10 Best $10K-or-Less Weekend Warriors

2011 Honda Element

Do you want to buy a reliable, durable and fun car for under $10,000? Of course you do! Well, we have some great options for you—nothing before 2002, so not too too old, but all of these can surely be found for less than 10 Gs. These are the perfect cars to take on anything you have to battle this weekend, be it adventuring, exploring or chores. These cars will make little work of your responsibilities. They’re about reliability more than anything. Well, reliability, durability and fun.

These are vehicles you won’t be afraid to test and beat the hell out of. You can go to the limit with these and not be worried they might fail you. They’ll quickly become your best friend. You may not admit it in public, but you will never want to get rid of these. So whether you’re the type who gets stuff done over the weekend or who just feels like going out for an occasional cruise, you should definitely consider picking up one of these cars.

2008 Mazda3

10. If you’re looking for a small hauler with a bit of oomph and great gas mileage, check out the 2008 Mazda3. Mazda has a reputation for making fun-to-drive cars with great gas mileage, and the Mazda3 exemplifies that. Boasting 32 mpg on the highway, the hatchback’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is zippy enough to keep a smile on your face while also keeping money in your wallet. Thanks to its small dimensions and peppy powertrain, the Mazda3 makes city driving easy, while still offering 11.5 cubic feet of cargo space for those weekend projects and getaways.

2002 Jeep Wrangler

9. The 2002 Jeep Wrangler is a reliability machine. In the midst of the TJ generation, the 2002 Wrangler sports the prototypical 2-door, convertible hard-top style. Equipped with an unbeatable off-road suspension, the Wrangler can bring you anywhere. It was quite literally designed to be driven off-road, but it does not look out of place in the suburbs or city. And it’s as durable as they come. This thing can be beaten to hell. Plenty of drivers don’t exactly treat their Wranglers very nicely, and they still do just fine… until the frame rusts through.

2003 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

8. The 2003 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a great choice for those looking for luxury and utility on a budget. With a bit of searching on CarGurus, the E-Class wagon can be found for under $10K, not bad considering the car started at over $51,000 in 2003. For that you’ll get a 221-hp, 6-cylinder engine, sleek German design and one of the best combinations in ride and handling of the last decade. On top of all this, people will admire your new ride and think you paid way more than you did as you pull up, whether it’s at the office or Home Depot. What’s not to love about that?

2004 Chevrolet Tahoe

7. The 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe definitely has the size to fit your needs. It has been one of the largest SUVs in GM’s lineup since its debut in ’95. You can easily find the 2004 Tahoe for under $10,000, an absolutely great deal on a sizable and reliable SUV. Not bad for something that would have cost you upward of $35,000 just 10 years ago. This is the type of vehicle that can get things done.

2006 Honda Element

6. There’s no way around it—the 2006 Honda Element is an excellent car that just didn’t sell very well new, which makes it a great deal on the used market. Like most Hondas, the Element comes with bulletproof reliability and sensible practicality. Thanks to its boxy style, the Element can pack in over 25 cubic feet of stuff in the cargo area, not bad for a car measuring barely 14 feet. The Element also has a unique set of seats to make it even more versatile, with all 4 seats able to fold flat (to create a bed) and the rear seats also able to fold against the sides, really opening up the cargo area. If you’re looking to pack a lot into a small package, you can’t beat the Element.

2006 Saab 9-5

5. One of our personal favorites, the 2006 Saab 9-5 is, surprisingly, a workhorse. There’s nothing quite like a wagon to get all your weekend deeds done. Saab’s turbocharged engine produces 260 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, which is pretty impressive. The 9-5 also provides some decent fuel efficiency with a rating of 21 mpg city/29 highway. With a sizable 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space, the wagon is probably the way for you to go. Wagons are often underrated when searching for a car with a ton of practicality.

2006 Nissan Xterra

4. The 2006 Nissan Xterra is essentially a smaller version of the Nissan Pathfinder. It seats 5 rather than 7. This SUV moved away from the family-oriented style found in the Pathfinder and was marketed toward a much younger, more adventurous crowd. With the Xterra comes some great handling, incredible off-road performance and great engine power. It also has a tremendous amount of space for whatever needs you may have—35.2 cubic feet of cargo space is plenty for you to take on your weekend projects or to carry whatever equipment you’ll need for your adventuring.

2003 Toyota Tacoma

3. There are a lot of jokes about how unreliable some used cars are. The 2003 Toyota Tacoma has a different problem: There are a lot of jokes about how reliable it is. Since going on sale in 1995, the Tacoma has become a giant among small trucks, crushing its competitors and running most out of the market. How did it accomplish that? With a combination of rock-solid reliability, good looks and practicality. Thanks to its comfortable Double cab (there is also an Extended cab, but it’s quite cramped), the Tacoma can act as a family hauler during the week and become a true warrior on the weekend, easily able to handle whatever punishment you can throw at it.

2005 Subaru Outback

2. The 2005 Subaru Outback has a bit of a dual personality. During the week, it can be seen picking up kids from school, getting filled with gear for soccer practice or parking outside the local office building. Come the weekend, however, the Outback is most often spotted loaded down with bikes, skis, fishing rods or snowboards and headed out of town. By putting a station wagon on a lifted suspension, Subaru gave the Outback a unique position in life, making it the ideal car for big families who lead active lives. Not only can it get you out of the city, but its impressive ground clearance and all-wheel drive mean it can get you to the back country and then keep on going, with only the toughest of off-road trails stopping it. It’s no Wrangler on the trails, but the Outback can get the average family (and their gear) just about anywhere they want to go.

2003 Lexus RX 300

1. Lexus’ top-selling crossover, the 2003 Lexus RX 300 is one of the best-looking weekend warriors you can find. Built on the Toyota Camry platform, the RX 300 offers a luxurious take on the practicality you depend on to get things done. The RX 300 will take on anything you throw at it. It has a powerful V6 engine capable of producing 220 horsepower, has 39.8 cubic feet of cargo space, and is a Lexus for under $10,000. The RX 300 is where luxury meets durability, and together they form the perfect vehicle for your day-to-day needs on the weekend.

Do you have a favorite weekend warrior?

-jharrington and zwaller

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

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Used Mazda3
Used Jeep Wrangler
Used Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Used Chevrolet Tahoe
Used Honda Element
Used Saab 9-5
Used Nissan Xterra
Used Toyota Tacoma
Used Subaru Outback
Used Lexus RX 300

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