Australia is the perfect country to own a four-wheel drive. You don’t need to be a bushie to appreciate a good SUV, either – growing families in urban areas find them roomier and more versatile than a sedan, providing a level of ruggedness that allows for more adventure and family fun.
Check out our picks for the best second-hand SUVs in Australia.
For most of us, the main obstacle to buying a new SUV is price. If your heart is set on one of the larger models (Land Cruiser, Pajero, Patrol, etc.) with all the trimmings, your bank balance better be ready for a big dent, because they don’t come cheap.
That’s why more and more Aussies are opting to shop around for a good deal on city-sized second-hand SUVs.
Whether you buy privately or go to a used car dealer, it pays to negotiate. In a survey of over 700 second-hand SUV buyers, 86% tried to finagle a better deal at the time of purchase, and 90% of those were successful.
Only a little over half (57%) got the full discount they were asking for, however. Over half of buyers who obtained a used SUV from a dealer did so during a sales period.
Based on Canstar customer satisfaction surveys, here are 5 of the best buys you’ll find if you’re looking for a second-hand SUV in Australia:
Toyota RAV 4 (3rd Gen, XA30: 2006-2012)
Toyota’s smallest off-roader comes with a 2.4L twin cam, 4-cylinder engine with a peak power of 125 kW at 6000 revs, so it has the grunt you need for bush-bashing adventures.
Standard goodies include 17-inch alloy wheels, tilt-and-reach steering wheel, ABS, anti-skid brakes, CD sound, cup holders and lots of handy storage compartments.
The RAV 4 has quite a good reputation for reliability. If you’ve got a family and love to get out to the beach or the bush, the RAV 4 will do most of what you ask of it without complaint – it’s a competent family all-rounder with plenty of cargo space and pleasant handling.
Roomy interior for growing families and camping trips, quality mechanical build, good four-cylinder fuel economy, solid safety rating
Some road noise at higher speeds, minimal towing capacity
Mazda CX-5 (1st Gen, KE: 2012-2017)
When it comes to medium-sized SUVs, the CX-5 is right up there with the best. It features an excellent climate control system and was the first vehicle in its class to include lane departure warning and high beam control.
Every model in the range comes with a comprehensive array of safety features, including Dynamic Stability Control, ABS Brakes, 6 airbags, Emergency Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution. If you like plenty of space, the CX-5 answers the call, with fold-down seats, a large boot opening and a low lift gate.
Smooth transmission, quiet ride, superior craftsmanship, proven reliability, high-quality infotainment system, excellent range of safety features
Could do with a little more grunt
Hyundai ix35 (2nd Gen, 2010-2015)
The Hyundai ix35 is technically an SUV, but it’s often used more like a family station wagon. You’re more likely to see it used for city supermarket runs, school drop-offs and occasionally camping trips than for serious off-roading in challenging terrain.
The entire Hyundai range has been making great strides in the Aussie car market in the last few years. The ix35 comes in Active, Elite and Highlander trim levels, with a choice of 2.0L turbo-diesel or 2.4L petrol engines.
The top-of-the-range Highlander comes with all sorts of upmarket wonders: leather trim, panoramic glass roof, cruise control, keyless entry, dual zone air conditioning and more.
Well built, excellent engine (especially the diesel version), lots of cargo space, easy to get spare parts, suspension is suited to Aussie conditions
Tight shoulder space in the back seat for 3 adults
Nissan X-Trail (2nd Gen, 2007-2013)
The X-Trail isn’t really designed for serious off-road shenanigans, but it holds its own on dirt bush tracks and trips to the beach. It’s mechanically sound and improvements to the 2.5L petrol engine from previous models include some tweaks to improve fuel economy and reduce noise, vibration and harshness.
The 2.0L diesel version comes with low-end torque for solid towing capability and offers smooth driveability. It’s reliable and good value for money.
Good fuel economy for a vehicle its size, high driving position, reliability, extremely roomy, comfortable ride, great towing performance in diesel version
Boxy shape isn’t very stylish
Honda CRV (3rd Gen, 2007-2011)
The Honda CRV sells like hotcakes in Australia – but not because it’s a favourite with bushies who love to plunge through creek beds, tackle mountains or zoom along sandy beaches in it.
It sells well because city dwellers are impressed by its stylish look, versatility and the fact that it’s a great family car. It is a vehicle that has found its perfect place in the Aussie car market and occupies it competently.
Stylish inside and out, super-roomy, versatile family car, solid safety features including electronic stability control, price-competitive, good driver visibility
Fuel economy is decent but nothing to brag about
- Brand new SUVs are expensive in Australia, so it makes sense to look for quality second-hand versions
- Always negotiate on price when buying a used SUV – most times, you’ll get a price reduction
- SUV sales in Australia are driven by city dwellers just as much as they are by bushies