More and more, compact SUVs are becoming the go-to cars for American families, but owing to their popularity, these SUVs can get rather pricey. You can save a lot of cash by buying used, but which compact SUVs make the best second-hand purchases? We’ve picked the 10 Best Used Compact SUVs that make excellent buys. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
10 Best Used Compact SUVs
Photo Credit: General Motors
2010 – 2017 Chevrolet Equinox
There was a time when it seemed as if half of American families had a Chevy wagon in the driveway. If more buyers test-drove the Equinox, we think those glory days could come back. The Equinox is a simple and straightforward SUV that masters the basics. It’s got plenty of room, it’s comfortable to ride in, and it’s easy to park. The fact that the Equinox is a domestic product keeps used prices down, as does the fact that Chevy made few changes between 2010 and 2017. (A new Equinox made its debut for the 2018 model year.) Shop carefully for a well-maintained low-mileage example, and you’ll have a family-friendly compact SUV that will treat you well.
Photo Credit: Honda
2012 - 2016 Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V pretty much defined the compact SUV market when it made its debut in 1995, and it’s still the standard by which most other vehicles in the class are judged. Honda introduced an all-new fifth-generation CR-V for 2017, and it’s telling that they didn’t stray much from the previous (fourth-gen) iteration. The 2012-2016 CR-Vs were among the best vehicles in their class, with spacious interiors and good driving dynamics. The CR-V got a new powertrain starting with the 2015 model, and it’s more fuel-efficient than the 2012-2014 versions, though all CR-Vs from this generation are pretty miserly. Used Hondas don’t come cheap, but they are great long-term investments, and a well-cared-for Honda should be able to hit the 200,000-mile mark without too many problems.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
2015 - 2016 Hyundai Tucson
The Hyundai Tucson is a good SUV that has been getting better and better over the years, and the latest iteration (introduced in 2015,) is a major leap forward. Hyundais have always delivered good value, but the 2015-2016 Tucsons are equally notable for their handsome styling and upscale interiors. There are two engine choices - the 1.6 turbo is the more fuel-efficient choice, but it can be very sluggish off the line (a consequence of paring a small-displacement turbo engine with a dual-clutch automatic transmission.) We prefer the 2.0-liter non-turbo engine, though it’s only offered in low and mid-level trims.
Photo Credit: Jeep
1986 – 2016 Jeep Wrangler
The Jeep Wrangler is a motoring icon, and if your plans include any serious off-roading, the Wrangler should be on your shopping list. One of the few SUVs designed expressly for off-road performance, a Wrangler in stock form is nearly unstoppable over the rough stuff—and we’re not just talking about washboard roads, we mean boulders and felled trees. Keep in mind, however, that the Wrangler’s off-road abilities come at a price. Its on-road manners suffer, and it’s less comfortable and less controllable in a panic swerve than other compact SUVs. Which iteration to choose? The Wrangler has a 30-year history, and frankly, they are all pretty good (hence our recommendation going back as far as 1986). The four-door Wrangler Unlimited may tempt families, but keep in mind what we said about on-road performance. Cool as it is, the Wrangler may not be the best nor the safest choice for a family.
Photo Credit: Kia
2009 – 2015 Kia Sportage
We were a little dismayed by the styling of the latest (2016) Kia Sportage, but the previous model, sold from 2009 to 2015, remains a favorite of ours. The Sportage was one of the first vehicles designed after Kia lured designer Peter Schreyer from Audi, and it shows in the Sportage’s sharp styling and surprisingly upscale interior. This version of the Sportage is available with either a 2.4-liter engine or a 2.0 turbo, with the former being more than adequate and the latter puts the "Sport" in Sportage, turning it into a family-friendly rocket ship. As always, we suggest you seek out a low-mileage model that has been well cared for (service and maintenance receipts are signs of a properly-maintained example.) We’re sure you’ll be as happy with your used Kia Sportage as the people who bought it new.
Photo Credit: Mazda
2012 – 2016 Mazda CX-5
The first-generation Mazda CX-5 was a watershed in the SUV segment, one that proved that SUVs need not be dull to drive. If you test drive several makes and models, we have no doubt you’ll find the Mazda more engaging than the others. Mazda introduced a new CX-5 in 2017, and the one thing it has that the first-generation (2012-2016) cars lack is an upscale interior. The interior of the older CX-5s may not be the cheeriest, but it’s well organized and easy to use, and there’s plenty of space for passengers and luggage. If you love to drive, a used CX-5 makes an excellent choice.
Photo Credit: Mitsubishi
2013 – 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander
Mitsubishi has been struggling as a brand, and dealers are getting hard to find. That’s something you should consider even when buying used because if your vehicle is new enough to have warranty protection, you’ll want to have a dealer close by. That said, we don’t think the Outlander should be overlooked, as it’s a competent SUV that does the job as well as the competition. We’re particularly fond of Mitsubishi’s all-wheel-drive system, which is one of the more sophisticated setups on the market and makes the Outlander very sure-footed in bad weather. (Contrary to popular belief, not all all-wheel-drive systems are created equal.) Mitsubishi made a series of improvements to the 2015 model, so we’d recommend a newer one if you can find one at a reasonable price, and given Mitsubishi’s struggles and the effect that has had on resale values, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Photo Credit: Nissan
2014 – 2016 Nissan Rogue
The Rogue is turning out to be a hot seller for Nissan, and with good reason. It’s good looking, it has a posh interior, and it’s very solidly put together. The Rogue isn’t the most exciting vehicle to drive, but it’s practical, reliable, and dangerously close to feeling luxurious. We’ve picked the second-generation Rogue for our list, but the first-generation (2007-2013) Rogue is a good choice as well. It’s not as fancy as the newer version, but it’s roomy and functional, and given Nissan’s reputation for durability, one can safely consider a higher-mileage example if the price is right.
Photo Credit: Subaru Media
2014 – 2016 Subaru Forester
Subaru has a long and loyal following, and their sales have tripled in the past decade or so. That’s partially due to the Forester, a handy SUV that brings Subaru’s traditional values (reliability, individuality, and great foul-weather traction) to a more conventional vehicle. There’s only one problem with buying a used Subaru Forester - they can be very hard to find. Last time we trolled the local dealerships for one, all we found were brand-new cars and used examples with 165,000 miles, because buyers tend to keep them forever. Shop carefully, find a clean low-mileage example, and the chances are that you, too, will fall in love.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2013-2016 Toyota RAV4
Like the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4 was one of the first vehicles to introduce Americans to the compact SUV, and like the Honda, it remains an excellent buy to this day. Though it doesn’t feel quite as spacious as the CR-V, the Toyota is practical and eminently sensible, and it’s also built like the proverbial brick house. Most RAV4s are seemingly allergic to repair shops. The RAV4 is the only compact hybrid on this list to offer a hybrid version, it was introduced for the 2016 model year, so you can get one used.