No matter how much you love the idea of owning a Land Rover Defender, the hesitant question the the back of everyone’s mind is, “How much does a Land Rover Defender cost?”
With costs ranging from $15,000 USD to $250,000 USD, it’s not a surprise that this is a lingering question on nearly everyone’s. Nobody wants to pay more than they should for a Defender, but how much is too much? And better yet, how much is too little? While we can’t speak for all of the Defender importers and builders around the world, we can certainly give you guidance on how we, at Bishop+Rook, price our preservation and restoration builds.
We’re probably one of the only Defender specialists in the United States that provides a full-range of Defenders – from driving rust buckets to driving works of art. We’ve always held the philosophy that everyone should have the pleasure of owning and driving one of these iconic pieces of automotive history regardless of their financial situation. We’re idealists in some ways, but mostly … we just love Defenders.
How To Budget For Your Defender
From project Defenders to fully-restored bespoke restorations, we’ve seen and done it all. Basic entry level US-Imported Defenders start at $25,000 no matter where you look. Don’t consider anything less than that for a budget or you’re going to get yourself in trouble. The same holds true for trying to import a Defender thinking it will save you a few dollars (we’ll have more thoughts on that later on). Starting off with a project where everything needs attention will certainly spoil your love for the adventure, as will a bad experience with an overseas seller that has no moral compass when it comes to separating you from your hard earned American dollars.
We’ve seen “budget projects” come through our workshop doors both here in the US and our shop in the UK that are borderline unsafe to be on the road. In England, each year cars must pass a MOT test to be certified for road use – in the US we don’t have such a thing (fortunately and unfortunately). A lot of the low-end trucks ending up on US shores lately are former MOT failures that have been given a bad paint job to look good for eBay photos.
The way we estimate the costs for our Defender projects is very simple: donor costs, parts, and labor. The way we keep our costs low at Bishop+Rook is that we don’t charge a markup-on the donor vehicle. We view them as a part of the build just like we would view tyres, interior, or motor packages. We simply charge to preserve or restore the projects we find ourselves.
We get to your budget estimate by having you ask yoursef a few simple questions:
- How much mechanical restoration will I need? Nothing? Partial? Complete?
- How much original patina am I willing to accept? Or should I just paint the darn thing?
- How modern or classic do I want the interior?
- How about creature comforts? AC? Stereo? Sound Deadening?
- Do I want a custom exterior package with a rare paint color?
- Do I need a lift kit and oversized expensive tyres?
- What’s more important? Mechanical reliability or cosmetics?
The answer to the last question is “mechanical reliability.” Always.
The Bishop+Rook Tiered System of Defender Builds
We have several guides on pricing in other areas of the website (links below), but we’ve also developed a series of tiered packages over the years to guide our build process. Most of these tiers are based on the number of hours required to complete the project and the cost of parts required to bring your dream to life.
Diesel+Dust Driving Restoration Series
No matter what the Defender looks like from the outside, all projects that earn the Bishop+Rook badge will undergo a very intensive mechanical preservation and service phase. This process includes going through front and rear axles to change seals, bearings, rotors, calipers, brake lines, and more. We also refresh the entire cooling system, change the timing belt, re-work shoddy wiring harnesses, replace the brake booster, and clutch master/slave, while taking our best efforts to slow the spread of corrosion and rust. Defenders in this series will be reliable, although they will require some additional work on cosmetics and some longer term maintenance.
RHD Budget: $25,000 to $40,000+
LHD Budget: $35,000 to $45,000+
Preservation Series + Adventure Ready Defenders
We love to preserve the originality of the vehicles we work on. It gives us a lot of joy and happiness when we’re able to give new life to a Defender that has enjoyed a good life. The philosophy on our Preservation Series builds is to return it to it’s original form – while maintaining and preserving the character that makes the particular vehicle special. We may repaint it, but it would remain the same color as it left the factory (or whatever color someone else painted it along the way). We go through all the mechanical items, but also address any sagging interior work, carpets, dash elements, chassis issues, and eliminate all rust and corrosion.
RHD Budget: $35,000 to $45,000+
LHD Budget: $45,000 to $55,000+
Heritage Build Series
When we enter the Heritage Series category we start to open up a lot of options for customization. Imagine this being like buying a new home, but having the re-modelers show up 6 months before you to take care of all the floors, walls, and dated kitchen. Heritage builds aim to return the Defender to factory+ condition. We can certainly change the color of the donor vehicle and we do this by literally taking the entire truck apart and building it back up from scratch. This allows us to fix any issues the donor Defender might have had from it’s former life and then improve upon the build. We generally replace all the doors, rebuild the chassis, refurbish the motor/gearbox, and replace any warn parts or fitting on the vehicle. Our Heritage Builds tend to be the most popular, as it truly is a custom vehicle that won’t force you into bankruptcy.
RHD Budget: $55,000 to $85,000+
LHD Budget: $65,000 to $95,000+
Bespoke Heirloom Build Series
When you know what you want and you want something truly unique, truly custom, and a Defender that will last for generations, you commission a Bespoke Heirloom Build. No option is off the table and no request frowned upon. Imagine you could go to Land Rover directly in the mid-90’s and say, “you know what you outta do?” That’s what this build is. From every material and finishing to motor upgrades and suspension customization, we can make it happen.
How To Plan a Budget for Your Defender Build
This, again, is as awkward for us as it is for you. We’re not car sales people, we’re builders. We hate talking about budget, because, let’s be honest, they’re all rather expensive. We simply ask you to trust us with your build and we’ll make sure you get the most incredible Defender you can imagine for the budget you already have in your mind.
We’re not here to trick you by asking you for your budget, we’re simply saying: “This is a partnership. We will be open and honest with our approach and build costs as long as you trust us. If we’ve gotten to the point of talking about money, you’re already part of the family and we want to treat you as such (at least the part of the family we like).”
When we ask you, “what’s your budget?” it’s ok to tell us. I know the natural instinct is to say, “well, I haven’t really thought about that yet,” but you probably have. We’re not asking for that number so we can say, “great, that’s how much money we’re going to make.” We’re asking it so we can say, “ok, this is what we’re working with – what’s the best way to get to where they want to be.”
If you really don’t know where to begin, our “Unicorn Hunting Guide” will probably be helpful, if not at least a bit entertaining. Our “Pricing FAQ Guide” gives you a little more detail on current market prices and we update every few months.
Ready to Begin The Journey?