Best used 4x4s for off-roading

Get an SUV that doesn't just look the part: the best used 4x4s can handle a range of slippery on- and off-road situations

BuyaCar team
May 27, 2022

If you’re looking for a car that can tackle off-road driving with relative ease - and keep you comfy on the road - then you’ll need a 4x4 that's engineered to negotiate deep gullies, steep inclines and rough terrain. But it's not as easy as just looking at which high-riding cars are available and picking something that looks like it can take care of itself. 

It's become more difficult in recent years to discern proper 4x4s among the crowd of big on-road-optimised SUVs and more compact crossovers. While the design of most SUVs helps to make them appear rugged and sturdy, they are primarily intended for use on tarmac and are often only equipped with two-wheel-drive and none of the mechanical gear needed to keep you moving when one or more of the tyres have little grip on the surface.

Even many of those that do have four-wheel drive are not well suited to serious off-roading, with systems that might offer a little extra traction when pulling off on wet roads, but aren't sophisticated enough to get you across rough, slippery terrain, simply spinning one or more of the wheels rather than limiting power to those that are spinning and sending more to the ones that still have grip. So, finding the genuine article requires some research. Thankfully, we can help here.

While some SUVs offer off-road style over substance, there are cars with sophisticated four-wheel drive systems that are well equipped for wet tarmac, muddy tracks, snowy roads and whatever other tough conditions you can find, offering better grip in slippery conditions and the ability to keep moving when the going gets rough.

Best used 4x4s

To help you find one of the more capable models, it's worth focusing on models with sophisticated four-wheel drive systems that also offer high ground clearance - the gap between the ground and the bottom of the car - and short overhangs before the front wheels and behind the rear wheels, to reduce the chance of scraping the underside or bashing the ends of the car over rough terrain.

These serious 4x4s come in a variety of forms though. The Range Rover for instance is essentially a high-riding luxury car with the ability to cross tough terrain without fuss, while the Jeep Wrangler is a no-nonsense and minimalist alternative. Then you have the tiny Fiat Panda 4x4 and Suzuki Jimny, which may be small but are far more capable of going far off road than you might expect.

1. Toyota Land Cruiser

Our pick Toyota Land Cruiser 2.8 TD Invincible
Used deals Limited stock

There’s a reason the United Nations runs fleets of these in Third World countries: the Toyota Land Cruiser's ability to keep going, long after others have thrown in the towel. The Land Cruiser is not the most luxurious nor sophisticated 4x4 on the road, but off it the car is utterly dependable.

It's huge - weighing almost three tonnes (2,930kg) - yet the power from its 2.8-litre diesel engine renders the Land Cruiser virtually unstoppable when the going gets tough.


2. Land Rover Discovery

Our pick Land Rover Discovery 3.0 TD6 HSE
Used deals from £18,395
Monthly finance from £794*

The latest version of the Discovery, launched in 2016, was completely redesigned. It's still a strong off-roader, whether you go for one of the 3.0-litre engines or the more economical 2.0-litre diesel.

The rearmost seats in this seven-seater SUV are perfectly acceptable for adults, though don't expect to fit much in the boot without folding them down. While there's a large touchscreen media system taking centre stage, the car's main controls are still managed with physical dials which makes the Discovery very easy to live with.


3. Jeep Renegade

Our pick Jeep Renegade 2.0 Multijet Trailhawk
Used deals Limited stock

Entry-level Jeep Renegades won’t do if you’re looking to really test the car off road, as they only have four-wheel drive. However, the range-topping Trailhawk cars are so capable off road that they'll follow the Land Rover Discovery, above, deep into rough and boggy territory.

There’s selectable four-wheel drive offering a choice of high and low ranges, skid plates, which protect vulnerable parts underneath the car from bumps and scrapes, plus an armoury of electronics offering different modes. All this and it’s pretty good on-road, too. 


4. Range Rover

Our pick Range Rover SDV8 Vogue
Used deals from £26,990
Monthly finance from £1,206*

The Range Rover offers an unbeatable combination of luxury and off-road prowess. A car that really can be used as a limousine one day and for exploration the next. The SDV8 diesel engine is the one to choose for its power and economy (SDV6 engines are only marginally more economical in real-world conditions), and Vogue trim is the optimum specification.

This is an option for buyers without much care for expense. Even the very cheapest models available on BuyaCar are some £10,000 more than the Discovery, but this is unfortunately the price that must be paid for a more luxurious experience behind the wheel.


5. Fiat Panda 4x4

Our pick Fiat Panda Cross 4x4 0.9 Twinair
Used deals from £6,500
Monthly finance from £0*

At the opposite end of the scale to the Range Rover, the Fiat Panda proves you don't need a big diesel engine, hefty mechanical underpinnings and acres of steel to have fun off-road. In fact, its tiny dimensions, short overhangs and light weight are exactly why it can scramble up and down the steepest muddy slopes that would leave reputedly more capable rivals struggling.

While there are 1.3-litre diesel engines (these are few and far between, the 0.9-litre two-cylinder turbocharged engine, borrowed from the popular Fiat 500 city car, is super-economical.


6. Jeep Wrangler

Our pick Jeep Wrangler 2.8 CRD Sahara
Used deals Limited stock

Here’s another back-to-basics 4x4, only the Wrangler offers a bit of ‘alternative cool’ in the mix, too. On-road it bounces along Britain’s jagged roads, accompanied by tyre roar, wind noise and the engine’s din. But for many people, that’s its charm. Take it off-road and it comes into its own as a go-anywhere accessory.

We like the removeable roof panels which turn the Wrangler into a convertible; the system lacks the finnesse of an electrically controlled drop-top, and is more on-par with a large sunroof than a full convertible, but it's no less fun.


7. Land Rover Discovery Sport

Our pick Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.2 SD4 SE Tech auto
Used deals from £17,750
Monthly finance from £375*

Land Rover’s reputation is built on designing cars that function well on the road, without losing their off-road ability and here’s another. The Discovery Sport is a seven-seat family car one moment and a serious mud-plugger the next. On the road it has an uncannily smooth ride and corners steadily, with plenty of grip. Off-road, it can plough through rough terrain with the best of them.

Most versions of the Discovery Sport come with seven seats, and there are four-wheel-drive versions with petrol and plug-in hybrid power, too, for drivers turning their backs on diesel.


8. Suzuki Jimny

Our pick Suzuki Jimny SZ3
Used deals Limited stock

On-road, the Suzuki Jimny is slow, noisy and uncomfortable. It is off-road, too, but here its short length and shorter overhangs plus its capable 4x4 system with high and low gear ratios come into their own. 

Anyone who’s hired a Jimny on a Greek holiday will testify to the little car’s astonishing ability to negotiate steep, boulder-strewn tracks. And remember, that’s a hire car that has had multiple users who wouldn’t give its wellbeing a second thought.


9. Mercedes G-Class

Our pick Mercedes G350d
Used deals from £135,948
Monthly finance from £0*

The Mercedes G-Class, or G-Wagen as it was once known, began life as a military vehicle. So it’s incredibly tough but feels quite crude and basic. There’s a bonkers AMG G63 version but for the real world you won't do better than our pick, the G350d.

Although it looks ludicrously expensive, it’s a car that’s in high demand, so it should keep much of its value, keeping the cost of ownership a little lower than the price suggests.

10. Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Our pick Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2.2 D
Used deals from £22,000
Monthly finance from £0*

This is Alfa Romeo’s first attempt at a high riding SUV with four-wheel-drive, and as first efforts go, it’s stunning. It’s one of the best handling cars in this segment, and has a range of punchy engines, right from a ballistic twin-turbo 2.9-litre petrol, to a 2.2-litre diesel.

You can forgive it for its slightly smaller than average interior, because of the money you can save yourself by buying used. Italian cars tend to depreciate faster than German ones, and the Stelvio is no exception. This means you should be able to find some pretty good deals when searching used.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
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
APR: 9.9%

Buyacar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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