2009 Toyota RAV4
2009 Toyota RAV4 (Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)

Now is a great time to be in the market for a used SUV. Gas prices are still reasonable and a used SUV could save you money over a new SUV because someone else has taken that initial depreciation hit.

Of course, not all SUVs are created equal. Some are going to be more expensive to operate. That’s where the U.S. News Used SUV Rankings come in. The rankings combine scores based on the collective opinion of the automotive press from when the SUV was new with data on safety, reliability and total ownership costs. That total cost of ownership data takes into account costs for depreciation, financing, taxes and fees, maintenance, fuel, insurance, repairs and opportunity cost over five years. Paying attention to an SUV’s total cost of ownership can help you determine which SUVs make the most sense for your budget in the long term.

As you narrow down your list of used SUVs you're considering, these SUVs in the compact, midsize and large segments have a low total cost of ownership and rank high in their class. There are SUVs that have lower ownership costs than the ones on this list in some cases. However, while they may cost less to own, their lower positions in the rankings mean that owning them may not be all that enjoyable.

Used Affordable Compact SUVs

At $31,655, the 2009 Toyota RAV4 has low ownership costs for five years in the 2009 affordable compact SUV class. The 2009 RAV4 was enthusiastically received by critics when it was new because it has ample passenger and cargo space, comfortable seats and a strong available V6 engine. It was also available with a third-row seat when it was new, which is rare for the class. The 2009 RAV4 also has good safety and reliability scores for the class.

The 2010 Honda CR-V has a five-year cost to own of $33,315. It is ranked number two among 2010 affordable compact SUVs. A perennial top choice in its class, critics especially liked its comfortable handling and good fuel economy. They also praised its high-quality, roomy cabin and cavernous cargo area. The 2010 CR-V won the U.S. News 2010 Best Compact Crossover for the Money award when it was new.

The 2010 Chevrolet Equinox was redesigned for 2010 and ranks third among 2010 affordable compact SUVs. It has a five-year cost to own of $34,401. It has been praised for its flexibility and its sliding rear seats (which open up more cargo space). The Equinox also has excellent safety ratings and an above-average reliability score.

The 2011 Kia Sportage has a five-year cost to own of $34,533. Completely redesigned inside and out for 2011, the Sportage was praised for its roomy interior and long list of high-end available features. It also stands out for its above-average reliability, good fuel economy and top IIHS safety ratings. 

Used Affordable Midsize SUVs

The 2010 Toyota Venza is ranked number one for 2010 affordable midsize SUVs. It has a five-year cost to own of $37,525. When it was new, the Venza was praised for its smooth ride and roomy cabin combined with a long list of standard features. The Venza was chosen as the winner of the U.S. News 2010 Best Midsize Crossover for the Money award when it was new.

2009 Hyundai Santa Fe
2009 Hyundai Santa Fe (Hyundai Motor America)

The 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe has a low cost-to-own figure of $33,893 for five years. The Santa Fe has some strong benefits for used SUV shoppers. Its fuel economy is above average, even in all-wheel drive models. It comes standard with a 2.7-liter V6 engine and features a tilt and telescoping steering wheel and wood grain trim. The Santa Fe also has good safety and reliability ratings for the class.

The 2009 Chevrolet Traverse, with a cost to own of $38,374, is ranked 4th for 2009 affordable midsize SUVs. The Traverse stands out for its roomy interior, sleek styling, adult-friendly third row and smooth ride. It also has an above-average reliability rating.

Used Affordable Large SUVs

2009 Chevrolet Tahoe
2009 Chevrolet Tahoe (General Motors)

The 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe, with a cost to own of $47,315, is ranked number one among 2009 affordable large SUVs. Among items earning it praise when it was new are a powerful available 6.2-liter V8, respectable fuel economy and a spacious interior. The Tahoe was named U.S. News' 2009 Best Full-size SUV for the Money when it was new.

The 2009 Chevrolet Suburban has a cost to own of $48,164. It gets special notice for its ability to tow, as well as being a family hauler, with available seating for up to nine. It also has excellent cargo space and good fuel economy for the class. The 2009 Suburban is ranked number two in 2009 affordable large SUVs.

The 2009 Ford Expedition is another great large SUV in terms of cost to own with a figure of $48,378. Among its positive points is its large and versatile interior. Critics also liked that its available third row is not only comfortable for adults, but folds easily to increase cargo space.