Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips and Reviews

A selection of used SUVs for sale are shown in a showroom.

The Best Bang For Your Used SUV Buck

So you want an SUV, but you don’t want to spend the kind of cash most used ones require? You’re not alone. Sometimes it seems like you blink and the cost of an SUV jumps. Sure, some of that has to do with inflation, and even a bit of it has to do with new technology used in the SUV to make it more fuel-efficient. But just because you don’t want to pay that higher sticker price doesn’t mean you’ll never again drive away in a new SUV. You just need to shop used. Let the person who drove the vehicle before you take the financial depreciation hit. It’s the smart thing to do. It won’t be the newest of the new, but all the extra money left in your bank account sure feels nice. What used SUVs for sale should you consider? Here are a handful of Consumer Reports recommendations that not only will run $20,000 but also have above-average reliability.

2010 Toyota Sequoia

Yes, this SUV is a bit older than the rest you’ll find on this list. It’s a full decade old. But it may just be the most recognized and favorably reviewed SUV available. Carfax gives it a 5 out of 5. U.S. News & World Report gave it an 8.7 out of 10. And Edmunds awarded it a 4.6 out of 5. These are three of the top vehicle reviewing services out there, and all gave it a superior rating.

The fuel economy is going to be a bit lower due to its size and age (up to 14 MPG in the city and 19 MPG on the highway), but it is a large SUV that is big enough for the entire family. It can also tow up to 10,000 pounds based on the trim and upgrade packages. At worst, it will tow 7,500 pounds. So when you want a large SUV that’s going to do everything you want in an SUV, consider the 2010 Toyota Sequoia.

2015 Honda CR-V

One of the popular used SUVs for sale, a red 2015 Honda CR-V, is parked in front of a mountain.

Maybe you don’t want a full-size SUV. Perhaps you’d like something a bit smaller. When that’s the case, the compact SUV Honda CR-V is perfect. You will be able to find some 2015 models for under $20,000 (depending on the mileage), and even those models from a few years prior will work just as well.

The 2015 model is favorably reviewed, with Kelley Blue Book giving it a 4.9 out of 5, Carfax giving it a 4.5 out of 5, and U.S. News giving it an 8.2 out of 10. It is smaller, but with the smaller size, you’re able to up the fuel economy to 27 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on the highway. However, you’re not going to be towing much with it. It maxes out at 1,500 pounds (mostly due to the small 2.4L I4 engine). It isn’t the kind of SUV that will steal glances from other drivers. But sometimes that’s not what you want. If you’re in the mood for a smaller SUV that is reliable and affordable, keep your eyes open for a used Honda CR-V.

2011 Lexus RX

If you thought luxury SUVs were out of your price range, think again. Sure, you’ll need to go with something a bit older if you want something that fits under that $20,000 threshold, but as long as you’re willing to do that, the 2011 Lexus RX. It isn’t as large as the Sequoia, but you’ll feel a similar vibe inside the Lexus RX as you would many of the other Toyotas on this list. It’s also especially well-rated, with U.S. News giving it a 9.1 out of 10 and Cars.com giving it a 4.6 out of 5.

Fuel economy will vary a bit with this model. If you go with the 350 trim, it will top off at around 18 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway. The 450 trim, on the other hand, ups this to 31 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway (thanks to a hybrid feature). It isn’t going to be something you tow large trailers with (it tops off at 2,000 pounds), but when you want a medium-sized SUV, the 2011 Lexus RX is one to consider.

2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek

A silver 2015 Subaru Crosstrek is parked in front of a mountain at dusk.

This is the smallest SUV on the list. In fact, it almost looks more hatchback than SUV, although it is technically a compact crossover SUV. And if you’ve ever met someone who owns a Subaru before they probably rave about it. Well, perhaps it’s time to join the Subaru club. The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek is a fantastic little SUV that may be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

The 2015 model has some solid review numbers, including a 4.5 out of 5 from Kelley Blue Book and a 7.5 out of 10 from U.S. News. What helps separate the Subaru XV Crosstrek from the other inexpensive and reliable models is the four-wheel drive design. It does feature some great fuel economy, including 29 MPG in the city and up to 33 MPG on the highway. It’s not really made to tow (with a max of 1,500 pounds), the engine isn’t going to blow people away either with just a 2.0L I4 that produces 148 horsepower, but it’s a fun, dependable ride that will get you where you need to go.

2011 Toyota 4Runner

The Toyota 4Runner is a fantastic blend of luxury and dependability. While it’s not a Lexus by name, it very much has many of the same features as Toyota’s luxury brand. This full-size SUV has been raved about year in and year out. The 2011 model just happens to fit the under $20K bill. But don’t let the older year frighten you away. It is well received with a 4.7 out of 5 from Carfax, a 4 out of 5 from Motor Trend, and an 8 out of 10 from U.S. News.

It comes with a solid 4.0L V6 engine that gives you power and still some decent fuel economy numbers of 17 MPG in the city and up to 23 MPG on the highway. You can also tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is more than enough in most cases. And in the larger 23-gallon fuel tank and you won’t be forced to stop for gas every two hours while on longer road trips.

Hope You Like Foreign SUVs

Yup, when you look through the list, it’s all foreign-produced SUVs (or at least foreign-owned, because Toyota and other manufacturers now assemble the SUVs here in the States). That’s not to say you can’t find a solid Ford or Dodge SUV. But while Toyota and Honda might not make the sexiest looking SUVs, there’s really no denying the reliability of the vehicles. While you’re free to buy any kind of used SUV, these are just the best priced and most reliable. Is there something other than price point and reliability that might sway you in another direction? By all means, let us know. We’d love to know what tickles your buying bone and sways you in a different direction.

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