Looking to Buy Secondhand SUV under $15k

After missing services for a few years due to tight money, our current T30 X-Trail (2006? Over 220k km) is ready to be taken out to the back paddock and shot.

The car overheated a year ago after the radiator busted open and dropped all it's coolant at once. We got a new radiator but it still wasn't right, and ended up getting a new/reconditioned head put on. After that it still wasn't great (incl. a mystery oil leak), and we ended up with the replacement radiator springing a leak (turned out that at some point we'd mixed two types of coolant, which turned to gel inside the radiator). I got it replaced again, but shortly after it started making horrible noises which I've been told are the valves (or was it the cyclinders? I'm not a car guy) topping out and hitting the head. On top of that, we've also got a wheel bearing on it's way out, and somehow the exhaust manifold on the head is leaking, not sure if it wasn't put back on properly after the head was done).

Initially I was looking at replacing the engine with a reconditioned one, but after speaking to a mechanic today it's sounding like that might not be the best option.

So I find myself now looking at options for another second hand SUV, with a budget of $10-15k (which will by covered by a loan). A little bit of research has me thinking that an X-Trail with low k's is the best way to go, but would like to hear from others.

Note, I live in the country, where 5 days a week the car is only being driven for 20 minutes a day, but can end up doing 100-300k in a weekend on trips. I'd prefer to stick with a SUV for size, and to make it easier on dirt roads (getting to local camping and swimming spots, but no real 4WDing).

Comments

  •  

    How big is the family?

    •  

      Two kids and a large dog. We find ourselves spending time away almost once a month and easily fill the car completely with bums and bags :)

      •  

        Commodore wagon could've been an option, except the RWD won't be great on gravel tracks etc.

        Grand Vitara is another option for 4x4, but maybe not enough space and priced a bit higher than budget (looks like about $18k for a 2014 from a quick search).

        I don't want to completely go against your SUV thoughts, but what about a dual cab ute? Room for the dog and the camping gear, can use 2WD when you don't need 4H, and your mechanic would know it if you stick to a good brand.

        Scrub the ute idea, checking Carsales shows the kms to be too high within your budget :/ For a Hilux at least

        •  

          I would love a dual cab ute for myself personally (although I'd probably go a Navara over Hilux based on cost). Unfortunately it wouldn't work for a family vehicle as we need to store things securely (although I guess a tray cover could work). I don't think I'd get it past the missus though.

          •  

            @kapone: Ute and lockable canopy. So much better not having the dog in the cabin. Also the room in the tray and canopy area is huge compared to a SUV. Look at Nissan D22s. Within budget and reliable.

            •  

              @DarwinBoy: D40 Navara has a much better interior and has the same engine as the later D22. It is more spacious, especially in the back. Also within budget.

              I own a D40 and have been happy with it, but it’s our second car and second choice when going away on trips. Much rather have the wagon for that for the security and water/dust proof aspects. We don’t have a dog though so no reason to keep anyone in the tub.

          •  

            @kapone: Get a 2010 BMW X1 great cars.

        •  

          Commodore wagon could've been an option, except the RWD won't be great on gravel tracks etc.

          ???

          ???

          ???

          Unless OP locked the transmission in their original xtrail OP was driving on dirt roads in FWD. Commodore's ground clearance on an SV6 is close enough to most SUV's if SUV is a criteria. More upright seating position, ease of access and longer doors are the only areas it really falls down.

          Grand Vitara's are only bought by people flat towing behind campers. They are 10+ years behind everything else in almost every way.

          MUX's deprecate like lead balloons. Pre 2015 have no DPF. For OP's use case RWD would be fine. They are just big. Really big. And they are only ~5 years behind (but so are most large SUV's available with a low range 4x4 option).

  •  

    After reading the heading - I was going to suggest X-Trail ST…searched the cars myself recently and you will get best value in that. 2014 vehicle 60-80k

    • +7 votes

      Steer clear of the Jatco CVT!

      •  

        This is what has me worried, came across a few things that mentioned issues with the CVT transmission. Does that rule out T31's entirely? Or just a certain run of them?

        • +2 votes

          They got better, but I think it was only quite recent and therefore out of your price bracket.
          Just easier to scratch Nissan from the option list.

        •  

          I have an outlander 2010 model that uses a Jatco CVT. Newer models are okay. Key is to give them a easy life, thats why I picked a car that is 2WD only (gives you twice as long service interval for CVT fluid) and doesn't have a towbar. The more weight it pulls, greater the clamping force on the transmission = lower life. Also I dont trust dealerships with CVT fluid, they just drop and fill. I actually grabbed myself a 20L drum of CVT fluid and replaced the oil cooler cartridge and cleaned the pickup filter. I also have a custom app for monitoring CVT health. I think if your on the ball with maintenance they are okay.. if you negligent them watch out.

          •  

            @darkage: Wow yeah sounds super easy when you explain all the steps to maintain it /s. Why in a modern card engineering you should have to monitor the transmission with such great detail is a farce (not saying you shouldn’t maintain and check your vehicle)

            •  

              @Yamai: I think its more my OCD and the reputation of Jatco transmissions that got me hyped up at the beginning. Also these days can monitor everything from your mobile so why not. CVT tranmissions are heavily dependant on the fluid to do most of the work. The fluid has friction modifiers that makes everything grip and work basically. It starts to break down for the amount of time it spends above 90 degrees. The ECU has a special deterioration counter that increments for x amount of mins spent above 90 degrees. When the deterioration counter reaches a certain value then the fluid is considered spent and needs replacement. You get to see the deterioration counter increase a fair bit when in extended traffic jams on a warm/hot day. stop and starting. There worse options out there. My friend had a Skoda with DSG. Clutch packs had to be replaced at only 30,000km. I guess he drives it wrong

        •  

          I have a T31 DCi (I think it is series 4) - Had since new. Avoided the CVT and got the 6 speed manual.
          Any reason a CVT is necessary. The manual is quite good, and from your post it seems like you are just doing country kms anyway (i.e. no bumper to bumper traffic).

        •  

          I have a t31, 160k kms, third owner, regularly serviced. Car and transmission are in great nick. Great boot space, better than the t32's. Can't fault the car.

        • +1 vote

          Get a manual, you live in the country so you don't need an auto for stop/go traffic.

  • +8 votes

    Plenty of 2014/15 Ford Territory in that price range.
    They're not fancy but by that stage they were a tried and true design.

    • +1 vote

      Nothing against the Territory (no experience with them), but I'm thinking keeping the fuel tank filled on that big engine might be an issue for someone on a tight budget?

      • +1 vote

        Country Driving drastically reduces that (fairly minor) issue for the Petrol.
        Diesel option pretty much eliminates it.

        Territory's (2013 onward) biggest downfall (outside of the drab interior) from my research was the transmission overheating while towing which could result in a fatal oil leak into the shared engine/transmission coolant system.
        The other issue was rear suspension bushings prematurely wearing..
        Easy solution to this is to look for an example without towbar (therefore no towing), therefore reduced wear on the rear suspension and no transmission overheating issues.

      •  

        I don't think someone on a "tight budget" would be looking for an SUV for monthly getaways, secondhand or otherwise…

        • +1 vote

          I gleaned the budget constraints from the OP mentioning:
          a) money is/was tight, hence the repeat attempts at repair
          b) loan to cover max $15k purchase cost

          This doesn't necessarily mean the OP couldn't afford a much fancier car if they wanted to - but different strokes for different folks. He's just come for advice based on his situation and needs.

    •  

      I've had one for 5 years diesel, done 250000 ks love it nothing ever goes wrong but if it did parts are so cheap. With back seats down I've moved a double door fridge. The higher km ones at auction are ridiculously cheap

  •  

    I had started researching something similar for my dad a year ago - I was close to recommending the Mitsubishi Outlander before dad pulled the plug and said he loved his camry too much *sigh

    Anyone have any thoughts for the OP on the mitsu outlander? I'd also be looking at high-riding wagons, along with the others - RAV4, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Subaru Forester etc.

    Not sure if thi smakes a difference to the OP but Xtrail switched to CVT auto transmission in 2007.

    • +2 votes

      No rear air vents in the Outlander
      Which is Fcuking mental in Australia IMHO!
      (may not be a problem for OP if he/she isn't transporting rear seat passengers with any regularity)

      Otherwise reliable if incredibly Plain Jane transportation.
      2.4L Petrol isn't what I'd like to be Highway driving, but once again might be OK for OP.

    • +2 votes

      My in-laws have an Outlander and I'm not a fan. The engine revs never quite sound right to me, sounds like it's struggling. And they've already replaced the motor once.

      In terms of handling, not a fan either, feels very lifeless.

      They've also had ongoing issues with the ECU reporting low oil. Have changed the sensors multiple times with no luck, so it's either wiring on the ECU. For now they just live with it beeping at them all the time.

      •  

        The Engine Revs are likely due to the CVT.
        They always sound like they're making a whole lotta noise for no progress.

        Agree on the handling.

      •  

        Out of interest, how old is the in-laws' Outlander? Just wondering if later variants might be better

  •  

    Subaru Outback an option, why an SUV?

    Outbacks are super capable off road and heaps of boot space for family/dog etc…

    • +1 vote

      Outback is the one wagon I'd consider, as it looks large enough and as you say, capable off-road. But I'm worried about ongoing costs, the few people I know who've had Suburus end up swearing them off as lemons.

      The other factor is I've always tried to get cars that were highly popular, meaning mechanics are familiar with them, and parts are easy to find and cheap (prior to my X-Trail I'd had Corolla wagons and sedans). I'm in the country with only four mechanics in town, only two of whom I'd trust. I feel like bringing in a car they haven't had as much experience with is asking for trouble.

      • +1 vote

        I think initial purchase price is also an issue with subaru outback/forester, unless you're willing to look at cars that already have 120,000+ kms on them

      • +5 votes

        Might be worth asking those two mechanics for recommendations :)

      •  

        Interesting, they generally have a very good name in the market. Ongoing costs shouldn't be too bad, with your budget your going to be buying used anyway.

    •  

      One issue with the outback is fit and finish. I like them, but the 2010-14 model feels cheap IMO, the next model improved upon it but I've read of heaps of issues with the head unit etc.

  • +2 votes

    This is what I'd be looking at.
    2013 onward
    Less than 100,000Km
    4x4/AWD
    SUV

    https://www.carsales.com.au/cars/results/?q=(And.Odometer.range(60000..100000)..Price.range(10000..15000)..Year.range(2013..)..Service.Carsales..BodyStyle.SUV..Drive.4x4..(Or.(C.Make.Ford..Model.Territory.).Make.Hyundai..Make.Kia..Make.Mitsubishi._.Make.Subaru.))&sort=~Odometer

    Add a State/City filter

    Fiddle with the KM if there's not enough options. Plenty of Rep cars that will have been well maintained ion the higher Km range.
    Maybe also toggle off the 4x4/AWD if you don't actually need that.

    • +4 votes

      Link

      Eww Captivas and Jeeps

      Certainly need to revise the search and compromise. That doesn't come up with a single car I'd recommend

      Tiguan Petrol
      Territory Diesel

      • +5 votes

        Coming from someone who loves his VW family of cars - stay the hell away from them out of warranty, especially if you're on a tight budget

        edit: should mention I'm assuming OP wants an auto transmission.

      •  

        My link (which I apparently didn't format correctly) should be filtering out everything except Territory, Hyundai, Kia, Misubishi and Subaru

      •  

        In your opinion, what are wrong with Holdens and Jeeps? I don't know much about cars

        •  

          Too long to write about tbh, just avoid them when outside warranty

        • +2 votes

          You don’t need to ask the question, just get your google on. Suffice to say Jeep and Captiva have significant reputation for poor quality control.

  • +1 vote

    Wait… found it!

    Murano Ti

    •  

      Does murano share any parts with Xtrail? I doubt those 2 wundermechanics available to the OP have ever seen one, let alone worked on one.

      ALso, that mileage is starting to get scary.

      •  

        There's quite a few X-Trails around town. Not sure I've seen any Murano's owned by locals though, only tourists passing through.

        •  

          X-Trails have gotten worse over time, mainly due to stagnation from Nissan and influence of "cheap" coming from Renault Ownership. I would try to stick with a Toyota Rav4 instead. When Brand New they weren't much more expensive, and their depreciation wouldn't be that much better. So you might stretch your budget a little, but I think it is worth it.

          After all, this is a car for your dog and children… less risk is a good thing.

    •  

      Older Muranos drank fuel like it was going out of style. Have they improved?

  • +2 votes

    I'm also looking something similar and currently going with either Subaru Forester or Toyota RAV4

  •  

    You can’t go wrong with an old diesel Ute.
    https://tinyurl.com/yysvj868

    •  

      Yes, you can. They are not like the diesel utes of old. We just bought a 4x4 Hilux and the injectors went nearly straight away 144k. After buying I have done a lot of research on them (hindsight is great) and they suffer many problems and they are the better examples of the utes. A diesel mechanic I know said he would never buy a modern diesel ute as they turbo them to get high horsepower out of smaller engines and it doesn't lead to reliability. Utes before 2000 and not turbo he said will go forever, but they don't have the modern safety standards.

      • +1 vote

        Not all the hilux, Prado etc had injector seal issues. Nothing wrong with modern turbo diesels, many are great, and reliable. The Isuzu 4jj1 is rated as b10 for example.

  • +7 votes

    Anything but a Jeep…

  • -3 votes

    which will by covered by a loan

    Much better option would be to buy what you need now, something that gets you from A to B …
    Then save, and pay cash . This option also allows you more time to find the right purchase ie. right car, amazingly cheap price

    •  

      This means paying stamp duty and rego transfer fees twice. Buy the right vehicle the first time around.

      • +1 vote

        The transfer percentage on a 2k vehicle really isn't that much, since it goes by vehicle value .
        Then save another 13k cash, or alot less, if you are patient and smart about it, because you could easily get a 15k value car for 10k, if you are wise about it

        • +1 vote

          Putting ones family's safety in a cheap tin to save a few bucks. That is bad advice.

          • -1 vote

            @whooah1979:

            Putting ones family's safety in a cheap tin to save a few bucks. That is bad advice.

            So you are claiming that $$$$ spent on a vehicle is directly related to safety.
            That is great advice bud 😂🤣😁

    •  

      What I need right now is reliability and space. Most trips in the car are only a few minutes, but we're in Melbourne (300km away) every month for at least three days. If I got a $2k car I'd be worried about reliability or simply not having the space we need.

      Financially, my situation now is much, much better than it had been for the years prior, and with my wife about to get a promotion with a 100% payrise (moving from part-time to full-time as well as being promoted), I'm comfortable with taking out a loan of up to $15k.

      •  

        I bought a car, basically all that you described, for much less than 2k, registered, on the road, with everything basically perfect service-wise (After spending $1,150 I think it was on, 2005 Santa Fe, then bought the higher end suspension struts on eBay about $220, $70 per side, install, oil change etc, pink slip inspection) ,

        That purchase (which I still have atm) is ignifgant less than 2k all up, after purchase I went straight to my mechanic and got it looked over well to see if anything was in need of service…

        The Santa Fe is I guess the luxury model, (33k new, back in 2005 money) .
        It also is extremely reliable.

        You can't find much at all (I looked pre-purchase 😉) online about with negative reviews .
        The only thing that came up constantly in bad reviews, was about the clear coat.
        Apparently it wasn't applied properly to begin with, so the clear coat, but not the paint, is off in some parts, and looks not so pretty. But thats probably why they can go fairly cheap.
        Give me a cheap, reliable, spacious, comfortable, vehicle, with….Ugly clear coat patches, and I'm happy…

        Much rather that, than a car that has perfect clear coat, but has mechanical issue and smashed/repaired panels all over etc .

  • +3 votes

    Honda CR-V?

  •  

    Also keep an eye on Facebook marketplace. I bought a second hand Nissan micra 2 years ago for at least $2000 less than average price. I resold for $200 more 2 years later (but had spend about $1500 on service/rego and a job that needed done). I always see many good priced car on there and you can also narrow down by year/mileage/make

  • +3 votes

    Big SUV, live in the country: Territory. Plenty of parts available, shared components with Falcons which are everywhere, and that mechanic know well.
    It will be thirstier than your xtrail, especially on short trips (that said, if you’re only driving 10 minutes each way everyday, why not cycling instead?) but on highways it is very efficient.

  •  

    Anyone have any views on a Ford Kuga? Seem to be well within the price range, but unsure of reliability.

    My 2004 T30 X trail with 270k km is also getting a bit long on the tooth.

    •  

      Avoid the Powershift transmission. There is a reason Kugas, Focii and Mondeos with these DSGs are worth bugger all. Not sure if later Kugas have a conventional torque converter automatic but if they do, that would be fine.

  • +1 vote

    Toyota Kluger would suit. AWD. For some reason, they are relatively cheap second hand. We've got 160,000km on it - serviced regularly and runs, looks and smells like new still. Taken it to the highest parts of Australia dirt roads snow etc no problems.

  • +1 vote

    Subaru XV.

  •  

    Why dont you get a guaranteed 2nd hand engine put in? Will save you a metric crapton of cash/debt.

    •  

      That was my original plan, but with 290k on the car already, the mechanic I spoke to suggested it might be a risky proposition (as I could find myself with drivetrain/transmission issues in the near future due to the k's and age, particularly as the car hadn't been regularly serviced for the last few years).

      •  

        I thought it was 220k as per the OP? 220k isnt too bad for a country car. But 290k is getting too high for a budget Jap car regardless, so in that case I agree with the mechanic.

        •  

          I thought we'd clocked 220k, but when I checked it yesterday it was at 290k. Once we moved to the country it started clocking up some serious k's.

    • +1 vote

      It's throwing good money after bad.

  •  

    Turbo Diesel Freelander 2. Servicing costs are higher than others but should do 250k km's pretty easily and diesel is great for the open road weekend trips. Quite capable off-road.

  •  

    If you're going to keep it a long time, go Territory. None of the Jap/Thai built SUV's last. That said, Terri's eat Ball Joints every 100k, slightly thirsty in town driving but not really that bad, but the parts are cheap as long as change the transmission oil.

  • +4 votes

    Ford Territory Titanium's from around 2012-2013 are around this price level now.

    Leather Seats
    DVD Player (great for kids)
    Diesel - getting around 9.1 /100. Tank is around 75L - City driving, so if you care going long trips, you would get better
    7 Seats
    Larger cabin, can fit 3 car seats across the back with no issues

  • +1 vote

    go for a 2014 rav4 or C-rv with low Kms if you just want the thing to get the job done. Xtrails only got cheaper made after the t30.
    Also, always avoid CVT, especially if youre towing

  • +1 vote

    It's a tough market for a good quality SUV at under $15k - I've been watching this space from the sidelines for a while.

    Personally, I'm looking at something like this… it's definitely older, but being a luxury/super spec'd Toyota (that have a higher chance of being babied) makes me feel a little better about that.

    https://www.carsales.com.au/cars/details/2008-lexus-rx-rx350...

    It's tricky though - a couple of thousand more and you could get the 2009 model with a few more tricks like gps/reversing camera/extra curtain airbags.

    Best of luck in the search.

    •  

      Do these Lexus suv have costly maintenance and repairs? We are thinking of replacing our suv too. These look nice.

  • +1 vote

    If you can stretch a bit, look at the Isuzu MUX. Those things are bulletproof.

    •  

      Agree with the above if one of your primary goals is reliability and unexpected service costs. You also mentioned space, which this has over the small/mid sized SUVs like the old X-Trail.

  •  

    thoughts on used Kia Sportage/Sorrento or Hyundai ix35/Tucson?

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