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10 Best Used Off-Road Vehicles

By: Jack NeradPublished September 24, 2021

These days, off-road vehicles come in a wide variety of types and price ranges. If you find the right used vehicle, you can get excellent off-road capabilities for less than $10,000. At the other end of the scale, near-new luxury SUVs combine remarkable off-road prowess with ultra-luxury style and features — at relatively giant price tags. All other things being equal, seek the newest model-year version of your target vehicle. Here is a comprehensive look at the 10 best used off-road vehicles.

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1. 2017 Jeep Wrangler

The current 2019 Jeep Wrangler is improved in many ways over the 2017 model, but the previous-generation vehicle offers all the rugged capabilities one has come to expect from the seminal Jeep. Properly equipped, a Wrangler can make short work of the storied Rubicon Trail and any similar off-road challenge. As you’re doing your used-Jeep shopping, we suggest you seek a version with the 3.6-liter 285-horsepower Pentastar V6 engine and the Rock-Trac HD part-time four-wheel-drive system. The choice of automatic versus five-speed manual is the subject of great debate among Jeep fans, so we’ll leave that up to you. The classic two-door (or no-door) Wrangler is a bit more maneuverable, but there is a great deal to be said for the added space and sheer utility of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited.

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2. 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Yes, the Grand Cherokee is a true Jeep with off-pavement capabilities to match, but it is a far different vehicle than the Wrangler. For one thing, while the previous-gen Wrangler is a bit noisy and cantankerous in highway driving, the Grand Cherokee is as smooth as frozen custard. Its amenities rival luxury-brand SUVs, and we are particular fans of its infotainment interface. Further, the Grand Cherokee, while attractively styled, blends into the landscape a little more easily than the Wrangler, which has a habit of calling attention to itself. Look for a 2016 Grand Cherokee with the 295-horsepower version of the 3.6-liter V6 backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission. You will be amazed at the capabilities of this four-wheel-drive vehicle off-road, even as it offers that comfort and utility you need in suburbia.

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3. 2017 Land Rover Discovery

The 2017 Land Rover Discovery has a lot in common with the version of the versatile vehicle that's still on sale today, and that is a very good thing when you want one of the 10 best used off-road vehicles. First off, despite its svelte and elegant shape, it is a Land Rover through and through, which means that it offers all of Land Rover’s now-legendary capabilities. At the same time, it is a seven-passenger, three-row vehicle that is more than willing to live up to urban pursuits like taking the kids to school and picking up new furniture at the warehouse store. When it comes to power, a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 delivers a stout 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, and it is backed up by an eight-speed automatic transmission and a very sophisticated, electronically controlled all-wheel drive system with significant driver aids.

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4. 2017 Toyota 4Runner

When it comes to off-road abilities, the Toyota 4Runner benefits from being built on the same chassis as the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, a vehicle that has excellent go-anywhere credentials. Its 4.0-liter 270-horsepower V6 delivers plenty of motive force, and it is backed by a sturdy five-speed automatic transmission. The four-wheel drive system is tried-and-true. While the 4Runner is the choice if you are serious about off-roading, it does require some sacrifices in comfort as an around-town family hauler or commuter vehicle. If that is your primary use case, you might be better served by the Toyota Highlander, a crossover that offers more car-like qualities.

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5.  2017 Ford F150 Raptor

While the vast majority of our 10 best used off-road vehicles are SUVs of one type or another, we couldn’t resist adding the fun-to-drive and off-road-capable Ford F-150 Raptor pickup truck to the list. Frankly, there are other F-150 models with four-wheel drive that are up to nearly any off-road task, but the flashy and powerful Raptor elevates things to another plateau. First, there is plenty of power from the 3.5-liter Ecoboost V-6 — 365 horsepower to be exact, plus 420 lb-ft of torque, enough to pull over a bridge abutment. Electronic shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive makes off-roading that much easier. The same could be said for the vast array of specialized equipment engineered for the serious off-road enthusiast.

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6. 2015 Mercedes-Benz G 550 Sport

The G-Class was originally designed as a military vehicle, so it laughs in the face of civilian off-roading demands. A limited-production vehicle, it is also very expensive, and because of that expense and its purposeful looks, it has become a vehicle of choice for Beverly Hills types whose only off-road experiences come on pebble-covered driveways. Frankly, this can be good news for the buyer of a used G-Class, because it is possible to get one that has been very lightly handled. Certainly, the G 550 Sport has all the power and equipment you need for the most serious off-road expedition. Power comes from a 5.5-liter 382-horsepower V8, and the vehicle is equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed electronic transfer case.

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7. 2015 Land Rover Range Rover

The entire Land Rover line is studded with vehicles that have elevated off-road capabilities. These include the granddaddy of all luxury SUVs, the flagship Range Rover. This is a vehicle that offers attractive exterior style, a truly sumptuous interior, and the ability to scale and descend terrain that defies description. First, the Range Rover doesn’t skimp when it comes to power — 510 horsepower emanate from its supercharged 5.0-liter V8. The automatic transmission is an eight-speed, and the Range Rover has a two-speed electronic transfer case. It also ladles on an immense helping of sophisticated electronic driving aids that enable the vehicle to be a very willing servant in your off-road pursuits.

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8. 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser

Over its long history, the Toyota Land Cruiser has morphed from a purpose-built off-roader in much the style of the Jeep CJ into a more suburban-friendly and commodious vehicle. Interestingly, though, it has retained a great deal of its off-road skills. At its heart is a very willing 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 backed by a tough-as-$10-steak eight-speed automatic transmission and a capable four-wheel-drive system. It is a vehicle with serious go-anywhere credentials that can transport up to eight people. Inside, it offers a purposeful but low-key-luxurious interior in keeping with its elevated price tag.

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9. 2017 Ford Explorer

There are a lot of Ford Explorers out there on the used-vehicle market, and that makes the Explorer the Budget Buy on this list of the 10 best off-road vehicles. Now, not every used Explorer you run across will have true go-anywhere capabilities and, yes, the Explorer is a crossover rather than a full-frame truck-based SUV. That said, a properly equipped Ford Explorer can do a lot of the things that vehicles costing twice or three times as much can do. With the 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, power is not an issue, so look for an Explorer with four-wheel drive and the electronic driving aids that mimic those offered by Range Rover. Seven-passenger seating capacity is another bonus.

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10. 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe

If you are planning to pack in a full family and all their gear for a week or two at a remote lake or mountain campsite, the Chevrolet Tahoe and its close cousin, the longer-wheelbase Chevy Suburban, are very cost-effective choices. The Tahoe has a reputation as a vehicle that will run and run and run, and when equipped with the off-road-oriented Z71 package, the big SUV is remarkably capable. A bargain in itself, the Z71 package includes a suspension altered for off-road use, a two-speed transfer case, a revised rear-axle ratio, and tires designed for their off-pavement abilities. At the same time, the Tahoe remains the family-friendly people-hauler that has made it one of the most popular traditional SUVs of all time.

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