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Best Used SUVs Under $20,000 for 2022

By Michael O'Connor | March 9, 2022

SUVs have become some of the most popular vehicles on the market today with new technology, better fuel efficiency, and more comprehensive safety features.

However, they are also getting increasingly expensive because of these innovations. So, if you are working with a budget, it might be challenging to find one that suits your needs and lifestyle.

Fortunately, there are also plenty of great SUVs on the used car market. For under $20,000, you can find the perfect crossover, midsize, or full-size SUV for you and your family. By knowing which of the best used SUVs are available and what to look for, you can drive away with a vehicle that will serve you well for many years.

Here's a look at our top picks:


1. 2008-2014 Honda CR-V

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In the world of compact crossover SUVs, the Honda CR-V was one of the pioneers and continues to be popular. While it is not the most powerful vehicle in its class, it has a spacious interior and incredibly responsive handling. There are also plenty of CR-Vs available on the market for less than $20,000, and for that price point, you should be able to find a third or fourth-generation example in reasonably good condition and with slight wear and tear.

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The CR-V has never been known as a powerhouse with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine putting out 180 horsepower and 161 lb-ft of torque. However, it has an EPA estimated 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway fuel economy, which puts it on par with similar vehicles of the time. It was equipped from new with standard front-wheel-drive, but there are many all-wheel-drive examples out there. The interior is also large enough for almost any cargo with 73 cubic feet of space with the rear seats down.

Browse used 2008-2014 Honda CR-V listings here.


2. 2007-2014 Toyota RAV4

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The Toyota RAV4 straddles the line between compact and midsize crossover and was one of the first SUVs to be built and designed based on a car instead of a truck. The model years available for less than $20,000 feature a reasonably powerful 176 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder as a standard but can also be found with a 3.5-liter V6 putting out 269 horsepower and 246 lb-ft of torque. They are also available with either front- or all-wheel-drive and a tow package that can pull up to 3,500 pounds, which is more than enough for a boat or small trailer.

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Where the RAV4 shines, though, is in its handling. If you want an SUV but aren't interested in learning how to drive a big, gas-guzzling vehicle, the RAV4 could be perfect for you. It has tight, responsive handling and a smooth ride that feels much more like a sedan than an SUV. It also features up to 73 cubic feet of cargo space for people who need to haul groceries or equipment all around town.

Browse used 2007-2014 Toyota RAV4 listings here.


3. 2013-2016 Mazda CX-5

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When it comes to safe yet entertaining SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 is an excellent example of what's available for under $20,000. It has a spacious interior and is incredibly fun to drive, which tends to be missing with even the smallest SUVs on the market. Later models also offer automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning, which other SUVs in this class were slower to adopt. It also features great fuel economy with an EPA-estimated 29 mpg combined city and highway efficiency.

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The CX-5 features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. That may not seem like much, but its low weight and optional AWD make it quick and light on its feet. However, many examples have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that puts out 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque for more substantial power in a practical five-seat SUV like the CX-5. It's a quick and athletic SUV that's an excellent option for people who want the most fun out of their used SUV without having to sacrifice cargo space or comfort.

Browse used 2013-2016 Mazda CX-5 listings here.


4. 2014-2018 Nissan Rogue

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The Nissan Rogue is an incredibly family-oriented three-row crossover SUV designed for comfort and functionality. It can seat up to seven passengers with the third-row seating installed, which is not a capability that SUVs in this class usually have. While it may not be the most potent or engaging SUV available, it is one of the safest, with the highest possible rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and four out of five stars for crash protection from the federal government's tests. That makes it a safe choice for people looking for security instead of performance from their new car.

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The Rogue features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. The years available for under $20,000 come standard with a continuously variable automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive. However, all-wheel drive is also available. Where the Rogue shines, however, is in its fuel efficiency. With 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, it is comparable to much smaller vehicles and offers a lot of fuel economy for its size.

Browse used 2014-2018 Nissan Rogue listings here.


5. 2009-2013 Toyota Highlander

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The Toyota Highlander is one of the most popular midsize SUVs on the market, and that is due in no small part to its mix of power and drivability. With less-than-flashy styling and room for seven passengers, the Highlander is a perfect SUV for people who want a daily driver they can depend on no matter what the circumstances. In addition, it comes with comprehensive safety features and a comfortable cabin and can easily be found for less than $20,000 in any market that sells the best used cars.

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The Highlander features two available engines: a 2.7-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. The latter is the most popular and will give you enough power for almost any application. Front-wheel drive is standard, but an AWD version is also available, making this SUV a quick, fun vehicle for many drivers.

Browse used 2009-2013 Toyota Highlander listings here.


6. 2007-2013 Chevrolet Tahoe

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In the realm of full-size SUVs with the same power and heavy-duty build quality as the largest pickups, the Chevy Tahoe is at the top of the heap. For a used SUV that can handle the most demanding jobs while still offering comfort and convenience, this could be a good option for you. With enough power to tow up to 8,200 pounds, there is almost nothing this vehicle can't do, including comfortably hauling your family to and from school or carrying a load of groceries.

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The drivetrain in the model years available for under $20,000 is a 5.3-liter V8 putting out 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. This massive engine is unprecedented in the Tahoe's class and is one of the main selling points for most people. Despite its size, the Tahoe has a powerful braking system and a stopping distance of just 134 feet from 60 mph. That, combined with its five-star rating in government crash testing, makes it a great choice for people who want safety and security with their power.

Browse used 2007-2013 Chevrolet Tahoe listings here.


7. 2013-2017 Ford Escape

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The Ford Escape is one of the premier American-made compact SUVs on the market and an ideal option for those needing a little bit of extra fuel efficiency with their vehicle. With an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 23 mpg city and 32 highway, the Escape is based on the Ford Focus platform and has many options for the powertrain. Available engines include a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that adds 10 horsepower and more torque, and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Most models on the used market have one of the turbocharged engines.

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The Escape has driver assistance features such as blind-spot monitoring and Ford's MyKey system for setting speed limiters. It also has Ford's MyFord Touch touchscreen infotainment system, allowing you to adjust to the stereo and climate control system. The whole interior is incredibly comfortable, and the small-car drivability of the suspension makes the Escape feel much more agile and responsive.

Browse used 2013-2017 Ford Escape listings here.


8. 2013-2015 Hyundai Tucson

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Although the Hyundai Tucson is technically a compact crossover, it may be more at home in the subcompact category. With a nose-to-tail length of just 173 inches, it is shorter than both the RAV4 and the Chevy Equinox. That makes it suitable for people who like the idea of an SUV but don't want to feel like they are driving a boat around town. Available in three trim levels over the years, buyers can find examples for under $20,000. The Tucson has a lot of options for all kinds of drivers.

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Hyundai offered two engines in this Tucson, including a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 182 horsepower 177 lb-ft of torque. These options run through a six-speed automatic transmission and are available with either front- or all-wheel-drive. As a result, the handling of the Tucson is suited for city driving, and it has a nimble, responsive suspension that is sorely missed in some of its competitors.

Browse used 2013-2015 Hyundai Tucson listings here.


9. 2013-2017 Kia Sportage

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One of the downsides of purchasing an SUV is that they tend to be slightly uninspiring. The Kia Sportage changes all that with its low curb weight and relatively powerful engine. If you want the convenience and comfort of an SUV but don't want to miss out on a fun driving experience, the Sportage could be your best bet. It features a similar body style to comparable SUVs in its class but is much smaller and has a more drivable feel.

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It features two different engines, including a 2.4-liter four-cylinder putting out 182 horsepower and a powerful 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 260 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. That makes it one of the sportiest SUVs on the market, with plenty of power to work alongside its responsive handling. The suspension is tuned to be as snappy and tight as possible, which results in quick cornering but a less-than-comfortable ride quality. If that tradeoff isn't a problem for you, the Sportage could be an excellent choice.

Browse used 2013-2017 Kia Sportage listings here.


10. 2011-2016 Subaru Forester

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For those who want the cargo space and drivability of a crossover with a little bit of the off-road capability generally reserved for a 4x4 like the Jeep Wrangler, the Subaru Forester is a great option. The Forester is an outdoor-oriented driver's dream with an advanced AWD system that shunts power to the wheels and two extra inches of ground clearance compared to other SUVs in its class. With phone and audio connectivity, it also brings some of the most convenient features available on the market to people who don't have the money to purchase a brand new car. It may not have the things a luxury SUV might like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but Subaru's famous reliability and safety help elevate the whole package.

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Like most Subarus, the Forester comes with an all-wheel-drive configuration and their signature horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine. Options for this engine include a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a turbocharged version that puts out 224 horsepower and 226 lb-ft of torque. The interior of the Forester is particularly spartan, but it is functional, and the front and rear seats are comfortable enough for long drives and outings. It's an ideal choice for people wary of driving a large SUV but don't want to sacrifice off-road capabilities or dependability whether they are on the highway or out in the wilderness.

Browse used 2011-2016 Subaru Forester listings here.


Final Thoughts

Buying a used SUV can be difficult since the market is saturated and full of choices. Even with a budget under $20,000, it can be hard to decide between offerings since nearly every automaker makes some version of it, from Volkswagen to BMW to Lexus. Depending on your needs and expectations, you could end up paralyzed with the number of options available to you within your budget.

By understanding what the best SUVs under $20,000 are, you can narrow down your choices a bit and focus on something that will be worth your time and money. Taking the time to understand which SUVs stand out from the crowd can allow you to make the best choice for you and your family and be confident that you have picked the best vehicle your money could buy.