The Best SUV for Your Budget
The Best SUV for Your Budget
Finding the best SUV for your lifestyle is overwhelming, especially when you’re on a budget. Decide what you can spend, then pick your price bracket and we’ll let you know what your options are.
SUVs Under $25,000: What You Get for the Money
SUVs in this range are usually compacts and crossovers, meaning they drive more like cars and usually seat five people. The Toyota RAV4 is one of few models that offers a third row. Optional third-row seats cost more and are usually uncomfortable, so it’s important to test the third row before buying– it may be worth saving some cash to skip it.
Spending $20,000 gets you the basics: air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, a standard audio system and maybe an auxiliary input jack. If you’re lucky, you can get standard Bluetooth on models like the Volkswagen Tiguan or Kia Sportage. For extra cash you can spice up your SUV with navigation, a rearview camera, Bluetooth and steering wheel-mounted controls. If you can pick and choose these features you’ll pay less than $25,000. Unfortunately, many automakers have expensive feature packages that can push the SUV’s price over $25,000 when you start adding these features.
Top performers start around $24,000, and in this arena, the GMC Terrain and the Chevrolet Equinox are best. Like other SUVS in this range, they have 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines, but you can upgrade to a V6. Remember this doesn’t include all-wheel drive. With a V6 engine and AWD, you’ll pay more than $25,000. There are exceptions – you can get AWD on the Kia Sportage for about $22,000. But, more established models, like the Honda CR-V will cost over $25,000 with AWD.
SUVs from $25,000 to $35,000: What You Get for the Money
SUVs in this range have standard seating for five to eight, and you’ll pay between $25,000 and $32,000 for most models. There are still some crossovers in this range, like the Mazda CX-9, the Toyota Venza and the Ford Edge.
If you spend on the lower end of this range, you’ll get basic features. Spending $30,000 typically gets Bluetooth connectivity, USB input jacks for your iPod, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel and steering wheel-mounted audio and phone controls. The Mazda CX-9 comes standard with these features plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The Toyota Highlander has the same features, except for steering wheel-mounted controls, when you add an optional package.
The best performing midsize SUVs fall between $30,000 and $35,000. Expect a 3.6- or 3.7-liter V6 engine, and an optional V8 engine on some models. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, for example, has a standard 3.6-liter V6 and an optional 5.7-liter V8. The V8, however, pushes the Grand Cherokee to the next price range: about $36,500 without optional features. On many models, you can add all-wheel drive without exceeding $35,000. AWD on the Cherokee starts at about $33,000. The Toyota Venza offers it for about $29,000, but only seats five people. AWD on the Toyota Highlander, a seven-seater, starts around $31,000. But remember, these prices don’t include extra features. Adding packages will bump these prices up a few thousand dollars.
Compact luxury SUVs are also at the top of this price range and can easily top $35,000, but you can get some base models for about $32,000. The Volvo XC60, Cadillac SRX or Acura RDX all start below $35,000. If you want the BMW X3 or the Audi Q5’s standard leather seats, be prepared to fork over a few thousand more.