gear atop it while you tear across the desert. All told, the biggest difference here is the number of passengers you can bring along. If you need more than two seats, this is the budget dune buggy for you.
Yamaha YXZ1000R SS SE
Those concerned with semantics might tell you that the Yamaha YXZ1000R SS SE is a side-by-side and not strictly a dune buggy. We say: if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. And this duck has quite a lot to offer when it comes to sand-shredding adventure. That includes a 998cc power plant capable of 90 horsepower — a seemingly small figure until you realize this two-seater weighs just 1,563 pounds wet. It also features selectable 2WD and 4WD, courtesy of a three-way locking differential. And it comes with Fox Racing shocks in the front and back, hydraulic disc brakes, and so much more.
Polaris RZR XP Turbo
While it looks similar to the Yamaha above, the Polaris RZR XP Turbo is vastly different where it counts: its powertrain. You see, this one boasts a whopping 168 horsepower — nearly double the power found in the Yamaha — but still costs around the same starting. This is thanks in large part to the fact that its 925cc engine, while technically smaller, is turbocharged and engineered for top-level performance. On top of that, it also boasts 20″/20″ of usable travel, has a 14″ ground clearance, and can be upgraded to a higher trim for even more off-roading capabilities. It’s not what we’d call cheap, but the return is worth the investment.
Can-Am Maverick X3 X rs Turbo R
While it might seem like an $8k price jump for just four more ponies is asking a little much, the difference between the previous option and this one is far more than just a slight power upgrade. You see, this off-road dirt devil also features an impressive 124 foot-pounds of torque, a trio of oversized air intakes to keep the engine cool, an upgraded BRP four-link TTX suspension boasting 24″ of travel, and fully-adjustable state-of-the-art Fox shocks so you can customize your ride on the fly. If the best tech in the game is on your radar, this is the dune buggy for you.
Tatum Dragon Sand Car
There are dune buggies, and then there’s the Tatum Dragon Sand Car. And while the sleek and sinister appearance speaks volumes to what makes this particular ride special, the performance figures are what really matter. This monstrous dune devourer hosts a Chevrolet LS3 crate engine — a muscle car-worthy powerhouse capable of a blistering 650 horsepower. And that means this is less a dune buggy and more an off-road supercar. And that’s just the start of things — this beast also boasts a laundry list of standard features ranging from custom body panels, to a top-of-the-line suspension, to a custom powder coated chassis, and so much more.
BuckShot Racing X5R
Tatum is hardly the only name in the game when it comes to off-road supercar dune buggies, as can be seen in BuckShot Racing’s X5R. The big difference here is that the Tatum comes with just the one engine option, whereas the X5R can be equipped with one of four — boasting 510-600 horsepower — and comes with the option for turbos that will give it an output of up to 1,200 horsepower. Of course, that also comes with a much higher price tag. But that’s what you pay for blistering insanity over any terrain.
Howe & Howe Ripsaw
Technically speaking, the Ripsaw (and all its permutations) is not a dune buggy — it’s a luxury off-road tank. But because it was designed to handle the harshest of terrains at insanely high speeds, we’re giving it the respect it deserves as an honorable mention. Developed by Howe & Howe for military applications, these “super tanks” are heralded as the fastest dual tracked vehicles ever conceived. The two civilian options, the EV2 and EV3, are billed as completely bespoke custom builds designed not just for extreme off-road capability, but also supreme comfort and luxury. And with a range of 600-1,500 horsepower, they’re blisteringly quick, as well. Just make sure you can wait up to six months for them to fabricate yours.
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Not everyone has the luxury of owning both a daily driver and off-road fun machines. But you can combine both categories if need be by picking up one of the best off-road 4×4 vehicles you can buy.
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