The glut of crossovers, unibody pickup trucks, and lightweight SUVs on the new car market today can seem overwhelming for potential buyers. All the various models from so many manufacturers just seem to blur together, with very few standing out as good buys or solid bets.
In the early years of the 21st century, though, automakers were still trying to differentiate their products from each other, with the result being that many sweet SUVs and pickups hit the market—and they've managed to age quite well. In terms of style and performance, a fair amount of the models setting trends that are still going today came from Europe.
Of course, buying a used European truck or SUV might sound daunting, given the reliability and maintenance issues that seem so scary. But on the used market, those fears are often factored in and result in low prices, making some European rigs pretty good deals for the price. Keep scrolling for 15 solid European options under $10,000.
15 2004 Volkswagen Touareg - $2-5,000
The first-generation Volkswagen Touareg is probably the most awesome SUV on the used market, though finding one that will actually run might be a challenge.
With three locking differentials, airbag suspension, and a comfy interior, the Touareg seems amazing. But then it's overly complex engine bay and electrical gremlins are the reason prices easily stay below $10,000.
14 1990 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen - $10,000
The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen has evolved into a celebrity favorite and a seriously luxurious SUV, but the model started out as a rugged, Spartan off-roader. G-Wagens hold their value extremely well, so finding one under $10,000 demands patience, as well as the acceptance of the fact that an eventual find is probably going to need some work.
13 2007 Volkswagen Tiguan - $6-8,000
The Volkswagen Tiguan is the Touareg's little brother, though it lacks the kind of off-roading prowess that a fully-loaded Touareg offers. But the Tiguan can, at the very least, be had with all-wheel drive and with clean styling. Plus, with a low price point, it can be a solid buy on the used market. Spending the full $10,000 to get a well-maintained example is key, though.
12 2000 BMW X5 - $3-5,000
BMW was the first European manufacturer to really hit it big with a successful SUV in the United States. Sporty and yet also capable of mild off-roading, the X5 offered style and luxury all in one solid package.
BMW sold so many that they are easy to find on the used market, and a few mods like big all-terrain tires can help make an X5 a capable and fun rig.
11 2003 BMW X3 - $4-6,000
Of course, the rally-prepped X3 above will be just about impossible to find on the used market, but finding a used X3 for under $10,000 isn't particularly hard. For this price point, any X3 will probably be higher-mileage, so finding one that's been well-maintained by a conscientious owner becomes very, very important.
10 2010 BMW X1 - $8-10,000
The X1 hit the market after the X5 and X3, as the smaller sibling that was more targeted towards city folk. But despite its diminutive stature, the X1 still looks great with some sporty styling. As a later-year model, finding an X1 under $10,000 might require finding one that's been beaten up pretty bad, but for a beater, there are worse options out there.
9 1980 Volkswagen Caddy - $3-6,000
True trucks from European manufacturers don't generally make it across the Atlantic to America, the land that made beefy pickup trucks famous. But back in 1979, Volkswagen began shipping a little version of the Golf that had been modified into a pickup and called it the Rabbit Pickup Truck in North America.
Is it the most capable truck out there? Not at all—but it does have its own style.
8 1986 BMW E30 Truck - $3-8,000
Now, this is a bit of a stretch, since BMW didn't technically offer an E30 3 Series in pickup truck form to the public. But BMW did build an E30 pickup truck themselves, inspiring a ton of backyard mechanics and tuners to create their own—and every now and then, they pop up online, always for well under $10,000.
7 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class - $2-5,000
In the early years of the 2000s, the roads of the United States became flooded with BMW's X5 and Mercedes-Benz's ML-Class SUVs. The ML looks a bit dated by now, but the sheer volume of sales means that prices these days are super low. Finding one for under $5,000 is even easy, though it might be just a winter beater. Stepping up to near the $10,000 limit could mean buying a very nice example, though.
6 2003 Porsche Cayenne - $8-10,000
Porsche enthusiasts lost their minds when the company announced an SUV that shared its platform with the VW Touareg. But anyone who drove the Cayenne loved it, and it's easy to argue that the SUV helped save the brand. Cheap Cayennes might be a bit scary, but anyone who can wrench on a car themselves could get a great deal on one of these.
5 2006 Audi Q7 - $6-8,000
In between the VW Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne sits the Audi Q7. The Q7 went on sale in 2007 and has become ubiquitous in cities and at ski resorts nationwide. It comes with Audi's legendary Quattro, which is a different Torsen-based system than the Touareg received, though the Touareg's optional three locking diffs might be better in the worst situations. But the Q7 is so common that its prices are low, even if it also struggles with reliability issues.
4 2010 Audi Q5 - $8-10,000
Of course, just like Volkswagen and Porsche have released smaller SUVs over last two decades, so has Audi. The Q5 followed the Q7, hitting the market for model year 2009. The first generation came with a wide range of engine options but all of them at Quattro all-wheel drive, making a Q5 a good buy for anyone who sees bad weather. However, with all these European cars, reliability and maintenance are a concern.
3 2012 Audi Q3 - $8-10,000
Many Audi snobs decry the A3 and Q3 models, as well as the TT, because of the Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system, which they think isn't "true" Quattro. But with its front-axle bias, a Haldex system can actually be great in slippery terrain. Car and Driver pointed out that compared to the first-gen Tiguan, the Q3 used more aluminum, saying, "Audi’s version is said to be more than 130 pounds lighter than its VW sister model."
2 1996 Land Rover Discovery - $3-5,000
People are now starting to import Land Rover Defenders to the United States, but for most of the population, they remain way too expensive. Anyone else hoping to get into an affordable Land Rover is pretty much stuck with the Discovery, and first-gen models can be easily found for under $10,000—just be ready with a wrench and tool kit at any given time!
1 2016 Fiat 500X - $6-9,000
When stepping away from German manufacturers for another European 4x4 that's easy to find under $10,000, just about the only other option is the Fiat 500X. At the very least, the 500X does have all-wheel drive—and a bit of style (especially compared to the 500L). Is it the best SUV in the world? Definitely not, but it could be a good deal for a winter beater.
Sources: PR Newswire, Car and Driver, and Wikipedia.