Buying Advice

Ranked: Best used SUVs under $15,000

The Toyota Highlander is just one of the vehicles on this list.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It's not just new cars that people are after. The used car market is full of good cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans that are available at prices far lower than a brand new car.

iSeeCars, a car search engine, analyzed over 6.1 million cars from model years 2011 and newer to determine the used cars that demonstrated long-term reliability and have an average safety rating of at least 4 stars out of 5 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Shoppers with a budget of $15,000 can purchase the following reliable SUVs that are less than 10 years old.

2013 Honda CR-V

2013 Honda CR-V

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Average Used Price: $13,469
Honda redesigned the CR-V for the 2014 model year. The fourth-gen model got fresh styling, improved fuel economy, and a long list of standard and available features. It was named an IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK and earned a NHTSA 5-star Overall Vehicle Score.

2012 Honda Pilot

2012 Honda Pilot

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Average Used Price: $13,925
Honda refreshed the Pilot for the 2012 model year. It got a new face, a redesigned center stack, simplified climate control layout, and new available infotainment technology. The 2012 Pilot is also more fuel efficient than the 2011 model.

2012 Ford Expedition

2012 Ford Expedition

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Average Used Price: $14,232
The 2012 Ford Expedition is powered by a standard 5.4-liter V8 that achieves 310 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. It can tow up to 9,200 pounds when properly equipped. A voice-activated SYNC infotainment and navigation system and automatic 4x4 drive mode was available when new.

2012 Dodge Durango

2012 Dodge Durango

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Average Used Price: $14,528
The Dodge Durango was redesigned for the 2011 model year and it's mostly a carryover for 2012. It's powered by either a 290-horsepower V6 or 360-horsepower V8. The Durango came standard with a front-passenger fold-flat seat, steering wheel audio controls, a tilting/telescoping wheel, SiriusXM satellite radio, an audio jack, six-speaker sound system, and trailer sway control.

2012 Acura MDX

20212 Acura MDX

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Average Used Price: $14,662
The 2012 Acura MDX was mostly carried over from the 2011 edition, bringing with it a strong powertrain and sleek (for its time) looks. It has a flat load floor with its seats stowed, making it easy to carry cargo, and a list of high tech features that includes Bluetooth, tri-zone climate control with humidity control, navigation with voice recognition, a 10-speaker premium audio system, and a rear entertainment system.

2011 Toyota Highlander

2011 Toyota Highlander

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Average Used Price: $14,900
Toyota upgraded the Highlander for the 2011 model year, giving it revised front and rear fascia, hood, and fenders. It also now came standard with three rows of seating and rear climate controls. When new, the Highlander was offered with either a four-cylinder or V6 powertrain. It also got tech upgrades for 2011 including a standard USB port, SiriusXM radio capability, and Bluetooth connectivity.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The 2020 Toyota Yaris punches above its weight.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Folks are always fascinated about what I do for a living. "Oh, you drive a different car every week? That's so exciting!"

What follows is a fairly predictable set of questions. "What's your favorite car?" (Rolls-Royce Wraith). "Have you ever driven on a race track?" (Numerous times.) "What's the fastest you've driven?" (180 MPH in a Porsche Panamera on the Autobahn in Germany.)

But then I'll start asking them questions, trying to learn about what they drive and why. What car do you have and why did you buy it? What other cars did you consider? What do you look for in an automobile?

2020 Toyota Yaris The Yaris has Toyota looks up front.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It's my own form of market research. I can't review a car if I don't understand who my reader is and how to best guide them. It's part of why I don't dive too deep into horsepower and performance figures — I've found that, performance cars excepted, most vehicles perform adequately for the everyday tasks that people buy them for.

That brings us to this week's car, which is perhaps one of the least-interesting cars I've tested — but in a very good way. The sub-$20,000 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback is aimed solidly at folks who want an affordable, entry-level vehicle that's safe, practical, and with just a touch of luxury-ishness.

My tester was the (slightly) fancier XLE trim, pricing out at $19,680. It's equipped with an adequate if unexciting 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine churning out a whopping 106-horsepower. The engine might be tiny, but it comes with the added bonus of 32/40/35 mpg (city/highway/combined) fuel economy. It's paired to a six-speed automatic transmission (and a real transmission too, not a continuously variable unit that some folks love to hate).

2020 Toyota Yaris The hatchback is convenient but the car also comes in a sedan variant.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It has 16-inch wheels, a bunch of airbags, LED headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a seven-inch color touch screen complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It has push-button start, keyless entry, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Oh, and there's automatic climate control too, which I've seen missing on cars that cost way more than this.

Here's where things get a bit confusing. Toyota sells the Yaris in other markets around the world, and it's their own in-house vehicle. But the Yaris sold in America is a rebadged Mazda2 that's assembled at Mazda's facility in Salamanca, Mexico. It's related to the Toyota Yaris sedan which used to be called the Scion iA, which is also built by Mazda, but also has the Toyota brand on it.

Whatever.

2020 Toyota Yaris The Yaris rides okay, about what you’d expect for a sub-$20,000 vehicle.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

I've driven a lot of Mazdas and a lot of Toyotas, and it's obvious to me that this is a Mazda. That's not a bad thing. Mazdas vehicles have punched above their weight for a long time (I had a 2011 Mazda3 for years, and I've praised them frequently in these pages), bringing both upscale materials and design to lower-priced segments. That's true here too. The Mazda2 — I mean, Toyota Yaris Hatchback — doesn't feel like a stripped down econobox. It's small and maneuverable and the engine, though a little noisy, gets you through traffic nicely.

It's a great new car for a teenager or for someone looking to spend as little money on a new car as possible. New cars, after all, come with new car warranties and can appeal to folks who don't want to imagine what came before when buying something used.

The Yaris competes with the Honda Fit, which is a perennial favorite in this class, and it seems a little nicer and a little more polished, though with less rear-seat legroom if you anticipate carrying adults back there.

2020 Toyota Yaris Even low-cost models have an infotainment screen these days.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The front is comfortable and attractive enough, with solid buttons and knobs and dials that are all pleasing to touch and fiddle with (which isn't as common as you'd think). It seems to be a better car than it's bargain-basement price would indicate, with a solid ride, comfortable seats and two reliable names behind it.

I took it to Costco (as I have with all my COVID-era test drives) and, with the 60/40 seats folded down, was able to fill it with ease. It swallowed up toilet paper and paper towels and a case of Diet Dr. Pepper and all manner of other things. It's no Rolls-Royce Wraith, but I'd be happy to recommend the little Yaris to someone looking for a new car that won't break the bank.

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The 2022 Audi Q5 Sportback has debuted but Americans will have to wait around six months to get one.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The Audi Q5 Sportback takes the traditional dimensions of the Audi Q5 and shaves some off the back of the roof to creating a more sloping design. The result is a model that fits right into Audi's lineup.

At the front of the new all-wheel drive model is an octagonal Singleframe grille that is flanked by large air inlets. The car's headlights feature daytime running lights with the buyer's choice of LED or matrix-design LED technology. At the rear are taillights that feature OLED lighting technology split into three ties of six segments each.

2022 Audi Q5 Sportback

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Like the roof, the car's windows taper as the design of the vehicle flows backward. Its rear bumper appears to be high-mounted.

Base Audi Q5 Sportback models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is paired with a 12-volt mild-hybrid system to to deliver 261 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can upgrade to the 3.0-liter V6 engine that produces 349 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque.

The SQ5 will come standard with adaptive dampers and has an available air suspension and dynamic steering capability.

Each model has Audi's new MIB 3 infotainment system, which can be optioned to include a 12.3-inch digital display in front of the driver as well as virtual cockpit and head-up display technologies. At the center of the dashboard is a 10.1-inch infotainment touch screen with navigation. The system allows for multiple user profiles.

The Audi phone box and a Bang and Olufsen sound system with 3D sound are available.

Inside the cabin, the car has a rear bench seat the can be shifted laterally as well as forward and aft. The seat also reclines.

Each Q5 Sportback comes with a standard hands-free power tailgate.

Buyers can option their model to include numerous driver assist systems including adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, standard Audi Side Assist and Audi Pre Sense Rear, lane departure warning, and Parking System Plus.

The 2020 Audi Q5 starts at $43,000. Expect the Sportback model to be slightly pricier when it arrives in the U.S. in the first half of 2021. It will be assembled at the San José Chiapa plant in Mexico.

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