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SUVs with third-row seating are ideal for carrying seven or eight passengers. However, not all three-row SUVs are affordable. Budget-conscious shoppers might consider pre-owned crossovers like the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander. Here are three reliable used three-row midsize SUVs that can be found for under $20,000.

2016 Toyota Highlander

Reliable used 3-row midsize SUV: 2016 Toyota Highlander
2016 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

The 2016 Toyota Highlander was one of the best in its class when it came out, and it remains an excellent used three-row midsize SUV for around $20,000. Buyers pay an average of $17,700 to $27,300 for a 2016 Highlander. It’s an excellent choice, scoring an overall “great” J.D. Power score of 83 out of 100.

This SUV received similar scores in individual categories, too. It got an 82 for reliability, an 82 for driving experience, and an 84 for resale value. J.D. Power ratings aside, Toyota cars are famous for their reliability, and the Highlander is no different. Reliability is critical in used cars because owners want to ensure they won’t get stranded on the roadside.

This Highlander year is solid in other areas, too. It has decent gas mileage of about 20 mpg in the city, 25 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg combined. It also provides a smooth ride for up to seven or eight passengers, depending on the configuration.

The 2016 Highlander isn’t perfect, though. Owners have knocked this model for the third-row seats’ subpar comfort. In addition, this SUV’s infotainment system was dated in 2016, so it’s even worse now compared to later models.

2018 Honda Pilot

A silver 2018 Honda Pilot Elite parked overlooking a river, bridge, and high-rises
2018 Honda Pilot | American Honda Motor Co., Inc

People are paying an average of $19,200 to $32,500 for used 2018 Honda Pilot SUVs. Finding one for under $20,000 might be challenging, but it’s worth it because this Pilot year is more reliable than older ones. J.D. Power gave the 2018 model an overall score of 81. It was boosted by its “great” reliability score of 82 and even higher resale value score of 87. But it got only an “average” 78 for its driving experience. 

This used three-row midsize SUV seats seven or eight, depending on the configuration. The 280-hp engine gets about 20 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined. The interior is roomy and provides plenty of storage space. Its third-row seats can also seat adults comfortably. Plus, Honda gave the 2018 Pilot a suite of advanced safety features.

However, the cabin can be loud at highway speeds, and the infotainment system could be more user-friendly. 

2018 Ford Explorer

Expect to pay between $17,400 and $30,150 for a used 2018 Ford Explorer. Like the Pilot, finding an example in good condition under $20,000 can be challenging, but it’s worth the search. This used Explorer year earned an overall J.D. Power score of 80 and a “great” reliability rating of 82. It also got an 80 for its driving experience and a 76 for its resale value. 

This SUV is the best of these three options regarding horsepower. Ford offered several engine options, and the most potent makes 365 hp. That allows the SUV to accelerate quickly. Additionally, its infotainment system is user-friendly and modern.

However, models with the more powerful engines are thirsty. At best, the 2018 Explorer gets 19 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg combined. Also, the third-row seats aren’t spacious, and the Explorer seats only seven, not eight.

Regardless of a used car’s reliability score, obtain a vehicle history report and have a trusted mechanic perform an inspection to uncover potential problems before purchasing. Also, prices may vary depending on trim level, mileage, overall condition, and location.