Are Dune Buggies Four-Wheel Drive?

Dune buggy enthusiasts know all about the granddaddy, “Meyers Manx”, a range of dune buggies from the ’60s. Some might even have had the privilege of owning one. Bruce F. Meyers invented the dune buggy in the 1960s, selling kits under the “Meyers Mank MK 1” moniker. Volkswagen Beetle’s body and Volkswagen’s flat-four engines (1.2 L, 1.3 L, 1.5 L, and 1.6 L) were used in the original Manx design with a shortened wheelbase. All of them were two-wheel drive (rear). Dune buggy manufacturers today have incorporated four-wheel drive into their designs.

When dune buggies became popular in the 1960’s they were all rear two-wheel drive in design and were applied to a shortened chassis of a Volkswagen Beetle. Fast-forward to today. Most buggies are four-wheel drive, two- and four-wheel drive, and two-wheel drive only (rear-wheel drive).

Dune buggies today come in various designs, engine capacities, suspension setups, and numerous capabilities that the front-runners did not have. Today you can choose between two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and having the choice to have both options in one dune buggy. Not all dune buggies are four-wheel drive, but most are. This article will list some of your more popular four-wheel-drive dune buggies and the difference between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

Which Buggies Are Four-Wheel Drive?

In today’s dune buggy landscape, you will find buggies that are two-wheel drive only, four-wheel drive, and a few that are both. The latter gives you the option of driving in two-wheel drive, and when the situation demands it, switch it to four-wheel drive.

Most of the manufactured models that are ripping the dunes apart today come via a four-wheel-drive system. Four-wheel drives make sense if you consider that the dune buggies of today need to be able to navigate rocky and steep trails, smash through woody areas, and generally be able to navigate most terrains apart from the obvious dunes.

Popular Four-Wheel Drive Dune Buggies (And A Legend Two-Wheel Drive):

Make & Model4×4Horsepower
Tatum Dragon Sand CarYes650
Yamaha YXZ 1000R SS SECan select between 2WD & 4WD (Three-way locking differential)90
Polaris RZR XP TurboYes165
Can-Am Maverick X3 X RS Turbo RYes176
Buckshot Racing X5RYes510-1200
Drakkar IntimidatorYes212
BMS V-Twin Buggy 800 Platinum 4SCan select between 2WD & 4WD60
BMS Sand Sniper T-1500 4SYes108
Meyers ManxTwo-Wheel DriveN/A

What Is The Difference Between Two-Wheel And Four-Wheel Drive?

Did you know that more than half of all manufactured vehicles are two-wheel drive?  It is mainly due to two-wheel drive being a cheaper option than their four-wheel-drive counterparts regarding price and general maintenance. Dune buggies today are generally four-wheel drive by nature and absolute beasts when surfing the dunes.

Two-Wheel Drive Vehicles

A two-wheel-drive vehicle goes by the popular description of a 4×2 (four wheels of which two are driven). It can be a front-wheel drive or a rear-wheel drive, depending on the location of the engine, as the wheels closest to the engine are normally the cheapest option to “drive”. Dune buggies that are two-wheel drive are rear-wheel drive.

Four-Wheel Drive Vehicles

A four-wheel-drive vehicle goes by the well-known description of 4×4 (four wheels of which all four are driven). Most 4×4 vehicles have a 4×2 default setting drive mode, and it is up to the driver to set it to the 4×4 drive mode when the need arises. Why would you drive your dune buggy in the two-wheel-drive mode when the more powerful four-wheel-drive sits in idle?

Pros Of Four-Wheel Drive Dune Buggies

The following is considered the pro’s when purchasing a four-wheel-drive vehicle:

Extra Torque

The extra torque required to power four wheels directly translates to a more powerful vehicle. This extra power is ideal when facing rugged terrain. Should two wheels be stuck, the other two wheels can power your vehicle out of the sticky situation, whereas the two-wheel-drive will stay stuck. The extra power makes climbing a dune so much easier.


More powerful engines are required to power all four wheels, and when it comes to a four-wheel-drive dune buggy, this normally translates to a superfast buggy overall. Power and speed are what you need while navigating dunes, harsh environments, and everything else that mother nature can throw at you.

Improved Traction

Four-wheel drive automatically increases the control and traction of the vehicle. This optimal traction will make life a lot easier when requiring control over loose surfaces such as sand and handling harsh terrains like rocks, steep hills, and mud.

Why Don’t All Dune Buggies Have Four-Wheel Drive?

Not all dune buggies are four-wheel drives. People building their own dune buggies from scratch may opt to go for a two-wheel-drive system as it will be a cheaper option in the long run. As long as the buggy can fly over the dunes and not get stuck, then what is the point of installing a four-wheel drive, some might ask?

The main reasons why some opt for a two-wheel-drive are:

  • Weight: A four-wheel-drive dune buggy will weigh more than a two-wheel drive buggy, as the drivetrain of a four-wheel drive will require more mechanical components to deliver the extra torque required. These extra components weigh considerably more than the drivetrain of a two-wheel-drive dune buggy.
  • Fuel Economy: The engine of a two-wheel-drive vehicle only has to deliver power to two wheels, whereas the four-wheel-drive vehicle needs to provide power to four wheels. Additional power requires more fuel. The extra weight on four-wheel-drive vehicles will also increase fuel usage, so the two-wheel-drive vehicle is your better option regarding fuel consumption.
  • Cost: The initial cost of a two-wheel-drive buggy compared to a four-wheel-drive model will be considerably less. Maintenance costs on the two-wheel-drive will also be less than a four-wheel-drive due to not having the extra mechanical parts that automatically come with a four-wheel drive, parts that would need replacing in the future.

That being said, if you are also using your dune buggy to do some off-roading regularly, then the added power of the four-wheel-drive will come into play when navigating this type of terrain.


Most new dune buggies on the market today are four-wheel drive, which makes the experience of dune bashing and off-roading so much better. There are some two-wheel-drive buggies on the market as well as they generally perform just as well. Just don’t get stuck with only two drivable wheels!

Four-wheel drive buggies tend to be more powerful than two-wheel drives, perform well on loose sand, dunes, and harsh terrain, and should be your go-to when deciding on purchasing a new dune buggy. If buying from a private seller who built his buggy himself, you might find that it is a two-wheel drive, and you then have the option of converting it to a four-wheel drive, should you choose to do so.


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Meyers Manx – Wikipedia

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Louis Pretorius

As an amateur off-road enthusiast, I have always been drawn to outdoor adventure. I have decided to share all of my learning experiences with you as I dig a little deeper into my new-found passion and wonderful world of off-roading. My mission is to create the Ultimate Off-roading space on the internet in the process. Stay safe and happy Off-Roading!

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