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20 Classic SUVs Drivers Can Score For Under $5,000 (Plus One To Avoid)

Cameron EittreimAugust 26, 2021

Photo Credit: Ford Motor

9: Lincoln Aviator

The Lincoln Aviator is a bit of a unique entry released in the early 2000s. Based on the Ford Explorer, this was Lincoln’s take at a compact Navigator of sorts. But the real gem is under the hood of the Aviator, as the engine is shared with the Ford Mustang Mach-1. With this powerful engine under the hood, Lincoln often touted its performance as a selling point.

Photo Credit: Ford Motor

The Aviator had a lot of unique things going for it, and if you want a luxury ride with the performance you can’t go wrong. The Mach-1 was one of the most anticipated cars of 2003 and due to its performance under the hood of the Aviator, you can’t go wrong.

Photo Credit: GM

8: Pontiac Torrent

The Torrent was released toward the end of the brand’s lifespan and was actually a sporty SUV. The styling was a lot different than the Chevy Equinox that it was based on and drastically different than the Aztek that came before it. The Torrent is not going to win any off-road competitions, but if you want something sporty and good-looking, you can’t go wrong.

Photo Credit: GM

Plus, driving an SUV around that has a Pontiac badge on it always invokes a conversation no matter what. The Torrent was perhaps one of the most underrated SUV models released by GM in the past decade. You can find a Torrent for far less than the $5,000 asking price that it generally will command.

Photo Credit: BAT

7: Dodge Durango 5.9 R/T

The first-generation Dodge Durango was a groundbreaking SUV in a lot of ways. It was the first midsize SUV that had third-row seating, This was a major selling point for families who wanted a much larger SUV without having to go for an Expedition or a Tahoe. It also helped to give Dodge an entire segment of the market pretty much to themselves.

Photo Credit: BAT

There was also the 5.9 R/T which was a performance-oriented version of the Durango that had the 5.9L V8 engine cramped under the hood. The performance of this model is above average and if you can find one in a dark blue paint scheme, you’ll be in for a treat.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

6: Toyota Highlander (First Generation)

The first generation of the Highlander is often forgotten when it comes to the used SUV market. But it was not only capable but it also had a lot of interesting trim packages to choose from. The hybrid model was especially important as it was one of the first mainstream hybrid SUVs that were available to the public.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The styling is also timeless and still looks great even to this day, which is important in a used SUV. The Highlander is one of the most reliable used SUVs on the road, with many of these early examples eclipsing 400k miles on the odometer.

Photo Credit: Ford

5: Mercury Mariner

Before the Mercury brand was axed altogether, there were a few notable models that appeared in the brand’s showrooms. The Mercury Mariner was a compact UTE that was based on the Ford Escape and came with a number of luxury features. The Mariner was also the very first Hybrid SUV model to be sold on the open market.

Photo Credit: Ford

The Mariner had a luxurious interior with two-tone leather seating, and you could say that the exterior styling was a lot more handsome as well too. When it comes to pricing for a used SUV you can find a Mariner for nearly nothing, and you’ll still have a quality SUV model you can enjoy for years to come.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

4: Mercury Mountaineer

The original Mercury Mountaineer was unique for a number of reasons, the first of which being that it was the first Mercury branded SUV. The optional 5.0L V8 engine is an example of things that Ford has done right. At the time, the Mountaineer and the Explorer were the only midsize SUV models on the market that came with V8 power.

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Exterior-wise, the Mountaineer has a cleaner look than the Explorer with a nice waterfall grill and optional two-tone paint. The Mountaineer isn’t going to score any brownie points for originality, but if you want an Explorer with some added luxury and personality, you can’t go wrong with a Mountaineer.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

3: Mazda Navajo

The Navajo was the very first SUV to showcase a Mazda badge, and it was based on the Ford Explorer. The unique thing about the Navajo was that it was only released in a two-door configuration. But during the short amount of time it was available, the Navajo had a devoted audience.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The car event went as far as to win the Motor Trend Truck of the Year award. The Navajo is unique and rare, which makes its value more than just monetary. Plus the Explorer is quite capable off-road, so it’s only natural that the Navajo would keep all of these attributes.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

2: Jeep Cherokee

The original Jeep Cherokee is both legendary and also common, which means that you can find them grossly overpriced or fairly cheap. Depending on the condition and the year the Cherokee can be a great choice for anyone who wants a fairly easy-to-maintain SUV. You get the legendary reliability of the Cherokee and off-road capability.

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Early models of the Cherokee were made by AMC and thus feature a lot of thus that was removed on the later models. No matter which way you slice it, you can’t go wrong with a Jeep Cherokee. The brand has been synonymous with off-roading since the early days of the automotive industry.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

1: Jeep Commander (Avoid)

The Commander was Jeep’s first attempt to bring a full-size SUV to the market and it managed to disappoint. Reliability and cost are the two reasons why you should steer clear of the Commander at all costs. The Jeep Commander was one of the first products of the Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz merger, which means a lot of the technology is expensive.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

The transmission is incredibly expensive to repair because of the Mercedes roots and it’s prone to failure. The V6 engine that was standard equipment in the Jeep Commander is also well known for blowing head gaskets and miscellaneous failures that happen from time to time. The Commander is just better left alone from the gate as you’ll save a lot of heartaches and unnecessary expeniture.

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