2010 Subaru Forester -- Tim Stevens, editor in chief

Subaru's Forester wagon was completely refreshed to enter SUV territory in 2009, but going with a 2010 model helps you to avoid potential new-model niggles.

Opt for the XT Limited with all-wheel drive and you'll get the same 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four engine as found in the WRX, which makes this a punchy choice -- but, perhaps not the most frugal at just 19 city and 24 highway MPG.

Caption by / Photo by Subaru

For around $16,500, you can get a fully loaded Limited model with 50,000 miles on the clock, leather interior and navigation with Bluetooth smartphone connectivity.

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2010 Nissan Xterra -- Chris Paukert, managing editor

Nissan's evergreen Xterra remains tough to beat for those looking for an authentic all-terrain SUV. If you're seeking a car-like ride and efficiency, look elsewhere, but if you're into strapping active-lifestyle gear to the roof of your ride and getting lost in the nearest wilderness, the Xterra is a prime fit.

With a standard 4.0-liter V6 giving a generous 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of rock-climbing torque, there's plenty of power.

Caption by / Photo by Mike Ditz/Nissan

For around $16,000, you'll be able to secure a midline S trim with four-wheel drive, and still have enough money left over for an aftermarket stereo to add Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

You should be able to find a model with fewer than 72,000 miles on the clock, at which point most Xterras feel like a good pair of jeans -- just broken in.

Caption by / Photo by Mike Ditz/Nissan
2014 Kia Soul -- Brian Cooley, editor-at-large

In the world of hip, boxy urban crossovers, the Soul has been the indisputable home run. It has better design than you have a right to expect for $16,000, is bigger inside than it looks from the outside and is good at everything you care about daily.

Caption by / Photo by Greg Jarem/Kia

Look for a car with optional Infinity audio and a sunroof, which leverages the boxy roominess this body style affords you inside. An example with the optional navigation rig might push you beyond our price point, but will have a touchscreen that's close to the most responsive we've ever tested.

Caption by / Photo by Greg Jarem/Kia
2007 Acura MDX -- Wayne Cunningham, managing editor

Although pushing the limits of our $16,000 price, the second-generation Acura MDX comes in with reliability, impressive utility and surprisingly good handling. With Acura's Super Handling All-wheel-drive system, the MDX gets torque vectoring, overdriving the outside wheel to help it get around the turns.

Even better, this model could be had with a magnetic adaptive suspension, limiting body roll and working in concert with torque vectoring to improve handling. Acura actually dropped the adaptive suspension on the following generation, likely to cut costs.

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Although you'll likely be looking at an older model with about 100,000 miles to keep the price down (the second-generation MDX ran from 2007 to 2013), Acura's 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V-6 is a tough, proven engine and should hold up for many, many miles.

With this generation's first model years, you'll be looking at a five-speed automatic transmission, swapped out for a six-speed unit by 2010. Taking drivetrain and seven-passenger utility into account, the second-generation MDX makes for a particularly good value, with surprisingly good handling characteristics.

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2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser -- Andrew Krok, news editor

Sporting a retro-fresh exterior, the Toyota FJ Cruiser isn't your average crossover, it's a proper body-on-frame SUV. As such, it touts some proper off-road prowess, thanks to the overseas-only Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, which gifted many of its hearty underpinnings to this compact ute.

The FJ was sent into production after a concept version garnered massive praise at the 2003 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

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For about $16,000 -- roughly half the average price that buyers pay for a new car -- you can find a clean FJ with approximately 108,000 miles on the odo. In the right hands, this thing could very well survive the next apocalypse -- zombie or otherwise.

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2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon - Emme Hall, reviews editor

This era of Jeep Wrangler has a 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, good for 190 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. The Rubicon trim came with beefy Dana 44 axles, a 4:1 low range for rock crawling and air-actuated front and rear locking differentials.

In 2006, the Rubicon was available with a six-speed manual, as well as a four-speed automatic.

Caption by / Photo by Chris Collard/Jeep

The four-door Wrangler Unlimited body style was introduced in 2004, and while its longer wheelbase can be a hindrance in some off-roading situations, its improved access to the rear seats and cargo is worth the tradeoff for most people.

For around $16,000, you should be able to find a battle-hardened 2006 model with around 120,000 miles on the odometer.

Caption by / Photo by Jeep
2010 Honda Element -- Antuan Goodwin, associate editor

It's a bit of a shame that the Honda Element didn't last longer than one generation. Production ended in 2010, but its upright, compact design seems like an excellent fit in today's CUV-dominated marketplace, as its strong resale values attest.

What the Honda Element lacked in driving thrills, it more than made up for in boxy utility and pretty-OK fuel economy. Plus, it's one of the most pet-friendly rides to ever grace America's roads.

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$16,000 gets you a 2010 model in LX or EX trim with about 70,000 miles on the odometer. Don't worry too much about its half-decade old infotainment tech; you can pop the Honda head unit out easily and install a modern Android Auto or Apple CarPlay rig while staying under budget.

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2006-2009 Toyota 4Runner -- Jon Wong, reviews editor

The Toyota 4Runner's body-on-frame construction gives this midsize SUV rugged bones to tackle off-road expeditions and tow up to 5,000 pounds with its base 236-horsepower V-6 engine. Its solid foundation and proven V-6 give the 4Runner near-certain longevity in just-the-right-size packaging.

A more powerful V-8 is available in these fourth-generation 4Runner models, but if you don't need the additional towing capability, it would be wise to steer clear of this fuel-thirsty engine option.

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For $16,000, you should be able to find a 2008 SR5 example with about 100,000 miles on the odometer, which means this hard-wearing truck is just getting going.

Caption by / Photo by Toyota
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