Off-Road Adventure Vehicles

The Best Off-Road Adventure and Camping Vehicles Under 12K

Love getting out into the wilderness? Breathing in the fresh air, spotting the wildlife, finding off-the-beaten track hiking trails, camping by the creek, telling stories and toasting marshmallows’ by the camp fire curled up in a cozy blanket. You can almost smell the sweet scent of nature’s wildflowers. Sounds awesome, all you need now is a reliable vehicle to get you there.

Now, having trolled through the auto’s online for sale, I found a lot with rust issues or rebuilt titles (refer to for more information) making it essential that you have a great range of photos to look at with close-ups of rust-prone areas such as wheel arches and under the vehicle if possible. Also get as much information from the seller (whether it’s a dealer or private seller) on the history of the vehicle (usually you will get more from a private seller as they are the ones who have driven and serviced the vehicle). Dealers in particular don’t necessarily list any branded titles in their listings (especially if they bought the vehicle interstate). Only after you are sure it’s a great deal online would you want to see it in person before getting a thorough check, in particular the wheel axles and suspension). 

Ford Bronco

Ford Bronco Adventure Vehicle

Everyone and their dog has a love affair with the Ford Bronco making them an expensive option when it comes to value for money. Therefore, looking at older models will give you more ‘bang’ for your buck and show the traditional reliability the Bronco is known for. Expect to look at models between 1979 and 1996 for real value.

The one I found – After an exhaustive look through the various used car websites on offer, I finally found the one I would be glad to call my own. It was love at first sight when I saw the awesome metallic 2-tone blue and silver exterior of this 1988 5-speed manual with a new set of sporty Firestone Destination tires, side roof bars, and original ‘Ford Bronco’ spare tire cover. It is completely rust free and the photos even show underneath that there is no rust. It has tinted windows, new battery, new fuel tank, is 4WD, and has always been garaged! The only downside is the driver’s side armrest is broken and a piece of plastic near the windshield is cracked – minor fixes that are easy enough to source secondhand and not expensive to fix. With only 76,000 original miles, you can pick this up for only $11,295.

Land Rover Range Rover

Off-Road Range Rover

If you’re looking for an off-roader with all the bells and whistles, then this is the one for you. You will be paying the top end of this budget though. This SUV has all the luxury specs including touchscreen display with full-color navigation, backup camera, plenty of safety features, and leather seats. It’s fully optioned and great value for the money. The years between 2006 and 2009 will give you the best chance of buying one in reasonable condition.

The one I found – Luxury exudes from the 2007 model in ‘Java Black’ I found. Featuring the top level HSE trim, the powerful 6-speed automatic V8 4.4 liter engine will work hard for you over rugged terrain. Running boards, fog lights, chrome trim, luxury top-tier interior with built-in navigation and full-power accessories all come in this model on huge four wheel drive alloy wheels. 93,116 miles is not much mileage for the huge engine, and completes this package coming in at $11,995.

Nissan Xterra

Off-Road Nissan Xterra

Looking for an absolute bargain? Then opting for a reliable Nissan could be just the ticket. They aren’t cult classics (yet), therefore easier to pick up a newer model compared to others on this list, while also making them a fraction of the cost of other models. It is an SUV opposed to a pickup truck, but that just allows for more secure storage which it has. It comes with stock-solid beefy roof racks as standard, while the 2WD isn’t quite made for tougher conditions, it is a powerhouse for off-road pursuits. Seek out models between the years 2000 and 2013.

The one I found – An exceptionally presented 2002 XE V6 automatic model in silver with only 108,089 miles on the clock, roof racks, great alloy wheels, side running boards, rear-wheel drive, and no sign of rust or leaks. Unbelievably this is only listed at just $4,995. You can get a few that are 10 years newer, with 10k less mileage for $12,995, but the overall design hasn’t changed. So if you’re looking to save a massive $8,000, you can’t go wrong with the 2002 example.

Subaru Outback

Off-Road Subaru Outback

Officially listed as a wagon, this vehicle is more like an SUV with its all-wheel drive, functional roof racks, deceptive amount of cargo space, and high ground clearance. It has a history of reliability and been proven to be one of the best off-road all-terrain vehicles. Keep an eye out for models between 2006 and 2013.

The one I found – An automatic 2006 limited edition wagon in a pale green exterior and light beige interior with roof racks, moon-roof, heated seats, fog lights, and all-wheel drive. The mileage is a crowd-pleasing 68,057 miles. You can pick this 2 previous owner vehicle up for $7,990 drive-away with service history. You could get a newer example (6-8 years) for $9,995, however the ones I found all seem to have some sort of rebuilt title and their mileage is still 15-20,000 miles more. Stick with the one that has lower mileage, and hasn’t been in an accident compromising overall safety for peace of mind.

Dodge Ram 1500

Off-Road Dodge Ram 1500

The popularity of the Ram has made it a trusted workhorse and cult classic. Steer away from the 2WD and select the 4WD for better handling on the terrain. The best years to look at are between 1997 and 2010.

The one I found – A 2006 rust-free, white 4WD mega cab with a clean title (no branded or rebuilt title which is a bonus – just one small dent on the rear bumper). All season 17 inch steel wheels, clean interior (only a couple of spot marks on the driver’s seat), and 100,000 miles on the speedometer complete the package for $9,999. Taking into account I’d probably want running boards (averaging $335) and a hardtop canopy (starting around $4,300 for a base model unless you can find a used one that will fit) on the 2006 mega cab, the overall cost would be $14,634! So, although I would normally opt for a 4-door crew/mega/quad cab for extra space and security, I also came across a one owner, 2-door 4WD 1998 model in flame red featuring a very practical and stylish hardtop canopy with rear flip-up window in immaculate condition for just $7,999. It also has a clean title, step-up running boards, tinted windows, rood racks, and 94,884 miles on the clock. Overall, I’d opt for the 1998 2-door as it really is great value for money.

Chevrolet Blazer

Off-Road Chevrolet Blazer

One SUV that often gets overlooked is the Chevrolet Blazer. Perhaps because of market congestion, these forgotten beauties offer a ton of value for your well-earned buck, and there are plenty of great examples on the used car market. There’s the V6 4.3 liter engine, option of two or four wheel drive depending on how difficult your off-road adventuring will be, choice of two or four doors, automatic transmission, as well as solid handling and performance. You will find a real bargain looking at models between 1998 and 2005.

The one I found – Actually I found a few, but I’ll give you a couple I thought were worth further investigation. First up a well-looked after white 1999 four-wheel drive, two owner four-door model with an unbelievable 46,429 miles clocked up for only $7,980. The dealer is also offering to cover the engine transmission and four-wheel drive vehicle with unlimited miles for two years (as long as any problems are not due to reckless driving). The second example is an ultra-clean four-door 2002 beige/silver four-wheel drive with alloy wheels and only 64,000 miles for slightly less at $7,199. There are plenty around with mileage between 90k and 1115k for reasonable prices between an incredible $2,500 and $6,500. However the ones I looked over also come with some visible issues like surface rust, broken parts, or small dents. So be thorough when searching for the right example suited to your needs.   

Toyota Tacoma

Off-Road Toyota Tacoma

Toyota builds pickup trucks that are almost indestructible. They come with two doors, have rear wheel drive and manual wind-up windows so you won’t be put out by electric window failure. Check out models between 1997 and 2014 for best value.

The one I found – I’ve gone for a ‘silver-streak’ 2006 5-speed manual in excellent condition. Anti-lock brakes and multi-stage airbags feature throughout, along with Bluetooth and a 4 cylinder 2.7 liter engine which is more economical than the bigger beasts. It is also accented by a modified mesh grille insert and multi-spoke chrome alloy wheels. No damage or rust, you’d be amazed at the low 55,078 miles traveled for the listed price of $10,999.

Jeep Wrangler

Off-Road Jeep Wrangler

Whenever I think of adventure, the Jeep Wrangler instantly springs to mind. No list of adventure vehicles would be complete without at least one. While there are plenty of used Wranglers out there for sale, many will have been knocked about and abused, or have varying degrees of rust. Condition is the key word with this model. Make sure you get a thorough check of the axles, suspension, and under-body, along with a detailed report of the engine. They come in either soft or hard top options, but I tend to lean towards the hard top for better security and more usable space. An older model is just as good as a newer model as long as it has been well-looked after and has low mileage. You will get real value for money from models between 1995-2008.

The one I found – I felt like a child in a candy shop when I looked up what was available under 12k. You could spend hours going through all the great 4-wheel drive models out there. With that being said, I chose two to look at. The first is an older one owner automatic 1995 Sport model in rich red. It has been garaged all its life, has a full service history, as-new hard top, a set of near new Goodrich All-Terrain tires, immaculate interior, and even comes with a free snowplow (which you could sell on). Tell me more you say. Well hold onto your seat! Check out an astonishingly original 30,295 miles on the speedometer, well worth the $11,990. However, if you want a 5-speed manual to navigate harder conditions, then a yellow 2001 square soft-top with similar Goodrich All-Terrain tires, spot lights, dual front airbags, power windows, and 75,368 miles can be yours for  $5 more at $11,995. There are plenty around for less price, but for what I could get for the top end price, I wouldn’t need to compromise.

Going off-road can raise the adrenaline and take you out of your comfort zone, but finding the right vehicle to get you through it requires common sense and thorough checks of whichever vehicle you choose. I have listed eight great options for your next off-road adventure, but there are others you could check out such as the Dodge Durango SUV, Ford F-150, Toyota Land Cruiser, and the Honda Pilot. Have fun vehicle-hunting.

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