In this article, we will show you seven cheap trucks and SUVs to start you on your overland adventure. These cheap rides will take you across the open road, down a dusty trail, and over any mountain you choose.
Jeep Cherokee XJ
This is a super capable off-road beast that everyone should be aware of. The more budget-friendly Cherokee is just as capable as its Wrangler brother and it has a roof and a ton of room to store things. Offered in both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive you definitely want to get the model that powers all four wheels if you’re considering tackling any kind of tough terrain. The XJ Cherokee had a production run of nearly 20 years, and over those 20 years, it was offered with several different engine options. If you’re shopping for an XJ you’re going to want to consider getting with the notoriously reliable 4.0-liter inline-six.
This being a Jeep there’s just an unlimited amount of aftermarket support for the Cherokee XJ making this the ideal choice if you don’t want to figure out how to custom fabricate a bunch of equipment for your rig. The XJ didn’t change much in its decades-long run so prices for them are pretty similar. You can regularly find them for under 10 grand and often a lot less. We would recommend 97 or newer with an upgraded interior and exterior design. And we were able to find a 1999 white XJ with the six-cylinder for just 4 500 bucks. That’s already the cheapest car on this list!
Do you want to scramble over rocks and look good doing it? Then the mighty Mitsubishi might be the rig for you. You may know it by many different names in many different markets but no matter where you bought it it has a racing pedigree. Mitsubishi Monteros conquered the Dakar rallies in the 1990s, took home 150 stage wins. That’s almost twice that of its nearest rival. It’s no race truck but a pedestrian Montero comes as a mid-sized 4×4 in its third generation. There are a few different engine choices but we would recommend the 3.5 liters or 3.6 liters v6.
Prices for each generation of Montero largely are the same so go with the third generation. They come packed with more features and technology that you want when you go off-road. Some of these features include a lower unibody construction with an integral ladder frame chassis for increased torque and rigidity. Also, the fuel tank was shifted in between the axles for better weight distribution and to give the Montero a little extra ground clearance. All of this adds up to a versatile comfortable capable off-roader with room for all of your friends and all of your gear making this one of the best choices for your first over landing rig. Monteros are pretty rare and pretty hard to come by with older generations becoming harder and harder to find. But with a little detective work, we were able to find one for just 5000 which is great value for the money. It’s worth every penny and you don’t have to worry about aftermarket support as that is built into the Montero.
There are so many Rangers on the road that these things are dirt cheap and most people don’t know how capable they are. Ford made 43 trillion Rangers in its first iteration and it doesn’t stop there. The benefit of that popularity is that parts for these are cheap and the trucks themselves are cheap. A Ford Ranger is so cheap that you might just replace the entire truck if something breaks down. And they are endlessly customizable: get yourself a long-travel suspension kit to get over some wilder terrain, slap some meaty Toyota tires on there so you have the confidence that you’ll conquer anything, and you can get a fiberglass top for the bed and you never have to sleep outside again. These trucks come with solid axles, bigger tires, and more aftermarket support because they’ve just been around for so long.
There are just a million different models of Ford Ranger out there over its decades-long lifespan. Our recommendation is to go for a 98 to 2011 Ford Ranger XLT. Make sure you’re getting a four-wheel-drive model, and if you can, try to get that super cab so you can fit a little more gear in the cabin. We found a 2001 XLT with all of the options we just discussed for only 3300 bucks.
The Isuzu Trooper might be one of the best values in overlanding today. The Isuzu Trooper has the most storage space of any rig on this list. You can even store an entire bicycle in the back without even removing a wheel. And its capability on the road and off easily compares to more expensive trucks. It even came with the highest ground clearance in its class at the time of its release. If you’re pinching pennies building an over landing rig the Isuzu Trooper should be your first choice with decent models coming in at near a thousand bucks.
You might want to consider the second generation: more aftermarket support, a bigger and better v6 engine, a wider wheelbase. If you can go for one with the updated 3.5 liter v6 and as always try and get one with a manual transmission. Examples of the second generation Isuzu Trooper usually float more near the 4 000 range. We found one with 3.5 liter v6 for only 3499.
If you’re looking for an overlanding, off-roading, maul crushing SUV for under 10k you found it. You will not find a bigger, more luxurious, more reliable, and more capable rig than the GX470. The Lexus GX470 is a 4×4 mid-size five-door luxury SUV with a 4.7 liter v8 and is also known as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. And it is packed with off-roading technology to make your life easier on and off the road. Toyota’s a-Trax system will get you just about over anything without needing lockers and there is a center locking diff should you need it. It has full-time four-wheel drive with selectable low when you need it and even downhill assist control to help you modulate your speed as you go down a slope. The interior screams luxury and comfort and offers two rows of seating with an additional third row if you really want it.
Aftermarket parts are in strong supply and there are many ways you can upgrade a GX470 for any of your over landing needs. Right now you can pick one of these up for under 10 grand, swap out the tires and go crush any terrain you want. If you’re looking to buy go for the 05 or newer if you want a little extra power or go for the 03 or 04 if you want a little extra reliability and don’t mind the lack of grunt. Either way, you’ve got a rig that will go for hundreds of thousands of miles. The GX will conquer any terrain out of the box for under 10 grand and sometimes a lot less. In fact, we found an 05 with the extra horsepower for only 6 grand.
The overlanding Outback has gained popularity in recent years due to its decent capability and excellent daily drivability. Subaru is a great cheap reasonable choice for someone who’s just getting started in the world of over landing. The Outback is a Subaru Legacy with some extra body paneling, beefier suspension, a raised roof, two-tone paint, a roof rack, and a bigger set of tires. It also has a good towing capacity. Being a station wagon, it offers plenty of space for storage or even for sleeping in, which is perfect for overlanding. And a big roof with a built-in roof rack means that you can store all kinds of gear or even rig it up for a rooftop tent. The real advantage of an Outback is its fuel economy. This being just a normal car it gets decent miles per gallon, and that matters a lot when you’re overlanding.
With 7.3 inches of ground clearance and hyper-capable all-wheel drive, the Subaru Outback can get you over most terrain that you’re going to need to get through. And the good news is you can get an early Subaru Outback for around 5000 bucks. But we found an LL bean edition for just 2 500 bucks. That’s a great price for a great car.
Go down any dirt road in America and you’re going to see a 4Runner. The Toyota 4Runner is the de facto choice for anyone who wants to explore wild roads. The engineering on a 4runner is like nothing else on any car ever. Toyota always packs its 4Runner with the latest and greatest in their off-roading technology. It comes with a solid rear axle which helps with reliability which is the keyword when you’re talking 4Runner.
Toyota made the 4Runner in three different packages: SR5, limited, and sport, with the SR5 version being the most affordable of the three. The 4Runner you’re shopping for is probably going to come with a v6 but if you can find one or if you can stretch your budget to afford it getting that v8 model helps on the trail. They are pretty hard to find and thus pretty expensive. But the v6 will not disappoint especially when paired with Toyota’s stout four-wheel-drive system. The 4Runner is built from the ground up for adventure and will outshine pretty much any car, truck, or SUV. 4Runners aren’t cheap. If we’re talking a proper four-wheel-drive model with reasonable miles you’re talking seven grand just to get in the door. But even at that higher-end price, this is still an ideal deal. They’re just so reliable you’re not gonna end up spending any money on maintenance.