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

Cameron EittreimAugust 26, 2021

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14: Suzuki XL7

Released in 2001, the Suzuki XL7 was the Vitara on steroids. A stretched body style meant that the Vitara could now seat seven passengers. The XL7 also had a fair amount of standard luxury features which made it quite comfortable. You still get the exceptional gas mileage of the Vitara line and the replacement parts are fairly plentiful.

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The XL-7 was never the breakout hit that the RAV4 or other compact SUVs were, but it served a portion of the market that needed something like this. You can find a used XL-7 for a reasonable price and it’s still a fairly modern ride. Suzuki was going to quality meets value direction during this time period and the XL-7 is evidence of that.

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13: Ford Bronco II

Compact SUVs were coming into their own in the late 1980s and the Ford Bronco II was set out to compete with the new Chevy Blazer. The Ford Bronco II was lacking a lot of the options that the full-sized Bronco model came with. The removable top being the most obvious difference between the two models.

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Next up was the fact that the Bronco II didn’t come with a V8 engine option. Still, the Bronco II was based on the Ford Ranger pickup truck and that meant exceptional reliability. Nowadays the Bronco II is considered a collector’s item and can still be had for less than $5,000.

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12: Isuzu Rodeo Sport

Toward the middle of the 1990s, Isuzu had done away with the Amigo nameplate altogether. But the company still needed a two-door SUV that had a removable top, thus the Rodeo Sport was born. Everything about the Rodeo Sport was better than the outgoing Amigo, including its new modern interior and exterior.

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Functionality-wise, the Rodeo Sport had a number of new safety and convenience features. A hardtop was an option and definitely made the Rodeo Sport a more comfortable riding experience. The Rodeo Sport was larger than a Jeep Wrangler which gave a lot of buyers the room that they were looking for.

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11: Geo Tracker

The original compact UTE to hit the mainstream was the Geo Tracker. Released by GM as a way to entice younger car buyers into the showroom, the Tracker was quite the popular vehicle for almost a decade. As time went on, there was a subtle upgrade to the Geo Tracker that made it more appealing, including changing the nameplate to Chevrolet in 1998.

If you are looking for open-air fun at the fraction of the cost of a Jeep Wrangler price, you can’t go wrong with the Geo Tracker. From the reliability to the cheap cost of replacement parts the Geo Tracker is everything many cost-focused SUV buyers are looking for.

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10: Suzuki Sidekick

The corporate clone of the Geo Tracker, the Suzuki Sidekick is the lesser-known variant of the two compact SUV models. The Sidekick also had an appealing design and came with a lot of unique features for the price. The removable top is obviously the most appealing part of the Suzuki Sidekicks design, but the gas efficiency is also great.

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Likewise, the Sidekick has become highly sought after due to the authentic four-wheel-drive design of the truck. A Sidekick is an authentic off-road rig and with a little bit of work, you can get one of these to tackle any trail with ease.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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