Some of the most commonly found used SUVs on the dealer lot are also some of the worst SUVs to buy. Avoid options like the 1999-2000 Dodge Durango, 2002-2004 Ford Explorer, and 2006-2008 Toyota RAV4, to name a few.
Buying a reliable used SUV can save you money upfront and on
car insurance—but an unreliable used SUV can wind up costing you thousands in repairs.
To help you spend your time and money wisely, the
trusted super app for drivers,
Jerry, has rounded up a list of the least-reliable SUVs of the last 20 years—arranged from oldest to newest—so you can feel confident in your new-to-you vehicle.
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1999-2000 Dodge Durango
Problem points: Unreliable engine
The millennium model
Dodge Durango’s Magnum V8 engine turned out to be very unreliable due to oil sludge buildup. Drivers reported several instances of the SUVs stalling and even shutting down while they were driving.
2002-2007 Jeep Liberty
Problem points: Faulty window regulator
Jeeps generally have a reputation for superior reliability—and the defect in the
Liberty’s 2002-2007 models is minor compared to some of the others on this list.
Though mostly just inconvenient, the faulty window regulators in these models can lead to costly repeated replacements, not to mention the unwanted surprise of your window sliding open during a rainstorm.
2002-2005 Saturn Vue CVT VTi
Problem points: Unreliable transmission
This model may just take the cake as the worst SUV to buy. GM settled a class-action lawsuit related to the
Saturn Vue’s dangerously unreliable VTi continuously variable transmission. Drivers reported the transmission slipping in and out of gear, causing them to lose control of the vehicle.
Saturn discontinued the model after 2005 and Saturn itself shut down in 2010, making replacement parts difficult to find and very expensive. But repair costs are nothing compared to the potential for injury and even fatality associated with this SUV.
Key Takeaway Avoid the 2002-2005 Saturn Vue CVT VTi at all costs.
2002-2004 Ford Explorer
Problem points: Unreliable transmission
Transmission troubles like slipping gears and hard shifting are well-documented and unavoidable with the early 2000s model
Ford Explorer. These SUVs will typically require an entire transmission replacement after accumulating only about 50,000 to 100,000 miles.
2005-2008 Nissan Pathfinder and Xterra
Problem points: Coolant leaks causing transmission erosion
Nissan Pathfinder and Xterra are excellent SUVs, new or used. But don’t let that fool you. The 2005-2008 models suffer from coolant leaks that eventually lead to transmission erosion.
Most of these models have likely already had to have their transmissions rebuilt, but ask for proof from your dealer to be safe. Or, better yet, search for another model year.
2005 Chevy Equinox
Problem points: Head gasket problem
Chevy Equinox suffers from well-documented and very expensive head gasket problems. If the model you’re looking at hasn’t already had its engine rebuilt or swapped, you can look forward to adding that cost and hassle to your used SUV’s price tag.
2006-2008 Toyota RAV4
Problem points: Excessive oil consumption
Toyotas are typically some of the most reliable cars on the market, and the
Toyota RAV4 is no exception. But watch out for the 2006-2008 models as they’re known for excessive oil consumption. Toyota denies the issue, but drivers report going through as much as a quart of oil every 1,000 miles.
2007-2008 GMC Acadia
Problem points: Faulty transmission
Add the 2007-2008
GMC Acadia to the list of SUVs that suffer from a faulty transmission. This model sports the notorious GM-Ford 6-speed automatic transmission that often failed and required a complete overhaul before the SUV even clocked 40,000 miles.
2008-2009 Buick Enclave
Problem points: Automatic transmission programming and shift cable issues
Buick Enclave’s GM-Ford 6T75 automatic transmission suffered from programming issues that led to terrible gas mileage. To make things worse, engagement issues with the shift cable adjustment clip meant the driver didn’t always know what gear the car was in. Several drivers reported placing their cars in park only to have them stay in drive.
issued a recall for both issues, so most available models have likely been fixed. To be safe, ask to see the vehicle’s recall paperwork or a licensed mechanic’s repair receipt before you think about buying.
Key Takeaway If the vehicle you’re considering has been subject to a recall, ask to see proof of repairs before you buy.
2009-2010 Dodge Journey
Problem points: Bad brakes
Most drivers don’t realize how important good brakes are until they go out. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens on almost all 2009-2010 Journeys. The SUV’s thin brakes and rotors wear down in as little as 10,000 miles.
Be aware that if you go for one of these models, you should also budget for a brake and rotor replacement.
2011-2013 Dodge Durango
Problem points: Faulty TIPM
Making the list again, the
Dodge Durango’s 2011-2013 models suffer from a well-known defect in the Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM). Since the TIPM is essentially the vehicle’s brain, this led to electrical issues that affected everything from the power windows to the engine and led to a
recall of all models.
If you’re in the market for a Durango, check with your dealer to ensure all the necessary repairs have been made or search for a more reliable model year.
2011 and 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Problem points: Faulty TIPM
Another casualty of Fiat-Chrysler’s faulty TIPM, the 2011 and 2014 models of the
Jeep Grand Cherokee experience the same electrical failures as their cousin, the Dodge Durango. These are two Jeep model years you’ll want to avoid.
2011-2012 Chevy Suburban
Problem points: Engine, transmission, climate, and suspension issues
While not as dangerous as the Saturn Vue CVT VTi, the 2011-2012 model
Chevy Suburbans have enough problems to make them another of the worst used SUVs.
Drivers have reported everything from major engine and transmission problems that sometimes require a complete replacement to more minor issues like a faulty climate system or suspension issues.
2014-2017 GMC Yukon
Problem points: Engine, transmission, and drive system issues
All four of these model years of the
GMC Yukon suffer from both major and minor engine and transmission problems. The 2016 also has a faulty drive system, making it one of the least reliable of the four Yukons.
2015 Honda CR-V
Problem points: Vibrations while driving or stopped in gear
Even in test drives, drivers have noted violent shaking and vibration in the 2015
Honda CR-V. While Honda has apparently
found a solution for the issue, they have not issued a recall or even informed owners of how to fix it.
2016 and 2018 Dodge Durango
Problem points: Engine, cooling, fuel, climate, brake, and suspension failures
Making its third appearance on our list, the Dodge Durango in model years 2016 and 2018 suffer from a host of issues.
The 2016 model has issues with engine and the engine cooling system, as well as electrical system problems similar to those experienced in the 2011-2013 models. The 2018 Durango is even worse with faulty fuel and climate systems as well as bad brakes and suspension.
2020 Acura MDX
Problem points: Drive system and paint/trim issues
Fuel pump failures in the 2020
Acura MDX caused engines to stall mid-drive. Acura
issued a recall for this issue in 2021, but not all models sold have had this dangerous problem fixed.
Add to this drive system issues as well as paint and trim flaws and you can understand why Consumer Reports gives the 2020 Acura MDX a mere 1/5 reliability rating.
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