How to pick a good used SUV

The SUV—at least till now—came in two very different avatars:  the Indian ones (Tata Safari/Mahindra Scorpio) that were more affordable with prices starting in the late Rs. 7 lakh and running up to shade under Rs. 12 lakh for the top end variant and; the foreign ones (Toyota Fortuner/Ford Endeavor etc,) with prices upwards of Rs. 18 lakh.

How to pick a good used SUV
Photo: Used India-made SUVs are best avoided?

The foreign makes have better build quality and road manners but the Indian ones are much, much cheaper. So what if you want the best of both the worlds?

One, you can go for Renault Duster, or Ford EcoSport.  Also read:5 reasons to buy a used car instead of a new one!

Or else, you could get yourself a pre-owned big, brawny SUV such as a Toyota Fortuner or Chevrolet Captiva etc. But how much do these cost? And which one should you buy?

Which pre-owned SUV

The first question that pops up here is diesel or petrol? Given relatively higher price of petrol and its lower mileage, this should be a no brainer. But wait…there are pretty good bargains to be had if you were to opt for a petrol SUV:

Pre-owned petrol SUVs

  • A less than 5 years old Maruti Grand Vitara with sub 50,000 km on odometer can be yours for less than Rs. 7 lakh. It is a highly capable off-roader with very good on-road manners. Plus, there is an added benefit of Maruti’s extensive after sales network. You can spend Rs. 50,000 and convert it into CNG if running costs are a worry.
  • A much newer (2009 model) Mitsubishi Outlander automatic can be yours for around Rs. 12 lakh. It too would have run less than 50,000 km. The only downside is that the service network is nothing to write home about.
  • Five-year old Honda CR-Vs too should come for less than Rs. 10 lakh.

So should you buy a petrol SUV, and if so, which one?

Generally speaking, all things being equal, pre-owned petrol SUVs are at least Rs. 3 to Rs. 5 lakh cheaper than their diesel counterparts. Assuming your average monthly usage is around 1,000 km, you will end spending about Rs. 6,000 more in fuel costs. So savings of Rs. 3 lakh will buy fuel for a good four years!

And you are better off sticking with a Maruti or Honda because of their better after sales service—a crucial factor while buying a used car.

Pre-owned diesel SUVs

Here, your best bet is the Chevrolet Captiva. A four-year old Captiva would cost about Rs. 11 to Rs. 13 lakh for the entry level model. While it lacks the macho image of the Fortuner or Endeavour, it is a decent city car with some off-road potential. General Motors has a good service network so repairs should not be a problem.

The best-seller in the segment and the SUV with quality, capability and some serious personality is the Fortuner. Unfortunately, all this comes at a rather steep price. It is hard to find a three-year-old Fortuner at less than Rs. 16 lakh. That’s a lot of money to pay for a used vehicle. So unless you really want a robust, solidly built, off-roader which you’d often take to places like Ladakh, you are perhaps better off without one.

Ford Endeavour runs close to the Fortuner in terms of price in the used car market. And that is not a good thing, for it does not have the build quality of the Fortuner. And considering spares for all these cars are costly, it is probably not worth your money. Read more: 5 steps to buying a used car in India

So where does that leave you?

Good diesel SUVs are expensive. Only Captiva—that too the entry level variant LT—comes at a reasonable price. (Pajero too is in the same range but its scant after sales service network weakens its case.) Fortuner is good but costly.

In a nutshell, not much choice. Unless you get lucky and hit a good deal.

What about used Scorpios and Safaris

While the prices are more affordable, their build quality stops them from being attractive buys in the used car market. If you find something under 20,000 km, you could consider it. Otherwise, you are better off looking elsewhere.