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In the market for a spacious family hauler? Chances are you’re looking for a three-row SUV. But how do you choose the best three-row SUV for your brood? If you’re shopping for a used model, Kelley Blue Book (KBB) suggests opting for a certified pre-owned (CPO) three-row SUV instead. And if you’re shopping for a three-row SUV under $30,000? These models are KBB’s top picks for the best CPO three-row SUVs under $30,000.

What’s the difference between used and certified pre-owned cars?

Certified pre-owned cars aren’t like used cars. As a matter of fact, there are some pretty big differences between a CPO and a used car. Unlike your typical used car, a CPO car must undergo a comprehensive vehicle inspection. Typically, car dealerships will also carry out any needed repairs and replace all worn parts before listing a CPO for sale, Autotrader reports.

Perhaps what’s most appealing about buying a CPO, however, is that not a used car must meet certain criteria to be considered a certified pre-owned car. For example, Toyota requires its CPO cars to be newer than six model years old, have less than 85,000 miles on the odometer, and have a CarFax Vehicle History Report. All used cars must also pass Toyota’s rigorous 185-point inspection before being listed as CPO. That goes for CPO three-row SUVs, too.

The 2018 Mazda CX-9 is one of the best CPO three-row SUVs

A dark grey 2018 Mazda CX-9 parked in a driveway, the 2018 Mazda CX-9 is one of the best CPO three-row SUVs under $30,000
2018 Mazda CX-9 | Mazda

As for the best CPO three-row SUVs under $30,000? As it turns out, there are quite a few to choose from, KBB reports. The 2018 Mazda CX-9 found itself among KBB’s top picks for the best CPO three-row SUVs under $30,000, and for good reasons too. 

Driven by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the 2018 Mazda CX-9 offers up both a “superior ride” and better handling versus its more well-known rivals, KBB reports. Its interior is nothing short of impressive too. In fact, according to KBB, this CPO three-row SUV “blurs the lines between family vehicle and luxury cruiser.”

And if safety is a concern? You’ll be pleased to know that this CPO three-row SUV comes standard with Smart City Brake Support, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring. The IIHS also tapped it as a Top Safety Pick for the 2018 model year. The NHTSA also gave it a five-star overall safety rating.

“If your enthusiast-driving side is now in direct conflict with your growing family’s transportation needs, the 2018 Mazda CX-9 offers the best of both worlds.”


The 2018 Honda Pilot is an appealing used three-row SUV 

A blue 2018 Honda Pilot driving down an empty road
2018 Honda Pilot | Honda

Say the 2018 Mazda CX-9 isn’t quite you’re style. The good news is that the 2018 Honda Pilot also landed a spot on KBB’s list of the best CPO three-row SUVs under $30,000. According to KBB, this CPO three-row SUV is the perfect fit for road trips. It offers up seating for eight passengers and has plenty of storage space.

The 2018 Honda Pilot is excellent to drive, too, KBB reports. At the heart of it is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that puts out 280-hp. Teamed with either a 6-speed automatic transmission or a 9-speed automatic transmission, this CPO three-row SUV boasts a comfortable ride and responsive steering. 

KBB isn’t the only one singing the used Honda Pilot’s praises either. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, the 2018 Honda Pilot earned a five out of five predicted reliability rating. Car and Driver also lauded the three-row SUV for its “spacious, practical, solidly built, and relatively upscale” interior.

“With a high seating position, kid-friendly interior, and vast cargo space, the Honda Pilot midsize SUV has what it takes to win over buyers with families.”

Car and Driver

The 2017 Toyota Highlander is the best CPO three-row SUV under $30,000

A silver 2017 Toyota Highlander parked amongst trees, the 2017 Toyota Highlander is the best CPO three-row SUV under $30,000
2017 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

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The best CPO three-row SUV under $30,000 is the 2017 Toyota Highlander, KBB reports. Under the hood is a 185-hp 2.7-liter inline-4 engine, though the 2017 Highlander can also be had with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that boasts 295-hp to its name. According to KBB, the 2017 Toyota Highlander offers up a comfortable ride. But if you want maximum acceleration? You’re going to want a Highlander with a V6 under the hood.

The 2017 Toyota Highlander comes stock full of family-friendly features too. In fact, KBB reports that the Highlander’s Driver Easy Speak system is among the best Toyota Highlander features. This convenient intercom system projects your voice throughout the CPO three-row SUV and can even reach the third row. What’s not to like about that?

Much like the 2018 Mazda CX-9, the 2017 Toyota Highlander is also a safe three-row SUV. It’s standard with Toyota Safety Sense Plus, which includes safety features like active cruise control, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and lane-departure alert and warning. With so many safety features to its name, it’s no surprise that the 2017 Toyota Highlander is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.

“Toyota’s midsize SUV will continue to be a best-seller for all the right reasons.”


Which CPO three-row SUV is the right fit for your family?

When it comes to buying a three-row SUV, you’ve got a few options to consider. But if you’re in the market for the best CPO three-row SUV under $30,000? The 2018 Mazda CX-9, 2018 Honda Pilot, and the 2017 Toyota Highlander all make for solid picks.