What is Arizona Pinstriping?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

There are many people who strongly believe a four wheel drive off-road vehicle should actually be driven off-road, not parked on a suburban driveway as a status symbol. One of the major differences between a truly off-road vehicle and its tamer urban cousin is the presence of thin scratches on the car known as Arizona pinstriping. Arizona pinstriping can only be achieved by running a vehicle designed for off-road driving through branches, thorns, rock formations and other hazards not found on city streets.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Arizona pinstriping is considered a badge of honor by off-road enthusiasts, who often advertise this damage to the car's paint when selling a used off-road vehicle. It takes some serious effort to apply Arizona pinstripes while driving through thick brush and other rugged terrain. The idea is to create thin horizontal stripes of shallow damage to the automobile paint, not deep gouges or irreparable damage to the body frame.

Most likely the term "Arizona pinstriping" originated with the off-road culture in the rugged western state of Arizona. Because much of the terrain in Arizona is undeveloped, many ranchers and farmers prefer to use off-road vehicles in order to reach isolated areas of their property. This has led to a subculture of off-road drivers who challenge themselves and their vehicles by driving through virtually impenetrable terrain. Arizona pinstriping caused by low-lying branches and the thorns of scrub brushes is viewed as proof a driver has indeed taken on some challenges.

There is often a palpable disdain for suburban drivers who purchase off-road or sports utility vehicles with apparently no intention of ever using them for that purpose. Not pushing a powerful vehicle with off-road capabilities to its limits is seen as a waste of metal and money by many off-road enthusiasts. The fastest way for an owner of an SUV or all-terrain vehicle to earn street cred with off-roaders is to take it out and allow nature to apply a generous coating of Arizona pinstriping.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


It is such a waste for city dwellers to own one of these vehicles, but I must admit I enjoy watching them try to park them in those small city spots designed for more compact cars or maneuver through parking structures.


Wow, anonymous, you sure read a lot into that article. I thought it was just a subculture-specific term, but you showed me how it is really a vast conspiracy of hypocritical do-gooders and consumers.


Humans are a strange breed. Buy bottled water, buy SUV's (stupid unnecessary vehicles for most of those who own them), $4 coffee, French wines and vote Democratic.


Off-road vehicles:

My guess is that some town dwellers buy them for the feeling of safety inside a heavily built rugged vehicle. Car designers seem to overlook this very real need for a feeling of safety - flashy tin jobs may fool the girls, but taking a hard hit puts a very different perspective on desirability.

Drive safely. Think of the medical costs, and live longer!


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