Why are new off-road trucks and SUVs so darn expensive?
After experiencing the $43,000 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, I realized I was a closeted off-road enthusiast. My next vehicle will be an off-road truck or SUV. Problem is price. Since when did brand new 4x4s become so darn expensive? Ford is asking at least $50k for the F-150 Raptor. A Toyota 4Runner? Also over $43k. The new Jeep Wrangler? The cheapest is just under $30k for the bare bones 2-door Sport. What gives? Best solution is buy used, and there's lots to choose from. Here's a narrowed down list of affordable and relatively new 4x4s for under $20k.
Ah yes, the original Jeep Cherokee, known as the XJ. It helped start the whole SUV craze. Sure, old Cherokees have some mechanical issues, such as dashboard lights, check engine lights and, oil leaks. Hope you don't mind some wrenching now and then. On the other hand, they are in abundance and don't cost a lot. Plus, they're easy to upgrade. Unlike today's Cherokee, the XJ isn't hackable, so that's something. Most importantly, the Cherokee XJ has a go anywhere attitude and the design still looks good, considering it dates back to 1987. This particular 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport 4WD can be yours for just $13,950 on eBay.
Before the reborn Ford Ranger debuted last month at Detroit, it was sold in the US from 1983 until 2011. By today's standards, it'd be considered a small pickup. But for years it was the go-to choice of trucks for thousands of satisfied owners. Let's just say they weren't too happy when Ford figured they'd have no problem trading in their old Ranger for new (and bigger!) F-150. If you don't want to spend a lot of dough on a new pickup and want something without too many frills, the old Ranger is a great choice. We found a 2011 model year Ranger Sport on Autotrader for $21,500, and that's without bargaining.
The Toyota 4Runner is another off-road legend that you can get for relatively cheap if you go used. It's reliable and there are tens of thousands of them on the road, so finding spare parts is not a problem. However, past owners tend to drive them for over 100k miles because they simply won't die. Therefore, you'll have to deal with whatever issues arise due to those miles. Not only are 4Runners good off-road, they're also excellent around town and can fit the entire family with relative ease. One more caveat: they're thirsty for gas. You've been warned. We found this 2007 4Runner SR5 4.0 for only $8,999 (with 165,700 miles on its clock).
Still prefer a mid-size pickup truck with Toyota reliability? Just opt for an older Tacoma. It's that simple. Like with all other vehicles listed here, there are plenty of Tacomas out there, so don't buy the first one you find if you haven't done a proper search. Tacomas are known for their reliability, though there have been some rust issues involving the frame (there was a recall), so be on the lookout. This 2003 Tacoma SR5 Double Cab, despite its 194,000 miles, will only set you back $7,800.
Okay, we get it. You still want a Jeep Wrangler, but are unwilling to pay the minimum $30k for a new one. Totally understandable. Just to be aware in case you aren't already, Wrangler owners love to modify them for even more wicked outdoor adventures. They often try to earn back some of their investment when they sell, so it's your call of you're game for this. Finding a stock Wrangler also is not hard, leaving the option open for you to do your own dream off-road mods. Take this 2010 Wrangler Sport, for example. It's yours for $17,900. It has less than 75,000 miles, V6 power, and the popular hardtop.