With over 75 million new-car sales over the past five years, consumers have a massive pool of vehicles to choose from when shopping for a used model. If you choose a vehicle with high depreciation, you can get into a ride for 70% less than the original owner did a few years back.
But it all depends on your priorities. For used-vehicles shoppers who prize reliability over other factors, you might want to ignore depreciation at the start of your search.
In fact, your first stop should probably be the detailed Consumer Reports reliability ratings since the start of the decade. Looking at the midsize SUV category in recent years, these eight models have stood above the pack in this category.
8. Subaru Outback
- Best years: 2014, 2017
Maybe you call it a wagon, but the cargo-friendly, four-wheel-drive Outback is exactly what consumers want in a utility vehicle. Every year, it posts above-average owner satisfaction ratings while posting strong resale value.
Meanwhile, Subaru’s midsize model has ranked high for reliability. Since 2014, you’ll find only minor issues with infotainment and power equipment. Otherwise, you’ll get a car that runs as reliably as any SUV for the 2014-17 model years.
7. Kia Sorento
- Best years: 2015-16
You could argue that Kia’s gains in quality over the past 10 years has been one of the under-reported stories in the automotive media. Just about every vehicle in the lineup has improved dramatically, and all the while the 10-year warranty has stuck around.
The Sorento midsize SUV offers a perfect test-case. By 2015, all the complaints about earlier model-years disappeared as an above-average reliability rating went on the books. In 2016, despite being a redesign year, Sorento once again got a high rating. A total of zero (0) mechanical, interior, or other flaws were reported for both years.
6. BMW X5
- Best years: 2015-17
Whether you go by sales, owner satisfaction, or reliability, the BMW X5 is one of the top-rated SUVs you can buy (new or used). For our purposes, zeroing on dependability in daily operations, it stands out among all midsize utility vehicles and among luxury models in particular.
Since the 2015 model appeared, the only weak spots identified were the in-car electronics system (’15 models) and overall fit-and-finish (’16 models). Otherwise, owners and testers reported solid, reliable performance.
5. Toyota Venza
- Best years: 2012, 2014-15
While the Toyota Venza was discontinued in 2015, this model remains one of the most reliable utility vehicles of the decade. Year after year, owners reported few (if any) issues with its powertrain, fuel system, climate control, or brakes.
Certainly, you’ll sacrifice a bit of modern tech and convenience with an older vehicle, but if reliability is your primary concern the Venza is among the best. An “average” brake score for 2015 is about as bad as this model ever got.
4. Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
- Best years: 2014-17
In terms of daily operation (engine, transmission, brakes, suspension), you’ll struggle to find an SUV that’s more reliable than the 2014-17 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Used-vehicle buyers also get a model with a high-quality interior and decent fuel economy.
If you don’t want a Toyota but consider reliability a chief driver of your next car purchase, a Santa Fe Sport should be on your radar. the only flaw that turned up since 2014 was an “average” rating for infotainment.
3. Lexus RX
- Best years: 2014-17
Consumer Reports always stresses caution when it comes to redesigned vehicles. Usually, automakers need a year or two to get it right, and reliability typically drops a peg or two during that change-over period. But that’s not the case with elite models like the Lexus RX.
Models from 2014-15 (before the exterior makeover) landed the top reliability ratings, as did every other model earlier in the decade. After the 2016 refresh, that barely changed. The latest models take advantage of a new transmission and offer better fuel economy, though used prices will be higher.
2. Toyota Highlander
- Best years: 2014-17
If your goal is to find the most practical SUV on the new or used market, the Toyota Highlander is probably your best option. Reliability, fuel economy, and owner satisfaction are among the best of any vehicle Consumer Reports rated this decade. (In 2019, Highlander ranked No. 1 of 18 midsize SUVs.)
Poring over the ratings for each element of this model, you won’t find any flaws outside of infotainment since 2014. Model years 2015-17 (following the ’14 redesign) were especially strong.
1. Toyota 4Runner
- Best years: Every year since 2010.
Is the Toyota 4Runner the best midsize SUV? Almost no one believes that. However, this dated model is unanimously the most reliable vehicle (car, truck, or SUV) of the entire decade, so its place on this list is secure.
Since 2014, the only significant flaw found in this vehicle came in the infotainment setup (in only the ’14 model). Otherwise, used vehicle shoppers can’t do better if your goal is having your ride start every morning and stay out of the repair shop.
The one drawback? A used 4Runner holds its value as well as any five-year-old SUV, so used models don’t come cheap.