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.