Americans have abandoned the sedan and have pledged their love to the crossover, an amalgam of the best features of both sedans and traditional SUVs. The trouble for many of us, though, is that $20,000 to start, for a 2WD, bare-bones economy crossover is a little too taxing on the bank account.
Fear not, though: You can buy a used crossover easily in the $12,000 range. But within that range, there are some winners and losers, reliability-wise. That’s why we hit up our friends at Car Complaints to find the 10 crossovers with that have earned their “Seal of Awesome” by avoiding catastrophic complaints from owners.
We’ve also matched that list up with examples for sale for less than $12,000, and really, only a couple of these vehicles average that high. Several of the options here are significantly less than $10,000. Click the highlighted link for every make and model and you’ll be directed to crossovers for sale, where you can filter for cars in your region.
First gen MDXs make for fantastic crossovers, too, but these second generation cars built between ’07 and ’13 are stout, comfortable, good-looking and have a sparkling reputation for reliability. The owners that responded to surveys at CarComplaints.com specifically called out the 2008 and 2010 model years for exceptional reliability. The MDX is really the only vehicle on the list that pushes into $12,000 average price territory.
Along with the Toyota RAV-4 (which appears further down the list), the Honda CR-V essentially invented the crossover market when it was introduced. Others had come along earlier, but none were as popular as this pair of car/SUV hybrids. 2002 marked the beginning of the second generation of the CR-V, which was larger, heavier and had an upgraded four-cylinder engine. Favorite years among CarComplaints.com survey respondents were 2005 and 2006.
The Hyundai Tucson arrived in 2004 and its first generation stretched to 2009. They were based on the popular Hyundai Elantra, and shared a platform with the Kia Sportage. They’re one of the crossovers we’re recommending that honestly look out of date now, but they’re still remarkably reliable. You can also buy the nicest one in America for our $15,000 price cap. Examples with 75,000 miles in excellent condition are available for $8,000. CarComplaints visitors gave high marks to 2007, 2008 and 2009 model years.
The Kia Sorento was the same basic vehicle from its introduction in 2002, until it was overhauled in 2010, but in 2007, it received the 3.3-liter V-6, along with the base 2.4-liter four cylinder. The changes in 2007 also allowed the Sorento to achieve a five-star crash rating from NHTSA. CarComplaints visitors gave the 2009 edition especially high praise.
The 2007 to 2011 Hyundai Veracruz is on the same platform as the Kia Sorento, so it should be no surprise that it achieved outstanding reliability marks form the audience at CarComplaints.com. The major difference between the two is the engine. The Veracruz has a 3.8-liter V-6, with 260hp. The Veracruz was discontinued in 2011 in favor of the Santa Fe. Models from 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 were all uniformly well received by CarComplaints.com visitors.
2003 to 2010 Pontiac Vibe
For the truly budget-minded, the Pontiac Vibe is a win. The Vibe was built by the same GM/Toyota joint venture — NUMMI — that built the Geo Prizm. The Vibe was powered by the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder as the Toyota Corolla. Up until 2007, it was available in GT form with all-wheel drive. Front wheel drive models were available with an automatic or a manual transmission. CarComplaints visitors loved the 2007 to 2010 model years, which received a styling update. Even with low miles, late Vibes barely crack the $10,000 barrier.
It might not look like there were a whole lot of changes between the first-generation and second-generation Subaru Foresters, but the car they were both based on — the Subaru Impreza — received some major upgrades between those years. The 2002 got a lot of weight-saving refinements, and with the addition of the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine, it suddenly got really, really fun to drive. CarComplaints visitors favor the 2004 to 2008 model years.
The Matrix was mechanically identical to the Pontiac Vibe, so it should be no surprise that it was on CarComplaints.com’s Seal of Awesome list. Because Toyota outlasted the demise of Pontiac, the Matrix was sold for two years longer than the Vibe, too. The main difference between the two cars was the interior. The Matrix had an interior reminiscent of most Toyota product, while the Vibe was much more Pontiac-y. The 2003 to 2006 Matrix offered all-wheel drive, and the same years offered a sporty XRS powered by the same engine as the Celica GT-S, with a six-speed manual transmission. CarComplaints.com visitors liked the 2007 to 2013 models, specifically.
It’s interesting that in all the years Toyota has produced the RAV4, it only scores high among CarComplaints visitors for the 2000 and the 2004 model years, both of which are from the second generation before a significant redesign in 2005. Compare the mileage on a lot of these RAV4s versus crossovers for the same price from Kia and Hyundai. RAV4s with comparable mileage are often much more expensive, but still under our $12,000 cap.
Like the Acura MDX, a Toyota Highlander is going to push the $12,000 price cap if you get into the later years. To stay well under it, you’ll be looking at a first-generation Highlander, which you can typically find with reasonable mileage right at $12,000. According to the information in CarComplaints.com’s database, the 2007 Highlander is near flawless.
For more information on the relative reliability of other crossovers, visit CarComplaints.com.