In the world of cars, SUVs are a lot like the ubiquitous Apple iPhone: overwhelmingly popular, regardless of whether or not other models may offer more features or in fact be better suited to your needs and budget.
In fact, even people who don’t need an SUV still seem to want one.
SUVs are so sought after, in fact, that about half of all new-car sales within Australia in 2021 were SUVs.
This hunger for SUVs means there are plenty of used SUV cars for sale, which makes finding a good second-hand SUV for a decent price all the more achievable.
If you’re looking at joining Australia’s ever-growing SUV army, a used SUV in good condition can be a smart move for numerous reasons: you’ll likely save thousands of dollars compared to buying new, and you’ll still be able to land yourself a reliable, fuel-efficient and safe car (safety is particularly important if it’s a vehicle you’ll be ferrying your family around in).
Since most SUVs in Australia have been on the market for years and have been tried and tested in all sorts of driving conditions, a lot of the guesswork has been taken out of which makes and models stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of quality, reliability and performance.
The upshot? Finding a suitable second-hand SUV is now easier than ever, and it’s not an uncommon sight to see used-car yards packed to the gills with SUV cars for sale, and usually at reasonable prices considering SUVs are so plentiful (although, thanks to the limited availability of new cars at present – due to problems with both pandemics and the related supply of electrical parts, second-hand prices have been creeping up since 2020).
On average, the value of new cars, irrespective of make or model, drops by about 40 per cent after five years, which can be a good guide in terms of what you should be paying (looking for a vehicle that’s three years old is ideal, as it’ll likely still be covered by some of its warranty, offering you a higher degree of comfort that you’ll be sorted by the manufacturer should anything major go wrong with the car).
You may also think that, besides the car’s general appearance, the odometer is the best indicator of whether or not a car is in good nick, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
Sure, if the numbers are stupidly high it’s possible you’re looking at an ex-sales rep or ex-company car that’s probably best avoided, but modern cars are largely built to last, so a decent amount of kilometres clocked shouldn’t be an automatic ‘no thanks’.
Another thing: if you’re seeking out the best value SUV you can find, don’t just go for the first super cheap SUV you come across: it’s probably that price for a reason (a good look at the service handbook might prove to be illuminating – make sure it has a good history of regular maintenance), and you’ll still be able to find decent make and models for well under 30K anyway.
If in doubt, scour the many SUV reviews you’ll find on CarsGuide to determine which is the top option and best second-hand SUV in Australia for you.
The best used SUVs in Australia
Best used small SUV
Toyota C-HR (2017 on)
The CH-R (‘Coupe High-Rider’, in case you’re wondering) has a design best described with ‘f’ words (‘fun and funky’ or ‘frightful’, depending on your taste), and is a great example of an economical, small, city SUV done just right.
Pros: Toyota’s famed reliability, a turbo engine, standard autonomous emergency braking.
Cons: Its look isn’t for all tastes, and there are a few issues in regards to visibility (a limited view from the rear seat and a rear blind-spot).
Best used compact SUV
Mazda CX-5 (2017 on)
Considered to be the driver’s choice in its class, the CX-5 is a favourite for families, and is revered for its style and reliable performance. Options include versions with petrol or diesel engines, or two-wheel drive/all-wheel drive, depending how much grunt and grip you’re after.
Pros: Engine options, smooth steering, classy exterior.
Cons: Not as much space in the back as you’d like, smaller petrol engine doesn’t deliver as much power as the diesel option.
Best used family SUV
Kia Sorento (2015 on)
If you’re after a great a family SUV with decent size and power to match, look no further than the Kia Sorento. Plenty of space for everyone and their assorted bits and pieces, plus it’s comfortable to ride in and a delight to drive.
Pros: Roomy, quiet cabin, good quality build, choice of diesel or petrol, seven seats.
Cons: Suspension a bit soft, fuel consumption could be better, not the sharpest drive.
Best used luxury SUV
Porsche Macan (2014 on)
Want a sports car, but know it’s not gonna fly since you have a family? The Porsche Macan offers the perfect middle-ground by offering classic Porsche styling, luxury and performance, but with the size and cabin space needed to ferry the troops.
Pros: Sporty performance, responsive steering, and an engine with plenty of kick.
Cons: Pricey, and not as spacious as other SUVs in the same price bracket.
Best used off-road SUV
Toyota Prado (2009 on)
A seven-seater that’s equally at home as an urban people-mover or a rugged off-roader, the Prado has been on the Australian market for a considerable amount of time, so there should be no shortage of these on the used car market. Comes in petrol or a more powerful diesel version.
Pros: Reliable performance, is an SUV that can actually handle off-roading, tough and durable.
Cons: Higher cost than other 4WD SUVs in the same category, DPF issues with later diesel engines.
By Stephen Corby
*Disclaimer: Prices, features, warranties and other information that may be shown in this editorial content (Review Information) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (CAMS) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Information was correct at the time of publication. CAMS does not warrant or represent that the Review Information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon the Review Information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.