Best Cheap Off-Road Vehicles
  • Buying Guides

Best Cheap Off-Road Vehicles

By Andra DelMonico | April 21, 2021

You don’t need roads with these affordable off-road vehicles. These are the trucks, crossovers, SUVs, and Jeeps that people turn to when they’re ready to explore off the beaten path. They have a few things in common, such as all-terrain tires, all-wheel or four-wheel drivetrains, and body styles that are rugged enough to withstand the increased abuse that the wilderness will throw at them.

Unlike other driving applications, it’s smarter to go old-school with your off-roader purchase. Look for a model year that has a reputation for reliability, and then find a vehicle that’s priced right. That way, you aren’t investing a lot in a vehicle that’s going to get a beating.

This list will give you the vehicles with the best off-road capability.


1. Toyota Tacoma

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This is the little pickup truck that just won’t quit. Choose one with a V6 engine that’s strong enough to power it through any challenging off-road terrain and is backed by Toyota’s impeccable reliability track record. It’ll be paired with a five-speed manual, six-speed manual, or six-speed automatic transmission. With the 236 horsepower, you’re sure to not get stuck anywhere. You’ll also want to have the four-wheel-drive option over the rear-wheel-drive models.

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There are a few Toyota Tacoma models, and some are better suited for off-roading than others. Look for a TRD Pro package. It comes with Bilstein high-performance off-road shocks, tuned front springs, rugged floor mats, locking rear differential, traction control modes, and black alloy wheels.

What’s nice about the Toyota Tacoma is that it’s a reliable small truck that’s perfect for commuting or going on adventures. It’s also a truck with high production numbers and a long history of manufacturing. This means there are plenty of aftermarket parts and replacement parts for your truck.

Browse used Toyota Tacoma listings here.


2. Ford Bronco

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The all-terrain Ford Bronco was a cult favorite among off-road enthusiasts. The automaker produced it from 1965 through 1996. Then, Ford had the Bronco make a triumphant return in 2021 with an entirely new design.

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The older generation of Broncos is nothing to scoff at, even today. They packed a powerful V8 engine with several different automatic and manual transmission configurations. All Broncos from this time period come with a part-time dual-range four-wheel-drive.

What makes the Bronco stand out is its impressive ground clearance. The front axle has a clearance of 8.1 inches, and the rear axle’s clearance is 7.8 inches. At break-over, there’s a 9.6-inch clearance.

Browse used Ford Bronco listings here.


3. Jeep Wrangler

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The Wrangler’s origins trace back to the military MB model that was designed for rugged durability and reliable performance anywhere a soldier needed to go. Jeep has ensured that the Wrangler won’t let you down by making every model ready for the wilderness right off of the lot. All models come with four-wheel-drive and two solid axles.

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It may look like a box on wheels, but it’s one of the highest off-road vehicles with a ground clearance of 10.9 inches. The Jeep Wrangler comes in a two or four-door option. Both models can easily get stripped down to give you unrivaled exposure to the wilderness.

Easily outfit your Wrangler with a two-speed transfer case and locking differentials. This gives you low range gear ratios for crawling over anything that may stand in your way. Wrangler models from 2007 through 2011 will give you about 200 horsepower. Newer models will give you 285 horsepower or more.

Browse used Jeep Wrangler listings here.


4. Ford Ranger

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Off-road enthusiasts love this pickup truck for two reasons. First, the automaker made a ton of them, so you’ll have plenty of options when looking for the perfect used vehicle. The second is the simplicity of the four-cylinder and V6 engines that are paired with a four-wheel-drive system. This makes it easy to perform maintenance and repairs yourself.

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The smaller size of this truck lets you go where other off-road vehicles can’t fit. Combine that with its 8.4-inch ground clearance, and you have a sturdy little truck that’s reliable enough to take anywhere.

While there isn’t a V8 option for the Ranger, there are several engine options that can achieve up to 207 horsepower. This is enough for towing smaller trailers and campers.

Browse used Ford Ranger listings here.


5. Land Rover Discovery

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This four-door off-road vehicle comes with two engine options. There’s the 296 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-four or a 395 horsepower 3.0-liter inline-six. It also comes with a maximum towing capacity of 8,201 pounds, making it strong enough to get you or your friends out of any emergency.

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What makes the Land Rover Discovery perfect for off-roading is the four-wheel-drive system, unibody design, and fully independent center locking differential. It may have a ground clearance of 11.5 inches, but it can easily wade through water that’s up to 35.4 inches deep. Underneath, you’ll find a durable undercarriage.

Inside there’s plenty of room for seven passengers. Your Discovery will excel both off-road as an adventure vehicle and on the road as a carpool commuter.

Browse used Land Rover Discovery listings here.


6. Jeep Grand Cherokee

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Take care of your Jeep Grand Cherokee, and it will last for an impressively long time through countless off-road adventures. This model comes with several body styles, making it easy to find just what you’re looking for.

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What makes the Grand Cherokee stand out is how easy it is to modify. It comes with 8.6 inches of ground clearance, but you can easily throw a lift kit on it and increase this. Pair your new lift with a set of bigger off-roading tires for a serious upgrade in the off-roading performance. You have the unibody design to thank for the stability and strength of this vehicle.

Browse used Jeep Grand Cherokee listings here.


7. Subaru Outback

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Don’t let the look of the Outback fool you. This car-like crossover packs a punch when it comes to conquering the rougher terrain. It boasts an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance and is all-wheel-drive. The fact that it’s a unibody crossover gives it more strength and stability.

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For the most off-roading capability, look for one of the turbocharged versions. This will give the four-cylinder engine a bit more boost. You could also buy a six-cylinder model, which also makes the Outback a sporty off-roader. These engine options can achieve up to 256 horsepower.

What makes the Outback stand out is the all-wheel-drive system. This will help you get out of sticky situations while giving you more control over your vehicle’s performance. It also has impressive road capability with a fuel economy of 18-22 mpg in the city and 25-29 gas mileage on the highway.

Browse used Subaru Outback listings here.


8. Toyota Land Cruiser

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For off-road enthusiasts looking for maximum power, the Toyota Land Cruiser’s V8 engine is sure to please. Its 381 horsepower and the four-wheel-drive system will help you get off of the beaten path. It has plenty of low-range power to help you climb.

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Unlike other off-roaders on this list, the Land Cruiser has an upgraded interior. This four-door SUV has seating for eight, making it pleasant both off and on the road. Plus, with the Toyota badge, you know you’re getting the automaker’s performance reliability.

Browse used Toyota Land Cruiser listings here.


9. Chevrolet Colorado

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You can do more with the Chevy Colorado pickup truck than just towing and running errands around town. Take this sturdy truck off-road and put it through its paces. If you're on a budget, look for one that’s about 10 years old to get the most bang for your buck. If you want more power, stick with one later than 2009, since this is when the V8 option was added. Depending on the model you buy, your Colorado could have 185 to 300 horsepower.

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If you’re the type who loves the control of shifting for yourself, you’ll want the manual transmission that comes with the four-cylinder engine option. While the Colorado gets mixed reviews for handling and ride quality, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: the 10.4 inches of ground clearance gives you plenty of space for climbing rocks and hills. It also gives you a great starting height for adding a lift kit.

Browse used Chevrolet Colorado listings here.


10. Land Rover Range Rover

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Just because you’re heading into the wilderness doesn’t mean you have to do it in an old beater. Why not ride in the vehicle chosen by royalty? The Land Rover Range Rover is the ride of choice for the Queen of England. Its styling is elegant, and the interior is luxurious. The automaker ensures each ride is memorable by thinking of every detail.

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The Range Rover isn’t all about looks, though. It’ll perform just as strongly off-road with several standard features. It comes with a two-speed transfer case, hill-descent control, electronic locking differentials, and a low-traction launch-control setting.

Land Rover built two body styles to choose from with different wheelbases. Then there is the head-spinning number of customizable options and trim packages. This means you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to finding a used model. Depending on the year and model you buy, the horsepower could range from 305 to 510.

Browse used Land Rover Range Rover listings here.


11. Nissan Frontier Pro-4X

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This pickup truck is going to give you old-school performance. It may not have the latest technology features, but that isn’t why you’re buying it anyway. The Pro-4X model is ready for any trail. It’s four-wheel-drive and comes with Bilstein dampers, hill-decent control, skid plates, front tow hook, and electronic locking rear differential.

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The engine powering the Frontier is a 4.0 L V6 engine that’s capable of producing 261 horsepower. If you’re looking for a crew cab, you’ll be able to choose between the six-speed automatic transmission or the five-speed manual. The larger king cab model doesn’t come with a manual transmission but does have a more powerful engine and more interior space.

What makes the Frontier stand out is its 6,720 pounds of towing capacity and 1,460 pounds of hauling ability. The Pro-4X model also comes with a Utili-track bed rail system and spray-on bed liner. This gives you more functionality and durability.

Browse used Nissan Frontier Pro-4X listings here.


12. Ford Raptor

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The Ford Raptor’s body style helps it to stand out as both an ideal off-roader and street prowler. While it’s not meant for exploring narrow trails and tight spaces, the Raptor is more than capable of off-road exploration. You could even take this pickup truck to the sand dunes and catch some air.

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The automaker ensures its stability with an aggressive width and long-travel suspension. This is then paired with an impressive 450-horsepower twin-turbo V-6. It also comes standard with a locking rear differential and a limited-slip front differential. You can also find older models with a 6.2-liter V8 engine.

The raptor also has a towing capacity of 6,000 pounds. This makes it strong enough to pull your toys or camper with you.

Browse used Ford Raptor listings here.


13. Suzuki Samurai

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The Samurai has the honor of being the first four-wheeled vehicle sold by Suzuki in the US. This rugged off-road vehicle comes with a carbureted 1.3-liter overhead-cam four-cylinder. While it only delivers 63 horsepower, it packs 74 pounds of torque. It isn’t fast, but it’s strong and virtually indestructible.

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The Samurai comes standard with a thicker front anti-roll bar, softer springs, and upgraded shock absorbers. Suzuki also planned for aftermarket customization, so you may be able to find these customization parts still floating around. You’re also more likely than not to find used models that are already outfitted with a number of aftermarket parts.

Browse used Suzuki Samurai listings here.