You may have heard the word ‘mall crawler’ and wondered, what is a mall crawler jeep?
A mall crawler jeep is an SUV or truck (like an RWD, 4WD, or even 2WD) that has all the features needed for off-roading, but it’s only used for daily activities like driving kids to school or picking up groceries. The upgrades become an aesthetic thing more than a functionality thing.
That said, you can’t call every SUV or truck you see on the street a mall crawler just because it’s parked in places like malls and churches? Obviously not! Since some people do use their jeeps and trucks for off-roading as well. So how do you know if a car is a mall crawler jeep?
Here, we’ve put together some of the surefire ways you can tell when a truck you see on the road is a mall crawler.
How to Identify a Mall Crawler
Though not every off-road vehicle you see on the road is a mall crawler, most mall crawler jeeps you see will have some traits that let you know it doesn’t get used off-road.
Body is Spotless
From the name itself, you can assume that people would normally buy off-road vehicles to go off-road. This could be over hills with lots of rocks and mud, crossing rivers, woody areas or simply enjoying nature without the risk of danger. In many of these places, you’re likely to find stones and branches as well as other small things that can hit and damage your vehicle.
That’s why it’s very common to see dirt, scratches, and dents on off-road vehicles. You can’t use dirt as a deciding factor since the owners would use these vehicles in daily life as well, and thus, would clean them every day. But imperfections on the vehicle’s body are a pretty good sign to keep an eye out for.
If a loaded truck or an SUV has no signs of damage on its body, then you can assume that it’s either new, and has just not had the chance to go off-road yet, or it is a mall crawler.
An off-road vehicle’s distance from the ground is to make sure that the parts on the underside are protected, even if you dismiss protective features. This is because off-road vehicles are expected to come across all sorts of hurdles when off-road. If the vehicle is too close to the ground, there is a high chance of damage.
These hurdles don’t exist within the city, so if you see an off-road vehicle that is too close to the ground, then you can be sure that it’s a mall crawler. Some people will keep their protective upgrades on for aesthetic purposes, so you can’t use this as evidence. If a vehicle gets used off-road, though, it is likely to retain its height or still stay lifted a bit higher than other vehicles for safer driving.
On the flip side, sometimes, if a car is lifted too high, it is likely to be a mall crawler. Authentic off-road vehicles shouldn’t be lifted too high because lifting any car at a high level involves a lot of skill. If your car is too high or if it’s not lifted properly, the driver may get in danger when they’re actually driving off-road – especially in difficult or rough terrain. This kind of life is also very expensive and impractical for off-roaders. So, if you see an off-road vehicle that looks like it’s too high, it’s probably a mall crawler.
Immaculate Skid Plates and Rock Sliders
Skid plates are metal pieces installed on the underside to protect some parts – like fuel tanks – whereas rock sliders are set along the rocker panels to keep things like stumps and rocks from damaging the underside of the car itself.
These are used in tough terrain, so you can expect that if a vehicle has been off-road, these parts will have taken some damage. With that in mind, you can also expect that if these parts are spotless in a vehicle, it is likely to be a mall crawler.
On that note, there’s also the chance that the owner got these parts replaced, so you can’t make the assumption on its own and should look at other elements of the vehicle, too.
You can’t go off-road if you don’t have the right tires. If you do go off-road without the right tires, you are putting yourself and your safety at risk. You need different kinds of tires for snow, wet roads, sand, etc. That’s why many people assume that if a car has large, monstrous tires, it’s an off-roader, but that’s not the right way to look at it.
The right tires can be difficult to identify if you don’t have enough knowledge about them, but many mall crawlers try to pass off as off-road vehicles by using large tires, without understanding that true off-road vehicles will never have mismatched axles and tires, if they don’t want to risk any damage.
Just like the rock sliders and skid plates – and the general body frame of the vehicle – rims will get exposed to dirt and rock when you’re going off-road. Rims are also most likely to get the damage first, so if you see an off-road vehicle with clean rims, or rims that look expensive or colorful, the vehicle is most likely a mall crawler.
Every car has lights because they’re essential for any type of car. From driving at night to driving during the rain or fog, lights are important so you know where you’re going and to let other people know that you’re there.
That said, off-road vehicles need auxiliary lights to make it through rough and unpredictable weather conditions. When you’re off-road, you don’t know when you’ll get stuck somewhere, so you need these lights in case you end up in the middle of nowhere.
If a vehicle does not have auxiliary lights or if it has too many that are not correctly installed, you can assume it’s a mall crawler.
Nowadays, customizing your cars and modifying them to suit your tastes is nothing new – everyone does it. So it’s not surprising that vehicle parts in different colors are sold individually for customizing purposes.
That said, while some people do like customizing their off-road vehicles, most will simply avoid it. The reason for this is that these suspensions are very expensive, and if you put them on your vehicle when you go off-road, you increase the chances of them getting damaged with scratches, dirt, and mud.
On top of that, off-roading accessories on their own are already very expensive, so the options for drivers would be to either spend on the customization or on upgrades for a better off-road experience. Chances are they’d pick the latter.
So if you see an SUV that is heavily customized, you can assume it’s most likely a mall crawler.
Mall Rated Sticker
Off-road vehicles have a Trail Rated badge that indicates that they went through tests and met off-road standards. This is so that people can be satisfied and reassured of their safety.
With this, you have the mall-rated badge, which is a copy of the Trail Rated badge that shows that an off-road vehicle you own is not going off-road, and you can stick it on your car. This is an absolute guarantee that a vehicle is a mall crawler.
So, What is A Mall Crawler?
A mall crawler, then, is an off-road vehicle that has never actually been used for its intended purpose. While off-road adventurers may not understand why you would own an off-road vehicle if you don’t intend to use it, many people like certain kinds of cars for the aesthetic, or maybe they have certain needs that you’re not aware of.
About THE AUTHOR
Corey has been off-roading all his life, starting from a very young age on ATV's and dirt bikes. As he's grown older, his interests have focused more on larger off-roading vehicles like Jeeps and Toyotas. He lives for the slow and calculated crawl up (or down) steep terrain.Read More About Corey Brooks