Best Used AWD Cars & SUVs Under $20,000
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Best Used AWD Cars & SUVs Under $20,000

Once the nearly exclusive domain of SUVs and crossovers, all-wheel drive has recently become common across the auto industry, in cars and utility vehicles alike. That makes it easy for a new-vehicle shopper to find an AWD model in their price range—but where does it leave you as a budget-oriented used-car buyer?

While the ubiquity of all-wheel drive is a relatively new thing, over the last couple of decades automakers have been experimenting with offering it in different vehicle segments to see where it would gain traction (so to speak). As a result, you can find AWD in some interesting and unexpected places, even if you’re shopping the used market for a vehicle that costs less than $20,000.

Below, we pick 5 cars and 5 SUVs with AWD, all under $20K on the used marked. And if you're not sure the benefits owning a vehicle with this powertrain, here’s our full AWD guide.

Or if you're ready to start shopping now, here are all our sub-$20,000 vehicles currently available

Best AWD Cars Under $20,000 – 5 Used Models

Subaru Impreza sedan/hatchback, 2010-2013

2012 Subaru Impreza Sedan | Photo: Subaru 

Who is this for? Drivers seeking good all-weather performance on a budget

Why we like it: 

  • Sophisticated AWD system
  • Good fuel economy (2012-2013 models)
  • Choice of sedan and hatchback body styles

In the late 1990s, Subaru made AWD standard on all its cars, a move that helped this automaker compete with its more mainstream competitors. Over the past 25 years, the Subaru Impreza has been the only compact car offered exclusively with AWD.

The 2010 and 2011 models we’ve included here are from the Impreza’s third generation, which combined strong power and refined performance. The fourth-gen model introduced in 2012 was less powerful, but more fuel-efficient and spacious. Both generations were offered in sedan and hatchback body styles.

Toyota Matrix AWD/Pontiac Vibe AWD, 2009-2013

2011 Toyota Matrix | Photo: Toyota 

Who is this for? Fans of all-wheel drive traction and Toyota’s bulletproof reliability 

Why we like it: 

  • Practical, rugged interior
  • Great reliability
  • Generous headroom

Toyota marketed its Matrix compact hatchback as a crossover, even though early versions lacked the all-wheel traction that defined the crossover segment of the day. However, Toyota added an AWD option to later versions of the Matrix, a configuration that makes it a forerunner to the subcompact and compact crossovers that dominate today’s auto marketplace.

The Pontiac Vibe is a mechanical clone of the Matrix, but has more distinct styling. In 2009, the optional AWD system came attached to a 2.4L engine and five-speed automatic transmission, a combo that provided a nice performance boost over the base car’s 1.8L motor. On the downside, it’s less fuel-efficient than the front-drive setup.

Infiniti G37, 2010-2013

2013 Infiniti G Line Sedan | Photo: Infiniti 

Who is this for? Drivers who aspire to sport-sedan performance at affordable prices

Why we like it: 

  • Restrained upscale styling
  • Smooth, powerful engine
  • Japanese reliability

Through the 2000s, the Infiniti G-series compact sedan earned a reputation for combining sport-sedan performance with strong value compared to its European competitors. For example, in 2010, that value proposition included all-wheel drive and a 328-hp engine for about the same price as a rear-drive BMW 3 Series with 230-hp.

If the G37 sedan’s traditional sedan body style doesn’t do it for you, Infiniti also offered its entry-level model as a slick-looking coupe that could be optioned with AWD.

While the G37’s AWD system promises the expected traction benefits in poor weather, it also pays dividends in fair conditions by putting the engine’s power to the pavement more efficiently than the car’s base rear-drive layout.

Ford Fusion, 2007-2013

2013 Ford Fusion | Photo: Ford 

Who is this for? Budget-oriented buyers who want a traditional family sedan suited to year-round driving

Why we like it: 

  • Engaging driving feel
  • Redesigned 2013 model boasts European style at domestic prices
  • Powerful Sport trim

All-wheel drive has recently become common in the mid-size sedan segment. After years of watching Subaru’s Legacy enjoy standout status as the only all-wheel family sedan, Nissan, Toyota, and Kia all now offer their mid-sizers with AWD.

But back in the late 2000s, one of the few all-wheel alternatives to the Legacy was the Ford Fusion, which offered AWD through two generations until Ford discontinued the car in 2020.

The second-generation Fusion began offering AWD in 2007 as an option in models with a 3.0L V6 engine. The 2013 model is the first year for the car’s handsome third generation, in which all-wheel drive was paired with a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder and a sharp-handling chassis engineered by Ford’s European division.

Buick Lacrosse, 2010-2013

2011 Buick Lacrosse CX | Photo: Buick 

Who is this for? Fans of budget-priced luxury

Why we like it: 

  • Smooth, powerful V6 engine
  • Optional adjustable suspension
  • Spacious, comfortable cabin

Buick redesigned its largest sedan in 2010, and also renamed it the Lacrosse in Canada to replace the outgoing car’s Allure nameplate.

The Lacrosse was part of Buick’s effort to reinvent itself and appeal to younger buyers, so it was offered with AWD and an optional adjustable suspension that turned this full-size car into a wannabe sport sedan. If you aren’t bothered by Buick’s dull brand image, a Lacrosse with that sophisticated suspension system is a surprisingly able handler powered by a smooth, 280-hp V6 engine.

But that sharp driving feel doesn’t compromise the Lacrosse’s usual ride comfort, which you and your passengers get to enjoy from a roomy cabin complemented by a large trunk.

Before we get into the top used sport utilities under $20,000 below, you may also want to check out: 10 Best AWD Sedans in Canada - Cheap & Expensive Models

Best AWD SUVs Under $20,000 – 5 Used Models

Nissan Juke, 2011-2013

2012 Nissan Juke | Photo: Nissan 

Who is this for? Drivers looking for sporty-car performance in a crossover package

Why we like it: 

  • Weird-but-likeable styling
  • Well-executed all-wheel drive system
  • Available sporty NISMO variant

It might be a stretch to call the Nissan Juke a game-changer, but the auto industry has certainly never seen anything else quite like it.

Introduced in 2011, the Juke brought the “SUV-coupe” concept to the mainstream subcompact crossover segment in a package that put form well ahead of function. The rear seat and trunk are hilariously small, but the Juke makes up for that with an enthusiastic turbocharged engine and a sophisticated torque-vectoring AWD system of the type normally found in much pricier luxury models.

You may be disappointed to learn that Nissan only offered the Juke’s AWD system with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but even so, this quirky little crossover is a lot of fun to drive. In 2013, Nissan added a sportier NISMO variant that got more power, a tighter suspension, and tasteful styling tweaks.

Subaru Outback, 2010-2013

2013 Subaru Outback | Photo: Subaru 

Who is this for? Motorists looking for no-nonsense, all-weather family transportation

Why we like it: 

  • Spacious without being bulky
  • Efficient four-cylinder engine
  • Available with a manual transmission

Most modern crossovers share at least some of their underpinnings with car models, but none is more obvious about it than the Subaru Outback, which is essentially a Legacy wagon with a lifted suspension.

The new-for-2010 fifth-generation Outback was both larger and more efficient than its predecessor, making it a true competitor for the raft of mid-size crossovers that had flooded the market over the previous decade. A manual transmission option helped the Outback stand out in its crowded segment.

In 2013, Subaru updated the Outback’s styling and added the EyeSight driver safety assist system as an option for the first time. If you’re considering a newer version, here’s our 2023 Subaru Outback first drive review.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 2008-2013

2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid | Photo: Toyota 

Who is this for? Family drivers who prioritize practical space and good fuel economy

Why we like it: 

  • Roomy, flexible interior
  • Impressive fuel economy
  • Car-like driving feel

In 2008, Toyota redesigned its Highlander mid-size crossover into a second generation, which brought a significant improvement in interior space. This then-new design also carried forward a gas-electric hybrid powertrain option from the first-gen model.

A gas V6 and electric motor provide power comparable to the gas-only Highlander while boasting combined fuel consumption estimates between 8.0 and 9.0 L/100 km, which is about 30 per cent lower than a gas-only Highlander with AWD.

Despite the Highlander Hybrid’s family-friendly size, it drives a lot like a car, making it easy to navigate busy city streets and parking lots. Take a look at these other, newer mid-size SUVs topping our list.

Audi Q5, 2009-2013

2013 Audi Q5 | Photo: Audi 

Who is this for? Fans of stylish luxury in a compact package

Why we like it: 

  • Great styling
  • Well-executed infotainment
  • Available adjustable suspension

Launched in 2009, the Q5 was Audi’s first compact crossover model, slotting in below the larger three-row Q7. 

From the jump, the Q5 was one of the best-looking vehicles in its class, inside and out, projecting an upscale yet understated image. One of our favourite things about a used Q5 is how well its styling has aged: Its basic appearance has changed so little that a well-maintained 2009 model could pass as one much newer.

Early Q5s were powered by a 3.2L V6, but Audi added its excellent 2.0L turbo four-cylinder in 2011, which is worth considering for its generous torque and good highway fuel economy. In 2013, Audi rolled out a more powerful V6 option and added a four-cylinder hybrid powertrain for better city efficiency.

Ford Explorer, 2011-2013

2011 Ford Explorer | Photo: Ford 

Who is this for? Adventurous families and drivers who need light-duty towing capacity

Why we like it: 

  • Rugged driving feel
  • Smooth powertrains
  • Useful high-tech options

The 2011 model year was a big one for the Ford Explorer, which was redesigned into a fifth generation, the first built on a car-based unibody platform.

Gone was the previous-generation’s V8 option, replaced by a standard 3.5L V6 that made similar power but boasted better fuel economy. Perhaps the only downside was the new model’s lower towing capacity, which was now limited to about 2,250 kg. Still, that’s more than enough to haul a small camper or a utility trailer.

If you care more about fuel economy than towing, look for an Explorer with the available 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine. In 2013, Ford added a Sport trim powered by a turbo V6 that boasts a V8-like 365 hp.

Ready to spend under $20,000 on a used car or SUV?

Here are all our sub-$20K vehicles currently available. Every vehicle from Canada Drives has completed a 150 Point Inspection, comes with a no-charge 30 Day / 1,500 km warranty, and is covered by our 7-Day money back return policy. 

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