12 Mar 2013

The best used 4x4s for £5,000

Looking for a cheap 4x4?  We recommend which SUV to buy for £5,000 for a range of uses

Instead of our usual list of cars for a given budget this time we thought we would suggest a best car for a range of uses.  4x4s, SUVs, whatever you call them are bought for many and varied reasons - and not often economy.

Our categories may be a little unconventional but they reflect the varying reasons for choosing a 4x4 over a much cheaper to run saloon, hatch or estate.  The budget is £5,000, which reflects what most people will spend on a 4x4 to use as a second or third car.

Best 4x4 for towing a horsebox

Land Rover Discovery V8 manual - For £5,000 you can buy a 2002 Discovery although, for this money, age is less important than condition. The Discovery was originally sold as a go anywhere luxury vehicle - one step down from a Range Rover, but is now a dependable workhorse. Of importance if towing anything heavy, and particularly a horse box, is the towing weight limit. The Discovery's is 3500kg, but many Japanese competitors are only rated to tow 2800kg. Two horses plus tack and horse box can exceed 2800kg quite easily. The Discovery tows well but the TD5 diesel can be a bit underpowered if towing a heavy load. The 4 litre V8, with 182bhp makes easy work of towing. 2002 Discoverys will already have gone wrong in a few areas but check our Living with guide for details of what is and isn't important.

Best 4x4 for posing in

Range Rover - Could this ever be called into question? An Audi Q5 might look good in Chelsea but in the Shires you'll look a prat in it. For the lofty driving position, best in class off road capability and on road ride, equipment levels and sheer versatility the Range Rover has every competitor beat in the posing stakes. They are driven by everyone from the Queen to farmers. For £5,000 you'll get a 2002 P38 or Classic in good condition. Avoid the diesel (the 2.5 BMW unit in the P38 is slow and not even economical) and go for a V8. If thinking of LPG make sure it's been done by a professional and comes with a warranty.

Best 4x4 to annoy petrolheads

BMW X5 - The 4x4 petrolheads love to mock. For the budget you will find a 2003 3.0 petrol or 2002 3.0 diesel. The diesel is the best bet but make sure it's swirl flaps have been replaced. Quite why petrolheads dislike the X5 is hard to pinpoint, perhaps it's the sheer ubiquity of them. When they first arrived in 2000 they were seen as a reliable alternative to the Range Rover, but with less off road capability and onroad presence. Maybe because many were bought by urban dwelling metro-mums to ferry their precious offspring to and from school, and by shiny suited salesmen who would faint at the merest hint of greenery, the X5 is seen as an object of derision. Whatever, BMW haven't helped the cause or reputation of their SUV drivers by bringing out the God awful X6 and pig ugly X3.

Best 4x4 for when the roads run out

Land Rover Defender - No 4x4 is more capable off road than a Defender. Characterised by incredible unreliability, ancient design, utilitarian cabin, weakling engines and ability to go where other 4x4s would simply not be able, mark the Defender out as the go to vehicle of choice for those who need to go anywhere. That and the sheer character of the thing. Despite it's flaws the Land Rover Defender is an extremely popular vehicle and as such prices are high. You can pick up a shabby 2002 example but it'll be a commercial version. For a station wagon with rear seats and in decent condition £5,000 will buy a mid 90s example.

Best 4x4 that is actually a car but is surprisingly good off road

Subaru Outback - A jacked up Subaru Legacy with plastic body panels shouldn't be this good.  But it is.  Jeremy Clarkson described it as the 'perfect car' and said, "It’s a big, small, fast, economical, well-made, cheap, fine-handling, comfortable SUV that’s not an SUV." And he's right.  It's commodious, quite fast, well built, well specced and can go off road due to it's extra height and permanent 4x4.  You can buy a 2007 Outback for £5,000 and you will love it.

Best 4x4 for economy, comfort and sensibleness

Mistubishi Outlander - The mark 1 Outlander was seriously ugly.  The mark 2 was much better.  It's got a decent diesel engine, 6 speed manual, quite quick, good mpg and the interior is pretty good for a Japanese car - it's certainly a whole lot better than it's Peugeot and Citroen siblings.  The Outlander drives like a car but is quite lofty and spacious.  Unlike the Subaru Outback it most certainly is an SUV.  The mark 2 was only introduced in 2008 and early example are just edging down towards £5,000.  You'll need to hunt for bargains in auctions to get one for the money.

Best 4x4 that seats seven but doesn't make you look like a dork like an MPV does

Toyota Landcruiser - Huge, thirsty, bombproof.  Not pretty but quite handsome the Toyota Landcruiser has been around for donkey's years but for £5,000 you can pick up an early 2000s model with the 3 litre D4-D engine.  Think of the Landcruiser as an alternative to the Land Rover Discovery but with reliability, better engines and worse interiors.  The interior isn't utilitarian like a Defender, more like they've tried to make it more comfortable but spent hardly any budget on it.  With the extra row of seats the Landcruiser will seat 8 adults.  And it's pretty cool too so you won't risk looking like a dork.

Best 4x4 that farmers use when the Land Rover's broken down

Daihatsu Fourtrak - Hidden away, covered in crud, on many farms is an old Fourtrak.  Slow, ugly and basic but so capable of taking abuse and still running.  The old 2.8TD engine only has 90bhp but, and here's it's USP, it has lots of torque and a 3500kg towing capacity.  Only Land Rovers can match that.  It'll tow an Ifor Williams trailer full of sheep, pigs, hay all day every day.  Defenders may be the farmers friend but they are unreliable.  A Fourtrak can be left unattended for months on end and start first time.  Discontinued in the UK in 2002 they are increasingly rare but you'll struggle to spend more than £3,000 on a useable late 90's model.

Worst 4x4 of all time

Vauxhall Frontera - Looks horrible, unreliable, dreadful interior, awful seats, poor driving, terrible engines and useless off road the Frontera was a GM product based on the Isuzu Wizard.  The Vauxhall Frontera came in at last place in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey for a few years in the 90s.  Just don't touch one even though there are lots for sale for under £5,000.