Let’s say you’ve been toying with the notion of getting a second or third vehicle for recreation. Sure, sports cars are a ton of fun, as are off-roaders. But let’s face it, those are everywhere. The notion of owning a dune buggy may not have entered your mind, but it’s just the recreational vehicle that can deliver thrills your commuter vehicles just can’t. Not only are they a blast to drive, but they’re also truly versatile as off-roaders, masters of sand, and open-air fun-mobiles that make you feel like a kid again. Don’t ask your tepid minivan to do that.
Modern versions of dune buggies have certainly evolved from the original Meyers-Manx versions that were essentially fiberglass bodies, roll bars, and big windshields on top of VW Beetle chassis to create super-fun sand crawlers. Old Beetles made perfect sense because they were rear-wheel drive and provided great sand traction. Plus, they were cheap and easy to modify. Today, the dune buggy has evolved into so much more. Modern versions are also known as side-by-side all-terrain vehicles and they’re as much for hard-charging sand duties as they are easy dune cruising. Here are five of the best dune buggies and alternatives that we wouldn’t hesitate to park in our own garage. Just make sure you check the street-legality of these models before you buy.
Can-Am Maverick X3 X DS Turbo RR
Okay, so the 200-horsepower X3 X DS Turbo RR might seem like the exact opposite of a laid-back dune buggy. But that fact doesn’t detract from the open-air fun you can have while helming it over sand and terrain. The full cage and two racing seats equate to safety and comfort, while the powerful engine and big all-terrain tires provide speed and traction. If you wonder about its capabilities, just remember this guy won the Dakar Rally three years in a row. Dune beast is more like it. Buy
BMS Motor Sniper T-1500 4S
Just like its name, the Sniper T-1500 4S looks all business and contrasts with the Meyers Manxster 2+2’s laid-back ethos by delivering a Baja 1000-look that will likely frighten your neighbors. The super-light, super-rigid T-1500 4S sport side-by-side has adjustable long-travel nitrogen shocks, a stadium full of LED lighting, 5-point racing harnesses, a 3,000-lb winch and 29″ Mammoth off-road tires. If you want to part the waves of beachgoers, while doing your sand hooligan thing, this is the way to do it. Buy
Tatum Motor Sports Dragon Sand Car
The Dragon is about as insane as a modern dune buggy can get because of the mad power and the supercar price. Sure, it looks less like an ATV and more like a steroidal dune buggy, but everything is about off-road performance. The 650-horsepower engine means blistering acceleration and sand rooster tails all day long, and the fusillade of heavy-duty suspension components won’t skip a beat. The custom seats, custom radius windshield, custom chassis harness, numerous billet aluminum parts, and nickel aircraft hardware make this one bespoke monster that makes the traditional dune buggy seem a little lily-livered. Buy
Polaris Off-Road RZR Turbo S 4
With room for one driver and three screaming passengers, the RZR Turbo S 4 packs the power with 168 ponies under the fiberglass body and backs up the output with serious off-road capability via the 16 inches of ground clearance, a whopping 25 inches of suspension travel, beefy chassis and suspension bits, and 32” ITP Coyote tires. When it comes to performance, it’s no shrinking violet, and you can manage corners, dunes, and dirt like a champ. The DYNAMIX Active Suspension shows you your automatic suspension adjustment setup on the center display screen, but you’ll be too busy tossing sand to pay attention to that. Buy
Carolina Dune Buggies
While Caroline Dune Buggies don’t build their own entire versions to sell you, they’re the best method to outfitting an air-cooled VW Beetle into your classic dream sand machine. You can purchase parts like fiberglass bodies, chassis, engine components, roll cages, seats, etc. to customize your sand buggy just the way you want it. They’re all old-school-style, so you’ll have one seriously nostalgic dune buggy to call your own. Just grow your hair long, get it beach-blonde, and crack open those Coronas, not while driving, of course. Buy
It’s too bad this futuristic electric dune buggy will likely never see the light of production. The ID.BUGGY debuted at the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance, and it boasted a 62 kWh battery with 150 kW/204 horsepower. Aside from its efficiency and retro-futuristic looks, the ID.BUGGY’s modular design enabled the composite body to be detached from the chassis for near-limitless customization, much like the original Meyers Manx. VW recently mothballed plans to build it. Waaahh. Consider this our push to get this baby resurrected from production purgatory into the light of production. Learn More