Which SUVs are the best values?
American consumers can’t get enough of SUVs—there’s now a utility vehicle in every size and to satisfy every taste. With the recently announced 2019 Best Overall Value of the Year awards, IntelliChoice includes some of the most value-packed models in midsize, full-size, and luxury SUV segments.
In order to determine its Overall Value of the Year winners, IntelliChoice takes into account multiple factors including insurance, depreciation, financing, fuel, state fees, and maintenance over five years. These are then used to calculate how much a specific vehicle is to operate compared to its expected costs relative to other vehicles in its segment. Cost of ownership is analyzed down to the trim level because, IntelliChoice says, it can be pricier to own and maintain one trim over another.
Read on to see which crossovers won their respective segments.
Read about more IntelliChoice Best Overall Value Winners here:
- Which Trucks Are the Best Values?
- 2019 IntelliChoice Awards Best Family Cars
- 2019 IntelliChoice Best Overall Value Awards
- 2019 Best Overall Value Awards from IntelliChoice
Jeep Wrangler—Compact Utility
When it comes to retaining its value, the Jeep Wrangler is among the strongest performers, so it’s no surprise that it won the top spot in the compact utility segment. According to IntelliChoice’s data, the Jeep Wrangler retains 83 percent of its value over five years, and its depreciation is only $6,099 USD. That’s $3,939 USD less than the second-place Subaru Crosstrek and $5,324 USD lower than the Honda HR-V, which came in third. Its total five-year cost to own, $29,778 USD, is $11,910 USD less than expected.
The Jeep Wrangler is MotorTrend’s 2019 SUV of the Year. After a thorough redesign, the Wrangler has evolved into a solid all-around SUV. A mild hybrid 2.0-liter turbo-four makes the Wrangler more efficient than ever. Its new chassis provides significant improvements to on-road ride and handling without sacrificing off-road capability. FCA’s latest UConnect interface brings the Wrangler into the modern age with a user-friendly multimedia system that completes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For 2019, Jeep has also added new driver-assistance features including automatic emergency braking.
Toyota 4Runner—Midsize Utility
Despite its age, the Toyota 4Runner remains a thrifty vehicle to operate. Its retained value of 65.7 percent is one of the highest, topping the second-place Subaru Forester and third-place Subaru Outback 2.5i, which are rated at 58.9 percent and 55.7 percent, respectively. Maintaining a 4Runner over five years also proved inexpensive at $1,763 USD—that’s $1,040 USD less than the Outback and $870 USD less than the Forester. At $40,753 USD, the 4Runner is $5,590 USD cheaper to run than originally projected.
The current-generation Toyota 4Runner has been on the market since the 2010 model year, which makes it ancient by today’s standards. Its 270-hp 4.0-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic date back to the early 2000s when they first debuted in the previous-generation model. In TRD Pro guise, the 4Runner can tackle some of the toughest terrain. Unfortunately, its age has caught up with it; the multimedia system is slow and lacks smartphone integration, and its touchscreen is tiny by today’s standards. Interior material quality also lags behind with a sea of hard plastics on nearly every panel. For 2020, Toyota gives the 4Runner Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the Entune system’s touchscreen, which has grown to 7.0 inches, is still on the small side.
Toyota Highlander—Full-Size Utility
Another Toyota winning on value? Yep. The Toyota Highlander takes the win in the full-size utility category due to a number of factors. A high retained value of 55.9 percent puts it above all its competitors, and its low depreciation of $17,513 USD over five years is $1,935 USD less than the second-place Honda Pilot. Maintaining a Toyota Highlander is also pretty inexpensive at $1,841 USD over five years, $1,116 USD less than the Honda Pilot and $1,302 USD cheaper than the third-place Subaru Ascent. Toyota’s two-year complimentary maintenance program may have also helped lower the Highlander’s five-year total ownership costs to $40,438 USD.
We liked the Highlander’s solid interior build quality and comfortable ride; however, the third row is next to useless even for smaller adults, and moving the second row out of the way is a chore. Until the all-new 2020 model arrives, the outgoing Highlander also lacks a modern multimedia interface; there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and the haptic feedback buttons are finicky. The Highlander’s steering response is dull, and its handling doesn’t inspire confidence when you take a corner.
Lexus NX 300h—Premium Compact Utility
Opting for a hybrid powertrain used to mean paying a significant premium over its gas-only counterpart, and it took forever to recoup the price difference. That no longer seems to be the case because the Lexus NX 300h tops its segment, according to IntelliChoice’s findings. With reasonable fuel expenditure of $6,669 USD over five years, the NX 300h is one of the least expensive premium compact utility vehicles to fill. Its $397 USD five-year repair bill and 51.2 percent retained value should also keep its upkeep bill in check over time. By comparison, the second-place Volvo XC60 T6 depreciates $5,073 USD more than the Lexus NX 300h, which loses $19,568 USD over five years. Even the third-place finisher, the Lexus UX 250h, loses $320 USD more than its larger sibling.
The NX 300h utilizes an older version of Lexus’ hybrid system, utilizing a port-injected 2.5-liter I-4 coupled to three electric motors, a nickel–metal hydride battery, and a CVT. Total output is 194 hp. Thanks to one of the electric motors being mounted on the rear axle, the Lexus NX 300h comes standard with all-wheel drive. A recent refresh saw the addition of a larger 10.3-inch screen for the multimedia system and a standard suite of active driver-assistance features.
Lexus RX 350—Premium Midsize Utility
It’s no surprise that the Lexus RX 350 took the crown in its segment with 52.2 percent retained value and affordable repairs of just $421 USD over five years. Compared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SRT, which finished second and third, the Lexus RX 350 is $452 USD and $473 USD less expensive to fix, respectively. As a result of lower-than-expected depreciation and repair, fuel, and insurance expenses, the Lexus RX 350 will run you $52,212 USD, which is $4,936 USD lower than projected.
Since its debut in the late 1990s, the Lexus RX has been one of the best-selling luxury crossovers. The current generation, which debuted in 2015 as a 2016 model, impressed with its comfortable seats, well-built interior, and comfortable ride. However, we didn’t appreciate its dated and clunky infotainment system. The F Sport model also rode poorly and didn’t handle better than the standard car despite its upgraded suspension and adaptive dampers. The three-row RX L also disappointed with its vestigial third row and sloppy driving dynamics.
GMC Yukon Denali—Premium Full-Size Utility
Big, hulking SUVs, especially body-on-frame ones, are usually associated with high upkeep, particularly in the fuel department. Surprisingly, there are a few that buck the trend; the GMC Yukon Denali won because of its low five-year overall ownership expenses at $65,605 USD—that’s $7,987 USD less. Repairs over five years that total to $818 USD and a solid retained value of 50.8 percent helps lower the Yukon Denali’s cost of ownership.
Although it’s due for a major redesign soon, the GMC Yukon still commands attention on the road. It has presence, and the available 6.2-liter V-8 and 10-speed automatic provide effortless power. Unfortunately, its age reveals itself once you get inside; the interior materials feel cheap even in pricey models, and because of the fixed second row and raised floor, the third row is short on legroom. The Yukon’s size also affects its road manners, causing it to lose stability during evasive maneuvers. Its solid rear axle prevents it from riding smoothly; it hops and skips too much, even with Magnetic Ride Control.
Volvo XC90—Luxury Utility
It comes as no surprise that Volvo’s excellent XC90 takes the win in its class considering its cheaper to buy than direct competitors with a starting price of $48,695 USD. Low maintenance bills of $2,470 USD over five years and a better-than-expected retained value of 49.8 percent help seal the Volvo XC90’s value proposition. You spend $57,832 USD owning a Volvo XC90 over five years. That’s $9,716 USD less than projected, which should help ease upkeep.
The Volvo XC90 won Motor Trend’s 2016 SUV of the Year award for its combination of opulence, strong powertrains, and confident road manners. Volvo’s Sensus interface is one of the slickest-looking infotainment systems, featuring crisp graphics on a 9.0-inch portrait-style touchscreen.