Best used 4x4 2023
Looking for a capable and good value 4x4? Here are some of our favourite 4x4s of all types, with options to suit various budgets
Far more used cars are bought and sold every year than new cars and with new SUVs being so popular, there's a similarly huge demand for used off-roaders and SUVs. While four-wheel drive models can be particularly expensive as new cars, that needn't be the case if you go used, with plenty of affordable options available.
Sometimes you’ll hear the term '4x4' used to specifically refer to an SUV like a Land Rover Discovery or a Nissan Qashqai. Yet, while in some cases these cars have four-wheel drive, like the Discovery, sometimes they don’t, like the Qashqai (which is two-wheel drive - in this case front-wheel drive).Here, we use it to refer to cars with four-wheel drive specifically.
Four-wheel drive can be useful for many different reasons. You might initially think that all 4x4 cars are designed to drive off-road, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, four-wheel drive is used to improve a car’s performance around corners, as on some sports cars, or simply to help the car perform better in the rain and snow.
If you live somewhere that gets harsh weather a lot, a four-wheel drive car can be really useful, though if you're focused on driving safely in snow, bear in mind that four-wheel drive helps you to get moving on slippery surfaces, but can't help you to stop safely. Winter tyres, meanwhile, can help you to accelerate and stop safely on snowy, icy or simply cold and wet roads.
For this article on the best second-hand 4x4s, we’re looking at cars that do have at least some ability off-road. In the UK we’d argue that four-wheel drive doesn’t make sense for most drivers, who never leave the tarmac and don’t need the extra grip all year round. This is because four-wheel drive adds weight and complexity, in turn increasing running costs.
Yet 4x4 cars are increasingly popular and there are plenty of good reasons to want one. So, if you're set on going four-wheel drive, let’s dive in and round up some of the best second-hand 4x4s you can buy in the UK.
Best 4x4s to buy second-hand
Best second-hand 4x4 for value for money
The Dacia Duster isn’t just a good-value small SUV - it may well be the best-value small SUV you can buy, second-hand or not. Its ultra-low prices when new mean that used prices are very affordable even for relatively new models, and it’s roomy, comfortable and even has some off-road ability.
The four-wheel drive versions are rugged and great for heading off the tarmac, but they’re also comfortable on the road and the diesel engine is punchy and efficient. It’s not the most upmarket car around - it’s a little noisy inside and the cabin is full of cheap-looking plastics - but it does the job if you’re not too fussed about those things.
The Duster is at its best in Laureate form as it has a good amount of equipment, and we’d avoid basic Access models as some don’t even have a radio fitted, making them simply too pared back for many drivers. This Dacia is all about value for money - so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one at a price you’re happy with.
Best second-hand 4x4 for off-roading
The Fiat Panda 4x4 has the cute looks and low price of a city car, but you might be surprised to learn that it’s one of the best off-roaders you can buy. That’s because it’s small enough to get through narrow tracks that bigger SUVs can’t and it's also light enough to easily cross over some surfaces that heavier 4x4s would sink into.
It uses an excellent four-wheel drive system that brings lots of grip in tricky conditions, and the small size and good visibility really help when you’re off-roading, as it's so easy to manoeuvre.
We’d go for the TwinAir model, which has a punchy and unusual-sounding two-cylinder engine. It requires some effort to get good fuel economy - you have to resist the temptation to work the eager engine hard - but thanks to low road tax, it should prove cheap to run.
The Panda 4x4 is a practical car for being so small, so even if you don’t plan on taking it off-road, the Panda 4x4 is a great little car that’s easy to drive and park, looks great and is good value.
Best second-hand 4x4 for practicality
Our pick Volvo V90 Cross Country D4 AWD
Used deals Limited stock
The Volvo V90 is a fantastic car in its own right, but there’s also the Cross Country version to consider. This model has four-wheel drive as standard and a bit more ride height for getting over bumpy farm tracks and the like, plus rugged styling extras and a more comfortable ride.
It’s also great value, as you can get into pretty recent cars with low mileage for well below the list price. The V90 is outstanding when it comes to practicality, as there’s enough room for adults to get very comfortable in the back and a huge boot. Fold the seats down and it’s easy to get mountain bikes inside, for example.
Then there’s the technology - this Volvo is loaded with it thanks to the excellent media screen on the dashboard with built-in sat-nav and smartphone connectivity. It’s great for motorway trips, so the V90 is perfect for family holidays or adventures with friends.
Best second-hand 4x4 for family life
The Skoda Karoq is a natural choice if you’re looking for a family car with a little SUV style, because it’s good in all the right areas for that while also being really affordable second-hand. While we generally prefer the 1.5-litre petrol model, when it comes to 4x4 versions we’d recommend the 2.0-litre 'TDI' diesel instead, as it comes with four-wheel drive. It’s not the best off-roader here, but it won’t have any trouble with farm tracks and so on.
The Karoq’s real strength is its cabin, which is really spacious. There’s lots of leg and headroom in the back and a big boot for carrying buggies, bikes and bric-a-brac, plus lots of tech including sat-nav and smartphone connectivity, courtesy of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The Karoq is also comfortable on bumpy roads and stays nice and quiet inside when on the motorway, plus this diesel version is surprisingly fast thanks to its engine offering lots of muscle at low engine speeds. Go for one that’s covered around 30,000 miles and you’ll have a car that still feels new but will come at a massively reduced price compared to a new version.
Best second-hand 4x4 for off-roading in comfort
If you need a proper 4x4 that can handle just about any terrain you can throw at it, yet still want a luxurious and comfortable family car, the Land Rover Discovery is one of the best options there is.
There are plenty for sale, as it’s a popular car, and there are various engines and trims to choose from. The 2.0-litre diesel model strikes a good compromise between performance and efficiency, so we’d go for that one with an automatic gearbox (which is smooth and easy to use).
The Discovery is a top off-roader but it’s also luxurious inside, spacious for the family, quiet on the motorway and full of high-tech kit. The fact it loses value quickly from new means it’s a good used buy but be aware of the relatively high running costs for servicing.
Best second-hand 4x4 for dependability
Subarus enjoy a cult following in the UK, as owners love their dependable, rugged nature. This means they’re often more expensive used than counterparts from other brands, but you get what you pay for here; a second-hand Subaru Forester offers good off-road ability and reliability in equal measure.
Owners often look after their cars very well too, which boosts their appeal second-hand. If you do like to go off-roading, the Forester has a very dependable four-wheel drive system and is more capable than it looks, yet it’s also good to drive on the road.
It’s practical too, with a hard-wearing interior that doesn’t look as plush as some alternatives but will stand up to more punishment from a family without looking too worn. The Forester isn’t very economical, though, so it may not work for you if running costs are a big part of why you choose a car.
Best second-hand 4x4 for luxury
If money isn’t an issue, then the Range Rover is the best second-hand 4x4 around. It’s one of the most luxurious cars you can get, and while reliability and value for money aren’t its strong points, the fact it loses value so quickly from new means it’s actually a surprisingly affordable way into an ultra-luxurious off-roader.
It’s genuinely excellent at off-roading thanks to the clever tech on board and the four-wheel drive layout with a powerful 3.0-litre diesel engine. The Range Rover even comes with special cameras designed to improve visibility when you’re heading down tight tracks and wooded areas.
It’s also huge inside, with more than enough room for a family holiday trip, extremely comfortable, fast and quiet on the motorway. The Range Rover’s image may be attractive or repulsive depending on your outlook on these huge SUVs, but you can never deny how capable the car is when it comes to driving, whether it’s on or off-road.
Best second-hand pick-up 4x4 for daily use
Our pick VW Amarok 3.0 TDI 4Motion Highline
Used deals Limited stock
If you actually need a tough car that has serious off-road ability, towing ability and all around toughness, your best bet is a pick-up. These models are classed as vans for tax reasons in the UK but they are certainly the best route for those who need a mode of transport suited to really tough terrain.
The Volkswagen Amarok is not the best off-roading pick-up, but it is one of the best on-road trucks you can get - giving it a very broad range of abilities. The Highline model is packed with up-to-date kit and is more comfortable than many alternatives, so it works well as an everyday car - there’s enough room in the back of the double-cab for the family, too.
The Amarok is likely to be more capable than most of the 4x4s above when it comes to rough terrain, but it’s not as good on-road. The rugged suspension design for carrying heavy loads means it’s bouncy and a little rattly on the road, unlike some of the smooth-riding SUVs above, but it’s fast, surprisingly fun to drive and has a pleasant cabin in high-spec models, too.
*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:
48 monthly payments of £192
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
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