We know that buying a car can be stressful, especially when you’re going to be investing a lot of money. This list is designed to provide potential buyers with a solid starting point. Whether you’re looking for something sporty, something practical, something unique, or something in-between, we’ve got you covered! These are our top 15 picks for the best used SUVs on the market under $30,000.
2018 Buick Encore ($28,000)
The Buick Encore is a very affordable SUV, which is great news for us. You could get a 2019 Encore while staying under budget, and even have access to multiple trim options. But, since we’re looking for used SUVs, were gonna drop back one model year and look at the top two trims for the 2018 Encore.
For our Buick, we’re going with the Essence or Premium trim. The Essence should be in your price range, regardless of location, but the Premium availability may vary. Both trims come with the option for a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine or an ECOTEC variant of the four-cylinder. It’s not the strongest engine in the world, but if offers enough power to give the Encore some pep. Both engines are paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and you can choose between front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Being a compact SUV, you won’t get a ton of space for passengers or cargo in the Encore. The interior is comfortable, and the added features from the top two trims make it even more luxurious. A heated leather steering wheel and leather seats come standard, as well as a built in Wi-Fi hotspot, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and heated front seats. If you want some additional safety technology, you’ll want the Premium trim. The Essence offers blind zone alerts and rear cross traffic alerts, but the Premium trim adds forward collision alert, lane departure warnings, and parking assists.
2015 Lexus RX 350 ($25,500)
The Lexus RX 350 is a great luxury option for buyers who are searching for a high-quality interior. Although 2015 wasn’t too long ago, this is one of the older models on this list. The RX 350 was redesigned in 2016 to give the vehicle more aggressive styling for the exterior, and due to the updated look, 2016 models and beyond are pushed above the $30K limit.
The 2015 model of the RX 350 does a lot of things right, but it’s not the perfect vehicle. The interior is spacious and comfortable, making it a great choice for road trips. Its 3.5-liter V6 adds to the vehicle’s agility, and it gets 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. You have the choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and an automatic transmission is your only option.
While the RX 350 comes with a decent number of features, you’ll have to do research in your area to figure out what kind of goodies you’ll be able to get your hands on.
2014 Mercedes-Benz M-Class ($28,000)
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class is the most luxurious option on the list. If you’re just looking for a high-quality interior that offers up plenty of space and added features, the M-Class is going to be your best friend.
If you want to stay within our price range, you’re going to want to go for the base trim. Price moves up very quickly as you look at higher trim levels, with the highest trim reaching over $50,000. The base trim comes with a powerful V6 engine and returns an average fuel economy of 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. It can easily be used as a daily driver, as well as a comfortable vacation vehicle.
The biggest letdown for the M-Class is the actual driving experience. The engine is strong and acceleration is never an issue, but the drive itself isn’t very fun. The SUV lacks agility and the ride feels a bit stiff compared to sportier options.
2016 Volkswagen Touareg ($28,000)
The 2016 Volkswagen Touareg is another semi-luxurious option on the list. The premium interior is made with high-quality materials and provides enough leg room for occupants of all ages. While previous models had a hybrid option available, 2016 was the first model year where Volkswagen halted production of the hybrid trim. If you want a hybrid SUV, drop back to the 2015 model and do some searching in your area.
The V6 that comes standard with the 2016 model provides adequate power, but nothing more. When you’re really pushing the vehicle, the engine feels strained and doesn’t accelerate as efficiently as competitors. Merging on a busy highway could be a difficult task, but if you don’t plan on pushing the car to its limits, the Touareg is a great family SUV.
2015 Audi Q7 ($28,500)
The 2015 Audi Q7 is one of the largest vehicles on this list, offering seating for up to seven passengers. While that certainly adds to the vehicle’s versatility and practicality, that doesn’t mean it’s the best seven-passenger option available. Even though it’s not the best all-around family hauler, it’s a solid pick for the price point and becomes one of the top options for under $30,000.
The biggest issue with the Q7 is the lack of space. While its certainly more spacious than five-passenger SUVs, it’s inferior when compared to other seven-passenger vehicles. The third row is cramped, the cargo area is smaller than the class average, and it has a below-average reliability rating. On the plus side, the interior is very comfortable for passengers who find themselves with enough leg room.
The base Q7 has two engine options; a turbocharged diesel V6 capable of producing 240 horsepower or a supercharged V6 that puts out 280 horsepower. The S trim allows for an optional 333-horsepower V6, but it will likely put you over budget. An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive come standard.
2017 Infiniti QX30 ($24,000)
The 2017 Infiniti QX30 is a luxury crossover that offers good performance, solid technology, and a comfortable, but small interior. The 2.0-liter turbo-four engine paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is the only available option for this vehicle, but it gets the job done well. It has a zero-to-60 time of about 6.2 seconds and a fuel economy of 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.
Depending on where you look, you should be able to find a used QX30 with added options while staying under budget. These include a Bose premium audio system, Infiniti’s Around View Monitor parking aid, LED headlights and fog lights, a panoramic moonroof, built-in navigation, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and lane departure warning.
The QX30 is no slouch when it comes to performance or technology, making this one of the best modern SUVs on the list.
2017 Mazda CX-5 ($23,000)
2017 was a good year for the Mazda CX-5. It had always been more fun to drive compared to its rivals since its debut back in 2013, but the redesigned 2017 model refined the vehicle even more. The CX-5 offers up a competitive amount of space when compared to rivals, but the cabin is well-designed and has a more up-scale feel to it. Upgraded cabin materials and design from previous models give passengers luxury and a quiet ride while on the road.
The majority of the CX-5 trim levels should stay under budget, even if you really start to work your way to the top. You get plenty of added safety features and technology as you move up the chain, and they’re definitely worth taking a look at. If you end up going with the base trim, you’ll be happy to know that while forward collision warning and automatic low-speed braking were optional in the previous model year, the 2017 CX-5 has it as standard tech across the board.
The CX-5 is a great buy and outshines both the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. If you’re looking for an SUV that should cost a lot more than it actually does, the CX-5 might be the one for you.
2017 Ford Escape ($29,000)
The base Ford Escape won’t offer much for luxury, which is why we’re going to be looking at the Titanium trim. It costs almost $6,000 more than the base trim, but still manages to keep itself under the $30K threshold we’re aiming for.
If you want to build the perfect luxury Escape, you’re going to want to grab the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. It’s the quickest option available and works very well with the responsive and agile handling of the Escape. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how quickly the car picks up speed, and every turn will be as smooth as butter.
The highest trim level will also give you heated front-seats with leather trim, a 10-speaker Sony audio system, paddle shifters on the steering wheel, a foot-activated power liftgate, and windshield wiper de-icer. There are several other packages you can look for that add all-wheel drive, a lane-keeping system, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
2017 Jeep Cherokee ($29,000)
While Jeeps tend to be associated with a picture of a family ripping through a thick mud puddle and doing some off-road rock crawling, the Cherokee is the exception. Certain trims can get the job done off-road, but we’re looking for luxury here. That’s why we’re going to be upgrading from the base trim and looking for a 2017 Jeep Cherokee Limited, which comes in right around $29,000.
This is one of the more sensible picks if you’re living in an area with harsh weather conditions. The list may be full of SUVs, but some can still handle rain and snow better than others. The Limited trim comes with a lot of additional safety features, newer technology, and a more luxurious interior than the base.
If you’re lucky, you can find one available with the added Luxury or Technology package, which will only make the experience even sweeter. If you go with both packages, it will likely push you over budget unless you’re willing to make sacrifices in other areas, like mileage, which we don’t recommend doing.
2016 BMW X1
We’re going with the 2016 BMW X1 just to make sure we’re staying under budget. Depending on your area, you might be able to jump up to a 2017, but this may not be the case for every buyer. If you value space for passengers and a lot of cargo room, but don’t want to go with a full-size SUV, the 2016 BMW X1 should be able to make you smile.
Although it’s considered to be a compact SUV, the interior has plenty of space for people and cargo. You shouldn’t be hearing many complaints from people in the back row, and the comfortable seating will only add to the appeal.
The X1 has zippy acceleration and great handling for its class, but the ride feels a bit firm. The exterior is sleek and modern, while staying consistent with the classic BMW styling. All-in-all, it’s a great buy for the money and should be considered for buyers looking for a practical family SUV.
2016 Acura RDX
The 2016 Acura RDX is a great SUV for buyers who are looking for a long list of features that come standard. While it isn’t the most luxurious or sporty vehicle on the list, it’s built well and proves to be a solid addition to any garage.
For the 2016 model, you’re looking at a powerful engine that yields average fuel economy for the class, but driving isn’t as fun as some of the other options. The RDX has a fairly stiff ride and the handling isn’t as smooth as competitors. Unless you’re planning on driving down bumpy or winding roads quite a bit, it shouldn’t be much of an issue.
The interior is well-made and classy. There aren’t many high-quality materials used in the build, but it’s also not filled with a ton of cheap plastic either. Seating is comfortable and there’s plenty of space for both passengers and cargo.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK
In 2016, the Mercedes-Benz GLK was replaced with the new GLC, which means we need to go back to 2015 if we’re going to want to find this vehicle under budget. While the 2016 GLC redesign is very nice, it’s going to push you slightly over the $30K threshold into the $31,500 area.
The 2015 GLK isn’t the most spacious SUV on the list, but it does offer a quality interior for those buyers that don’t need a ton of extra room. It performs very well, showing good speed, acceleration and handling, while also offering a comfortable driving experience.
Unfortunately for the 2015 model, the vast majority of features weren’t standard with the base trim. If you’re planning on looking into the GLK, it’s best to really take a look at what each listing has for additional options. There should be a wide variety of equipped add-ons as you browse the list, so make sure you find one with everything you’re looking for.
2013 Porsche Cayenne
The Porsche Cayenne is a well-known luxury SUV that offers the best performance around. While you might not be able to lock down a Turbo model, the 2013 Porsche Cayenne S might be in your price range. This comes equipped with an extremely powerful V8 engine and will provide you with some of the best handling you’ve ever experienced.
The interior is extremely well-made and is everything you would expect out of a Porsche. Despite this SUV being focused on performance, they automaker didn’t sacrifice any space. You’ll find yourself with ample cargo space, as well as a good amount of leg room for passengers.
If this all seems too good to be true, it just might be. The hardest part about buying this vehicle is its age. Being a performance SUV, it’s likely that the previous owners drove the car pretty hard. When it comes to repairs or general maintenance on a car like this, we’re not talking about common parts to fix up a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry. You may find yourself spending quite a bit of cash in the near future unless you find a very good deal on a Cayenne that hasn’t seen too much use.
2017 Lincoln MKT ($28,000)
The 2017 Lincoln MKT was one of the best midsize luxury SUVs when it hit the market. It may not be the most practical car on the list, but it offers up plenty of power and a really great interior. Compared to the 2016 model, there weren’t any major changes. If you have any issues finding an affordable 2017 MKT, you can feel free to drop back a model year to see if it makes the search easier.
The midsize SUV has room for up to seven passengers, however, the space gets a little tight in the third row. If you have children that you’ll be traveling with, it’s likely that they’ll be the only ones able to find serious comfort in the back of the vehicle. Other than that, the cabin is outstanding. The interior is made with high-quality materials, provides one of the quietest cabin experiences available, and gives passengers an unbelievably smooth ride.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to pick up a twin-turbo V6 to power the vehicle, however it will most likely push you over the $30,000 range. While it will give you quite a bit of extra strength, the below-average fuel economy will drop even further, giving you about 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.
2016 Cadillac SRX ($25,000)
The 2016 Cadillac SRX has very similar positives and negatives when compared to the Lincoln MKT. It comes with a well-crafted interior that’s comfortable for long periods of time, so long as you put children in the back row. The SRX only seats five, so if you’re planning on doing a lot of carpooling for work or traveling with adults, you may want to look elsewhere.
The powerful V6 engine will give you 308 horsepower, along with great acceleration and speed. It handles quite well on the road but is still lacking a bit when compared to other options on this list. Much like the MKT, the fuel economy isn’t too great with 16 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
A major positive factor for the SRX is its active safety features. For a 2016 vehicle, it does provide drivers with ample standard equipment as you look through different trims. It also comes with an average infotainment system, but it’s not the most intuitive compared to other touch-screen systems on the market.
Variety is the spice of life, and we’ve been sure to cover a wide array of possible options for potential buyers. Find a few vehicles that grabbed your interest, do some added research, and see if they’ll make a great addition to your driveway or garage. We wish you the best of luck in finding your dream SUV!
Article Updated: April 8, 2019