10 Best SUVs for Less Than $15,000

2009 Subaru Forester

CarGurus spent two days previewing the 2016 New York International Auto Show, and if one trend stood out more than others, it was America’s apparent obsession with crossovers and SUVs. This could be due to low fuel prices, or perhaps it’s more a consequence of our country’s longstanding enthusiasm for adventure and frontiers. Whatever the reason, from the introduction of the Maserati Levante and the over-the-top Lincoln Navigator concept to Mitsubishi’s last-ditch effort with the Outlander PHEV, this message was clear: automakers are hitching their wagons to crossovers and SUVs.

Since the public apparently has a hankering for high-riding, do-anything transportation, we decided to find the best used crossover vehicles using CarGurus’ user-submitted reviews. To keep things interesting, we set a price limit of $15,000, but eliminated any cars more than 15 years old or with an average of more than 100,000 miles. If you want to submit your own ranking reviews on CarGurus, we’d love to hear what you have to say!

2011 Kia Soul

10. Kia introduced the Soul in 2010 as a literal extension of the popular Rio5 hatchback and its renowned rock-bottom price. Though a bit more boxy in shape than the Rio, the 5-passenger Soul retained its more-than-affordable MSRP and was generally marketed toward a younger crowd, with a unique “hip” style that even trickled into unusual trims names (the Kia Soul ! and +). Its low price, comfortable and roomy interior, and decent fuel economy make for a great value equation. The 2011 Kia Soul specifically has received praise for what it offers at its low price tag, and 60% of reviewers on CarGurus would buy the Soul over similar vehicles.

2011 Nissan Juke

9. By this point, it’s no secret Nissan changed up the typical crossover recipe and landed a hit with the Juke. Its quirky looks, excellent driving dynamics, and available all-wheel drive make the Juke a must for anyone who needs the practicality of a crossover but doesn’t want something that will blend in with the crowd. Reviewers on CarGurus praise the 2012 Juke for its power and handling, and while its small stature infringes on cargo space, a majority of shoppers still consider the compact crossover a good value. With an average price of $11,995, we’re inclined to agree.

2009 Subaru Forester

8. Subaru revamped the Forester in 2009 for its third generation, and boy oh boy did the public take notice. Larger in nearly every dimension, the 2009 Forester scores significantly better than the 2008 model in every category, with the biggest gains found in cargo room, the back seats, and its usability as a family car. Subaru clearly adopted a more SUV-focused design for the third-generation Forester, leaving the Outback the only real station wagon in its lineup. Subarus are well known for their strong resale value, so we weren’t surprised that precious few showed up under our $15,000 limit.

2009_nissan_rogue_s_awd-pic-80456950478016244-640x480

7. Nissan’s Rogue arrived for 2008, attempting to offer younger drivers the cargo capacity and all-wheel drive of an SUV in a package that looked and felt faster and less boxy than most competitors. The Rogue apparently found its target, having become Nissan’s second-biggest seller. For the purposes of this list, the 2009 Nissan Rogue has gotten the strongest response from CarGurus users, with 82% of them saying they would buy the Rogue over competing models. The Rogue’s power, looks, and family friendliness earned the strongest ratings; even its worst rating was strong, with over half of user rankings saying the Rogue offers better value than other vehicles in its segment. With an average price of just under $11k, a 2009 Rogue might be a great fit for someone looking for an SUV with great style.

2007 Ford Edge

6. With an average price of $9,980, the 2007 Ford Edge is the lowest-cost option on our list. Of course, it’s also the oldest option, but that doesn’t stop it from returning a 63% “would buy” ranking against all competitors. The Edge arrived in 2007 and was specifically marketed to a younger crowd. The design worked, as the majority of shoppers appreciated the Edge’s looks and style more than those of other cars. It also appealed to families: 68% of shoppers said they’d take the Edge as a family car over the opposition. While it might be getting a little long in the tooth, it’s hard to argue against Ford’s stylish crossover.

2011 Jeep Patriot

5. As the company’s entry-level offering until the Renegade arrived for 2015, the Jeep Patriot was the cheapest way to get a new vehicle with true off-road capabilities when it arrived in 2007. The Patriot isn’t luxurious in a traditional way, and its 4-cylinder engines drive comments on noise more than power, but users compliment its mileage and interior space. Most prefer the manual to the available continuously variable transmission (CVT), and some wish the Patriot were bigger overall. Refinement and plushness are not in generous supply, but the Patriot’s interior is easy to clean, and most user reviews say the vehicle is fun and a strong value. CarGurus users call the 2011 Jeep Patriot a car they’d buy again, and the average price for a used one is just a little over $11k.

2008 Chevrolet Equinox

4. The Chevrolet Equinox seems to be the most consistently favored SUV/crossover, according to our audience. The ‘10, ‘11, and ‘13 Equinoxes, along with their platform-mate, the 2010 GMC Terrain, received exceedingly positive remarks from our audience. But it is the 2008 Chevrolet Equinox that has emerged as a cut above the rest of the GM SUV/crossovers. This model harkens back to its first generation, when the Equinox shared its platform with the Pontiac Torrent, before the Terrain replaced it and Pontiac was dissolved. The first-generation Equinox was Chevrolet’s first foray into the crossover market, pivoting away from the body-on-frame giants, the Suburban, Tahoe, and Tracker. These first-generation Equinoxes just had the right balance of power, handling, comfort, and cargo to make for a great value.

2010 Ford Escape

3. Popularity matters in the car world, particularly when you’re looking at used cars. Ford’s Escape has been sitting near the top of the SUV sales charts pretty much since its 2001 model-year debut. That means plenty of used Escapes are available, but it also means the folks selling them will have no trouble finding interested buyers, and so won’t have to sell them at a big loss. CarGurus users have rated the 2010 Ford Escape most favorably, ranking its back seats and family features better than those of similar vehicles.

2011 Dodge Nitro

2. The term “SUV” gets thrown around a lot these days, mainly due to the ill-defined nature of the term “crossover.” It’s worth noting that although we’ve used the term SUV 15 times in this list, the Dodge Nitro is the only true 4-wheel-drive, body-on-frame sports utility vehicle on it*. And that’s a testament to the Nitro’s current value. The 2011 Dodge Nitro has been particularly well received by its audience, especially when it comes to value. Not often can you find a compact SUV that has dipped below $15k only 5 years after its release, other than the Jeep Liberty, which shared the Nitro’s platform and was well received by the CarGurus audience. The Nitro delivers the comfort, power, and aggressive stylings of the larger Dodge Durango in a slightly smaller–but still with decent cargo space–and less-expensive package.

*Note: the Jeep Patriot occupies a nebulous position between SUV and crossover, but is built on the same car platform as the Dodge Avenger, so it’s technically not an SUV.

2012 Kia Sorento

1. Kia’s 2003 Sorento arrived in the U.S. packing a ladder frame and off-roading capabilities, but the second-generation version, the first model Kia built in the U.S., made a big difference when it arrived in 2011. The new version featured a third row of seats and a unibody design that helped it achieve a more comfortable ride and more car-like handling than the previous version. Critics recommend the V6 over either of the 4-cylinder engines and note that the third row doesn’t accommodate adults well. Owners have a hard time matching the EPA’s mileage estimates, and the Sorento is actually one of the models for which Kia had to compensate owners for “procedural misinterpretations and errors” that resulted in overstated mileage ratings. But CarGurus users say the Sorento can overcome those challenges and offer solid value, as it has earned strongly positive user ratings and reviews, particularly the 2012 version. The average price for a used 2012 Kia Sorento is just below $14k.

What great SUVs have you found at a great price?

–John Harrington, Matt Smith, and Steve Halloran

Find Certified Pre-Owned Cars and Used Cars in your area at CarGurus.

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Used Kia Soul
Used Nissan Juke
Used Subaru Forester
Used Nissan Rogue
Used Ford Edge
Used Jeep Patriot
Used Chevrolet Equinox
Used Ford Escape
Used Dodge Nitro
Used Kia Sorento

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