SUVs are good for a lot of things, almost everything in fact. They’re compact so they aren’t unwieldy like big trucks, get decent gas mileage, can carry as many people as a sedan (more depending on which SUV you buy), and are beasts in off-road terrain. Unfortunately, the only way to know which SUV is the most reliable is to buy a used one so you can know what other people have had to deal with. That being said, some of the older SUVs which have proven themselves as reliable might surprise you. We stuck to picking a few of the most reliable SUVs by some of the most reliable brands and each of them will cost you less than $10,000.
A bit on the larger side, the Chevrolet Tahoe is exactly what you’re looking for in a dependable SUV. NHTSA has very few reported issues in terms of mechanics with this model year, and it goes to show as in order to pinpoint a Tahoe that’s as reliable as the newer generations for less than $10,000, we had to go all the way back to 2006. The Tahoe comes equipped with a 285 horsepower 4.8-liter V8 engine and still manages to get 19 mpg on the highway. With AWD, the 2006 Tahoe should cost you around $7,000. That’s not a lot of money, considering its size and performance.
For something a bit smaller and newer than the Tahoe, you might want to consider the 2009 Honda CR-V. It has only a 2.4-liter inline-four producing somewhere around 165 horsepower, but AWD comes standard and since it’s a Honda the engine will be dead reliable. It also gets better mileage than the Tahoe, about 26 mpg on the highway, which is expected since the engine is about half the size. Going by NHTSA complaints you’d have to go a little deep to find engine-related issues, however, the biggest issue that plagues the 2009 CR-V (and lots of Hondas from that year as well) is that the airbags deploy at random. Honda will fix it for free though, so as long as you have that taken care of the car is golden. You can find a 2009 model year for around $8,500.
We had to find a Toyota for this list, so we decided on the 4Runner. The problem with this is that in order to find one with minimal engine problems we had to go all the way back to 1996. That’s an uncomfortable number for some people, but for those of us who don’t mind a thin layer of brake dust on the wheels, the 1996 4Runner is a solid choice. Its 2.7-liter inline-four engine produces about 150 horsepower and gets around 20 mpg on the highway. These cars are renowned for being reliable and able to take a substantial beating. It’s gotten great marks across the board for being reliable, even more so than later model years. You should be able to find one with average mileage and AWD for around $3,000.
For a Subaru, we went with a 2008 Forester. Like the Honda, the Forester comes standard with AWD. It’s got a 2.5-liter flat-four engine producing 170 horsepower, and 26 mpg on the highway. In terms of engine issues, there’s nothing to write home about really, as in no recurring, recall-worthy issues. Foresters are common among enthusiasts, but as we all know the Subaru always active AWD system is yet to be rivaled, and in terms of being able to handle off-road situations the Forester does well and keeps a sporty feel throughout, as long as you keep the manual transmission. You should be able to find one for around $6,500.
There are a lot of other reliable SUVs out there, but this will give you an idea of what to expect. Remember these are used vehicles so they won’t be completely devoid of issues, but they are still rugged enough to handle most if not all dynamic situations. These cars have few engine and transmission issues, and often those are the kind of issues you don’t want to fix or need to fix. As long as the engine and transmission or, in this case, transaxle are in good shape you can be confident in these cars to fulfill all your SUV needs.
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