In recent years, classic SUVs like the Land Rover Defender, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Ford Bronco have reached astronomical prices that are simply out of reach for the average auto enthusiast. It seems that as modern SUVs become increasingly complicated and indistinguishable from one another, drivers long for the days when car manufacturers prized style, utility, and simplicity.
Fortunately, even the most budget-conscious drivers can choose from a wide array of good-looking and capable vintage SUVs. Read on to learn more about the old-school SUVs that offer the most bang for your buck.
10 Chevrolet Blazer
The Chevrolet K5 Blazer is a full-size, body-on-frame SUV introduced in 1969 to compete with the Ford Bronco, International Scout, and Jeep Cherokee. While clean examples of the first-generation Blazer regularly fetch high prices at auction, the second-gen Blazer, sold from 1973 to 1991, remains reasonably affordable. Cheaper yet is the S-10 Blazer, a compact version of the Blazer that Chevy introduced for the 1983 model year.
The second-generation K5 (pictured above) and the first-generation S-10 are both superb, budget-friendly vintage SUVs. If you're having a hard time deciding between the two, consider that the K5 came with a removable hardtop.
9 Nissan Pathfinder
The current-generation Nissan Pathfinder is a lumpy, bulbous SUV that looks just like any of the other boring crossovers on the road today. And, measuring in at over 197 inches, it's just a few inches shorter than a Cadillac Escalade.
But that wasn't always the case. The first-generation Pathfinder, produced from 1986 to 1995, was compact, well-proportioned, and easy on the eyes (if you're into that kind of thing). Nissan sold both two-door and four-door Pathfinders in the U.S., and buyers could choose between a 2.4-liter inline-four and a beefier, 3.0-liter V6.
8 Land Rover Discovery
If you can look past the reliability issues associated with the Land Rover name, the Land Rover Discovery is an excellent option in the realm of affordable classic SUVs. Introduced in 1989, the Discovery is old enough that it sports a charmingly utilitarian look, but modern enough that it includes airbags and fuel injection. Plus, some models came with plush add-ons like power seats, leather interiors, and side-facing third-row seats.
Odds are you can't afford a vintage Land Rover Defender in today's market, and the Discovery is a great alternative.
7 Suzuki Samurai
The Suzuki Samurai is a small off-road SUV sold in the U.S. from 1985 to 1995, and worldwide from 1970 to the present. Suzuki has produced close to 3 million units over the last 49 years.
Following its entry into the North American market, the Samurai became a quick hit with off-road enthusiasts. It was fun, off-road ready, and came in hardtop and convertible versions. With the Samurai, Suzuki presented a substantially cheaper alternative to the Jeep Wrangler -- the Samurai even outsold the Wrangler by more than two-to-one in 1987. Today you can easily pick up a Samurai in decent condition for well under $10,000.
6 Ford Bronco
First-generation Ford Broncos, manufactured from 1965 to 1977, have become such collector's items that they are essentially unattainable for the thrifty enthusiast. While first-gen models occasionally sell for under $25,000, they regularly command $30 grand and up.
Fortunately, prices for third-generation Broncos are a bit more forgiving. The third-gen Bronco, produced from 1979 to 1986, was based on the F-150 and came standard with the same 300-cubic-inch straight six that powered Ford's trucks from the 1960s through the mid 1990s. Plus, like most other generations, it came with a removable hardtop.
5 Toyota 4Runner
New Land Cruiser models start at over $85,000, and older examples don't come cheap either. However, if you want a cool, inexpensive SUV with signature Toyota reliability, look no further than the 4Runner.
The third-generation 4Runner, sold in the U.S. from 1996 to 2002, is generally considered to be the peak of the vehicle's evolution. They're sturdy, spacious, and reliable enough that they often chug along for over 300,000 miles. Two engines were available: a 2.7-liter four-cylinder rated at 150 horsepower and a 3.4-liter V6 good for 183 horsepower.
4 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen
G-Wagens from the 1980s and 1990s regularly go for under $20,000 on the secondhand market, which is a steal when you consider that prices for new G 550s start at well over six figures. A well-optioned 2020 G-Wagen can easily run you upwards of $150,000, so why not go for an older model that sports essentially the same boxy styling and overall design.
While old-school G-Wagens come with less horsepower and fewer luxury finishes than new models, they still offer a whole lot of class and capability. Mercedes developed the G-Wagen as a military vehicle, and the car maintains a reputation for exceptional build quality and durability.
3 Isuzu Trooper
The Trooper is a mid-size SUV that was produced by Isuzu from 1981-2002 through two generations. The car was rebadged by numerous auto makers for various markets and sported names including the Honda Horizon, Subaru Bighorn, Opel Monterey, Acura SLX, and, for the Australian market, the Holden Jackaroo.
Like many SUVs of the time, the Isuzu Trooper came grossly underpowered -- one of its early engine configurations only produced about 73 horsepower. Nevertheless, the Trooper boasts undeniably appealing old-school looks and is a great buy if you're looking for a cheap, stylish, and capable vintage SUV.
2 Mitsubishi Montero
Known over the years as the Mitsubishi Pajero, Dodge Raider, Hyundai Galloper, and Colt Shogun, among other names, the Mitsubishi Montero is a full-size SUV manufactured since 1982. Mitsubishi introduced the Montero as a simple yet comfortable 4x4 that was at home both on- and off-road. Despite its basic appearance, the Montero came equipped with unusual features for 4x4s of the day, such as power steering and suspension seating.
Despite its awesome looks, off-road prowess, and racing pedigree (the Montero won the Dakar Rally 12 times over 25 years), the Mitsubishi Montero remains exceptionally affordable.
1 Jeep Cherokee XJ
The Jeep Cherokee XJ is a wildly popular and beloved compact SUV that sold nearly 3 million units during its 17-year production run. The Cherokee is simple, reliable, and so well designed that it remained essentially unchanged from its debut in 1984 to its demise in 2001. Notably, the Cherokee was the first commercially available 4x4 boasting unibody construction. Plus, the XJ features solid front and rear axles, making it a dream off road.
Those in the market for a Cherokee XJ should prioritize models with the legendary and unbreakable 4.0-liter straight-six engine, which was available starting in 1987.