Top 6 Budget SUVs Under $10,000 for Safety-Conscious Buyers

White Hyundai Santa Fe SUV DM Series-II Safest SUV Australia Feature

Top 6 Budget SUVs for Safety-Conscious Buyers

The information below (Information) is provided by Gumtree for general information purposes only, to assist you in your car search. Any statements about safety or performance features are based on publicly available information (including ANCAP safety ratings) and reviews. You should not rely on the Information when buying a particular vehicle, because each individual vehicle has unique safety and performance qualities. Gumtree accepts no liability for your reliance on any of the Information when buying a vehicle.

Good news – a limited budget doesn’t mean you have to compromise on safety when it comes to choosing a used sports utility vehicle (SUV).

Here, Gumtree Cars provides a guide to the six safest SUV options that stand out for safety – including five-star ratings from both independent crash testing (ANCAP) and Monash University’s 2018/2019 Used Car Safety Ratings Buyer’s Guide.

HYUNDAI SANTA FE (2009–2011)

The second-generation Santa Fe was released in 2006, but we’re skipping to the late-2009 (MY10) update that brought upgraded passenger protection – and duly bumped the Hyundai up from its earlier four-star NCAP rating to the full five stars.

New safety features include rollover sensors that will trigger the vehicle’s side and curtain airbags, and tighten seatbelts automatically, if they sense a risk of overturning.

The curtain airbags extend across all three seating rows of this seven-seater SUV, and all models for the MY10 range have rear sensors, active front head restraints, and the usual electronic stability and traction-control aids.

It’s a shame a rear-view camera is only included on the top Highlander variant, though front sensors are available as an accessory option on all models if you can find one thus equipped.

The MY10 upgrades improved the Santa Fe package that had already benefited from bigger, stronger unibody (car-like) construction compared with the original, body-on-frame (4WD-style) Santa Fe.


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Keep a sharp eye out and you may well find a third-generation Outlander from its launch timing of late 2012. (Generally speaking, the newer the model, the better.)

A maximum $10,000 budget will more commonly bring the second iteration of Mitsubishi’s SUV into play – produced from 2006 to 2012.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of safety goodies and a five-star crash rating with this model.

And the ability to buy an Outlander post December 2007 means you will get electronic stability control – a potential life-saving technology – standard on any model (previously only V6 models from launch).

Careful scrutiny of Outlander trim grades being offered is also recommended as side and curtain airbags were standard only on XLS and VRX variants. Otherwise, try to find an LS or VR trim grade where the original buyer had paid a bit extra for these airbags as an option.

This Outlander generation features a 4WD system that allows the driver to change modes on the move, from FWD (for better fuel economy) to rear-biased 4WD, as well as 50:50 AWD Lock for lower-speed off-roading.


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The Subaru Tribeca released in 2006 had a front-end face that only a mother could love, and Subaru acknowledged it by introducing a facelifted model less than 12 months later.

There were other improvements over the awkward-looking predecessor, not least a bigger 3.6-litre V6 (replacing the previous 3.0-litre) that brought a jump in performance – an inherent safety benefit for easier overtaking and acceleration into traffic gaps.

The standard rear-view camera also offers better vision with a wider angle and higher resolution, as well as adding guideline overlays.

Handling isn’t inspiring if you appreciate driving, though neither is it going to get you into trouble, especially with electronic support via Vehicle Dynamic Control. And of course there’s Subaru’s permanent all-wheel drive for extra assurance on slippery stuff.

Inside, passengers are protected by dual front, side and curtain airbags, with the front seats gaining anti-whiplash active head restraints.


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TOYOTA KLUGER (2010–2012)

Toyota’s reputation for strong build quality is a good starting point for the second-generation Kluger, sold between 2007 and 2013.

Its large cabin features seven airbags, a total that can’t be matched by any rival of the same period. They include full-length curtain airbags covering all three rows of seats, whereas those on some large SUVs don’t extend to the rearmost seats.

There’s also whiplash-reducing active headrests (a first for a local Toyota in 2007), while a reversing camera is also standard on every model to help the driver spot any potential danger behind the vehicle.

Electronic safety aids include a vehicle stability system that can brake individual wheels to help avoid a skid, Brake Assist that can boost emergency-stopping performance, and traction control.

A gutsy 3.5-litre V6 also ensures easy overtaking, though we’d recommend finding an all-wheel-drive Toyota Kluger as this engine can create wheel spin in the front-drive variants, especially in the wet.


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Beyond scoring top marks in crash testing and used-car safety ratings, very much central to the original Volkswagen Tiguan’s sense of security is its highly assured, confidence-inspiring handling.

In fact, throw in its comfortable ride and we’d say the little Volkswagen is the best-driving compact SUV of its era.

All models up to 2011 featured VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system that was front-wheel drive for about 90 per cent of the time – bringing the rear wheels into the action only when the vehicle sensed they were needed for better traction on slippery surfaces.

All Tiguan models from its 2008 launch feature six airbags, electronic stability control, auto hazard lights for emergency braking, and the ability to brake an individual spinning wheel to improve traction.

A $10,000 budget has the potential to net you a range-topping 147TSI, which apart from borrowing the turbo petrol engine from the Golf GTI hot-hatch, also included rear parking sensors and tyre pressure monitoring as standard (optional on lower variants).


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VOLVO XC60 (2008–2009)

Volvo’s first mid-sized SUV, the XC60, was the first vehicle to feature technology that could bring the car to a standstill automatically if the driver wasn’t quick enough to react to an imminent impact with another vehicle.

Called City Safety and using a laser sensor in the top of the windscreen to monitor traffic up to eight metres ahead, the proviso is that, for earlier models, crash-avoidance was only likely if the XC60’s speed was 15km/h or lower. (Volvo has continued to improve the tech’s operating speeds.)

Still, it could reduce the severity of the crash at higher speeds.

It isn’t the XC60’s only trick. There’s an all-wheel-drive system that shuffles torque between the front and rear wheels for the best traction, hill-descent control for crawling down steep gradients, and a mix of Roll Stability Control, traction control and stability control to help keep the Volvo upright and on the straight and narrow.

If you can, try to find an XC60 fitted with an optional Drive Assist Pack, which adds adaptive cruise, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection and fatigue warning into the equation.

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Jez Spinks

Automotive Journalist