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The best used SUVs in Australia

Mazda's CX-5 has long been one of Australia's most popular SUVs, which means there are plenty to be found on the used market.

Just as not all cars are created equal, neither are SUVs all the same. That’s never more true than when you’re dealing with a second-hand SUV. Because it’s the used SUV that will – after a few years and several thousand kilometres – show up any inherent problems and any other quirks.

A used SUV can be a great way to go, however, and can literally save you thousands while still offering up a car that will provide many years of reliable, safe, fuel efficient family transport. But you must buy the right one. In the case of second-hand cars, that means finding one that has been cared for correctly as well as buying a make and model that has proved itself in the real world.

The good news is that now the SUV has taken the Australian new-car market by storm, the used-car market is likewise filled with pre-loved SUVs. Which means there’s plenty of choice and, thanks to the passage of time and kilometres, the best buys in each category have now shaken out. This means less guesswork than the used-vehicle market is generally renowned for.

Finding a second-hand SUV is now ridiculously easy; used-car yards are full of SUV cars for sale. In fact, even though 2019 was down sales-wise on the year before, more than a million new cars were sold in Australia in that calendar year. And of those, almost half were SUVs. So supply is not a problem.

That steady supply also means that prices are pretty keen, too. Even a popular make and model will have dropped about 40 (or even more) per cent of its brand-new price by the time it’s a five-year-old second-hand buy. The sweet spot is probably the three-years-old mark as this will often leave a portion of new-car warranty remaining, while the depreciation curve will be starting to flatten out a little beyond this point. Fewer kilometres travelled are always better than more, but modern cars are very durable, so don’t get too hung up on the odometer reading. That said, a car that has travelled way more than the average is possibly an ex-company car or sales-rep-mobile, so be cautious of those.

Meantime, you can narrow your search and maybe even find the right car just by hitting the internet. Websites like Gumtree have literally thousands of private buyers listing used SUV cars in Australia for sale, and there are some bargains to be had if you’re game. Even if you’re not, hitting the online sales sites is a great way of sorting the wheat from the chaff before you burn any shoe-leather.

Like any used car, a second-hand SUV can be great value or it can be a money pit. A cheap SUV is not always the best value SUV. That said, there are some stunning bargains for comfortably under 30K, so it’s a bit complex. The secret is to find out how a particular example has been used and maintained prior to you buying it. To do that, the best place to start looking is in the service handbook which should be in the car’s glovebox. If it’s not, start asking the seller tough questions about why that might be.

A car – any car – that has not had the proper preventative maintenance and attention to recalls will never be as good as one that has been maintained by the book. So make sure all the services have been carried out by a workshop that has also stamped the handbook.

Be especially wary of SUVs that offer any sort of off-roading image or all-wheel-drive. The fact is, most SUVs are not remotely designed to go off-road (although some definitely are) so you need to make sure that a particular car hasn’t already been owned by somebody who failed to understand this. Check underneath for damage from rocks and check under the wheel-arches for signs of missing paint that indicate a previous life on gravel roads.

So what is the best second hand SUV in Australia right now? Well, we’ve broken it up into categories to reflect the needs and wants of buyers, and it can be hard to peg down one overall best used SUV in Australia. Be sure to also check out CarsGuide reviews to see if the SUV you want will best suit your needs.

Here are our top picks.

Best used small SUVs

1.   Suzuki Vitara 2015 on

2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S. 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S.

Although no longer an off-road capable machine, the Vitara is an engaging car to drive and is plenty practical. The Turbo S model is the pick to drive, but it’s pricier to buy.

Pros: Practical layout, good interior space, perky turbo engine.

Cons: Looks a bit old-school SUV, pattery ride on rough surfaces.

2.   Mazda CX-3 2015 on

2017 Mazda CX-3 Akari. 2017 Mazda CX-3 Akari.

It looks smooth and it drives extremely well. Mazda has carved out a nice chunk of the SUV market for itself, and the CX-3 is a large part of that.

Pros: Good resale value, excellent build quality, sharp interior.

Cons: Bit more expensive, slightly noisy cabin, smaller luggage space.

3.   Toyota C-HR 2017 on

2017 Toyota C-HR. (Image credit: Dean McCartney) 2017 Toyota C-HR. (Image credit: Dean McCartney)

Over-styled to some eyes, the C-HR presents a very modern take on the city SUV. Toyota reliability is a big plus, too.

Pros: Fabulous turbo engine, very economical, standard autonomous emergency braking.

Cons: Polarising appearance, rear blind-spot, limited view out from rear seat.

Best used compact SUVs

1.   Mazda CX-5 2017 on

2017 Mazda CX-5 Touring. 2017 Mazda CX-5 Touring.

Neat styling and a quality feel to the interior make the CX-5 a firm favourite. So does the overall driving experience. Choice of petrol or diesel. The driver’s choice in its class.

Pros: Ride/handling balance, good engine choices, sharp steering.

Cons: Smaller petrol engine lacks punch, Not as spacious in the rear as some.

2.   Kia Sportage 2015 on

2016 Kia Sportage SLi. 2016 Kia Sportage SLi.

Odd styling hides a very capable vehicle. Bigger inside than many of its peers. Quality feel and locally-tuned suspension makes a big difference.

Pros: Ride and handling among the best in class, relaxed turbo-diesel engine option, huge factory warranty will still be current.

Cons: Full safety package only on pricier high-spec model, base petrol engine is lacklustre.

3.   Hyundai Tucson 2015 on

2016 Hyundai Tucson. 2016 Hyundai Tucson.

Great choice of powerplants including a perky 1.6-litre petrol turbo that really zings. An older design, but one that has aged gracefully and is still relevant.

Pros: Feisty turbo-petrol and relaxed turbo-diesel options, good build quality and reputation for reliability.

Cons: Entry-level petrol engine is disappointing, interior showing its age.

Best used family SUVs

1.   Mazda CX-9 2016 on

2016 Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD. 2016 Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD.

If you need a family car but still enjoy driving, the CX-9 is for you. Quality feel and finish as well as an SUV with proper dynamics. Great performance.

Pros: Thirsty if driven hard, brilliant driveline including six-speed automatic, good safety kit.

Cons: Accommodation compromised by cab-rearward styling, third row seats are tight.

2.   Toyota Kluger 2014 to 2019

2018 Toyota Kluger. 2018 Toyota Kluger.

Toyota’s reputation for going the distance is based on cars like the Kluger. It’s not sexy, but it is huge, safe and right for families.

Pros: Plenty of performance from big V6 petrol engine, plenty of seating and luggage space, decent to drive.

Cons: No turbo-diesel option so it’s thirsty, clumsy ESP.

3.   Kia Sorento 2015 on

2016 Kia Sorento. 2016 Kia Sorento.

A big wagon in every sense, the Sorento is a no-hassle solution to a family SUV. Roomy and comfortable, there’s a choice of petrol or diesel.

Pros: Quality construction, quiet cabin with lots of room, should still have some factory warranty left.

Cons: Not the sharpest drive, soft suspension and woolly steering.

Best used luxury SUVs

1.   Audi Q7 2015 on

2016 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 160 2016 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 160

Typical Audi quality and ergonomics underline the Q7’s broad range of abilities. Smooth and responsive turbo-diesel is frugal but punchy and eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive complete the dynamic picture.

Pros: Excellent driver’s car despite SUV layout, seven seats, lots of equipment and standard safety.

Cons: Rearmost seats are really for kids only, ride suffers on optional 21-inch wheels and tyres.

2.   Jaguar I-Pace 2018 on

2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 SE 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 SE

A bit of a wild-card thanks to its plug-in electric layout, the I-Pace still manages to be practical and relevant despite that novelty. And it drives well, too, with loads of performance.

Pros: Feels quality, relatively low running and ownership costs, good to drive, future-proof.

Cons: Still expensive, unknown quantity in some ways, firm ride.

3.   Porsche Macan 2014 on

2014 Porsche Macan Turbo 2014 Porsche Macan Turbo

The car for somebody who likes sports cars but has a family and only one parking spot. Racy and sharp to drive but a smaller package than most cars at this price.

Pros: Sporty to drive, accurate steering, taut dynamics and punchy engines, feels typically Porsche.

Cons: Strict five-seater, expensive to buy and own.

Best used off-road SUVs

1.   Toyota Prado 2009 on

2019 Toyota Prado 2019 Toyota Prado

Plenty of these about, so no lack of choice. Newer is better thanks to upgrades over the years. Just about as much off-roader as most people will ever need. Petrol version is much cheaper to buy and super reliable.

Pros: Brilliant in the bush, reliable and durable provided servicing has been maintained, comfy for long distances.

Cons: Later diesel engines have had DPF issues, more expensive than its peers.

2.   Toyota FJ Cruiser 2011 to 2016

2016 Toyota FJ Cruiser 2016 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Based on the Prado, the FJ Cruiser will, as a result, go pretty much anywhere. Petrol V6 is grunty and long-lived and the retro styling makes its own statement.

Pros: Superb off-road, petrol V6 is utterly reliable, long-range fuel tanks in post-2013 versions.

Cons: Interior a bit cramped, some potential owners would have preferred diesel engine.

3.   Ford Everest 2015 on

2018 Ford Everest. (Trend variant shown) 2018 Ford Everest. (Trend variant shown)

Based on the Australian-engineered Ranger ute, the Everest got a wagon body, seven seats and a more sophisticated rear suspension. Everything else that made the Ranger such a hit remains.

Pros: Excellent off-road capabilities, very competent and comfortable on-road, good tow vehicle.

Cons: Details like no reach-adjustment on steering column speak of its commercial-vehicle genes.