Some of the most reliable SUVs you can buy today come from Toyota. They’re not the most fuel-efficient, but they’re all capable machines that can serve as well as a pickup truck for most people. But buying any new vehicle, especially an SUV, is a major investment. Although buying used does mean potentially losing out on some safety and tech features, that’s no reason to skimp on reliability. In fact, many reliable and well-regarded Toyota SUVs are surprisingly affordable. Here are 4 that we’ve found, with no more than 10 years and 100,000 miles on the clock, for under $20,000.
Considering how well the Toyota 4Runner holds up against depreciation, seeing it on this list may come as a surprise. True, finding a TRD Pro model with less than 100k-miles for under $20k is highly unlikely.
However, the rest of the 4Runner lineup shares the TRD model’s reputation for toughness and durability. 4Runner’s regularly cross the 200,000-mile barrier, and owners keep their SUVs for a decade, on average. It’s also one of the most reliable SUVs Consumer Reports has ever reviewed.
Part of the reason for that is because Toyota hasn’t significantly revised the 4Runner since Obama was still in office. Buying a used 4Runner does mean missing out on the safety features updated 2020 models will receive. However, even 10-year-old models have the same 270-hp 4.0-liter V6 and 5-speed automatic. And they’re still likely safer than a Jeep Wrangler.
Toyota offered the 4Runner with both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. The 4WD models tend to be more expensive, and the V6/5-speed powertrain makes for relatively poor fuel economy. But all 4Runners share the same body-on-frame, dinosaur-like toughness.
If a used 4Runner TRD Pro is beyond your budget, an FJ Cruiser is the next best thing. According to Autotrader, the FJ Cruiser actually rides on a shortened 4Runner platform. And just like its larger brother, this is a Toyota SUV that’s scored high in Consumer Reports’ reliability and owner satisfaction categories. The FJ Cruiser also used the 4Runner’s 4.0-liter V6 and 5-speed automatic, although a 6-speed manual was also available.
The FJ Cruiser is also enjoying something of a second life, with the recent surge in off-road SUV popularity. The limited-edition Trail Team FJ Cruisers featured upgrades like Bilstein shocks and differential locks, which makes them truly ‘special’ editions. It’s also unlikely buyers will find any for under $20,000. However, every FJ Cruiser was designed with off-roading in mind.
The FJ Cruiser was sold in the US until 2014, although 2011 and older models are the ones most likely to fall within our budget. Buyers should note, the FJ Cruiser’s distinctive styling does make it stand out to ticketing police officers. It’s also very bad for visibility. And, like the 4Runner, it doesn’t exactly sip fuel.
But when it comes to affordable off-roading, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is one of the best.
Buyers seeking a bit of extra room can find it in the Toyota Sequoia. Like the 4Runner, the Sequoia is another automotive dinosaur. Still body-on-frame, this Toyota SUV hasn’t received an extensive update since 2010. However, that also means the Sequoia ranks high in Consumer Reports’ reliability testing. Owners regularly keep their Sequoias for almost a decade, and examples with over 300,000 miles on their odometers aren’t unheard of.
Being a 3-row SUV, the Sequoia does have a bigger engine than the 4Runner or FJ Cruiser. All Sequoias have a 381-hp 5.7-liter V8 that’s shared with the Toyota Land Cruiser, linked to a 6-speed automatic. The Toyota Sequoia can have either RWD or 4WD, although 4WD models command a price premium. The high-end off-road TRD Pro models, with Bilstein shocks and skid plates, are outside our $20k budget.
Older Sequoias also don’t come with the latest safety feature upgrades. And, as a body-on-frame, V8-powered SUV, the Sequoia also gets noticeably poor mileage, even compared to the 4Runner and FJ Cruiser. However, there is an upside to buying an older Sequoia. As with older Tundras, you can fit a 50-state-legal TRD supercharger to it.
The Toyota Highlander differs from the rest of the SUVs listed here. It’s a unibody SUV, which some classify as a crossover. Plus, although its 4WD versions are within budget, the Highlander didn’t offer RWD, but rather front-wheel drive.
The Highlander isn’t really an off-roader, though it can venture onto gravel and snow. However, the trade-off is the Highlander performs much better around town. It has a quieter ride and better handling. And it still offers 3 rows, making it a good family SUV. With engine options ranging from four-cylinder to a V6, it also gets better gas mileage. There’s also a hybrid version, although it lands outside our budget limits. It is worth noting, though, that the four-cylinder Highlanders were FWD only.
But the Highlander is just as reliable as the other Toyota SUVs here and has been updated much more frequently. But even the refreshes didn’t affect its Consumer Reports’ reliability score. There’s a reason CR considers the Toyota Highlander one of its top 5 midsize SUVs.
CR found the 2008-2013 Highlanders to have a slightly plushier ride, although the 2014 and later models have more safety features. But even older Highlanders are IIHS Top Safety Picks, and some later ones even received Top Safety Pick+ rankings.