Figuring out which of the cheapest used SUVs have the most safety features can feel a lot like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. In the automotive world, cheap isn’t typically associated with being well-equipped, so it takes some sleuthing to find the sweet spot between safety and affordability as you search through the models at your used SUV dealer. Newer base models tend to have more standard advanced safety technology, but you don’t always need radar, cameras, and sophisticated sonar to stay safe on the road.
As you explore your options, start with browsing the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Picks lists for each model year. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) also publishes an annual list of crash test ratings to help buyers check out the safest SUVs in each size and price category. From there, you’ll want to consider which manufacturers offer the most standard safety equipment across the trim range.
You shouldn’t have to stretch into the most expensive trim to unlock the most advanced technology. Doing so will end up increasing your payments, which puts you at a financial disadvantage. Instead, consider these five used SUVs, which represent the best value and provide a plethora of safety-oriented features and design elements for buyers who don’t want to break the bank on their SUV purchase.
#1: Safest Small SUV – The 2018 Nissan Rogue
As Nissan’s best-selling vehicle, there’s a lot riding on the sporty Nissan Rogue. Nissan’s continuous commitment to innovation shows up especially prominently in the 2018 Rogue lineup. 2018 model year highlights include available ProPILOT Assist, a suite of driver-assist technologies that utilize the latest camera, radar, and sonar technology to give drivers an extra set of eyes in historically challenging driving situations.
The 2018 Rogue received a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, including the highest rating for front crash prevention. Best of all, buyers don’t have to travel to the top of the trim range to receive the Rogue’s best and most effective safety technologies. Nissan includes a Collision Warning System, Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert on all Rogue trims, as well as standard LED daytime running lights and taillights.
The Rogue features six airbags, including airbags located at the front, side, and side curtain. Intermittent windshield wipers also come standard, along with a handy feature called Hill Holder that keeps the vehicle from rolling downhill when stopped on an incline. Parking Distance Sensors, typically considered a premium feature, are also included on all 2018 Rogue trims. Higher trims, such as the top-of-the-line SL, include fog lights, surround view monitor, and additional driver-assist systems, including Lane Departure Warning System.
#2: Safest Luxury SUV – The 2019 Acura RDX
Boasting a Five Star Overall Safety Rating from the NHTSA, the completely redesigned 2019 Acura RDX hit dealerships with a long list of advantages over the competition. The 2019 model year represents the first year of the RDX’s third generation. Manufactured in the U.S., the 2019 RDX features a lighter and more rigid body and a unique “double ring” frame made of high-performance steel.
Standard AcuraWatch encloses the RDX in a virtual bubble of safety with a diverse suite of driver-assist systems, and the included multi-angle backup camera makes parking a breeze. Upper-level trims offer a head-up display, and the available Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system delivers traction right where you need it in adverse road and weather conditions. Paired with the RDX’s VSA––Variable Stability Assist––system, ride handling in any condition is easier and safer.
The RDX’s door reinforcement architecture was an industry first in 2018. The design reinforces the vehicle’s front doors for better front occupant protection. In the rear, the vehicle’s double-ring frame incorporates two layers of steel into the SUV’s unibody construction and reinforces each attachment point for better rigidity and, ultimately, a safer cabin for your passengers. Other standard safety features include automatic high beams and available LED fog lights.
#3: Safest Midsize SUV – The 2019 Subaru Ascent
The Subaru Ascent represents the first-ever Subaru with three rows of seats. The popular midsize SUV debuted in the 2019 model year to rave reviews and superior NHTSA and IIHS safety ratings. The seven or eight-passenger Ascent features Subaru’s legendary Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, along with EyeSight Driver Assist, a suite of five advanced safety systems that includes a head-up display and adaptive cruise control.
With so many advanced safety features, the Ascent represents one of the safest and most capable three-row SUVs on the market. The high-end Limited includes LED Steering Responsive Headlights that follow the direction you’re turning to illuminate what’s ahead, as well as a set of LED fog lights. Moving up to the top-of-the-line Touring model adds rain-sensing wipers, a Smart Rear View Mirror, and a front-view camera that displays a 180-degree view.
The 2019 Ascent earned the highest possible rating, a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS, and a Five Star Overall Safety Rating from the NHTSA. In a long-term review, Kelley Blue Book remarked that the Subaru Ascent “offers an excellent variety of safety features,” and CNET reported that Subaru’s EyeSight technology delivered “peace of mind on the road.” Overall, the Ascent embodies all of Subaru’s most coveted attributes: safety features, all-wheel drive powertrain, and rigid frame architecture, making it perfect for growing families.
#4: Safest Overall SUV – The 2017 Nissan Armada
Nissan took its time redesigning the largest SUV in the lineup, the three-row Armada, but when the all-new 2017 Armada finally hit showrooms in late 2016, journalists agreed it was the best Armada ever. Boasting tons of horsepower and capability, plush, luxurious interior appointments, and an impressive list of safety features and systems, the 2017 Armada was tailor-made for larger families looking for spacious accommodations and a touch of luxury in their daily family driver.
Standout safety features on this large SUV include an advanced Predictive Forward Collision Warning system that uses radar to detect potential obstacles far off in the distance and track the vehicle in front of the one you’re driving behind. The vehicle’s available Intelligent Cruise Control system lets you set a predetermined distance from the car ahead. Other safety features include Blind Spot Warning, Blind Spot Intervention, and Lane Departure Warning and Prevention.
Nissan’s Advanced Airbag Systems includes a unique dual-stage airbag layout featuring roof-mounted supplemental airbags and a rollover sensor that triggers additional rollover head protection across each of the three rows. The Armada’s body-on-frame construction gives the SUV a truck-like toughness without compromising premium road manners and ride handling. Standard LED headlights and taillights increase visibility and make nighttime driving safer.
Finding a Safe Used SUV Isn’t as Hard as It Seems
Finding a safe SUV at a great price isn’t as hard as you think. Many buyers on a budget worry that finding a used SUV with modern safety features won’t be possible, but if you keep your search to newer used models and take a little extra time to investigate standard and optional features, you’ll likely find multiple options in your price range. From subcompact SUVs like the Nissan Rogue to giant people movers like the Armada, great deals are available in every size category, as well as within the luxury SUV subset.
Older SUVs offer plenty of great safety features, but you won’t find modern driver-assist technology on older models. Why is that important? Modern systems like Forward Collision Alert and Lane Keeping Assist are proven to keep occupants safer, so if it’s optimal safety you’re seeking, stick with a newer model SUV to reap the benefits of semi-autonomous safety technology.