Shopping for a used sport utility vehicle under $10,000 usually means one of two things: having to locate an older truck that's got at least five years on it, or settling for a newer model with higher mileage. In either case, you can't be too picky when you've got a $10k budget, but you can try to limit your shopping to the kinds of sport utility vehicles that offer the best balance of practicality and longevity at that price. Without getting too specific - as there are many factors that will cause prices to fluctuate in your area - let's take a look 10 of the best used SUVs under $10,000.
1) Ford Explorer
The previous-generation Ford Explorer benefits from a full-frame design that gives it limited off-road capability and a decent tow rating for smaller trailers. It also provides seating for up to seven passengers and the ability to swallow as much as 83.7 cubic feet of cargo space, which is significant for a mid-size SUV. A used Ford Explorer can be found in rear-wheel and four-wheel drive editions, and the truck also features the availability of V-6 and V-8 power. The latter takes the form of a 4.6-liter unit that puts down 292 horses and 300 lb-ft of torque.
2) Chevrolet Tahoe
The Chevrolet Tahoe is a more serious choice for drivers who are interested in towing and hauling. A used full-size Chevrolet Tahoe can pull just under 8,000 lbs when found properly equipped, and total cargo capacity checks in at 108.9 cubic feet. Three rows of seating provide accommodations for up to seven passengers, although that last set of seats has to be removed from the truck - they don't fold flat - in order to maximize interior volume. The Tahoe's standard engine is a 320-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 that churns out a healthy 340 lb-ft of torque, sent to the rear wheels via six-speed automatic transmission. The Chevrolet can additionally be found with four-wheel drive installed.
3) Honda Pilot
The Honda Pilot is a stalwart amongst used SUVs under $10,000. The Honda Pilot is big and blocky, which is a major contributing factor to its ability to offer exceptional space inside for as many as eight passengers or up to 90 cubic feet of gear. The Pilot's sedan-based platform gives it a more comfortable driving experience than similarly-sized truck chassis SUVs, and it also helps it in the fuel mileage department. Front-wheel drive is standard with the Honda, while on-demand all-wheel drive is also available with used versions of the crossover.
4) Toyota RAV4
The Toyota RAV4 is a class-leading compact SUV that has held its value well, which means that it's difficult, but not impossible, to find sub-$10k examples on the secondary market. The RAV4's 269-horsepower optional 3.5-liter V-6 gives it plenty of get-up-and-go, but the 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder is more likely to fall under our list's price limit. All-wheel drive is still a possibility with the smaller engine, and regardless of its drivetrain the Toyota RAV4 comes with three rows of seating (for up to seven passengers) as well as 73 cubic feet of internal storage space.
5) Jeep Wrangler
The Jeep Wrangler is a used sport utility vehicle under $10,000 that doesn't offer any frills but does promise perhaps the best bang for the buck when it comes to off-road prowess. The Jeep Wrangler's ultra-tough construction, variety of four-wheel drive systems, short wheelbase, and exceptional ground clearance make it the all-terrain warrior of choice for adventurers on a budget. The Jeep Wrangler's 3.8-liter V-6 might only generate 202 horses and 237 lb-ft of torque, but the availability of a six-speed manual transmission and the choice between soft top and hard tops (each of which can be removed for convertible fun) make up for a lot when climbing from boulder to boulder.
6) Subaru Forester
The Subaru Forester is an inexpensive used sport utility vehicle that is well suited to both urban and rural environments. Full-time all-wheel drive and a tall ride height give the Subaru Forester the ability to handle snow drifts and rutted roads with ease, while its small dimensions give it an edge in city traffic. You probably won't be able to locate a turbocharged XT model for less than $10k, but you can certainly snag a Forester featuring its base 2.5-liter, 173 horsepower motor and five-speed manual transmission (or four-speed automatic). The Subaru can transport as many as five passengers, and it offers a generous 69 cubic feet of total cargo space.
7) Ford Escape Hybrid
The Ford Escape Hybrid is without question one of the most fuel efficient used SUVs around. Affordable examples of the Ford Escape Hybrid are common, although they don't last long on dealer lots thanks to their fuel mileage rating of 34 mpg city and 31 mpg on the highway. The Escape Hybrid's drivetrain consists of a single electric motor and a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gas engine for front-wheel drive models, with a second electric motor tagging along in all-wheel drive editions. Horsepower for either is listed at 177 ponies, and the Escape Hybrid (which seats five passengers) also provides 65 cubic feet of total cargo space.
8) Honda CR-V
Like its Toyota RAV4 rival, the Honda CR-V commands a premium on the used SUV market, which means that you might have to look long and hard to find one that fits your budget. The Honda CR-V is motivated by a 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that also generates 161 lb-ft of torque, and front-wheel drive is the most common configuration for the SUV's drivetrain. An on-demand all-wheel drive system is also offered, and is a good option for buyers who have to deal with harsh winter weather. The Honda seats five passengers instead of seven, but the upshot is a more comfortable ride all around for each occupant. Total cargo space for the CR-V is listed at 73 cubic feet.
9) Nissan Murano
The Nissan Murano is sometimes overlooked in the mid-size SUV scramble, but on the used market it can present an excellent value given its features, its interior room (five passenger seating, 81.6 cubic feet of total cargo space), and its above-average handling for the segment. A used Nissan Murano is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that has been tuned to provide 240 horsepower and 244 lb-ft of torque, and a continuously-variable automatic transmission is charged with managing that output. Front-wheel and all-wheel drive versions of the Murano can be easily found, and the SUV can even tow up to 3,500 lbs of trailer weight.
10) Subaru Outback
The vehicle that kicked off the crossover SUV craze, and one of the better used bargains around when it comes to giving buyers a bit more all-terrain and slippery-road capability than a standard wagon, the Subaru Outback is a true original. Its 66 cubic feet of total cargo space challenge more truck-like compact SUVs, and its all-wheel drive and low center of gravity give it better stability than many of its competitors. The five-passenger Subaru Outback can be found with either a 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a turbocharged 243-horsepower version of the same engine under its hood. A six-cylinder Outback is also available, but most likely not for less than $10,000.