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How to build a ute: less than $5000

By Dan Everett, 24 Jun 2018 Gear

How to build a ute with less than AUD5000 feature

No matter what you call it – ute, truck or pick-up – here’s the go-to modifications guide for less than $5000

DUAL-cab utes have taken the 4x4 market by storm, and it’s for a damn good reason: versatility. Actually, versatile doesn’t really drive home the point enough. They’re the Swiss Army Knife of off-roading, with attachments and electric blenders folding out of nooks and crannies you never thought possible. All you need to do is set them up right.

The problem, like any 4x4, is knowing how to build it to suit your needs, and knowing where best to spend your money. After all, what should you get first, the coffee percolator or the meat-pie oven? The upgrade paths are endless, with a $5000 build looking significantly different than a $25,000 build.

We’ve pounded out countless kays in and out of dual-cab utes over the past few years, everywhere from the tropics of Far North Queensland to the wide expanses of the Outback, all in the endeavour to help you build the ute of your dreams. Geez, we’re nice blokes!

The chances are you’ll be kicking off any new build with the basic components, typically spending less than $5000 to make the vehicle yours and not just one you’ve borrowed from the dealership. With that in mind we’ve put the following builds together as a foundation to start from – not the end goal.

Hardcore Weekender

If you're building a 4x4 for hardcore weekend duties, there are two things you need to accept: it’s horrendously expensive, and you’ll eventually beat your 4x4 to pieces. Ask me how I know.

The smart money for the first round of modifications should be centred on protecting your 4x4’s expensive-to-repair bits. A winch and recovery kit also made the list, because you will get stuck off-roading on standard tyres and suspension. A pair of handheld UHFs and an eager mate in the passenger seat will help to navigate through tricky terrain.

Rock Sliders - $1000
Winch - $1000
Bash plates - $500
Bullbar - $1000
Recovery kit - $300
Handheld UHFS - $200
TOTAL: $4000

The right gear for the job on 4x4 Australia Gear

Remote Tourer

If you're heading past the black stump then you’ll have an entirely different set of requirements, and a priority is protection from animal strikes. A busted radiator could leave you stranded without reception.

Likewise, a set of driving lights (decent ones) will ensure you spot suicidal kangaroos well before you reach them. A set of stock-sized ATs are also essential to cope with the damaging destinations you’ll be driving to. A half-decent UHF is required should you need to call for help, and a good quality ice chest because you’re too poor to buy a fridge just yet.

Stock-size A/T Tyres - $1250
Bullbar - $2000
Driving Lights - $1000
Ice chest - $450
UHF - $300
TOTAL: $5000

Family Wagon

If National Lampoon’s Vacation seems more like a documentary of your last holiday than a bit of slapstick humour, then you’re in luck. A priority here is storage. As practical as a dual-cab ute is, you’ll quickly run out of room when you load them with RC cars and push bikes.

Unexpected storms can also leave you with a wet sleeping bag. Option up a canopy as your very first purchase, as it’ll double your storage space for camping gear and give you bona fide weatherproof storage. A set of quality canvas seat covers and 3D floor mats not only make you feel like you’re always on an adventure, but they make cleaning up easier.

Finally, a decent winch and a hidden winch mount in the stock bumper should give you the confidence to explore trails with your progeny in the back seat. 

Canopy - $3000
Canvas seat covers - $250
Floor mats - $200
Winch and hidden winch mount - $1550
TOTAL: $5000

Follow our 'How to build a ute guide' here: 
- $15,000 budget
- $25,000 budget
- more than $25,000