Few family cars can match the SUV for drivability and practicality. But there is no denying that SUVs are not exactly cheap. Even a base model from one of the popular Japanese manufacturers will set you back $30,000. And that's without all the bells and whistles.
So it’s no wonder more and more Aussies are looking to buy used. The good news is that SUVs have become pretty popular over the past few years. So used cars lots have plenty of options available for families on a budget.
So if you are in the market for a used SUV. Make sure you put one of the following 7 models on your shortlist.
1. Mazda CX-3 2015 - 2020
Mazda proved that SUVs don’t have to be boring boxy people carriers with the launch of the CX-3. With its sharp exterior styling, this car will look great on any driveway. Even against more expensive competition from the German brands.
But the CX-3 is more than a looker. It also drives like a sporty hatchback and has excellent build quality. So if your head says you need an SUV but your heart wants a hot hatch. Why not get the best of both worlds with the Mazda CX-3.
When looking for a second-hand CX-3 go for the more powerful 2.0 litre AWD drive model. These hold their value better and are much nicer to drive than the standard 1.8-litre turbo diesel.
Strong resale value
Excellent build quality
Strong resale value makes them expensive second hand
Limited luggage space
2. Toyota C-HR 2017 - Present
The Toyota C-HR caused something of a stir when it launched in 2017. Some people loved the futuristic styling while others thought it too much. Some five years on the styling is less controversial than it was. But there is no denying this is a unique car.
If you can live with the styling, this is still a Toyota underneath. So you can expect bulletproof reliability, excellent fuel economy and good specification. Cheap servicing is also available from Toyota’s extensive dealer network.
The C-HR is only available in Australia with a single 1.2-litre turbo engine option. This offers excellent fuel economy and bulletproof reliability. But when looking for a C-HR go for the AWD drive option. This is more expensive but will hold its value better long term.
Great fuel economy
Excellent build quality
Love or hate looks
Back seats feel claustrophobic
Large rear blind spot
3. Suzuki Vitara 2015 - Present
The Suzuki Vitara was one of the very first SUVs launched in Australia. But that was way back in 1998 and the market has come a long way since then. The Vitara we are looking at here is the post-2015 model.
The Vitara is a utilitarian vehicle that offers solid build quality and mechanicals. You don’t expect much in the way of luxury. But Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard on most models.
When choosing a Vitara we recommend going for the updated 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine. This became available in 2016 and offers more power than the stock 1.6-litre engine.
Plenty of interior space
Rough ride on uneven roads
4. Hyundai Tucson 2015 - 2020
The Tucson was Hyundai’s answer to the mighty Toyota RAV4. Launched in 2004 it soon established itself as the best selling Hyundai compact SUV.
The success of the car is down to its well-packaged interior. This is a spacious car with plenty of room for all the family. While the little Hyundai is not a driver's car. The ride is comfortable even on rough roads.
When choosing a Tucson we recommend going for the updated turbo petrol engine. This offers the best compromise between performance and fuel economy. The standard petrol engine is somewhat disappointing while the diesel feels too lethargic.
Good build quality
Feels dated compared to rivals
5. Kia Sorento 2015 - 2020
The 2015 Kia Sorento was a big step up from the previous model. The new Sorento was not only larger than before. It was better built, better equipped and better looking. And all this while still offering outstanding value for money.
Inside the Sorento comes well equipped and the cabin feels well built. But there is no mistaking this is a big car, plenty big enough for a family of five. The boot also comes with a generous 605 litres of space with the rear seats folded.
But the main reason we recommend buying a used Sorento is that they come with a 7-year warranty as standard. So even if you buy one of the early models. It should still have a few months warranty left.
Good build quality
Not the sharpest handling
6. Honda CR-V 2012 - 2017
The Honda CR-V was an instant hit with Aussies when it launched in 2002. Drivers loved the car-like driving experience, excellent off-road ability and roomy interior. The model we are looking at here is the 5th generation CR-V launched in 2012.
Powered by a 2.4-litre i-VTEC engine driven through a 5-speed automatic transmission. The Honda CR-V has sporty performance for a family waggon. While the permanent AWD system makes it a joy to drive both on and off-road.
We recommend going for the post-2015 facelift version if you can. This came with improved safety features as standard. And the ride was also improved thanks to uprated springs and shock absorbers.
Plenty of safety features
Fuel economy is not the best
Servicing and parts are expensive
7. Toyota Prado 2009 - Present
Buyers looking for a rugged, go-anywhere family SUV. Should look no further than the Toyota Prado. Launched in 2009 the Prado is a well-equipped family car that seats seven on three rows of seats.
And because the Prado sits on the underpinnings of the Toyota Hilux. It benefits from a go-anywhere AWD chassis, bulletproof reliability and easy maintenance. But the size of the Prado means fuel economy is somewhat less impressive.
Buyers of the Prado are getting a well-equipped car that offers good value for money. But, some diesel models suffer from Diesel Particulate Filter issues. So our advice is to go for one of the petrol versions. These are often cheaper and offer a more refined driving experience.
Excellent off-road ability
Great long-distance cruiser
Some engines suffer from Diesel Particulate Filter issues
Limited towing capacity
The popularity of SUVs means there are plenty of options for second-hand buyers. So finding a good one should not be difficult.
What should you look out for?
Regardless of the model, look for cars with low mileage for their age. And it pays to make sure the service history is complete.
Be especially wary of cars that show signs of extensive off-road use. Look for damage around the sills and bumpers. And if you can, check the underside for scuffs and scrapes. The wheels and tyres should also be in good condition.
Finally, make sure you buy from a reputed dealer and get a warranty. The longer the better.
Follow these simple rules and you should be able to pick up an SUV for a fraction of the cost of a new one. The right model for you will depend on your budget, needs and desires. But you won’t go far wrong with any of the models mentioned here.
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