Despite their versatility, the best used SUVs under $15,000 aren't a one-size-fits-all proposition. Each of these affordable sport utility vehicles has specific strengths that attract legions of loyal buyers, as well as a few quirks, features, and styling details that give them their respective personalities. Although it's hard to limit ourselves to just 10 great secondhand SUVs, we picked out of a group that we think will appeal to a wide cross-section of shoppers.
Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best used SUVs under $15,000.
1. Mazda CX-9
The Mazda CX-9 makes our best used SUVs under $15,000 round-up by virtue of being one of the few large people movers that drives like it's half its size. Although not exactly a sporty ride, the Mazda CX-9's character out on the road is more reminiscent of a large sedan than a three-row sport-utility vehicle. A 273 horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine that also generates 270 lb-ft of torque is standard with every CX-9, with all-wheel drive listed as optional equipment. Fuel economy for the Mazda checks in at 17-mpg in city driving and 24-mpg on the highway.
2. Toyota 4Runner
The Toyota 4Runner is the ideal SUV solution for anyone who needs a comfortable daily driver that can occasionally tackle wilder horizons. The most affordable versions of the Toyota 4Runner tend to be the four-cylinder models, which feature a 2.7-liter motor good for 157 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, but if you want four-wheel drive you'll have to step up to the 270 horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 4Runner, which can also be had with a locking rear differential and a number of off-road ready features. A third row of child-sized seating is squeezed into the rear of the Toyota, and fuel economy for the four-cylinder model is listed at 18-mpg around town and 23-mpg on the highway.
3. Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport should appeal to those seeking to stretch their used SUV dollars as far as possible. The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is fairly basic transportation, but it does offer almost 50 cubic feet of total cargo space along with the option of all-wheel drive in order to help set it apart from more common hatchbacks. Pop the hood and you'll find a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. This unit's fuel efficiency figures show as a respectable 25-mpg in stop and go driving and 31-mpg during highway cruising.
4. Ford Escape
The previous-generation Ford Escape - you know, the chunky one that looks more truck than SUV - was adored by families who appreciated its 66 cubic feet of total interior storage space, comfy passenger accommodations, and respectable level of high tech equipment. The Ford Escape's ubiquity helps keeps the price of this used SUV under $15,000, especially if you narrow your search to the 2.5-liter, 171 horsepower four-cylinder engine and ignore the 240 horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 model. Fuel economy for the Escape is also strong: 21-mpg around town and 28-mpg on the highway for the four-cylinder, with a slight dip if all-wheel drive is installed.
5. Jeep Wrangler
While the 4Runner might get props for being a rugged daily driver, the Jeep Wrangler is a dedicated off-road rig that fits well under our $15,000 price cap for used SUVs. You'll have to go back a few years to get the best possible deal, but aside from a recent engine upgrade, the Jeep Wrangler hasn’t evolved all that much from its utility-focused roots. This means you can find features such as locking front and rear differentials, low-range four-wheel drive, and a stout, if somewhat thirsty, 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine. Capable of generating 202 horsepower and 237 lb-ft of torque, the Wrangler's motor sucks down fuel at the rate of 16-mpg in city driving and 21-mpg on the highway.
6. Toyota RAV4
Like the Ford Escape, the Toyota RAV4 has enjoyed significant success due to its versatility and its sturdy construction. The Toyota RAV4's 179 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder is the motor you'll likely find in the least expensive used editions of this SUV. Also capable of producing 172 lb-ft of torque, the all-wheel drive-capable four-cylinder returns 22-mpg in city driving and 28-mpg on the highway. Cargo space for the RAV4 is class-leading amongst compact sport-utility vehicles, with a generous 73 cubic feet available with the second and third rows of seating folded flat.
7. Nissan Murano
The mid-size Nissan Murano is a style-first SUV that balances respectable interior proportions (64 cubic feet of total storage space, two rows of seating) with a long list of available features. All-wheel drive is also available with the Nissan Murano, which is motivated by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine tuned to provide 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy for the Murano shows as 18-mpg in stop and go driving and 23-mpg on the highway, and comfort for the Nissan is a step above several of its more conservative rivals.
8. Acura RDX
The best part about shopping for a used Acura RDX is that it means you can take advantage of its now-departed 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This unit offers 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which are perky figures for a compact luxury SUV. All-wheel drive, when equipped, is also designed to enhance handling and fun rather than simply offer extra traction in bad weather, and despite its might the vehicle's 19-mpg city and 24-mpg highway fuel mileage rating isn't all that bad. The used RDX is one of the best-performing sport-utility vehicles on our list.
9. Chevrolet Tahoe
You'll have to go back a generation for find a Chevrolet Tahoe that fits under our $15,000 price limit, but this full-size hauler tends to age well, making it less of a risk. Available with seating for up to nine passengers across three rows, along with a maximum tow rating of 8,200 lbs and 109 cubic feet of total interior cargo space, the Chevrolet Tahoe is an intensely practical family choice. Aim for its 320 horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 engine, which also contributes 340 lb-ft of torque and fuel economy of 14-mpg city and 19-mpg highway to the equation.
10. Honda Pilot
The Honda Pilot is a straightforward, dependable full-size SUV that delivers eight passenger seating, available all-wheel drive, and a comfort-oriented suspension tune that makes it a top choice for growing families who don't need the Tahoe's brawn. Also notable: the Pilot's hefty 88 cubic feet of total cargo space with the rear rows out of the picture. A 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 244 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque is found with versions of the Honda Pilot who meet our price cap, and it offers fuel economy of up to 16-mpg around town and 22-mpg during highway cruising.