Best full size SUV under $7,000

Jnich77

Director of Adventure Management Operations
Expeditions are all over every pick-n-pull type salvage yard. Parts are plentiful and cheap.

I would probably go with a Chevy/GM product simply because I like the 5.3 more than the 5.4. It has fewer internal parts and performance parts are typically more common and cheaper.
 

jbaucom

New member
If the 3rd row matters, don't get a Tahoe or Yukon (SWB). The 3rd row is tight and there's almost no cargo space behind the 3rd row when it's in use. The second generation Expedition (with IRS) has a much more comfortable 3rd row, and more cargo space behind the 3rd row, than the Tahoe does in a SWB vehicle. If I wanted to avoid the OAL of a Suburban or Expedition EL and needed to use the third row while carrying anything, I'd get an Expedition. If you don't mind the wheelbase and OAL, I'd get a Suburban or Yukon XL due to aftermarket support. These LWB full-size SUVs are still shorter than an extended-cab 6.5' bed or crew-cab 5.5' bed half-ton truck, on par with a regular cab long bed truck. The Tahoe and Yukon are roughly the same wheelbase and length as a regular cab short bed truck. The Expedition splits the difference in size between the Tahoe and Suburban, but it lands closer to the Suburban than the Tahoe in OAL and wheelbase.
 

IChaseCoues

New member
My vote is go find an 03-06 Suburban or Yukon XL with the lowest miles and use it for years! They are only slightly bigger than the Tahoe and you will appreciate the extra room with kids and a dog on a thousand mile road trip. It will have a lower departure angle but in reality it doesn't keep people from getting pretty far into the woods with 33's and no lift. My 94 suburban with 235/85/16's does really well as long as I remember it isn't a rock crawler or a snow cat! The newer generation is built well with a better motor and transmission that will get upper teens in mpg.
 

pookie

Observer
Why 03-06 on the Chevy/GMCs?

Why do I see the Denalis listed as AWD? Did they not have a 4lo?

And Escalades? I’ve seen a couple of those pop up.
 

pookie

Observer
Just curious, but the Lexus you have is built on the 4-runner platform... Pretty solid truck. Are you looking for more room? Seems like $7k would go a long ways toward paying it off if it's a decent vehicle. Toyota/Lexus reliability is pretty good, generally...
Due to Covid my wife might not be going back to work so we are one income family. Dumping the car payment surely helps with that. I like the Lex, but the payment is the killer. When we bought it we planned for it to be our long term vehicle. Plans change.
 

al_burpe

Observer
I had a 2005 Expedition that was problematic. I loved the stow and go third row and how much space it had. Unfortunately, it had weak rear differential that had to be rebuilt. It also developed the issue with the cam phasors that was common with the 5.4 motors. They don't hold their value well for a reason. One vehicle that was similar in size and layout was a Nissan Armada. I don't know much about their reliability, but they might be worth checking out as you could probably get one for $7000.
 

bigdogyj

Member
Why 03-06 on the Chevy/GMCs?

Why do I see the Denalis listed as AWD? Did they not have a 4lo?

And Escalades? I’ve seen a couple of those pop up.
03-06 improved interior electronics and since they are the latter half of the gmt-800 series most of the problems had been ironed out. Also if going for Denali or a 2500 suburban or Yukon xl you’ll get the slightly upgraded transmissions. 4L65e and 4L85e.

Consider it the dream years of the gmt-800 line. After 06 you move up to the gmt-900 which introduces and whole nother set of issues.


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Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide
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by Chris Scott
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bigdogyj

Member
Looking for a Suburban with the 8.1L gasser myself, for maximum tow capacity

Any tips would be appreciated
Same applies 03-06 suburban 2500 or Yukon xl 2500. 8.1 in these years are actually lightly derated HP but more torque when compared to the 2000-02. They are known to have an issue with the EBCM (brake and abs lights come on usually with service brake system message in DIC) which is mounted under the driver floor board, In board the frame rail. Usually you can clean up the ground connection at the body mount frame bracket in the same area and this clears up the issue.

Other common issues for all gmt-800 are the power window motors get slow over time. As long as you keep the glass and window tracks clean and lubed, you can usually clean up the contact mounts where the brushes run on the motor shaft and they start working like new again.
Also the dash stepper motors were known to go bad on early 00-02 models and still some later ones have issues as well but it seems they are a little better. Pretty cheap to fix and there’s plenty of guys that offer the service as well as replacing the backlighting with LEDs.
And the HVAC blend door actuator motors have trouble. Usually a good cleaning and light re-greasing fixes the problem for a good long while.

All of these are fairly minor things with a 14+ y/o rig and none of them will leave you stranded. Just some minor inconvenience every once in a while. But overall they are solid rigs that will serve you well if you maintain them properly.


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john61ct

Adventurer
Same applies 03-06 suburban 2500 or Yukon xl 2500. 8.1 in these years are actually lightly derated HP but more torque when compared to the 2000-02.
LOL thanks but I meant tips on how to find them, best value sources from unsalty places, willing to travel.

Ideally not just 4WD but locking diff, or easily converted.
 

bigdogyj

Member
LOL thanks but I meant tips on how to find them, best value sources from unsalty places, willing to travel.

Ideally not just 4WD but locking diff, or easily converted.
Got it, may bad.
Yeah definitely watch out for salty, rusty areas.
I found mine on Craigslist in ft Collins, co but it was only there for a year. The rest of its life was in the southwest and well maintained. But no rust whatsoever. Craigslist and maybe Facebook marketplace (i don’t have Facebook). Check bring a trailer. It’s usually for classics and collectibles but every once in a while I’ve seen a tow rig on there in good shape.


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john61ct

Adventurer
Thanks, some of those other tips are good too!

but personally don't even want power windows, prefer a manual trannie, so long as it's also got its own radiator and temp gauge :cool:

When searching for a good (and expensive enough) boat, you can engage a "buyer's broker" to help with your search, just like with real estate, lot of their value is access to networks and databases.

I know the official GMC/Chevy dealer network has good searchable databases for new, old stuff not so much?

Heck I've seen mechanics searching regional (national) junkyard search tools online!

Nothing comprehensive like that for old but working trucks?

Would easily be worth a few hundred bucks. . .
 

bigdogyj

Member
I agree. Nothing that I know of except the usuals.
But don’t forget about the Yukon XL Most always look for the suburban but the Yukon xl is nearly identical.

Here’s a few on the west coast. Clearly a clean Quadrasteer can pull some big $$.

2004 GMC Yukon XL 2500 Quadrasteer


2003 Chevy Suburban 2500

Here’s a high mileage clean z71:

2005 Chevrolet Suburban LT Sport Utility 4D

And a clean half ton if anyone’s looking:

2003 GMC Yukon XL 4X4 SLT Low Miles
https://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/cto/d/vancouver-2003-gmc-yukon-xl-4x4-slt-low/7165963672.html



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Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
FWIW 2004+ 1500 models got hydro-boost brakes. Honestly I thought the brakes on my '04 were a little bit inadequate so I'd hate to think what the 00 - 03 models are like. There's a reason why GMT-900 front brake conversions (requires 17" wheels) are popular. That big 'Burb needs all the help it can get when it comes to brakes.

IIRC the HVAC blend door issues were more in the 00 - 03 models.
 

Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
Why 03-06 on the Chevy/GMCs?

Why do I see the Denalis listed as AWD? Did they not have a 4lo?

And Escalades? I’ve seen a couple of those pop up.
Denalis had a full time 4wd system that they sometimes refer to as AWD. It's not the same as AWD on a car, IMO it's more accurately referred to as "full time 4wd" rather than "AWD" but AWD is the trendy term so that's what the marketing people used. Two drawbacks IMO are (1) no low range and (2) no ability to lock the center differential.

There was a very rare version of full time 4wd with low range that was offered briefly around 2004 - 2005. I can't remember what GM called it, Stabilitrack or something like that (not to be confused with "stabilitrac - notice no "k" - which was their name for traction control.) The full time 4wd versions were offered in both Chevy and GMC badged vehicles and can be identified by the 4wd controls that look like this:

Stabilitrack.jpg

Whereas the "normal" 4wd Suburban and non-Denali Yukon/Yukon XL had controls that looked like this:

autotrac.jpg

"Auto 4wd" is a kind of half-assed AWD substitute, it's an "on demand" 4wd system. So in "auto 4wd" the front axle remains engaged but the transfer case is in 2wd. Then, if the ABS sensors detect the rear wheels slipping, it automatically engages the T-case 4wd control. It's better than nothing but it's not true AWD or full time 4wd.

The Denali does not have any controls at all as it is full time 4wd with an unlocked center differential, all the time, and no low range.
 
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