The 1990s were like a turning point for the automobile industry. It’s when the cars started to feel drastically safer and more reliable than before. You will find tons of Japanese or even American or European classic cars from the ‘90s that have earned the status of “Lasts Forever” in terms of reliability. In the ‘90s, the bright heads of the automotive industry finally came up with the technology to meet emissions regulations. So the lives of engines increased a lot. Modern features like ABS or traction control weren’t too complicated, so there were fewer parts to go rogue. The ‘90s also saw the rise in popularity of SUVs against sedans and coupes.

Car manufacturers realized that, and we saw a lot of SUVs coming out one after another. Those big vehicles were pretty decent, for the most part. But we can’t blindly pick one and assume that it’s going to be very dependable. That would be foolish. Of course, there are some SUVs that we wouldn’t want to own even if we got them for free. The number of visits to a repair shop and the cost of maintenance is too much for some of these machines. Thankfully, there are many great options to choose from, so here are 9 such vehicles, along with one popular SUV that you should avoid.

10 1990-2016 Land Rover Defender

1990 Land Rover Defender 110
Via: Mecum

This one is for all the off-roading enthusiasts out there. The Land Rover Defender takes the U of the SUV to the next level. Yup, it is about as utilitarian as it gets for off-roading. You may compare it to the Wrangler, which is fine.

1993–1997 Land Rover Defender
Via Mecum Auctions

But the Jeep is about recreation and lifestyle while the Defender is all about going where other vehicles can’t. Old Defenders are rare in the US, but if you happen to find one, do not ignore it. They can take a beating and keep going, which is very essential for what they’re built in the first place.

9 1992—2006 Hummer H1

Hummer H1 Open Top
Via Bringtrailer

We get that today, the Hummer is one of the most criticized and condemned vehicles of all time. But back in the ‘90s, they were as popular as The Simpsons. These things served in the military, so they had to be tough and powerful, and reliable.

Hummer H1 Open Top
Via Bringtrailer

For the civilian version, Am General gave it softer springs, a more comfortable interior (or an actual interior to be frank). And they removed the plates that increased payload capacity. The result was that people could now have a taste of the power and utility that the army was getting, and people loved it.

Related: From War Machine To Civilian Life: A Look Back At The Evolution Of The Hummer H1

8 1991-1999 Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero

Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
via Mitsubishi

Nowadays, it’s hard to write about Mitsubishi and not reminisce about their glorious past. For some of us, the Pajero (or Montero in the US) was one of the first cars that made SUVs look cool. Even Jackie Chan couldn’t resist showing them off in his movies.

Via Bring a Trailer

The Montero came to the US with a racing origin and some serious off-roading chops. Hence, it was great both on the road and off. It was Japanese so it was affordable, and in terms of reliability, look no further than Mitsubishi winning the Dakar Rally with this thing.

Review: Why A 1990s Mitsubishi Montero Is One Of The Best Bargain Off-Road SUVs

7 1992-1999 Chevrolet Suburban

1993 Chevrolet Suburban
Via BringaTrailer

Let the fact sink in that in 1992, Chevy brought the eighth generation of the Suburban. You could have it in either a 5.7-liter small-block, a 7.4-liter big-block engine, or a 6.5-liter turbo diesel engine, so it always had enough power for the people. But there have been reports that the clutch installed with the Diesel engine is not that reliable.

Black Square Body Chevrolet Suburban

Also, from the Hummer in the military, we come to the Secret Service’s vehicle of choice. The GMT400 platform for this vehicle was strong, and the Suburban became a really potent family SUV or a trailer hauler.

Related: Here's Why The Chevy Suburban Is The Best Seven Passenger SUV From The '90s

6 1995-2003 Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer’s 1st, 3rd, and 4th generations were not up to the mark. But the 1995-2003 2nd gen is the golden time for the Explorer. Ford gave the 2nd gen Explorer an improved chassis, so it was even more trustworthy and hassle-free.

1992 Ford Explorer XLT UN46, Jurassic Park
via 24/7 Tempo

Both the 4.0-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8 engines have a proven record, and they last a long time. That’s one of the reasons we still see older Explorers on the roads even today.

5 1990-2008 Toyota Land Cruiser

1992 Toyota Land Cruiser
via Toyota

When it comes to reliable SUVs from the ‘90s, the FJ80 is unmissable and a documented success. Its special ability to withstand some of the most extreme conditions on the planet is a testament to its dependability.

1995 FJ80 Toyota Land Cruiser
via Bring A Trailer

It's so good that we have seen humanitarians and militant groups use the Land Cruiser all over the world thanks to its ruggedness. On the other hand, we can also see lots of these in the suburbs because they are big, affordable, comfortable, convenient, and easy to maintain.

Related: Here's What Makes A 1990s Toyota Land Cruiser A Rugged Off-Roader

4 1996-2002 Toyota 4Runner

via Bring a Trailer

You can also have the 1990-1995 second-generation 4Runner. But we would suggest the 1996-2002 3rd-gen over it for now. Yeah, it was not as fast or fancy. But it was a lot cheaper to run.

1996-98 Toyota 4Runner
Via:SsmIntrigue, Wikimedia Commons -

This one came with a 183 hp 3.4-liter V6 rather than a 4-cylinder engine. So you got a lot of practicality, utility, Toyota’s renowned reliability, and decent power all in one package. The 4Runner and the Hilux are easy choices for reliable SUVs.

Related: Here Is How The Toyota 4Runner Evolved Over The Years

3 1996-2006 Jeep Wrangler

1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ
Via-Wrangler TJ Forum

Remember when we said that the Wrangler was a vehicle about recreation and lifestyle? Yup, that works for us too because it’s great at what it does. The previous YJ generation Wrangler had a bullet-proof 4.0-liter engine. But from 1996, Chrysler changed the master/slave cylinder clutch along with other changes to the body.

1999 JEEP WRANGLER black, side

That took the Wrangler to a whole new level of dependability. One of the reasons Jeep is still making Wranglers is their reliability and capability. If you want a hardcore off-roader with slightly better driving dynamics on the road compared to cars like the Defender, you’ll probably settle with the all-American Wrangler.

2 1997-2002 Subaru Forester

The 1999 Subaru Forester.
Via: Cars For Sale

Complex AWD systems and reliability do not go together well. But they are incredibly useful and important for off-roading. Subaru had a tried and tested AWD system thanks to their Rally racing R&D. So they found a fine line between the two extremes to make a reliable AWD off-roading SUV. The Forester was the resulting vehicle that also had some sweet tech.

1999 Subaru Forester
Via: Pinterest

It has a computer-controlled multi-plate transfer clutch that can detect the difference in speed between the front and rear wheels, and can provide ample traction accordingly. Even the first-gen Forester is a capable and reliable SUV by today’s standards.

1 Stay Away From: Mazda Navajo

Brown 1994 Mazda Navajo
Via Partsopen

In the ‘90s, Ford and Mazda tried to take on the market by making rebadged versions of each other’s vehicles. But when Ford came up with the Explorer, Mazda’s attempt for the same was not successful. The Navajo marked the few occasions when Ford supplied a vehicle and Mazda rebadged it rather than the other way around.

But Mazda lacked Ford’s experience at making great SUVs at that time. The Navajo looked bad with those black plastic grills. Moreover, it was also forgettable and overshadowed by the mighty Explorer. Mazda has learned how to make great SUVs today, but you should stay away from their earlier attempts.

1998 Ford F-150 NASCAR Edition
These Are the Most Reliable '90s Pickups You'll Get Under $10,000
Read Next
About The Author