10 Best CPO SUVs under $25,000

Choosing a certified pre-owned SUV can bring the price within reach

These days it seems like almost everyone wants an SUV instead of a sedan. The newest SUVs, most built on car rather than truck platforms, are comfortable, easy to drive and economical, so there is essentially no penalty for their additional versatility and all-weather traction. In fact, the only “penalty” is the fact that SUVs can be expensive. But certified pre-owned SUVs offer new-vehicle-like peace of mind, while bringing prices down to affordable levels. Here’s our look at the 10 best certified pre-owned SUVs that cost less than $25,000. Each can be had in all-wheel-drive trim and each features an appropriate level of equipment. Amazingly, several of them are just one model-year old.

  1. 2016 Honda CR-V

Arguably the most popular crossover SUV of all time, the Honda CR-V is noted for its easy-to-drive manner and economy of operation. Its level of equipment is strong, and higher-level versions are equipped with collision mitigation system and power liftgate. Even though the 4-cylinder engine produces 185 horsepower, the CR-V is better known for its handling ease than its performance chops. No matter. The CR-V is an all-around winner in comfortable, quality and versatility.

  1. 2015 Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 is by many measures the most reliable of the stellar SUVs on this list. It is not unusual for RAV4s to turn in 200,000 trouble-free miles, which is why you have to dip back to the 2015 model year to find a well-equipped model at under $25K. Don’t let the extra model year or two scare you, though. The typical 2015 RAV4 has tons of good miles left in it. Yes, a newer-generation of the RAV4 is currently on sale, but this generation was just fine. Since Toyota sold (and leased) a lot of them, there are good choices out there for you.

  1. 2017 Mazda CX-5

If you’d like your SUV to deliver at least a measure of sheer driving enjoyment, you need to test drive the Mazda CX-5. And be sure you pick one with the optional 2.5-liter 184-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. You should also seek a model with the 7-inch infotainment display, backup camera and collision mitigation system. On the other hand, CX-5’s with the base 155-horsepower engine still offer a laudable level of equipment and retain the CX-5’s upscale exterior and interior styling.

  1. 2017 Chevrolet Equinox

Be aware going in that the 2017 Chevrolet Equinox is the last of its generation. We like the 2018 even more than its predecessor, but the new one is not yet available as a CPO. Further, there is a lot to like about the 2017. Its more sizable than most compact SUVs, and therefore it delivers more interior space. Because of its size its 182-horsepower 4-cylinder engine doesn’t result in blinding acceleration, but its performance is more than adequate. Even in base trim alloy wheels and automatic headlights are standard, and Chevy’s MyLink is among the best infotainment apps in the business.

  1. 2016 Subaru Forester

While few would call the Subaru Forester the most advanced vehicle in its segment, this compact SUV is solidly built with a reputation for very strong resale value. And that’s why we are recommending the 2016 versus the 2017; the 2017 will typically cost you more than $25,000 as a CPO vehicle. Like its competitors, the Forester has 4-cylinder power, but its engine is a horizontally opposed “boxer” design producing 170 horsepower. Highlight on the equipment list is the big 6.2-inch infotainment display.

  1. 2017 Hyundai Tucson

The Hyundai Tucson might no have the cheeky styling of its Kia counterpart, but it is a solid contender in the compact SUV category. Standard upscale touches include alloy wheels, LED headlights and a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with six speakers. Suspension tuning has been skewed in favor of comfy ride quality versus sporty handling and that is matched by its mild-mannered 164-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. Persistent shopping might land you a Tucson with leather interior, dual-zone climate control and even a collision mitigation system.

  1. 2017 Kia Sportage

The early-generation Kia Sportages were little more than toys, but the compact SUV has come of age lately. In size, equipment level and build quality it is one of the best of the breed. Uncharacteristically, it also offers one of the most potent powerplants in the segment in the form of its 181-horsepower 2.4-liter engine. More characteristic of the brand is the fact that the Sportage is packed with comfort and convenience features, including 60/40 split-folding rear seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a 4.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with parking camera.

  1. 2017 Nissan Rogue

Nissan has been aggressively marketing its Rogue crossover utility for several years now, and that means wide availability of CPO versions. The compact crossover SUV is well-equipped even in lower-level trims niceties like rear vents, LED running lights and a 4-speaker satellite-ready infotainment system standard equipment. For less than $25,000 you might also bag alloy wheels and heated power seats, but steer clear of the 3-row option, because the third row is largely useless.

  1. 2016 Ford Escape

Many crossover SUVs look alike, but not so with the Ford Escape, which is one of the most distinct designs in the segment. And its sporty looks are echoed by its performance-oriented driving demeanor. Active parking assistance is another headline-grabber for the Escape. But the biggest news for the Ford Escape in 2016 was the shift from the widely disliked MyFordTouch infotainment system to the more highly regarded Sync 3. If you’re looking for some “sport” in your sport-utility, the Escape fills the bill.

  1. 2016 GMC Terrain

The GMC Terrain is a boldly styled crossover SUV that is similar in size to the Chevrolet Equinox. While its styling might not please everyone, we at DT think that virtually everyone ill appreciate its level of equipment. Judicious shopping will likely enable you to find a model with niceties like back-up camera monitoring system, heated side mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and 60/40 split folding rear seat. It’s not a sports coupe, but acceleration from the 182-horsepower 4-cylinder engine is more than adequate.

by the Editors of Driving Today

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About Tom Ripley 53 Articles
Born in Boston, Tom Ripley has been writing about the automotive industry and the human condition for more than a decade. He's a frequent traveller but nominally resides in Villeperce, France.