Today four-wheel or four-wheel drive is available in almost every car segment, from compact sedans to big, monstrous 8.0L trucks and even some hatchbacks! However, the difference between four-wheel drive and four-wheel drive cars is that AWD focuses more on keeping the car on the tarmac regardless of the conditions. Off-road driving, on the other hand, is a whole different game, requiring a 4×4 drivetrain, big, sturdy tires and high ground clearance that would bend any terrain to your SUV.
Fortunately, 4x4s are also some of the best vehicles you can get for yourself on the used car market, as they have always been built from the ground up to last and continue to serve that purpose. So if you want to explore off-road terrain unhindered by the limitations of the tarmac, you don’t need to get the latest 4×4 toys on the market, because a no-nonsense, high-performance 4WD vehicle is always right around the corner when you’re looking at the second hand. These are the best off-road SUVs you can take home without spending a dime over $15,000.
9 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 4MATIC $12,000
A good living decade model is a great way to show how good Mercedes-Benz cars are and how well they age as well. With tons of interior space, the 2012 German SUV also has remarkable off-road capabilities, making it a contender on this list.
When fitted with the off-road package, the Mercedes-Benz ML350 4Matic offered truly unforgettable off-road fun, and its 3.5 liter V6 engine, producing 268 hp, paired beautifully with the 7-speed automatic transmission. You can buy one for yourself in the used car market for just under $15,000and some 2011 models for even less.
8 2012 Nissan Xterra $14,000
The Nissan Xterra has made its name as a remarkably capable and reliable SUV. Think of a 4th or 5th generation 4Runner, but with a lower budget. Plus, with several shops around that cater to Nissan 4WDs, an Xterra will also ensure you have plenty of customer support if and when you need it.
The Pro 4X model on the Nissan Xterra instills confidence in the driver off-road simply because of its badging, and the Pro 4x variant of the SUV still evokes fond memories for many off the tarmac. At just under $14,000, the Nissan Xterra Pro-4X is a phenomenal deal†
7 2006-08 Toyota Sequoia SR5 $11,000
Chevrolet designed the Sequoia with large families in mind and therefore equipped the SUV with three rows of seats and comfortable driving characteristics. However, the Sequoia comes with remarkable off-road prowess when you need it, and it will take you to the most remote campsites with ease.
The full-sized 4WD SUV came with a 4.7L V8 powerplant that put out 272 horsepower with 314 lb-ft of torque and was mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. A low-range transfer case helped bolster its off-road capabilities, making it a great choice for off-road riding. For $15,000 you could easily get a Toyota Sequoia 4WD, and some ’06 models even go for nearly $10,000. We even managed to find a 2011 modelhalf a decade younger, for a price that made the cut.
6 Suzuki Samurai $14,500
Where large four-wheel drive SUVs are hammers, the Suzuki Samurai remains the scalpel of the 4×4 world. It’s the smallest 4×4 on this list, and its narrow dimensions allow this capable buggy to reach places that large SUVs couldn’t fathom.
For those looking for a raw, authentic off-road experience with no bells and whistles, the Samurai emerges as a great choice, as the 5-speed gearshift enhances the feeling of being in an old-school off-roader with nothing other than your skills to get you through. For just under $15,000the car is a good choice if you don’t have daily driving and family tasks on your checklist.
5 2010 Jeep Wrangler $14,000
Jeep is synonymous with 4×4, and the Wrangler remains the handbook off-roader ever made. Anyone who first knows about off-road driving also knows the Wrangler, and that’s because the car can really handle and dominate whatever terrain nature throws at it.
The Wrangler, the king of unpaved America, is enough to give any enthusiast a taste of the quintessential Jeep experience on trails, gravel and rocky, muddy terrain. From 2009 to 2011 models, there are plenty of purchase options for the Wrangler under $15,000 mark†
4 2009 Toyota 4Runner (Gen 3 or 4) $13,900
The Toyota 4Runner is an off-road beast that just got exponentially better with each generation. This is not to say that previous generations are not lacking in any way, as the 4Runner has always remained one of the best among its contemporaries in any given generation.
4Runners are very capable SUVs, they have ample seating space and more than enough power for an off-roader. Beware though, if you’re talking to someone who already has one about buying one for yourself, you may have to set aside a day just to hear them go on about what a great car it is. While this model can be taken for about $14,000, there are some older ones from a few more years ago that have fallen below $10k.
3 1994 Mitsubishi Pajero $14,900
Mitsubishi’s SUV range has gone through a bit of turmoil, with the nameplate being changed and the ensuing confusion “obscuring” the brand. Nevertheless, Mitsubishi has produced some heavy and capable SUVs in their time, and the Pajero will always be one of them.
The second generation Mitsubishi Pajero remains in the hearts of enthusiasts as a classic and also as a rally-winning 4×4. The car has proven its worth as a robust and robust off-roader, and a well-maintained Pajero should set you back approx $15,000†
2 2014 Jeep Cherokee Sport 4WD $13,900
The Cherokee Sports has always been known for its off-road capability, which was like a bonus on top of being a decent daily driver. Passengers will be treated to a comfortable and enjoyable driving experience, and when it comes time for the Cherokee Sport to step off the tarmac, its superb off-road handling will amaze occupants as well.
From 2014 to 2016, you would easily be spoiled for choice with a variety of 4WD models of the Jeep Cherokee Sport that range between $11,000 and $14,000and any Cherokee would prove to be a good choice.
1 2004 Toyota Land Cruiser $14,000
How could a Land Cruiser not have been on this list? Regardless of the generation, Toyota’s extremely powerful and capable SUV has always been a beast of the road, and for less than $15,000 there are some options available for those who want to bring the Japanese off-roader into their garage.
If you use it for the purpose for which it is intended, you simply can do no wrong, and the powerful V8 makes any rough terrain out of reach for the Land Cruiser. Plus, it comes with signature Toyota reliability, so feel free to push the car as much as you can.
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