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The 10 Most Reliable SUVs On The Used Market

David Collins9-minute read
UPDATED: December 12, 2022


Table Of Contents

    There are so many sport utility vehicles (SUV) on the road today, of so many sizes and at so many price points, that it can be difficult to define what an SUV is. What is clear, however, is that people really like them. SUVs, sometimes also called crossover utility vehicles (CUV), meet consumer needs somewhere between cars and trucks, offering more space than compact cars or sedans of a similar wheelbase but with a smoother ride than most trucks. The most reliable SUVs also provide versatile seating and storage options, an elevated view of the road, proven durability and good fuel economy. And most have an all-wheel-drive option, which provides extra safety for busy families.

    What Makes The Most Reliable SUVs?

    We researched the SUV reliability ratings from select independent sources going back several years to present a solid list of SUVs, of different market classes (compact, large, luxury, etc.), that are widely available and among the most reliable in today’s used car market. Sources include nonprofit consumer advocacy organizations such as Consumer Reports, market analytics companies such as J.D. Power, as well as independent automotive press organizations.

    Vehicles were considered for their overall reliability within the standard and luxury sub-classes of compact SUV, midsize SUV and large SUV. Towing capability and reliability of body-on-frame SUVs are also explored. Factors that contribute to better reliability in an SUV include cargo room, multiple seating/storage configurations, durability, engine performance, fuel efficiency, all-wheel drive (AWD) capability, and top-level rating from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

    The ultimate distinguishing factor on this list should be vehicle make and model, with less emphasis on model year. All of these SUVs have proven reliability over several years and model makeovers. In some cases, a vehicle is chosen as among the best in its class under an average price point in the used car market.

    10. 2016 Chevrolet Equinox

    Best for: Compact SUV  

    MPG: 20 mpg city | 29 mpg highway

    Drivetrain: All-wheel drive

    The 2016 Chevrolet Equinox received an 89/100 reliability rating from J.D. Power & Associates, best in the Compact SUV class, as well as 56% 5-star ratings from consumers reporting to Kelley Blue Book. The top-end 3.6-liter V-6 engine topped its class with 301 horsepower, contributing to a 3,500-lb tow rating in all-wheel drive.

    Equinox drivers enjoy a spacious, flexible interior. The rear seat slides forward or back up to eight inches to create extra leg room or a maximum 63.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The best safety configuration includes forward collision warning and earned Equinox a top safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

    9. 2018 Toyota Highlander

    Best for: Midsize SUV 

    MPG: 19 mpg city | 26 mpg highway

    Drivetrain: All-wheel drive

    Toyota’s renowned reputation for quality is certainly earned by the Toyota Highlander, consistently ranked among the most reliable midsize SUVs by independent vehicle rating services. The Toyota Safety Sense P safety package is standard in all trim levels, contributing to a positive recommendation from 77% of Highlander owners on Kelley Blue Book.

    Consumers also give high marks for Highlander’s excellent fuel economy relative to its top-end 3.6-liter V-6 engine and its stout 5,000-lb tow rating. The interior ranks as one of the best in this class, with luxurious seating, five USB charging ports, and optional rear-seat entertainment and 12-speaker JBL sound systems. For busy families seeking comfort, reliability and safety, it’s tough to go wrong with Toyota Highlander.

    8. 2017 Nissan Armada

    Best for: Large SUV 

    MPG: 14 mpg city | 19 mpg highway

    Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive

    If the name Armada calls to mind images of large ships, it certainly fits this large body-on-frame SUV from Nissan, which is among the most reliable large SUVs of the last several years. Body-on-frame vehicles drive more like a truck, with better resistance to torsion forces off-road, better ground clearance, and more towing capacity than unibody cars and trucks. The 2017 Nissan Armada was the first Armada to be based on the Nissan Patrol, a powerful V-8 truck the company marketed for many years as a military and adventure vehicle. The Armada definitely benefits from years of engineering fine-tuning done on the Patrol.

    A J.D. Power reliability study gave the Armada an excellent 79/100 score for quality and reliability among large SUVs and a tie overall score for best in class along with Chevy Tahoe. 83% of Armada buyers recommend this stalwart SUV, giving the 3-seat, 8-passenger SUV a 4.5 mark out of 5.0 for reliability. Armada also scored highly for such factors as safety features, interior comfort and amenities, and overall price in comparison to its main competitors.

    7. Porsche Cayenne

    Best for: Compact Luxury SUV

    MPG: 17 mpg city | 24 mpg highway

    Drivetrain: All-wheel drive

    If any original equipment manufacturer (OEM) could best combine the practicality of an SUV with the performance of a great sports car, it would be German automaker Porsche. This is precisely what they have done with the Cayenne, a small SUV that received five out of five stars from 77% of the more than 100 consumer reviews from Kelley Blue Book. In addition to high marks for luxury amenities, performance, and Porsche’s legendary attention to detail, the Cayenne also drew 4.6 stars for overall reliability.

    6. 2018 Lexus GX 460

    Best for: Midsize luxury SUV 

    MPG: 15 mpg city | 18 mpg highway

    Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive

    A bit of an anomaly among midsize luxury SUVs, the 2018 Lexus stands out in its class due to its stout, truck-like body-on-frame construction. What this four-wheel-drive drivetrain sacrifices in ride and handling, especially in comparison to its all-wheel-drive competition, it more than makes up for with outstanding towing capacity and off-road capability. And despite its rough-and-ready reputation for heavy lifting on road and trail, the GX 460 is also a true luxury vehicle with all of the technology, interior amenities, and safety features one would expect from Lexus, especially in its premium packages.

    As the luxury brand for Toyota, Lexus carries the same sterling reputation for quality that has earned Toyota top marks for reliability for decades. A survey for J.D. Power tracked a 91/100 reliability rating for the GX. As an exceptionally practical yet comfortable SUV, the GX has won the Best Resale Value Award for Luxury Midsize SUV from Kelley Blue Book.

    5. 2015 Cadillac Escalade

    Best for: Large luxury SUV 

    MPG: 15 mpg city | 21 mpg highway

    Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive

    The 2015 Cadillac Escalade was a complete redesign of the popular large SUV, and while competitors in its class were inching down in size, the Escalade doubled down on big and bold – even offering the extended wheelbase ESV package. The 6.2-liter V8 engine brings plenty of power and acceleration while boasting 8,500 lbs of towing capacity, plenty for hauling a large RV or boat. If you’re planning on towing, be sure to find an Escalade with a four-wheel-drive option.

    The 2015 model year also saw a makeover in luxury finishes that puts Escalade in good standing with competitors in this class. There are leather and wood finishes throughout and an optional second-row bench seat accommodates more passengers. Already ample cargo space gets even bigger when second- and third-row seats fold flat with the push of a button. The 2015 Escalade was a luxury yacht of the highway that sold for more than $90,000 in premium packages.

    4. 2021 Buick Envision

    Best for: Best overall 2021 SUV 

    MPG: 22 mpg city | 29 mpg highway

    Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive

    With an all-new design for 2021, including a top-end Avenir luxury trim package consumers really love, the Buick Envision scored an impressive 90% recommend rating and 82% five-star scores from consumers reporting to Kelley Blue Book. The peppy 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine contributed to a 4.8/5 performance rating, offering 230 horsepower and 254 ft-lb of torque. New car buyers paid an extra $1,800 for the all-wheel-drive option.

    The 2021 Envision came with an impressive grouping of features in base packages, including active noise cancellation, Apple Car Play/Android Auto, and an array of modern safety features. The feeling of luxury goes way up (along with the price) as you move into the Essence and premium Avenir option packages that include leather seating, a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 20-inch alloy wheels, and a nine-speaker Bose sound system.

    3. 2018 Kia Sportage

    Best For: Small SUV 

    MPG: 23 mpg city | 30 mpg highway

    Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive

    2018 was the second year of this fourth iteration Kia Sportage, which is the longest running nameplate for Korean automaker Kia. Surviving and thriving for so long in an extremely competitive market class is a great endorsement for this vehicle as one of the most reliable small SUVs you can purchase. At 181 horsepower, the standard 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine has all you need, but an upgrade to the 240-horsepower turbocharged engine adds lots of pep (along with decreased fuel efficiency). An upgrade from front-wheel drive to all-wheel drive (better in ice and snow) added $1,500 to the new car price.

    The 2018 Kia Sportage was the #1-rated small SUV overall for that model year according to J.D. Power and had a reliability score of 87 out of 100. The Sportage has impressive features in every option package, but consumers found value in the midlevel EX model with its leather upholstery, cross-traffic alert, 7-inch touch screen infotainment with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and dual-zone climate control. Not long ago, these kinds of features were exclusive to the top luxury vehicles.

    2. 2016 Ford Expedition

    Best for: Towing capability 

    MPG: 16 mpg city | 22 mpg highway

    Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive

    Most SUVs, even small and midsize vehicles, have some towing capacity even if it’s just for hauling a jet ski or small boat. But for hauling a large RV or maneuvering a very big boat in and out of a steep boat ramp, you will want a vehicle with large towing capacity. A search for a quality used SUV comfortably around $40,000 or less produced a particular standout – the 2016 Ford Expedition.

    Among large SUVs, this model year of Expedition topped its class for towing capacity at 9,200 pounds, enough to pull a large RV filled with all the gear needed for a long vacation. The 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged engine delivers 365 horsepower and 420 ft-lb of torque, plenty to pull a big boat out of the water. The EL (Extra-Large) Expedition has an expanded 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row of seats, more than any other vehicle in this class.

    1. 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban

    Best for: Body-on-frame construction   

    MPG: 16 mpg city | 22 mpg highway

    Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive

    A body-on-frame SUV, as opposed to one built with unibody construction, is almost always a large family vehicle that handles more like a truck and has excellent towing capability. It’s also better off-road than most SUVs, better able to withstand the torsional flex experienced on uneven ground. As longtime members of this dwindling vehicle category, there are few better, or more prevalent in the used car market, than the twin SUVs Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban (which has a longer wheelbase than Tahoe).

    Both are powered by a 5.3-liter V8, but Tahoe, though shorter and lighter, has 300 lbs more towing capacity at 8,600 lbs. Both scored an exemplary 74/100 for quality and reliability in a survey done by J.D. Power. With a total overhaul in design in 2015, these stalwart family vehicles were possessed of so many features and luxury amenities that consumers and reviewers had a hard time differentiating them from a Cadillac.

    The Bottom Line: Find Your Next Dependable SUV

    There are so many SUVs available today, and consumers are so enamored with them, that some automakers have stopped making conventional cars and sedans. To find the perfect SUV for your needs – and reliability is a big factor in that – you will need to do some research. Each SUV model has multiple option configurations within a single model year, and many have been on the road for years, if not decades.

    Things to consider in determining reliability include cargo room, multiple seating/storage configurations, durability, engine performance, fuel efficiency and all-wheel-drive (AWD) capability. Knowing what you need from your vehicle, both now and in the future, will help narrow your search in the Rocket Auto Inventory, which has a database of thousands of used SUVs for sale.

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    David Collins

    David Collins is a staff writer for Rocket Auto, Rocket Solar, and Rocket Homes. He has experience in communications for the automotive industry, reference publishing, and food and wine. He has a degree in English from the University of Michigan.