Today's shoppers are looking for the latest fuel-efficiency, driver safety tech, and interior comfort from their next vehicle. Today's SUVs offer incredible features that would have been impossible just a decade ago. But that additional equipment and innovation doesn't have to come with a high price tag.
Selecting a lightly-used version of the right vehicle can provide most or all of the features you want at a deep discount over new. Buying used can cause some issues. The original warranties may have run out, meaning the repair costs fall on you if anything goes wrong. This problem can be compounded by questionable service histories and sellers who won't disclose the vehicle's background.
While there are ways to find a vehicle's history through sites such as Carfax and AutoCheck, there are better chances of getting the best used SUV by picking one of the positively reviewed models when new and has a reputation for reliability. With that, here are 14 of the best used SUV choices for 2021.
1. Toyota Highlander
The Toyota Highlander is one of the top choices for a used SUV. The brand helped popularize the car-based SUV category with models like Highlander more than two decades ago. In that time, it has returned stellar reliability ratings and a loyal following with an easy to live with demeanor. Toyota equips the Highlander with similar features and safety technology to the brand's cars, like the popular Camry. Its 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine is also considered one of the smoothest in the business.
The Highlander has always excelled at providing car-like handling and comfort in a taller package. Best on the road rather than on trails, the Highlander is available with all-wheel-drive and even a hybrid variant that returns an EPA-estimated 35 mpg. Toyota has long been at the forefront of advanced driver assistance systems such as automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. Each generation of the Highlander has benefitted from the brand's most current ideas. Selecting a gently-used model from the past few years will net a healthy roster of modern conveniences for less than $30,000.
2. Ford Expedition
If you need a full-size SUV, you know that it is a category full of expensive choices. Opting to go used could be the best choice, potentially saving you thousands over a glitzy new version. The Ford Expedition is one such vehicle, a massive three-row family carrier loosely based on the Ford F-150 pickup truck. It has vast cabin and cargo space for active owners, plus one of the best towing capacities of any SUV. Depending on which seating configuration you choose, it will fit seven or eight people in comfort.
The Expedition comes in a range of trim levels, like the western-themed King Ranch, with its antiqued leather steering wheel and unique cabin motifs. The elegant Platinum model adds a panoramic moonroof and body-color exterior trim.
New Expeditions can cost well into the $60,000-$70,000 range, so buying used may be advantageous. Recently-used models still have all of Ford's comprehensive standard safety aids, like automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning, plus the powerful turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 producing 375 horsepower. One-to-two-year-old models, depending on the trim level, can be found for under $55,000.
3. Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is a compact crossover that has helped to change the SUV landscape. With trim dimensions and relatively good comfort and fuel efficiency levels, the CR-V is easy to live with in many situations. It offers Honda's trademark build quality and attention to detail, with a cabin that feels a cut above many competitors. The CR-V has also won recognition for an enviable reliability record.
The modern SUV market is hot, and Honda has kept the CR-V at the top of the pack every step of the way. It has one of the roomiest interiors for a compact crossover, with superb rear legroom. The CR-V also has a smooth ride and quiet 1.5-liter turbo-four powertrain with 190 horsepower, making it a great daily commuter. A recently-added hybrid variant delivers 212 horsepower, plus gas mileage rarely seen in an SUV, up to 40 mpg in city driving. It lacks the sportiness and off-road strengths of some rivals, but the CR-V remains a titan for real-world livability. You can get a nearly-new example for under $30,000.
4. Nissan Rogue
The Nissan Rogue is another compact crossover that has come to dominate the SUV segment. Like other Nissan vehicles, the Rogue has often played second-fiddle to top category choices from Honda and Toyota. But, there is still plenty of like about the Rogue that should warrant close consideration.
The Rogue imparts a sporty yet elegant character from its more radical exterior styling for 2021 and a more tech-laden interior. Its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine provides 181 horsepower and up to 33 mpg on the highway. Inside the roomy cabin, passengers get some of the best seats in the class. Nissan's "Zero-Gravity" seat design makes its way into the first and second rows, and the Rogue has one of the more forgiving rides among compact SUVs. The top-shelf Platinum trim features front and rear heated seats, a Bose premium audio system, wireless smartphone charging, and more.
Like many automakers, Mazda was not known for SUVs for most of its history. In modern times, it's perhaps best known for the MX-5 Miata, a relatively affordable two-seat sports car that does a great job evoking classic British sports cars — only with modern conveniences. But Mazda has expanded its horizons. It now makes a lineup of SUVs that attempt to evoke the spirit of its cars.
The CX-5 takes all of the things people love about the cars — the agile handling, the upscale styling, reasonable fuel economy — and injects them into a compact SUV. That makes it one of the best vehicles in its segment, a vehicle equally comfortable transporting kids as swiftly driving through canyon switchbacks. The CX-5 comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 187 horsepower.
It pairs with a slick automatic transmission for decently-quick acceleration. For 2019, Mazda introduced a turbocharged 2.5-liter four that generates up to 250 horsepower. The CX-5 also scores well in quality and reliability surveys. They are high-demand vehicles, but you can get your hands on a well-equipped one starting from under $25,000 or a turbocharged version for less than $30,000.
Over successive generations of production, the Subaru Outback has slowly morphed from a station wagon into an SUV, making it one of the more versatile picks in its segment. The Outback still has all of the cargo space one could want, plus split-folding back seats for even more capacity. It's now taller, longer, and more off-road-capable.
The Outback is essentially a raised version of the Subaru Legacy sedan, sharing that car's premium ride quality and comfort. It represents a radical departure from boxier SUV competitors while still delivering similar utility.
Like most other Subarus, the Outback employs a 'flat' four-cylinder engine to get power, which sits lower in the engine bay than a regular motor, thus giving the car better stability. In this application, the 2.5-liter flat-four produces 182 horsepower and returns up to 33 mpg highway, one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles of its type. Subaru also sells an XT version of the Outback that carries a 260-horsepower 2.4-liter turbo-four, providing significantly more speed with little fuel economy loss. Subaru also includes several driver assistance features on its cars, and the Outback scores highly in crash tests. Meanwhile, all Outbacks come standard with Subaru's excellent AWD system and rugged body parts, making trustworthy transportation in bad weather. You can have all of the Outback's premium appeal in a gently-used car for around $35,000.
Like Mazda, BMW is another brand that has evolved from fun-to-drive cars to SUVs that carry the brand's essence. The X3 embodies this shift, a boxy and upright family vehicle with car-like handling. The base engine is a turbocharged four-cylinder producing 248 horsepower, plenty for most drivers. Stepping up to the X3 xDrive30e plug-in hybrid returns 288 horsepower along with an EPA EV-equivalent fuel economy of 60 MPGe. The top-of-the-line xDrive M40i delivers 382 horsepower with its turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder. Those that need explosive acceleration can opt for the X3 M, a separate model with up to 503 horsepower.
The X3 includes all of BMW's best-known attributes, like an understated cabin packed with finely-crafted controls. The current generation of X3, introduced for 2018, uses the iDrive infotainment system to manage nearly every vehicle setting with relative ease. BMW offers all of the most desirable amenities, either standard or optionally, like a Harman Kardon premium audio system, ventilated front seats, and a panoramic sunroof. Used examples can be found for reasonable pricing while delivering similar comfort to rivals like Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Used X3s range in price from $35,000-$70,000, depending on equipment.
Few SUVs have the legendary off-road skills of a Toyota 4Runner. The midsize SUV uses a body-on-frame chassis and available low-range 4WD to help it traverse mud, snow, and rocky trails far beyond a crossover SUV's toolkit. The 4Runner's image as a rugged outsider gets bolstered by its trademark square-jawed styling and large tires.
Whether buying new or used, there are a few flaws the 4Runner has yet to overcome. Toyota built it to be capable off-road, meaning it does not have the on-road driving refinement or comfort of many modern SUVs. Fuel economy also takes a hit against more aerodynamic rivals. The 4Runner employs a brawny 270-horsepower V6 engine that delivers a standard 5,000 pounds of towing, but the EPA estimates just 16 mpg in city driving. And while Toyota has been rapidly adding safety technologies to it in recent years, most model years of the 4Runner fall woefully behind the segment in that regard.
But many 4Runner fans won't care about the gas mileage or the available driver-assistance systems. It is an SUV in the classic tradition, delivering fun all-terrain performance. The 4Runner also has one of the best reputations for dependability on the market, making it a smart option for those buying pre-owned. Pricing on used 4Runners is famously high, so it will be hard to find a recent, well-maintained example for under $40,000.
Redesigned for 2019, the third-generation Acura RDX has a smooth ride and good fuel economy, as well as plenty of passenger space. Active driver assists are standard across the lineup, while the RDX's turbocharged 272-horsepower four-cylinder engine provides satisfying acceleration. The interior also took a significant step up over previous iterations with its recent redesign. The driver controls and infotainment features are among the most user-friendly in the segment. The RDX's available options include an Acura/ELS sound system for crisp audio clarity.
Front-wheel-drive is standard but the optional "Super Handling" all-wheel-drive is available for extra traction. Its ability to shift power not only between left and right wheels and not just front and rear means it can aid in handling on dry surfaces. That reveals the RDX's more sporty intentions, but it remains most at home on the pavement and as a practical compact luxury SUV. Prices start from about $30,000 on the used market.
What list of used SUVs would be complete without the Lexus RX? This midsize crossover is a heavyweight of the pre-owned conversation, thanks to its superb reputation for reliability. Like other Lexus models, the RX benefits from parent company Toyota's innovations, imbuing it with a silky-smooth powertrain that rarely skips a beat.
If you look at one of the newer RX model years, you will doubtless find a 3.5-liter V6 engine under the hood. This motor has become a mainstay of Lexus' lineup due to its refined nature and good fuel efficiency. Recent versions of the RX produce 295 horsepower, returning around 22 mpg in mixed driving. Those wanting even better mileage can opt for a hybrid variant with 308 total horsepower, and drivers can expect to see about 30 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
Typical of a Lexus, the RX is exceptionally quiet inside, and all of the interior buttons and switches show off the brand's meticulous craftsmanship. Also characteristic of Lexus, resale values are strong. Prepare to pay from $40,000.
When it first debuted in 1996, a relatively simple and straightforward machine, the Toyota RAV4 has blossomed into one of the most advanced small family vehicles on the market.
Redesigned for 2019, the RAV4 comes equipped with driver safety features and a surprisingly roomy cabin. Meanwhile, it has nimble handling and a small size for effortless parking and navigation through narrow streets. A 202-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine powers most versions. Toyota also offers hybrid and RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid versions for those interested in greater fuel economy or an electric-only range. The Hybrid can get an EPA-estimated 40 mpg in blended driving, while the Prime can run up to 42 miles solely on electricity.
The Toyota RAV4 has long battled the Honda CR-V for compact SUV supremacy, with the Mazda CX-5 recently joining that fight, too. All three SUVs represent fantastic values. While the CR-V is tuned more for comfort and the CX-5 more for sporty driving, many customers will find the RAV4 to be a nice compromise. Models made since the 2019 redesign run about $25,000-$30,000, while the 2021 Prime retails for about $40,000.
Safety is important to many buyers, and some want a new car to get the most advanced features. The three-row Volvo XC90 epitomizes Volvo's wisdom that passenger safety should be the top priority. A brand new XC90 will inevitably have the latest and greatest tech, but even a slightly-used version from a couple of years ago will deliver an impressive amount of equipment. Typical of Volvo, the XC90 gets a lot of high-strength materials and advanced safety features to make it consistently perform well in crash tests. And technology like blind-spot monitoring and the Pilot Assist advanced driver assistance system also helps prevent collisions from occurring in the first place. Also, the XC90 has one of the most beautiful interiors on the market. Volvo takes a different approach to luxury than ritzy competitors, giving the SUV a minimalist appeal and art-deco trim accents.
The XC90 comes standard with a 2.0-liter turbo four producing 250 horsepower, with those models called T5. Stepping up to T6 models provides a 316-horsepower supercharged and turbocharged engine. Those wanting the most power and efficiency can select the T8 with 400 horsepower. It's a plug-in hybrid that gets 27 mpg combined and offers an 18-mile all-electric driving range. XC90s from 2016 and newer generally cost around $35,000 to $60,000.
The midsize SUV market has long been missing a frontrunner. Until recently, that is. The Kia Telluride is one of the newest vehicles from the South Korean automaker, a three-row SUV that wows with its refinement, comfort, and a generous list of standard features.
The Telluride feels like more of a complete package than rivals such as the Chevrolet Traverse and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Mechanically similar to the Hyundai Palisade, the Telluride uses a supple chassis, smooth 291-horsepower V6 engine, and quick-shifting automatic transmission. It provides engaging driving performance for a vehicle its size. EPA fuel economy is quite competitive.
Where the Telluride excels is inside its polished cabin. With three spacious rows of seating, it's a great option for families. You can fold down both rear rows for a vast cargo area, too. The Telluride features high-quality materials, along with seamlessly integrated technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As it arrived for 2020, demand is still sky-high for the Kia Telluride. Plan to pay roughly $30,000-$40,000 used.