Twenty thousand dollars doesn’t buy many new SUVs anymore. As of this writing, it buys just one, the Jeep Compass. However, the used market delivers a lot more variety. If you’re sticking to a responsible budget, here are your best options for great SUV at a great price.
The popular RAV4 is a strong seller due to high value for a low price. This compact SUV has proven reliable over the last 20 years, and four-cylinder efficiency allows 29 MPG with all-wheel drive, and there’s a hybrid option if you need to hit mid 30s on the highway. But it’s more than just an efficient commuter. The RAV4 can seat five passengers in comfort with all their luggage or additional furry family members and superior headroom and legroom for the class. The small footprint and light weight mean it’s easy to park, shockingly adept off-road, and a surprisingly fun to drive.
Why get revved up for a RAV4? It is Toyota’s best-selling model, and 400,000+ people annually can’t be wrong.
Need more pace than a compact SUV offers? Check out the persistently reliable Pilot. One of the first crossover SUVs, this midsize rides quiet like a minivan thanks to its Odyssey underpinnings. The Pilot is also bigger in every dimension than archrival Toyota Highlander. When properly configured, the three-row seating provides space for eight people. Consumer Reports said the ride comfort, noise isolation, outward visibility, and driving position earned their highest “Very Good” score. With a wide variety of advanced safety features, towing ability of 1,500 lbs, and 27 MPG highway, the Pilot is an all-around respectable choice.
Why take-off in a Pilot? This is the vehicle that can comfortably do it all, the Pilot is why people buys SUVs instead of sedans.
One of the secret hits on this list, the full-size Flex sees annual sales just 1/20th of the RAV4, but owner loyalty is best in class. The Flex looks like a boxy Kia Soul ate a Super Mario mushroom and doubled in size. The unique looks translate to a cavernous interior, with 83 cu-ft when the seats are folded down. That’s more than the Explorer. Even with the old school panel van vibe, the driving experience is more like a sedan than large van, as the Flex chassis is shared with the quietly capable Lincoln MKS. Consumer Reports loves the EcoBoost Flex, ranking it as Ford’s most reliable vehicle. The “floating roof” design looks evokes Range Rover, looking upscale for the class.
Why step to the Flex? It simply looks like nothing else on the road, in a good way, but has all the storage and features of a minivan, and drives like a car.
Chevy’s big SUVs hits all the right marks for durability, capability, passenger comfort, towing, and cargo space. The kind of stuff that impresses real people, not actors. Despite its dreadful commercials, the Tahoe is a worthy hauler for the large family. There’s a Blu-ray player and screen for rear entertainment, and almost as many USB ports as cup holders. The big 5.3-liter V8 delivers 355 horsepower, but won’t dent your wallet at 23 MPG highway. That engine was built for torque, and with the optional tow package, the Tahoe can pull 6,500 lbs. If you can’t picture that much, it’s basically a Honda Pilot, and a Harley-Davidson Road Glide, sitting on a good sized trailer.
What makes a Tahoe great? You can bet money this SUV will still be on the road after 200,000 miles, according to an extensive iSeeCars survey.
How about some luxury for under $20,000? While the RDX is cushy, it’s offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and the ground clearance to get you through any icy conditions. The standard 3.5-liter V6 is powerful at 280 horsepower, but efficiency is Honda’s thing, and this five-seater can hit 28 MPG. The seats are fabulously comfy, and the SUV has a surprising sporty character without creating a harsh ride. The RDX has Acura’s legendary reputation for reliability, plus charismatic good looks, refined ride, and luxurious and quiet interior. MotorTrend had no issues during their MDX long-term test, other than they didn’t really want to give it back.
Why is the RDX the accurate choice? Reliability and luxury in one package can be hard to find. The RDX has great features and safety, for an SUV you won’t regret.