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There’s an element of mystery behind the history of every used SUV. While that might be intimidating, you can at least have peace of mind knowing which vehicles are safe. All it takes is a little research while you shop. 

In the meantime, we’ll give you a head start by naming five pre-owned SUVs with serious safety concerns. You’ll find many of these popular models at your local used car dealership. But don’t be swayed by attractive pricing if your family’s safety is your top priority. These vehicles earned sub-par scores in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) crash test.

2011-2012 Ford Escape: A used SUV that doesn’t offer peace of mind

A 2011 Ford Escape compact SUV on display at an auto show
The 2011 Ford Escape on display at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show | Photo by Tim Boyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Used car shoppers face a conundrum. They either have to pay up for a modern vehicle or get a model that seems like it’s from the stone age. The 2011-2012 Ford Escape fits in the latter category.

You can buy this used SUV for less than $10,000, but you’ll have to temper your expectations. The 2011-2012 Ford Escape lacks modern features on most trim levels – although fully-loaded models at least have an infotainment system. But its horrific crash-test rating should give you the most concern.

The NHTSA gave the 2011-2012 Ford Escape a three-star overall safety rating. Unlike most other models, this used compact SUV didn’t have any redeeming qualities. It had substandard three-star scores in all significant categories – frontal crash, side crash, and rollover. In comparison, most brand-new vehicles earn a four- or five-star overall rating.

2014-2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee: Choose your model wisely

The fourth-generation Grand Cherokee is an odd case, as its safety rating depends on its configuration. Used car buyers should feel at ease purchasing a 4×4 version of this midsize SUV. However, the rear-wheel-drive models feature a significant downside – aside from worse off-road capability.

According to the NHTSA, 2014-2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4×2 models have a higher rollover risk than 4×4 iterations. The organization gave these versions a three-star score (20.40% rollover risk) in this category. Meanwhile, the Grand Cherokee 4×4 earned four stars (16.90% rollover risk.)

The low rollover score drastically impacted the Grand Cherokee 4×2’s overall safety rating. It dropped from five stars on 4×4 models to four stars. Thus, buyers should be careful about which Grand Cherokee configuration they purchase.

2013-2017 Volkswagen Tiguan: A glaring flaw raises a red flag

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IHS) crash test of the 2013 VW Tiguan

This upscale used compact SUV features an attractive, sophisticated profile. But while this aspect will impress your friends, it’ll be challenging to drive with peace of mind. 

Its four-star overall safety rating doesn’t scream ‘danger.’ However, the VW Tiguan’s three-star frontal crash score gives us plenty of cause for concern. The NHTSA discovered that the SUV’s passenger side was especially susceptible to damage – an alarming revelation for anyone with a family. Additionally, the organization only gave the 2013-2017 Volkswagen Tiguan a four-star rating in the rollover crash test (18.50% risk.)

2011 Toyota RAV4: An off-year for a trusted compact SUV

A blue 2011 Toyota RAV4 parked on display
The 2011 Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

Like the 2011-2012 Ford Escape, this used compact SUV’s safety score makes shoppers look away in disgust. The NHTSA gave the 2011 Toyota RAV4 a similar three-star overall safety rating. The 2011 RAV4 only earned three stars in the frontal crash test. However, it fared slightly better in the side and rollover crash tests than its Ford rival.

Thankfully, you don’t have to avoid all older RAV4 models, as the 2011 model’s failure was a blip on the radar. The NHTSA gave the rest of the Toyota RAV4’s third generation (2005-2012) better scores in the frontal crash test. Plus, Toyota redesigned its compact SUV for the 2013 model year. This update fixed some of the model’s safety problems, but the RAV4 lost its unique personality in the process.

2012-2014 Lincoln Navigator: A used luxury SUV that missed the mark

Purchasing a nearly ten-year-old Lincoln is a popular way of getting a luxury vehicle for cheap. However, this three-row used SUV suffers from similar problems as the 2014-2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The NHTSA gave all 2012-2014 Lincoln Navigator models a four-star overall safety rating. However, the organization discovered that the 4×2 version has a higher rollover risk (21.20%) than the 4×4 (19.80%.) The seemingly small difference in percentage drastically changed the NHTSA’s rating in this category, dropping it from four stars to three. 


These Jeep Grand Cherokee Model Years Got the Never Buy Label