Consumer Reports’ Best Used SUVs Under $20K in 2018
While the used car market can be tricky to navigate, you can’t say there isn’t any data when you start your search. In fact, you should probably start with the models from recent years Consumers Reports said you should never buy.
That list contains dozens of subpar vehicles, as does the 2018 dependability study by J.D. Power. Once you know what not to get from the last several years of SUV releases, your choice will become easier.
If you are working with $20,000 or less, the list gets even smaller. That said, here are the nine SUVs Consumer Reports picked as safe bets for used vehicle shoppers on a budget in 2018.
1. Toyota Venza
- Recommended years: 2009-12
This model may be the least-known of the bunch. Toyota Venza, a wagon-esque vehicle that departed the U.S. market in 2015, posted some of the strongest reliability scores of the decade.
As of Spring 2018, the model years recommended by Consumer Reports (’09-’12) sold for less than $15,000 in most cases.
Next: Honda’s compact SUV has been a crowd-pleaser for more than a decade.
2. Honda CR-V
- Recommended years: 2008-14
It would be hard for Consumer Reports to recommend a used Honda CR-V more strongly, and owners seem to agree. In a 2018 study of which cars people keep the longest, a remarkable number had kept their CR-V over 15 years.
The farther back you go, the better shot you have at finding a model under $10,000. For the most recent model (2014), expect to pay north of $15,000, but you’ll get the type of features that cost far more new.
Next: This model posted perfect reliability scores for 13 years straight.
3. Toyota 4Runner
- Recommended years: 2008-09
You’d have to go back to 2005 to find a year when Toyota 4Runner didn’t land the top reliability score from Consumer Reports. If you trust these rankings (and most people do), it’s the most reliable car of this decade.
That means used 10-year-old 4Runner can cost upwards of $15,000 in 2018, depending on the options and mileage. But chances are solid you can take it to 200,000 miles or more.
Next: This late-model Mazda doesn’t neglect the fun-to-drive factor.
4. Mazda CX-5
- Recommended years: 2013-15
While some of the Consumer Reports recommendations bring used car shoppers back to the previous decade, this pick from Mazda comes from years as recent as 2015. That year, the CX-5 landed the top reliability score — its best performance to date.
From a search on Cars.com, we found hundreds of ’15 Grand Touring models — many with all-wheel drive — selling for less than $15,000 in March 2018. That’s a great deal on an SUV that’s also fun to drive.
Next: This SUV was America’s biggest keeper over the past 15 years.
5. Toyota Highlander
- Recommended years: 2008-10
If how long an original owner keeps a vehicle matters to you, then check out a Toyota Highlander. When iSeeCars.com rounded up the used cars people held onto at least 15 years, nothing could top Highlander.
Its always-solid reliability ratings make it hold its value on the used market, so you’ll have to go back to at least 2011 to find one below $20,000. Head back to ’08 and you can score a Highlander below $15,000.
Next: The luxury version of CR-V is another recommended model.
6. Acura RDX
- Recommended years: 2009-10, 2012
A 2018 Acura RDX will run buyers close to $40,000, so finding an affordable, reliable version of this compact SUV takes some doing. The 2012 edition ($14,000-$16,000) might be used car consumers’ best bet.
While this RDX might not have the flash or tech of the newest model, it’s got the highest Consumer Reports rating for reliability and represents an upgrade over the CR-V (on which it’s based).
Next: Used car shoppers can’t go wrong with this bulletproof Toyota SUV.
7. Toyota RAV4
- Recommended years: 2008-13
Toyota RAV4 is on an extraordinary streak for reliability. Owners haven’t lodged a major complaint about this nameplate since 2012, and it stands among the five most bulletproof vehicles of the decade.
To find examples below $15,000 that still have plenty of life left, go with a RAV4 from the previous generation (2013 or later).
Next: This luxury SUV combines the dependability of a Toyota with upscale features.
8. Lexus RX
- Recommended years: 2008-10
Like most Toyota models released since 2008, Lexus RX has been close to perfect in Consumer Reports reliability ratings. However, you’ll have to go back a generation or two to find one that’s affordably priced.
In 2018, the sweet spot seems to be in the 2010 edition, which launched the previous generation. Outside of a few suspension issues, this model was near flawless, and the average price sat around $15,000 in early spring.
Next: This three-row SUV put another feather in Toyota’s cap over the past decade.
9. Toyota Sequoia
- Recommended years: 2008
To find the SUV that matches Toyota’s full-size Tundra in size and power, used vehicle shoppers will turn to Sequoia. Like the other models recommended by Consumer Reports, Sequoia has been among the most reliable nameplates over the past decade.
Because it starts above $45,000, finding an affordable model means going back to at least 2010. The sweet spot may exist in the ’08 model, which could be had below $15,000.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!