17 SUVs to Avoid When Buying a Used Vehicle

Although a used SUV can save you money, certain model years of the Saturn VUE CVT VTi, the Chevy Suburban, and the Dodge Durango may not be worth it.
Written by Sarah Gray
Edited by Pat Roache
Due to problems with its transmission, the Saturn Vue CVT VTi is the worst SUV to buy used, followed closely by the 2011 and 2012 model years of the Chevrolet Suburban.
  • Some of the most popular used SUVs are also the most unreliable—including multiple generations of the Dodge Durango.
  • Faulty TIPM systems and major transmission problems account for some of the worst SUVs to buy used.
  • Many of the most unreliable SUVs to buy used may have had their major problems addressed by car recalls, but you’ll need to check vehicle history reports to be sure.

2002-2005 Saturn Vue CVT VTi

Problem point: Unreliable transmission
Problems with the Saturn Vue VTi’s continuously variable transmission resulted in a class-action lawsuit that was settled by GM in 2008. Drivers reported the Vue’s transmission slipping in and out of gear, causing them to lose control of the vehicle. 
Saturn discontinued the Vue after 2005 and Saturn itself shut down in 2010, making replacement parts very expensive and difficult to find; however, repair costs are nothing compared to the potential for injury and fatality.
Key Takeaway The 2002-2005 Saturn Vue is the worst SUV to buy used due to its dangerously unreliable transmission. 

2011-2012 Chevy Suburban

Problem points: Engine, transmission, climate, and suspension issues
While not as dangerous as the Saturn Vue CVT VTi, the 2011 to 2012 Chevy Suburban models have enough problems to make them poor choices in the world of used SUVs:
  • A variety of major engine and transmission problems that sometimes require full replacements
  • Faulty climate systems
  • Minor suspension issues
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1999-2000 Dodge Durango

Problem point: Unreliable engine
For the 1999 and 2000 model years, the 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 while they were driving

2002-2007 Jeep Liberty

Problem point: Faulty window regulator
The common defect in the 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty models is mostly just inconvenient compared to some of the others on this list. 
However, the faulty window regulators in these models could lead to costly repeat placements—not to mention the unwanted surprise of your window sliding open during a rainstorm.

2002-2004 Ford Explorer

Problem point: Unreliable transmission
Transmission troubles like slipping gears and hard shifting are well-documented and unavoidable with the early-2000s-model Ford Explorer. These SUVs typically require an entire transmission replacement after accumulating only about 50,000 to 100,000 miles. 

2005-2008 Nissan Pathfinder and Xterra

Problem point: Coolant leaks causing transmission erosion
Overall, the Nissan Pathfinder and Xterra are excellent SUVs, new or used. However, the 2005-2008 models suffer from coolant leaks that eventually lead to transmission erosion. 
Proceed with caution: Most of these used models have likely already had to have their transmissions rebuilt and may be safer to buy now. Check the vehicle history report before purchasing—or just look for a different model year to be safe.

2005 Chevy Equinox

Problem point: Head gasket problem
The 2005 Chevrolet Equinox suffers from well-documented and very expensive head gasket problems. If the model you’re looking at hasn’t had its engine rebuilt or swapped already, you can look forward to adding that cost and hassle to your used SUV’s price tag.

2006-2008 Toyota RAV4

Problem point: Excessive oil consumption
Toyotas are some of the
most reliable cars
on the market—and, for the most part, the Toyota RAV4 is no exception; however, drivers of the 2006-2008 models report burning through as much as a full quart of oil every 1,000 miles.
MORE: The best used Toyota to buy

2007-2008 GMC Acadia

Problem point: Faulty transmission
GMC Acadia models from 2007 and 2008 sport the notorious GM-Ford six-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
The 2008-2009 Buick Enclave GM-Ford 6T75 automatic transmission suffered from:
  • Programming issues that led to terrible gas mileage 
  • Engagement issues with the shift cable adjustment clip that meant the driver didn’t always know what gear the car was in
Several drivers reported shifting their Enclaves into Park only to have them stay in Drive. Buick
issued a recall
for both issues, so ask to see the vehicle’s recall paperwork or a licensed mechanic’s repair receipt before purchasing.

2009-2010 Dodge Journey

Problem point: Bad brakes
The 2009-2010 Dodge Journey came equipped with thin brakes and rotors that were known to wear down in as little as 10,000 miles. 

2011-2013 Dodge Durango

Problem point: Faulty TIPM
Making the list again, the 2011-2013 Dodge Durango models suffer from a well-known defect in the Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM). This led to electrical issues that affected everything from the power windows to the engine and led to a
recall of all models
The bottom line: If you’re in the market for a used 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 point: Faulty TIPM
Another casualty of Fiat-Chrysler’s faulty TIPM, the 2011 and 2014 models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee experienced the same electrical failures as their cousin—the Dodge Durango.
MORE: The best used Jeep to buy

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 GMC Yukon’s faulty drive system in particular makes it 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. Honda has not issued a recall or informed owners of how to fix this issue on their own, though service centers have supposedly found in-house solutions.

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 models from 2016 and 2018 suffered from a host of issues:
  • 2016 Dodge Durango: Faulty engine and cooling systems, as well as electrical system problems similar to those experienced in the 2011-2013 models 
  • 2018 Dodge Durango: Faulty fuel and climate systems as well as bad brakes and suspension
MORE: What is Dodge’s best midsize SUV?

2020 Acura MDX 

Problem points: Fuel pump, drive system, and paint/trim issues
Fuel pump failures in the 2020 Acura MDX caused engines to stall while driving. Acura
issued a recall
for this issue in 2021, but not all models sold have had this dangerous problem fixed.  
Add 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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Do your research. Known issues with used SUVs are all well-documented, so take some time to read up on your model and check vehicle history reports before making a decision to buy.
Get an independent inspection from a licensed mechanic. Unfortunately, most car dealers are not car experts—but licensed, independent mechanics are.
Check your state’s lemon law. All fifty states and Washington D.C. have some variation of lemon laws meant to protect consumers from defective products.
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