In today’s automotive market, new 4×4 SUV’s can cost an arm and a leg. They typically cost more than pickup trucks and to get any decent features that an offroad enthusiast would want, the typical price starts well above $25k. Fortunately there are still plenty of used SUV’s that are very offroad capable, have most of the features you would still want and are affordable. If you’re looking to spend under $10k but still want a well-built and reliable SUV that is more than capable offroad, you might want to consider some of these vehicles.
2nd Generation Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Grand Cherokee has been a very popular platform for offroad enthusiasts to build on. It’s designed to be a multi-purpose SUV to handle both on and offroad applications without sacrificing too much comfort. The 2nd Generation Grand Cherokee was built from 1999-20014 and has both a V6 and V8 option depending on how much power is needed and the application. While it’s a great SUV for a variety of purposes, some people have had reliability issues with certain components.
Engine: 4.0L V6 195HP or 4.6L V8 265HP
Average MPG: 16mpg (V6) 14mpg (V8)
Additional specs: Unibody Frame, 3786lbs curb weight, 181.6” length, 72.6” width, 8’9” wheel base, 5000lb towing capacity
3rd Generation 4Runner
Many consider the 3rd generation 4Runner to be one of the best-built Toyota SUV’s of all time. Built from 1996-2002, these 4Runners feature many of the amenities you would want from any offroad-capable rig and they can be found for under $10k in good condition. Any 4Runner will be a great platform to build on, however this generation was the first year to incorporate an SUV that was not only offroad capable, but also one that was very comfortable to drive on the street. To this day, it is still a very modern-looking vehicle making it a very popular vehicle to purchase used.
Engine: 3.4L V6 183HP
Average MPG: 17mpg
Additional specs: Body on Frame, 3710 curb weight, 183.3” length, 66.5” width, 105.3” wheel base
TJ Series Jeep Wrangler
The Wrangler is one of the most popular 4×4 vehicles used by offroad enthusiasts, and for good reason. It is very offroad capable and there are a wide variety of aftermarket parts and 4×4 accessories available. Many consider this one of the more exciting vehicles to modify for offroad use, as it has an open cab, offroad tuned suspension and more. While you may sacrifice some standard luxuries to enjoy this vehicle, you’ll be able to take the Wrangler off the pavement with no problems. This particular model of the Wrangler (1997-2006) featured a coil-spring suspension based off the Jeep Grand Cherokee that provided a better ride and handling, and also returned to its classic roots with the round headlamps. It was available with a 2.5L Inline-4, a 2.4L DOHC 4-Cylinder engine or a 4.0L Inline-6.
Engine: 4.0L V6 190HP
Average MPG: 15mpg (manual) 15mpg (auto)
Additional Specs: 3857 lb curb weight, 151” length, 67” width, 103.4” wheel base
1st Generation Nissan Xterra
The Xterra was Nissan’s answer to the demand for a moderately priced, offroad capable SUV straight from the factory. It came pre-loaded with a variety of useful features including a roof rack, side step rails and a V6 motor. The first year this car was put into production was 2000/2001, and the updated model for the 2002 year introduced a few new interior items and a more powerful motor. The Xterra has been a very popular vehicle amongst offroad enthusiasts as it’s small and nimble, but can keep up with some of the larger SUV’s such as the Toyota Land Cruiser. Two motors were available which were the standard 3.3L V6 as well as a supercharged version.
Engine: 3.3L V6 180HP
Average MPG: 16mpg
Additional Specs: Body on Frame, optional locking rear diff, 178” length, 70.4” width, 104.3” wheelbase, 3570 lb curb weight, 3500lbs towing capacity
2nd Generation Chevrolet Tahoe
Large, bulky, and not the best at handling, this SUV wouldn’t be the best first choice for an offroad vehicle, however if you need a well-rounded vehicle that can do a little bit of everything then this may be a good choice. These SUV’s can be found at an affordable price and the 4×4 versions are decently good at going offroad with a few minor upgrades. These vehicles are comfortable, have a variety of modern luxuries, powerful and can tow a lot of weight making them a good all-around recreational vehicle. The best part is that they can be found for under $10k.
Engine: 4.8L V8 275HP or 5.3L V8 285HP
Average MPG: 15mpg
Additional Specs: 197” length, 79” width, 7,700lb towing capacity, 5037 lb curb weight