To get an idea of what it costs to own an SUV these days, we turned to Kelley Blue Book’s most recent 5-year cost-of-ownership study. This study takes the vehicle’s sticker price, adjusts for depreciation, and considers the average costs of fuel, insurance, financing, state fees, maintenance, and repairs. Of course, many of these factors vary based on location and driving habits, but the resulting figure is a good benchmark. Kelley Blue Book breaks down the SUVs into three categories: compact, midsize, and fullsize. Spoiler alert: Nothing from the fullsize category makes this list (but in case you’re interested, the 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe LS has the best 5-year cost-to-own rating in that category). Here are 10 of the cheapest SUVs to own, ranked in descending order of KBB 5-year cost-to-own affordability.
10 of the Cheapest SUVs to Own
Photo Credit: Mitsubishi
2017 Mitsubishi Outlander ES — $38,740
The Mitsubishi Outlander is one of the least expensive new midsize suvs on the market, so it makes sense that it kicks off our list of the 10 cheapest SUVs to own. The Outlander comfortably seats seven passengers, and the cabin is surprisingly nice for the price, but those are, by far, the Outlander’s best attributes. The base ES trim level starts at $23,495, and cost-cutting measures are apparent throughout. This Mitsubishi suv is underpowered compared to the competition, and short on standard features that shoppers have come to expect at this level. It certainly is affordable, though. KBB says buyers of the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander ES can expect to spend about $38,740, or 51 cents per mile, over the next five years.
Photo Credit: TJ Keon
2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport — $38,591
Hyundai is known for its value-oriented and family-friendly offerings, so it should be no surprise that one of the brand’s midsize SUVs takes a spot on our list of the 10 cheapest SUVs to own. The Santa Fe Sport isn’t as powerful or as spacious as the regular Santa Fe, but it’ll definitely get the job done, providing good safety scores, high estimated reliability, and comfy seating for five passengers. A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine motivates the Santa Fe Sport with 185 horsepower. The 2016 Santa Fe Sport starts at $25,350. KBB estimates that over the next five years, it’ll cost about $38,591, or 51 cents per mile, to own the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.
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2016 Subaru Outback 2.5i — $37,035
It looks like a wagon, it feels like a wagon, and pretty much everyone (except for KBB) calls it a wagon. Yet, here is the 2016 Subaru Outback listed amongst the cheapest SUVs to own, near the top of the midsize class. Regardless of what you call it, the Outback 2.5i is a solid choice for an affordable vehicle, with family-friendly qualities that help make it an even better value. The Outback 2.5i is the base trim and the 2016 model starts at $24,995. It’s got class-leading cargo capacity, standard all-wheel drive, and a 4-cylinder engine that makes 175 horsepower. Not bad for an estimated cost of ownership of $37,035, or 49 cents a mile.
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2017 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport — $35,601
Believe it or not, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport—the extended-wheelbase version of Jeep’s quintessential open-top rock crawler—is one of the most affordable midsize SUVs you can buy and own. That’s despite the fact that the Wrangler Unlimited is known for mediocre reliability and a thirsty engine. Thanks to its slightly longer 4-door body, the Wrangler Unlimited seats five passengers, and there’s plenty of fun to be had thanks to its class-leading off-road capabilities. The base Sport trim level retails for $27,895, which is pretty expensive for the class, making its inclusion on this list all the more surprising. According to KBB, though, this Jeep carries an estimated ownership cost of $35,601, averaging out to 47 cents per mile.
Photo Credit: Jeep
2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport — $35,382
The period covered by KBB's study includes both the 2016 and the 2017 models of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport, so here you go—you’ve got choices. If you opt for a leftover 2016 model (which is basically the same as the 2017 model), KBB estimates you’ll save a couple hundred bucks over five years. Of course, KBB’s formula doesn’t take into account that you might have more negotiating power on a 2016 vehicle that the dealership might be desperate to sell. If you can get your friendly Jeep salesperson to come down from the $27,695 MSRP, your average cost per mile will go down even more, making this midsize Jeep even more appealing and affordable.
Photo Credit: Jeep
2017 Jeep Wrangler Sport — $34,978
Although the aforementioned Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport is classified as a midsize SUV due to its extended length, the regular Wrangler Sport is counted here as a compact SUV. The Sport is the Wrangler’s base model, a 2-door, 4-passenger option that provides good off-roading functionality for a price of $23,995. The Wrangler’s last redesign was way back in 2007, and the Sport is short on features, but if nothing else, it shows that a Wrangler isn’t necessarily “too expensive,” as is so often said. Owning a Wrangler Sport will cost an estimated $34,978, or 46 cents a mile, for five years, numbers that make this classic Jeep one of the cheapest new suvs to own.
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2017 Jeep Compass Sport — $34,373
Here’s yet another Jeep on this Autobytel list of the 10 cheapest SUVs to own. Buyers in search of a very affordable compact SUV should consider the Jeep Compass in base Sport trim, which costs $19,940. To be fair, the Compass doesn’t get great reviews, because its cheapness is apparent throughout the vehicle’s design and construction. It’s underpowered, the cabin finishes are cheap, and reliability is barely average. But sometimes, the bottom line is what matters most, and the Compass Sport is estimated to cost $34,373 over the next five years, or about 45 cents per mile. If all you need is a cheap crossover, at least the Jeep Compass Sport hits that sweet spot.
Photo Credit: Subaru
2017 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i — $34,110
The Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i is actually a little on the expensive side for the compact and crossover suv classes, starting at $21,695, yet it's relatively affordable to own. The Crosstrek 2.0i’s estimated cost of ownership over five years is $34,110, or 45 cents a mile. Subaru equips the base Crosstrek with an engine that is, in all fairness, rather underpowered—a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that delivers just 148 horsepower. Yet, the Crosstrek delivers pretty good fuel economy for the class, especially considering it comes standard with all-wheel drive. The Crosstrek is also a smart compact crossover to consider if you often find yourself short on space, as it’s got one of the biggest cargo capacities in the class.
Photo Credit: Honda
2016 Honda CR-V LX — $33,211
Though the Honda CR-V has been fully redesigned for the 2017 model year, the Kelley Blue Book ratings consider the 2016 model (which is fine, because you’ll probably get a better deal that way). The LX is the base trim level and carries an MSRP of $23,845 and an estimated total cost of ownership of $33,211 over five years, which comes out to about 44 cents per mile. The CR-V is a popular 5-passenger compact SUV because of its great value—even though it’s extremely affordable, its quality is still top notch, and it’s good reliability and safety scores to prove it. Honda powers the 2016 CR-V with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that has 185 horsepower.
Photo Credit: Jeep
2017 Jeep Patriot Sport — $31,773
The Jeep Patriot Sport is the base trim level of this compact SUV, with an MSRP of $18,040. Its cost of ownership over five years is estimated at $31,773, or 42 cents a mile, which is the best in its class and also the best estimate for any SUV currently on the market. The Patriot Sport seats five passengers and comes with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower. This vehicle is a little skimpy on standard equipment, doesn’t have particularly good reliability ratings, and its safety scores also leave something to be desired, but it does have Jeep’s classic styling elements and is the cheapest way to buy and own an SUV for a few years.