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Best Off-Road SUV and Truck Options
Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.
Off-roading vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have a few things in common. Ground clearance, meaning how high the vehicle’s body is from the ground, for one. Generally, the higher a vehicle is, the better equipped it is to take conquer rough terrain. Another important factor is four-wheel drive. While lots of new SUVs have either standard or optional all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive gives a slight advantage in off-road situations as it offers greater control.
While many think of expensive Jeeps and Land Rovers when it comes to off-road situations, there are many more vehicles that are capable of getting off the beaten path. Let’s take a look at the best vehicles for your off-road dollar. In addition to the starting MSRP, we also took into consideration, ratings from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) experts and consumers on Edmunds, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), when available.
Best off-road SUV options
When you think of off-road SUVs, you probably think of Jeeps. But those aren’t the only highly-capable SUVs out there. Check out these off-roading SUVs — some just might surprise you.
18 city, 24 highway MPG
4.2 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (58 reviews); KBB expert review unavailable
The Jeep Cherokee’s Trailhawk trim is a few trim levels above the base version, but still less expensive than the base 4×4 Jeep Grand Cherokee. At this trim level of the Cherokee, you’ll get standard safety features that make it practical enough for on-road driving, while still getting trail-rated 4×4 capability. For those looking to use their Jeep every day, critics say Cherokee offers a little bit better handling and a better ride experience at highway speeds and in everyday driving situations than the more rugged Wrangler does.
17 city, 25 highway MPG
3.5 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (6 reviews); 4.4 out of 5 by KBB experts
We’ll get one of the obvious options out of the way: the Wrangler has quite simply become an icon of all things off-road, which is why we included it despite lower consumer ratings than most of the other vehicles on this list. With many different configurations and options (from a soft top to removable doors and more) the Jeep Wrangler can pretty much become whatever you want it to be. For purposes of this story, we focus on the base two-door Wrangler Sport. Stepping up to the Rubicon trim (MSRP $38,045) is especially advisable for avid off-roaders, with tough 33-inch tires and three available 4×4 drive systems. However, if you want to use it every day, the Wrangler’s rough handling and ride quality and loud tire noise might make the Cherokee seem more appealing.
17 city, 20 highway MPG
4.6 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (9 reviews); 3 out of 5 by KBB experts
While a regular 4Runner might be capable enough for light off-roading, you’ll get greater benefit from the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) trim level. This trim level adds features like multi-terrain select and crawl control for extra off-road versatility, standard four-wheel drive and locking rear differentials. The TRD Off-Road only offers seating space for five, whereas the other versions give the option of a third row. However, it’s worth noting that this SUV hasn’t had a redesign since 2010, and after nine years, some have observed that the interior and technology offerings are getting a bit dated.
13 city, 18 highway MPG
Consumer reviews unavailable on Edmunds; 4.1 out of 5 by KBB experts
I know what you’re thinking — this isn’t going anywhere but soccer practice. But hear us out: this family SUV has off-roading in its blood. The main reason is that it’s based on the Nissan Patrol, a vehicle known as a pretty tough off-roader throughout the rest of the world. The Armada has kept this heritage and is pretty capable of climbing and dealing with uneven terrain. It’s also coming into its own as a luxurious family vehicle, with a comfortable, upscale interior. But don’t let that fool you. The Armada is as rugged as a truck, and is well-equipped to tackle some tough terrain. It offers far more than meets the eye in terms of capability.
Best off-road trucks for the money
Trucks are often known for being rugged and capable, and this is one trait that comes in handy when it comes to off-roading. Here are the best trucks to stretch your dollar.
16 city/18 highway MPG
4.6 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (7 reviews); KBB expert review unavailable
The ZR2 is a few steps above the standard Colorado in both price and capability. But the serious off-roader could easily justify the price difference for this much more rugged version of Chevrolet’s mid-size pickup. The ZR2 is created for off-road performance with a raised suspension, changes for greater approach and departure angles and special off-road tires. It’s available with a capable standard V6 engine or a diesel option.
19 city, 22 highway MPG
4.8 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (13 reviews); 4.3 out of 5 by KBB experts
4 stars NHTSA
Coming from Toyota’s racing development branch like the 4Runner version discussed in the SUV section, this Tacoma version is well-suited for all types of terrains. This trim level comes with a powerful V6 option, and it can also be equipped with either an extended cab or a larger crew cab. It also adds helpful off-road controls like crawl control and choices of several terrain settings. It’s a good alternative for TRD’s larger (and more expensive) Tundra off-road truck.
2019 Ford F-150 Raptor
15 city, 18 highway MPG
3 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (2 reviews); 4.4 out of 5 by KBB experts
Though the Raptor is one of the more expensive off-road vehicles on the list, it’s one that might have the most to offer. The Raptor is part of Ford’s performance division, and it also features many of the advantages of the higher-trim packages. The Raptor comes well loaded with features, including a decked-out interior, and Fox-brand shocks and special all-terrain tires. Another of the Raptor’s big advantages is the fact that it’s also good on the streets, with helpful safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. Consumer reviews so far are lower than others on this list, but it’s worth noting that Edmunds as well as KBB, review the overall F-150, not the Raptor specifically.
Two more to consider
You probably won’t find many crossovers or mid-size SUVs crawling over rocks or fording streams the way other larger SUVs and trucks can. Because they’re typically built on car platforms, crossovers and mid-size SUVs don’t have the advantage of higher ground clearance, and often are limited to only all-wheel-drive capability rather than the more advanced four-wheel drive systems found on larger options.
27 city, 33 highway MPG
4.3 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (31 reviews) ; KBB expert review unavailable
5 stars NHTSA; IIHS Top Safety Pick+
The Subaru Crosstrek is an ideal option for those needing some extra ruggedness and capability. All-wheel drive is standard, though you’ll have to upgrade if you’re not looking to drive a manual transmission. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, it offers a higher ride for greater versatility.
20 city, 25 highway MPG
5 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (8 reviews); KBB expert review unavailable
Last seen in 2002, the Honda Passport has been re-created for 2019. This crossover based on the larger Pilot is pretty capable in off-road situations, though it does have its limitations as a crossover. It does offer competitive fuel economy, up to 21 MPG for the all-wheel drive version. However, with only AWD offered, you might be missing the extra capability of four-wheel drive. The Passport is definitely capable of some light off-roading.
Financing your off-road vehicle
When it comes to financing your ideal off-road vehicle, you’ve got several options. Check around with local credit unions, banks you have a relationship with and even online lenders. Getting pre-approved will allow you to do more loan rate-comparing so you can get the best deal possible on your off-road vehicle. A helpful tool is our auto loan page, where you can fill out an online form and could be matched up to five different auto loan lenders based on your creditworthiness.
For this article, we’ve compiled these vehicles based on price, rating and safety scores. All vehicles on this list are under the $55,000 price point, and all MSRPs shown are for the base price of the trim level listed and described at time of publication. For example, the price of the Ford F-150 Raptor shown above is much higher than the price for the base F-150 model. We’ve also considered consumer ratings on Edmunds, KBB expert ratings and safety ratings from NHTSA and IIHS, when available. However, it should be noted that in some cases ratings may be for the overall model, not necessarily the specific trims selected here.