There are always going to be people who need SUVs. Barring exceptional sales offers from manufacturers, there is little reason to buy a new SUV. Depreciation caused by rising fuel prices has created the best deals on used SUVs and crossovers ever.
All prices assume vehicles in excellent condition with 15,000 miles per year (i.e. a 2006 model would have 30,000 miles on it for valuation purposes). All pricing information is from kbb.com.
Full Size - 2007 Chrysler Aspen
Fuel Economy: 13/19 EPA (2WD)
Private Party Price: $20,975
Dealer Price: $25,880
New 08 Model: $31,189 (what others are paying)
The Chrysler Aspen is an SUV that does everything well. The Aspen, if introduced in 2005 when gas prices were lower, could have had a huge impact on Chrysler's bottom line. Instead, you’re going to save money off the bottom line. Chrysler just knocked 25% off the price of an entry-level Aspen to about $24,000, which is going to further depress the used price – making it an even better deal. Check out www.kbb.com for the latest pricing info. Chrysler’s plan went into effect on 8/1/08 so it might take about a week or so for the valuation sites to catch up with changes to used car prices.
Mid Size - 2006 Mitsubishi Endeavor
Fuel Economy: 16/21 EPA (FWD)
Private Party Price: $16,985
Dealer Price: $20,980
New 08 Model: $27,162 (what others are paying)
Mitsubishi has struggled recently. It has made some bad non-product decisions in the U.S., but the experts agree is it has made some outstanding SUVs. An SUV that handles well, it has a 3.8-liter V6 with 225 hp and 265 pound-feet of torque. An outdated four-speed automatic transmission (at least it has a manual shift mode) is standard. You’re going to benefit from the fact that the current Endeavor hasn’t kept pace with other SUVs and is starting to look stale. One potential problem is no third row. If you can live without one, the Endeavor is a pretty darned good SUV and an even better value used.
Compact - 2006 Honda Element
Fuel Economy: 19/24 (auto) FWD -2006
Private Party Price: $15,555
Dealer Price: $18,125
New 08 Model: $21,085 (what others are paying)
This is Honda's boxy little SUV that continues to turn heads. It has to be the most functional compact SUV on the market. Short for easy parking, it’s roomy inside with lots of versatility. The Element is extremely comfortable to drive. It has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 166 hp and 161 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is available. A couple of potential negatives: It only seats four and its clamshell doors close in such a way that the front doors have to be opened before the rear seat passengers can exit. All that aside, this really is an outstanding compact SUV.
Fuel Efficient - 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid
Fuel Economy: 28/27 (auto) AWD
Private Party Price: $22,445
Dealer Price: $25,045
New 08 Model: $29,697 (what others are paying)
Here’s a little tip. Everybody knows the Ford Escape Hybrid is a good vehicle. What a lot of people don’t realize is the Mercury Mariner Hybrid is its twin (but with a better interior). Mercury as a brand has flown under the radar because a lot of its product is really just rebadged Fords. Use that to your advantage when shopping because others will be seeking Escapes. For $25,000 you get strong fuel economy from a 2.3-liter gasoline engine working with electric motor/generators for 155 horsepower. Around town fuel economy makes this a strong choice for commuters or parents who need to shuttle to and fro.
Most Reliable - 2006 Honda CR-V
Fuel Economy: 20/26 (auto) FWD
Private Party Price: $16,935
Dealer Price: $19,455
New 08 Model: $20,729 (what others are paying)
This is the king of the compact SUVs when it comes to reliability. There really is little to fault about it. In his review, Jason says, “This is an excellent vehicle and a great value - possibly the best compact SUV on the market today.” Its power output of 156 hp and 160 pound-feet of torque won't win you any drag races, but it does contribute to the CR-V's strong fuel economy. Plus, it's just a great little four-cylinder engine. This should top your list if you’re in the market for an SUV that handles gentle off-road duties, seats five, and will run until the cows come home.
Luxury - 2007 Lincoln Navigator
Fuel Economy: 12/17 (auto) FWD
Private Party Price: $30,030
Dealer Price: $35,570
New 08 Model: $46,690 (what others are paying)
Want a little luxury in your life? Scratch that. Want a lot of luxury in your life? Then, the Lincoln Navigator is your ride of choice. People will gasp out load when they read this, but I think the Navigator is more luxurious than the Lexus and Infiniti equivalents. The ride is unparalleled. Remember, we’re talking luxury here, so don’t forget that the Navigator, as its name would suggest, gets nautical-like fuel economy where it seems like you gets gallons per mile and not vice-versa. By the way, Jason’s review is of the Navigator L, which is an extended version of the Navigator.
Family Friendly - 2005 Toyota Highlander
Fuel Economy: 17/23 (auto) FWD-6 cyl.
Private Party Price: $14,650
Dealer Price: $19,015
New 08 Model: $29,042 (what others are paying)
It almost pains me to recommend a Highlander because I root for the underdog. I wish I could recommend a better family SUV but I just can’t when everything is factored in, including a lengthy history of above-average reliability. It has three rows of seats and, as Jason points out, “Quiet, smooth and comfortable, Highlander sits more on the sedan side of the crossover equation than the SUV side.” This really is the best family friendly SUV on the planet, which is why you see so darn many of them on the road. You'll have a choice between a four-cylinder of V-6 engine and an optional third row.