Most of the SUVs and crossovers on the market today look so similar that it's hard to tell them apart, even between radically different brands like BMW and Hyundai. But back when the SUV began its meteoric rise to the top of the automotive market, every manufacturer tried to make their product stand out from the rest.
Today, the used car market is flooded with SUVs that can be picked up for shockingly low prices. Some may have racked up hundreds of thousands of miles, while others were taken off-road and abused, but for a perfect throwaway beater, it's hard to beat a capable SUV.
Not all SUV models were built equal, though. Keep scrolling for 16 of the best SUVs for under $5,000—plus one that everyone should avoid at all costs.
17 Good Buy: Mitsubishi Montero
Most gearheads in the US don't even know about the full-size Mitsubishi Montero, even if they would recognize its little sibling, the Montero Sport. But these rigs were built to compete with the likes of famous SUVs like Toyota's Land Cruiser and 4Runner, and nowadays, they're cheap as dirt on the used market.
16 Good Buy: Chevrolet Blazer
Chevy has resurrected the Blazer, though the modern iteration is a bit fancier than the original. But bare-bones was exactly what the Blazer used to offer, though a two-door in ZR2 trim had plenty of capability without getting too large. Best of all, there are a ton listed online at any given time and they're almost all easily below $5,000.
15 Good Buy: Chevrolet Tahoe
Chevrolet made some sweet SUV models during the late-1990s and the first years of the 21st century. The Tahoe is definitely a great option for anyone looking to buy a cheap SUV that can fit the whole family. Plus, so many were sold that parts and maintenance are relatively cheap, while upgrades are supremely plentiful.
14 Good Buy: Toyota 4Runner
The Toyota 4Runner sits at the top of the heap when it comes to used SUV options, so finding one under $5,000 may dictate an extremely high mileage example. But even well-used 4Runners are a solid bet, since they left the factory with some of the best build quality of any SUV ever made.
13 Good Buy: Isuzu Rodeo
Isuzu might not have had a hit like the Rodeo since the 1990s, but the Rodeo still stands out as a great SUV that can be found for a great price. There's absolutely nothing fancy about the Rodeo except that it will run forever. It's a lightweight, simple SUV and even lower mileage examples are going to be very cheap.
12 Good Buy: Honda Passport
The Isuzu Rodeo's badge sibling, the Honda Passport, is another great option on the used SUV market. These will tend to command slightly higher prices, just because of the Honda logo, though their larger numbers will help to create more options. With a bit of suspension work and maybe an aftermarket differential or two, these are great SUVs for off-roading.
11 Good Buy: Chevrolet Suburban
For large families that need an SUV to haul the kids, their gear, their friends, and their pets, it's hard to go wrong with a Chevrolet Suburban. Used Suburbans have typically been neglected by their owners, who simply don't have time amidst their hectic lives to complete simple maintenance like oil changes, but even a well-maintained example can be found for pennies on the dollar.
10 Good Buy: Subaru Forester
Finding a Subaru Forester that hasn't been vaped in is much easier than finding an equivalent WRX or STI. Back when the first-gen Forester was new, families were more likely to buy these cars, though bros have started picking them up recently, as well. Now, Foresters are all the rage, though they were plentiful enough that they're still pretty affordable.
9 Good Buy: Nissan Xterra
The Nissan Xterra left the factory with some divisive styling, though for anyone who can overlook the strange exterior, this is one great SUV to pick up on the secondhand market. The 210-hp supercharged V6 engine is the most desirable—obviously when paired with four-wheel drive—though for simplicity and reliability, a base V6 might be a better idea.
8 Good Buy: Toyota RAV4
Compared to today's crossover market, it's hard to believe that the whole fad started with the original RAV4. Just look at the little SUV's hilarious styling, which is unfathomable in today's automotive landscape. But in quintessential Toyota manner, this is a cheap SUV that anyone can afford to buy used and is especially great with a five-speed stick shift and all-wheel drive.
7 Good Buy: Honda CR-V
Honda's response to the Toyota RAV4 was the CR-V, which looks very small by today's standards. Sure, it's not the most rugged off-roader from the factory but still, the occasional owner takes their CR-V everywhere. The simple exterior matches a simple interior and simple mechanicals, a combo sorely lacking in most vehicles.
6 Good Buy: BMW X3
BMW owners might lament that their vehicles depreciate shockingly quickly, but for anyone who wants an X3 used, this means the cars are pretty affordable. Of course, maintenance is going to be an expensive hassle, but provided that's okay, the X3 is a great option for an SUV that's capable off-road while retaining some sporty qualities on the tarmac.
5 Good Buy: Ford Escape
The Ford Escape has been around for the entirety of the 21st century, making first-gen models incredibly cheap on the used market. They're not cool or luxurious by any means, but an Escape is a small commuter's SUV that has all the basic amenities without any of the unnecessary flair so common on other SUVs from other companies.
4 Good Buy: Mazda CX-5
Mazda's SUV lineup is doing quite well, thanks to some good marketing, distinct styling, and a great price point. Finding a used CX-5 for under $5,000 might be a challenge but higher-mileage examples are definitely out there because many owners bought these cars to drive the wheels off during their long daily commutes.
3 Good Buy: Infiniti FX45
The Infiniti FX45 is another SUV that many drivers wouldn't look twice at on the road. But then, when an FX45 blasts by in a blizzard when everyone else is getting stuck, they'll wonder what just happened. With a V8 engine paired to the same all-wheel-drive system as the legendary Nissan Skyline GT-R, the FX45 is an awesome machine and a cheap one on the used market.
2 Good Buy: Lexus RX
Lexus is Toyota's upscale division, building products that have just a little bit more luxury than their base siblings. The Lexus RX 300 debuted way back in the late-1990s, but they're still comfortable and ergonomically perfect on the interior. Some buyers may avoid this model because of the exterior but anyone who can get past that can get a luxurious Toyota SUV that will last them forever.
1 Avoid At All Costs: Volkswagen Touareg
VAG made some very strange decisions when they built the Volkswagen Touareg. Despite being the lower-class version of the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, the Touareg could be had with plenty of interior amenities, plus up to three locking differentials and an air-lift suspension setup. This sounds like the perfect off-roading vehicle—and it is, provided that notorious reliability issues don't crop up, which they definitely will.