5 Affordable Used 4×4 Cars for Winter

5 Affordable Used 4x4s for Winter-feature

The nights are drawing in, the temperature is dropping slowly but surely, and autumn is in full swing. This means that the time is right to buy yourself a cheap used 4×4 car, before winter really hits and asking prices go up.

If you’ve already got a car, but want to keep going as the ice and snow hits, we truly believe that unless you’re really in the money there’s simply no point in splashing out on an expensive SUV as a second car just for the winter weather.

Instead, we’ve set a budget of just £2,000 to show you what sort reliable, capable, and comfortable winter-beaters you can have for reasonable cash. In no particular order, here are the 5 affordable second-hand 4×4 cars for winter that we think are a steal.

8 Used 4×4 Car Buying Guide Tips

  • Always take your time looking, and do not be pressured into buying if you don’t feel 100% right about the car. It’s your money, and you can spend it where and when you please
  • Research the different engines and gearboxes online. Are the diesels more reliable than the petrol, or vice versa? Auto over manual?
  • If possible, take someone along who knows a decent amount about cars, as they’ll know what bad points to look for.
  • Check the service history. The more the merrier. Has it had major/expensive jobs like the cambelt (timing belt) changed at the correct mileage?
  • Always test drive the car. Give it a really good run and never buy before doing this.
  • Do a background check. A cheap check on the internet using the registration plate and VIN number shows up any loans, changes, if it’s been stolen or crash-damaged and more. These are not totally fool-proof though, so still be wary and do your homework.
  • Do a previous MOT check. Not many know that you can check a cars MOT history for FREE through the official UK government website – you can find some very useful stuff out this way: previous fails, recommendations, work carried out and more.
  • If watching Wheeler Dealers has taught us anything, it’s to negotiate or haggle the price with the seller. You could save a whole lot of money with just a few simple words! Don’t feel cheeky, it’s likely they’ll expect it. And remember: if they don’t want to go down in price, there are plenty more for sale
  • Finally, not a buying tip but… to make any AWD/SUV/4×4 much more potent in the slippery stuff, a set of good winter tyres are recommended.

Toyota RAV4

The RAV4 was one of the original small SUVs, which featured an advanced 4-wheel-drive system that drove the car through the front wheels until it detected slip, when it’d send power to all four. We had a 1995 first generation 5-door RAV4 in the family which endured not only 24 months of ridiculously potholed and perma-knackered roads in rural southern Ireland, but also one of the worst winters in a long time.

Not only did the Toyota RAV4 do well, it exceeded expectations by offering great grip, a comfortable ride for passengers, adequate boot space – with a handy low-loading floor – and basic comforts such as air conditioning and power windows all-round.

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What you’ll get for your money

Models available under £2,000  First generation (1994 – 2000) | Second generation (2000 – 2005)
Engines & gearbox  First gen: petrol | Second gen: Petrol or diesel | Both: manual or automatic
What you’ll get  (Dependant on year and spec) 3 or 5 doors, air conditioning, all-round power windows, electric adjustable & heated door mirrors, driver and passenger airbags, electric sunroof, alloy wheels, fully automatic 4×4
Overview  Bullet-proof reliability, decent 4×4 system, practical, compact size. See our review of the new Toyota RAV4 here

Subaru Forester

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First available in 1997, the Subaru Forester was based on the Impreza platform. Subaru slotted the car in between the Impreza Wagon and the Legacy, giving people the chance to own an SUV that was compact, practical and capable. Subaru’s original slogan for the Forester was ‘SUV Tough, Car Easy‘, pointing out the high. boxy rear and the large amount of space it provided.

The Forester has a legendary all-wheel-drive system that is capable of tackling far more than just a boggy farm track, and decent ground clearance to go with it. A brilliant used 4×4 for winter, but make sure the Forester you’re looking at has a comprehensive service history as Subaru part ain’t cheap, and neither is working on them thanks to the packed-in Boxer-configuration engine.

What you’ll get for your money

Models available under £2,000  First generation (1997 – 2002) | Second generation (2003 – 2008)
Engines & gearbox  Petrol only | Manual or automatic
What you’ll get  (Dependant on year and spec) Air conditioning, all-round power windows, electric adjustable & heated door mirrors, electric headlight wash, leather seats, heated front seats, driver and passenger airbags, electric sunroof, cruise control, alloy wheels, full-time 4-wheel-drive
Overview  Bullet-proof reliability (if well maintained), superb 4×4 system, practical, big boot, comfortable. See our reviews of the new 3rd and 4th generation Subaru Foresters here

Mitsubishi Shogun/Pajero/Montero

Mitsubishi Shogun Pajero Montero LWB-0240

There are three names given to the Mitsubishi 4×4: Pajero, Shogun, Montero. If you’re in the UK, it’s the Shogun, whilst the Pajero is an imported vehicle. For sub £2,000 you’re going to be able to get the second generation (1991 – 1999) version. Available are a SWB (short wheelbase 3-door) or a LWB (long wheelbase 5-door), and the engines are a four-cylinder 2.5 or 2.8 litre turbo-diesel, and a 3.o litre or 3.5 litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine. Of the diesels, our recommendation is the 2.8TD as the 2.5 is underpowered and slow.

The Shogun offers absolute value for money in many areas: the Superselect 4-wheel-drive system with low ratio is not only easy to use, but also makes the Mitsubishi highly capable over the rough or slippery stuff. Buy the LWB and there’s the added benefit of seven comfortable seats. As standard the car is Mitsubishi is very well equipped, and look out for extras such as ‘winter packs’, which features twin batteries and heater elements in the windscreen for de-icing the wiper blades.

There are a lot out there, but we’d recommend the Pajero import with the automatic gearbox, as they usually have lower miles and are in better condition underneath due to the Japanese not using salt on their roads. Pay the upper end of £2,000 to get a good one, and be aware of unloved ones (there are many). While the Mitsubishi is very reliable, the one main problem is a cracked head due to overheating. If the head has been replaced already, all the better. If you want a serious but useable used 4×4, the Pajero/Shogun/Montero is a bargain.

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What you’ll get for your money

Models available under £2,000  Second generation (1991 – 1999) is much better equipped and roomy than the first-gen
Engines & gearbox  Second gen: Petrol or diesel | Manual or automatic
What you’ll get  (Dependant on year and spec) 3 or 5 doors, 5 or 7 seats, 3-way electric adjustable suspension, air conditioning, all-round power windows, electric adjustable, folding & heated door mirrors, driver and passenger airbags, electric sunroof, adjustable seat bolsters, ‘winter pack’ (2 batteries & heated screen for de-icing wiper blades), Superselect 4×4 system
Overview  Reliable, tough, highly capable off-road, practical, well-equipped See our review of the 2013 Mitsubishi Shogun

Suzuki Grand Vitara

Suzuki grand vitara used 4x4


Photo Credit – Flickr user 123_456

Cheap and cheerful would be the best way to describe the Suzuki Grand Vitara (also known as the Escudo). We’re recommending second-generation versions (1998 – 2006) – the nearer to ’06 the better. Available with 3 or 5 doors, the Grand Vitara is a compact SUV with a basic-looking and very plasticky interior.

However, the Grand Vitara has a fairly good spec, there are millions for sale, and you can pick a half-decent one up with low miles for around £1,500 – £1,750. Engines are one 2.0 litre turbo-diesel, and the petrol choices are a 1.6, 2.0, 2.5 V6 and a 2.7 V6. Avoid the later diesels (a Peugeot unit) because of reliability issues, and the 1.6 petrol which is severely underpowered.

Although the ground clearance isn’t anything spectacular, there’s a proper low and high range gear selector, showing that it has good potential in the snow and ice. Some models have a 4×4 switch instead of the manual selector. Suzuki have a long history of producing 4x4s that genuinely perform well, and the Grand Vitara will likely see you through a bad winter okay.

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What you’ll get for your money

Models available under £2,000  Second generation (1998 – 2006) is better equipped and better looking than the first
Engines & gearbox  Petrol or diesel | Manual or automatic. We’d recommend avoiding the diesel due to a fair amount of bad reports.
What you’ll get  (Dependant on year and spec) 3 or 5 doors, air conditioning, all-round power windows, electric adjustable & heated door mirrors, driver and passenger airbags, selectable 4WD
Overview  Compact size, decently-spec’d, broad choice of engines, capable 4WD system, cheap and lots for sale. Read our other Suzuki car reviews here

Lexus RX 300

Lexus RX 300 review affordable used 4x4-6

What? A used 4×4 Lexus for under £2,000? Yep, that’s correct. The vastly underrated RX 300 is modestly good in the snow, has a super-reliable 3.0 litre V6 Toyota petrol engine, every part of the luxurious interior is hugely over-engineered and they are massively spec’d, with stuff like full high-quality leather, heated seats, traction control, front and side airbags, electronic stability control (2000 onwards), touchscreen satellite navigation, and electric adjustable everything. No 4×4 to select from as it’s fully automated, but there is a ‘snow’ mode which makes the car set off in second gear.

The drawbacks are that the RX isn’t exactly good-looking, they’re heavy on fuel so if you want economical, knock it off your list, and if something does go wrong this is a premium brand and parts are not cheap at all. Aside from those points, if you want a car that’s as luxurious as a Range Rover (of the time) but with none of the reliability issues, the RX is the one to go for.

The first generation (1997 – 2003) is affordable within the sub £2k budget, but go for the later models (2000 – ’03) for better spec, and pay the top end of your budget to ensure finding a good one. Finally, make sure that whichever you for has a comprehensive service history and has been well looked-after. If it hasn’t and something goes wrong, you’ll likely be shelling out big bucks to get it repaired.

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What you’ll get for your money

Models available under £2,000  First generation (1997 – 2003). Go for the 2000 – 2003 for best value.
Engines & gearbox  Petrol | Automatic
What you’ll get  (Dependant on year and spec) Climate control air conditioning, all-round power windows, power sunroof, electric adjustable & heated door mirrors, full leather seating, electrically-adjustable & heated front seats, touchscreen sat nav, driver & passenger front and side airbags, automatic 4WD with snow mode, traction control and more
Overview  Vastly underrated SUV, huge value for money, bulletproof reliability, superbly well-made, luxurious interior. Read our other Lexus reviews here

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

Other photography From Flickr Users :
Michał Sacharewicz
Matias Tukiainen
marla rochester
Shayne Duncan

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