I was browsing around online and I have seen many articles titled “Best Off Road Vehicles Under 10k” or something like that. But they are basically vague lists of the same few trucks that everyone writes about. Sure they are helpful and a good place to start, but you’re not going to get anywhere staying on these lists.
We decided to make our own active list of the best off road vehicles under 10k something you can actually use and learn some real-life knowledge. We wasted some time browsing current listings of trucks and vehicles and come up with our own list of REAL LIVE ACTUAL listings. So, how much $10,000 could get me? I searched craigslist.com and autotrader.com with these factors:
- Any model year
- All-wheel drive or 4×4
- Manual transmission
- Lift kit & winch included or bought within budget
- No 4 cylinders allowed
So I went to craiglist.com and autotrader.com to see what I could find. I am located in Orange County so I searched within 300 miles of zip code 90032. So here are my top 10 Best Off Road Vehicles Under 10k:
Kelly Blue Book: $3,000-$30,000
Asking Price: $5,800
Missing: Winch, Suspension, miscellaneous odds & ends to get it ready for the dirt.
This may be the coolest listing I’ve seen. When can you find a post-WWII legitimate set of vehicles like this??? It will take a bit of work depending on their condition but wouldn’t it be worth it??? I mean to head out there and ride a military ride tearing it up would be awesome. I would think you would get a lot of offers whenever you bring it out in public.
Just for the investment opportunity, it may be worth it to buy the whole lot. There are three instant classics you could acquire for a relatively cheap price.
They are being sold in an estate sale so the owners are either a relative of a deceased owner, selling off items that came in a real estate transaction, or some other event like that.
This means the vehicles probably don’t have any sentimental value or they don’t know anything about them. Either way for the right person this could be an excellent find.
Buy all three, rebuild them, sell two, and keep one. You would make money any way you slice it. You could even make A LOT. The original shop manuals would bring in some coin as well.
Ok, the bad. We don’t know what kind of condition the trucks are in. Two of them are running, the third is a parts car. There are two engines and a lot list of parts. Worst case scenario is none are worth the time and you have to part them all out.
Assuming you can use the majority of the parts you would have to replace all rubber, reupholster the seats, rebuild the dash, and replace any faulty parts.
Also, everything is located in Seattle. I, again, am searching in Southern California where this listing was posted. Trucking everything down here would cost $1k per car. Adding to the initial cost.
Best case scenario you get the three up and running reliably. These can fetch you in the $30k+ range each fully rebuilt. Working on these full time you can earn a solid year’s wage selling off all three.
The most valuable things are the actual trucks and then the parts. A lot like this can be hard to find. For everything, they are asking $12,500 instead of $15,600 priced individually. Luckily, you have some bargaining chips.
Currently, there are individual trucks going for $3,900 in similar condition. Offering a low ball off around $$9,000 would get the conversation going. You may be able to score all for under $10,000.
Adding the hours and hours of labor involved as well as refurbishing, tooling, and new parts needed would most likely double the initial investment cost. BUT, for this single lot, it could be had for $10,000 out the door. This is the first listed but not necessarily #1 on our list of “Best Off Road Vehicles Under 10k
Kelly Blue Book: $ 6,969-8,666
Asking Price: $11,995 OBO
This listing looks like someone is trying hard to sell it. There are a lot of photos (redundant to say the least) and a decent description with a CarFax certification (whatever that means). So you can expect this guy to drive a hard bargain and possibly not know what he is talking about.
To get this guy under budget shouldn’t be too hard. He jacked up the price to start the negotiating high. I would be he is a dick but will make a deal. Even offering the high end of the KBB value would be a foolish start. The car in primo condition for having 172,000 miles and the aftermarket upgrades would be in the $8,000-10,000 range. But not much more than that.
Throwing out an offer around $7,000 is reasonable. If they come back with a rebuttal you know you’re in business. Stick to your guns and haggle hard. Don’t let them talk and talk until you give in. This can be a great ride. But it can also be a headache with potential major servicing coming up. You want to protect yourself from what could become a potential financial burden. And if it doesn’t become that then you will get a decent deal on a rad weekend 4×4.
Kelly Blue Book: $3,700
Asking Price: $8,000 OBO
Missing: Winch, dirt tires
So this guy knows whats up. 1st generation 4Runners are not too common. They are slowly becoming classics. The people that hold on to them are weekend warriors or 4×4 enthusiasts.
They have a daily driver or two and the 4runner is taken to the dirt and that’s about it. Maybe they’ll drive down to the beach or lake with the top off on a Sunday. OR maybe they’ll load it up and escape into the wilderness and camp for a week.
Either way, people are holding onto thee more and more because they can, and even at 34 years old they perform great for what their owners demand of them. This way their value stays steady and for some may even increase with enough upgrades and care.
The KBB value is way lower than the asking price. For the right person, they will pay that. But there is some wiggle room price-wise. For that, you can come away with a 4Runner with some free cash to spare for a winch, 5 new knobby tires, and maybe something like a sound system, battery pack, fuel cells, grill guards, or some lights.
Kelly Blue Book: $ 1,633 – 3,982
Asking Price: $8,500 OBO
A rare find. A lifted Nissan Xterra, manual transmission, Toyota lockers, and a rebuilt motor & tranny. So take the 160,000 miles driven on this car and knock off a 0 form the drivetrain. The rest of the car hopefully has been given the same amount of care.
It looks clean all around, inside and out, and has quality parts up the wazoo.
Like the previous listing, the KKB value is way off. Unlike the previous listing, the Xterra doesn’t have the same history and following as the 4Runner. That being said, paying over KBB value isn’t exactly a foolish move.
The best move here is to call and begin the conversation. Get some information and let him know what your budget is. Low ball offers are never respected in the beginning. But offering something in the $3,500 ballpark would get him offended. That’s good. Tell him you’re looking around for a 4×4. Let that simmer for a week and give him a call again. He will remember your offer, and see if the waters have changed. Even a pristine 2000 Nissan Xterra will take a while to sell.
A truck like this that is strictly geared towards off-roaders is a much smaller market. That is where you have leverage. You can afford to wait it out while the seller will realize nobody will be willing to pay that even the drive train was recently rebuilt. You simply can’t get close to what you paid for aftermarket parts.
Sit and wait and stay in contact. You’ll be surprised at what can happen.
READ MORE: THE BEST OFF ROAD VEHICLES UNDER 5K
Kelly Blue Book: $2,675-7,900
Asking Price: $7,800 OBO
Here is an out of the box, ready to go, brand spanking old 4×4. The AMC 304 is a tank with enough power to drive upside down towing the 4 cylinder Wrangler your buddy has.
It has body armor, a winch, a radio, locking differentials (definition) in the front and rear. It has spent a lot of time in the dirt and it still has a lot to go. The drive train should be bulletproof. The problem with this truck won’t be in that arena.
The owner priced this truck perfectly. It is within the correct range of KBB $100 below the upper limit. It shows they are realistic and not trying to get as much as they can. They are down to earth and willing to listen to reason.
When you see listings way overvalued and there is a long sales letter of a listing, I get turned off. It usually means it is a flip, they don’t know what they are doing or are a pain in the ass that just wants to get as much as they can. I love pissing these types off.
The seller of this listing I would sit down and have a beer with. He probably, whether I like it or not, will talk more about the fun times he’s had in this truck rather than the selling points.
That is almost always a better sales pitch as well, sell the sizzle, not the steak. Just look at the first photo. It is of him riding in it! It’s not even a boring photo of the Jeep in his driveway. He really loves it.
I wouldn’t try to low ball the guy. He won’t be in a hurry to sell it to the first buyer, and he will want to sell it to someone that will use it. Hell, maybe you guys will plan to meet up and enjoy it together.
Kelly Blue Book: $
Asking Price: $8,000 OBO
4.0L AMC Inline 6
AX15 5-Speed Manual Transmission (Rebuilt)
Hydraulic Throwout Bearing and Clutch (New)
NP231 Transfer Case
Dana 30 Front Differential (3.55 gear)
Chrysler 8.25 Rear Differential (3.55 gear)
(The axles were upgraded from the factory 3.07
gear that came on the manuals to the 3.55s from the automatic)
4 Core Aluminum Radiator
3 Electric Fan Conversion
Rough Country 9-inch Lift, 3 Link front
Maxxis 35’ Tires
Bart Wheels 15’ 5×4.5 rims with 3’ offset
Quick Disconnect front sway bar
3′ Spring Spacer, Front
3′ Leaf Spring block, Rear
Upgraded Drop Pitman Arm, Steering stabilizer, and
heavy-duty Steering Linkage
Personally, custom-designed and built 1/4 inch steel front and rear bumpers.
Bushwhacker fender flares
Bedliner black as an expensive paint job would get ruined off-roading.
Grand Cherokee center console swap
Touchscreen 7′ DIN radio with a backup camera built into the bumper
Reupholstered interior: all seats and headliner
Power window upgrade
FOB to unlock all doors and for custom alarm.
Kelly Blue Book: $
Asking Price: $6,500 OBO
A 12″ lift kit is absolutely necessary for life. Let this guy show you. It has a Dana 44 axles in front and back and a limited-slip differential. The thing has everything. A winch, suspension, lights, an awesome drive train.
You don’t need anything except the cash to go have a lot of fun with this bad boy. It is 39 years old though. That could be one issue where you can see things popping up sooner rather than later. If the previous owner did a good job there shouldn’t be a lot of concern.
It’s black too. The interior looks great. It is equipped with the straight 6 AMC 258. Those things are one of the best engines ever put in a Jeep. They’ve been around forever and owners love them.
For a newbie this wouldn’t be an ideal first 4×4. But if you are serious then it can be a great starter truck. They are easy to work on and parts are easy to come by. 1981 is the last year they were not equipped with a computer. Reliability isn’t 100% but this truck is a good start.
You would have to be more hands-on than a newer ride, i.e. adjusting the carburetor or checking all systems. But you will learn a lot and you can build an excellent foundation.
Fresh out of the factory it had 110 horsepower and 195 ft-lb of torque. You won’t scream down the freeway but you’ll be able to ride over anything. Stuck in traffic and you can’t go around, just go over!
The Carter double barrel carb will make it breath easier off-road if you don’t get too frustrated with its cornucopia of cables. All gauges work and the tranny should hold up for a while.
All in all, this is a solid truck. At $6,500 you would be coming well below budget. This way you can fill the back with camping gear, food, and those Instagram models that need to take photos every 10 minutes.
Kelly Blue Book: $3,930 – 6,513
Asking Price: $10,500 OBO
Kelly Blue Book: $ ????
Asking Price: $9,700 OBO
Kelly Blue Book: $
Asking Price: $9,000 OBO
Another ready to ride Jeep. It has everything you need to get to the hills this weekend. This era CJ5 has a short wheelbase and torque up the wazoo. Part rock crawler part 4×4 part everything.
The 258 (4.2 liter) straight 6 has upgraded fuel injection. in 1982 it left the factory with 115 horsepower and 201 ft-lb of torque with the Carter computer-controlled fuel injection.
The price is right for this guy. It looks like a clean and well-maintained ride that will continue to be enjoyed.
Here is a video of a walk around and start up. #BEAST:
BONUS LIST of cars that handle great in the dirt but are designed for racing instead of the above:
Kelly Blue Book: $1,150-1575 ( $4,300- 22,600)
Asking Price: $7,500 OBO
Missing: tires, lift kit, minor parts, volleyball hat, flip-up shades
A “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter” or B.R.A.T. this thing is pretty sweet. It’s a borderline classic and it has a lot of swag. It can handle water weekends, soccer Saturdays, and muddy Mondays (you like that lame matching list off???).
Strictly off road speaking it would need some help to be a fully functioning rally car and the bed in the back doesn’t give you much balancing support.
Good thing for the “stick to your guns everything all-wheel drive forever” Subaru mindset. It’s a great feature but who knows, it could be another thing that could go wrong.
In order to get away with being a passenger car Subaru welded 2 rear-facing seats in the “truck” bed so import duties were 2.5% instead of a whopping 25% import tax on trucks (thanks chickens). An easy fix to save a lot of mula. And they absolutely gave that away to its customers ?.
The 80s features are so DYN-O-MITE. The removable dual sun roofs turns the chick magnet into an intentional T-Top. The racing stripe paint job is actually pretty classic. It looks pretty slick even today. The grab handle in the headrest hangs like the one you would find in a public city bus.
Maybe my favorite feature of maybe even any car is in the B.R.A.T. They did an excellent job of utilizing space; with a 1.8L under the hood, they were able to fit a FULL-SIZE SPARE ABOVE THE MOTOR. Check the photo below.
This model has a 1.8L engine, 157,000 miles, and a stock 4-speed manny tranny. With 73 hp and 94 lb-ft of torque at the throttle, this thing won’t exactly blow your toupee off. That is when the car is new. Imagine what 36 years can do to an engine (get ready to Flintstone it up hills fellas).
These cars (or are they trucks?) are rare which is a good or bad thing. The bad parts are:
- Parts are rare so you would be stuck with paying a lot for new parts, custom made, junkyard finds, or repurposing old parts, or fudging universal parts.
- It needs at least one CV boot.
- Older cars can be full of surprises (Surprises = $$$).
- The Interior needs some TLC.
The good parts are:
- The Interior can be ripped out.
- There are (up to 6″) lift kits floating around.
- Drivetrain doesn’t have any issues except for Syncro.
- Ride one of the weirdest AWDs around.
- Who do you know has a B.R.A.T. let alone go off-roading in one?
Sometimes one finds a strange car that you may not see for a long time. This was the first time I have seen B.R.A.T. on craigslist.
But sometimes you get lucky and something pops up. Valuing an older car can be a very unscientific thing. Looking up comparables and gauging value off of them may be the only thing you can do. Sometimes you overpay and sometimes you don’t.
One thing is tho that if it doesn’t become a cash pit you can hold on to it long enough and it will always in value. They aren’t making older cars anymore so the supply is limited. Find a rare one and it could turn out to be a gold mine in the right era. We loved this car. But unfortunately, it couldn’t make our list of best off-road vehicles under 10k.
Kelly Blue Book: $3,125 (High End)
Asking Price: $7,800
This guy didn’t make the list above because it has a 4 cylinder. So It goes here. If you like you like it. It is a good deal but it may be a little underpowered for some people.
On the street or the dirt, these EVOs are AWESOME. You can average 100 MPH from your garage to the top of a hill and back while sipping your half-caf/decaf/decaf caramel cinnamon frappuccino latte macchiato with soy milk.
I hope you enjoyed the list of my top 10 best off-road vehicles under 10k. It can change quite a bit but overall you are going to see a lot of these came trucks and cars make these lists. Jeeps, Toyotas, Subarus, and Evos are home here and for good reason. They have long histories of off-roading dominance.
Agree or disagree? Did I make a serious boo boo? Let me know in the comments below or forever hold your peace.
Thanks for reading and stay dirty.