Chances are, if you're an American, what you really want to park in your driveway is a rugged-looking but carlike crossover or SUV. The utility vehicle segment has taken off over the last few decades to the point where some automakers, including massive ones like Ford, have abandoned sedans and hatchbacks in favor of a bevy of variously sized SUVs and trucklets. Not everybody is in a position to spend $45,000 on a brand-new SUV, but the good news is that there are plenty of nice options on the used market, even at the budget price of around $10,000.
We challenged the Autoblog editors to find a great, versatile used crossover or SUV for $10,000 or less, and this is what we came up with. We've broken it down by size starting with the smallest options, and when there are specific models or options to look for, we'll try to explain why it matters. Each entry includes a link to our classified ads, where you can narrow down your choices using your location and sliders for price and mileage. Pay attention to the deal rating to make sure you're getting the best price possible.
If you'd be better served with a coupe, sedan, hatchback or wagon, click here for that list. Or, if your tastes run closer to the fringe of the automotive segment, take a look at our Used Vehicle Spotlight series where we highlight interesting and sometimes forgotten cars from the past. For the rest of us who prefer to stay closer to the mainstream, the options below all boast at least average expected reliability scores (in most cases better-than-average) and were sold in enough numbers that there should be several options near you.
It's also worth mentioning that used vehicle prices are currently higher than normal. Some vehicles recommended below may be difficult to find below $10,000 with low mileage and/or desirable options. That means buyers may have to shop around longer than they may expect or travel farther than they'd like to get the best deal. Or, alternatively, spend just a little bit more money they'd like to get exactly what they are looking for.
2013-2016 Kia Soul — Subcompact crossover
We kick the party off with the smallest of all the utility vehicles that fall into our list. The Kia Soul is an odd duck, and we're pretty sure its buyers like it that way. It doesn't fit neatly into any specific category; it's not clearly a hatchback and it's not clearly an SUV. It fits in somewhere in between established segments, and does so with a style unlike anything else. The Soul doesn't offer all-wheel drive, so if that's a necessity we'd recommend the next vehicle on our list. What it does offer is a sporty look and feel, good interior space thanks to its boxy design, a range of optional engines and transmissions, and decent reliability and efficiency scores.
2006-2011 Honda CR-V — Compact crossover
You probably saw this one coming. The Honda CR-V, along with its biggest rival, the Toyota RAV4, is a perennial best-seller in America, and for good reason. It's reliable, it's practical, and it's reasonable pricing doesn't break the bank. The RAV4 is also a solid choice in the used compact crossover segment, but we generally prefer the Honda CR-V's sportier driving dynamics, quality interior components, revvy engines and overall refinement. Just about any year should be a solid choice, so just look for one near you with the options you want, the mileage you're comfortable with and the price you can afford.
2008-2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee — Midsize SUV
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is probably the vehicle most people think of when they think of a typical SUV. The entire segment was invented by the Wagoneer of the 1960s, defined by the Cherokee that debuted in 1984 and refined by the more upscale Grand Cherokee that debuted in 1993. We're specifically calling out the third-generation version and narrowing it further to the 2008-2010 model years that benefit from a mid-cycle refresh with updated styling and a (slightly) more refined interior. Several engines were offered, the most common being the adequate 3.7-liter V6, the upgraded and desirable 4.7-liter V8 and the satisfyingly powerful 5.7-liter Hemi. If you're looking for power, the 2009 and 2010 Hemis offered 360 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. In all forms, the four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee is more capable off-road than any of its major competitors.
2007-2008 Lexus RX 350 or 400h — Midsize luxury crossover (two-row)
The Lexus RX basically invented the premium midsize crossover segment when it debuted for the 1999 model year in the United States. It's the automaker's best-selling vehicle, boasting stellar reliability scores over its entire run of production, a classy and luxurious cabin, and quiet and serene driving dynamics. All RX models have proven to be durable, but the earlier RX 300 and RX 330 versions used timing belts that need replacement when the maintenance schedule calls for it. The later RX 350 got a new engine that, with 270 horsepower, was more powerful and used a timing chain that needs no servicing over its lifetime. The RX 400h uses a hybrid powertrain that increases both power and efficiency, but the battery could be a costly replacement item if it ever fails.
2007-2009 Acura MDX — Midsize luxury crossover (three-row)
Before we go into anything else about the Acura MDX, it's important to note that we're narrowing this specific recommendation to the 2007 through 2009 model years. These were the last three years that Acura fitted the MDX with a five-speed automatic transmission before replacing it with a newer six-speed unit. While that extra gear improved efficiency somewhat, the early versions of the six-speed are known to have reliability problems that can be very expensive to repair or replace. It's safer to stick with the five-speed version. With that out of the way, the Acura MDX ably presents a solid compromise between luxury, capability, dynamics and efficiency.
2009-2012 Ford Flex — Large crossover (three-row)
We mourned the Flex's passing with a heartfelt eulogy when we found out that the 2019 model year would be its last. The Flex was always an interesting vehicle that offered a flexible and roomy interior due to its boxy exterior shape, a powerful optional EcoBoost V6 engine, all-wheel drive and a unique sense of style. Ostensibly lining up against three-row crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse and Honda Pilot, the Flex is an attractive option for families that want the roominess and versatility of a minivan but don't like the idea of owning the kind of sliding-door family appliance that they grew up with. The deep well that the third-row seats fold into is even reminiscent of a minivan's resulting in greater cargo space back there than is typical for a three-row crossover.
2003-2009 Lexus GX 470 — Large luxury SUV (three-row)
The Lexus GX has proven to be one of the most reliable vehicles sold in America over the past couple of decades, regularly piling up comparatively high mileage without requiring major repairs, though its 4.7-liter V8 engine does require a timing belt replacement at specific mileage intervals. It's also built on top of a very rugged chassis that's shared with the Toyota 4Runner and the Land Cruiser Prado that's sold in markets outside the United States. It offers seven-passenger seating with a slightly undersized third row that flips down from the sides of the cargo area. On the practicality side, the LX 470 isn't as big inside as it looks or as some comparably sized car-based crossovers. Its V8 engine, five-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive system are durable but quite inefficient.
2008-2015 Nissan Armada — Fullsize SUV
The largest vehicle on our list is the Nissan Armada, a fullsize SUV that shares its underlying chassis and powertrain with the Titan pickup truck. It's powerful 5.6-liter V8 engine means the Armada is a capable vehicle for towing, and its cavernous interior with three real-life-sized rows of seats make it desirable for growing families. It's not going to be an economical vehicle to drive, however, so if the space and power aren't truly necessary, one of the smaller V6-powered vehicles we highlight above, like the Ford Flex or Acura MDX, may be a better option.