Today the SUV has taken over the market. Running the gamut from subcompact crossovers all the way up to massive full-size SUVs, it is difficult to find a niche that the SUV does not fill (okay, they are still not anyone’s choice for a performance vehicle). However, as the prices of new SUVs keep climbing, a great way to save some money is to look at one of the used SUVs for sale.
However, a quick look online or at a dealer’s lot for used SUVs will quickly reveal an overwhelming number of options to choose from. Not only will you face the normal choices of makes and models, but you will also need to be aware of the differences between model years. A vehicle that looks good in one model year may not fit your needs in another, and important options may change from year to year.
With that in mind, let us look at the offerings from two of the leading brands in the SUV market––Chevrolet and Toyota. Together, these two companies have been responsible for producing some of the world’s most iconic and popular SUVs ranging from the flagship Chevy Suburban and Toyota Sequoia to the plentiful Chevy Equinox and Toyota RAV4. To keep things simpler, we will also restrict ourselves to model years from the last decade.
Breaking Down the Options
At first, the sheer number of used SUVs for sale from Chevrolet and Toyota may seem bewildering, but to start things off, they can be broken down into two-row (five passenger) and three-row (seven or eight passenger) vehicles. While it should be remembered that some two-row SUVs were also offered with a third row of seats that replaced the cargo area, these variants were generally rare and not particularly successful.
For two-row options, Chevrolet had the Equinox, the Blazer, and the Trax. However, the Blazer was only introduced in 2019 and is not yet widely available on the used market. Toyota’s two-row SUVs include the RAV4, the 4Runner, and the C-HR. Although, like the Blazer, the C-HR is a relatively new vehicle.
When it comes to three-row vehicles, Chevrolet has produced the Traverse, the Tahoe, and the Suburban. While Toyota has the Highlander, the Land Cruiser, and the Sequoia. Of these, the Land Cruiser is something of an odd vehicle, as it is closer in size to the two-row SUVs with the third row taking the place of its cargo space.
Battle of the Two-Row SUVs
When it comes to two-row used SUVs for sale, you will mainly be looking at the 2nd generation Chevy Equinox (2010-2017), the 4th generation Toyota RAV4 (2013-2018), and the 5th generation Toyota 4Runner (2009-present).
However, between these three vehicles, the Toyota 4Runner is the odd man out. While the Equinox and RAV4 are typical crossovers that come standard with four-cylinder engines and FWD or AWD, the 4Runner is a true SUV equipped with a V6 and RWD or 4WD. This makes the 4Runner your best choice for off-road performance, but generally a poor option for most people.
Between the Equinox and the RAV4, it is a very close battle. Both of these vehicles are similar in size, although they allocate interior space differently. The RAV4 has a larger cargo area, while the Equinox has more headroom and legroom. But the real advantage of the Equinox is its superior engine choices. The RAV4 only has a 176 hp four-cylinder engine, while the Equinox has both a 182 hp four-cylinder and an upgraded V6 offering either 264 hp (2010-2012) or 301 hp (2013-2017). The only way to get a V6 on the RAV4 is to opt for an older 3rd generation vehicle (2005-2012), which will lack a lot of modern conveniences.
Interior features on both the Equinox and RAV4 are similar, with standard backup cameras, bluetooth, and steering wheel mounted controls as well as the usual options for items like power seats, satellite radio, and automatic climate control. Both vehicles were also refreshed in 2016, receiving similar 7” touch screens. However, the Equinox comes out slightly ahead on features with four automatic one-touch power windows again one on the RAV4 and, after the refresh, a 4G LTE wireless hotspot.
If you do need something smaller than an Equinox or RAV4, then you should probably be looking for a hatchback because they do almost everything better than subcompact crossovers. However, should you decide that a subcompact crossover is for you then the only real option is the Chevy Trax. To begin with, simply finding a used Toyota C-HR for a good price will be difficult because of how new it is. But just as importantly, the Trax has significantly more cargo space at 48.4 cu.ft. against 37 cu.ft. for the C-HR.
The Three-Row Options
The three-row used SUVs for sale can be further broken down into two categories. The first category is the FWD/AWD crossovers, which includes the Chevy Traverse and the Toyota Highlander. These are effectively the larger relatives of the Chevy Equinox and the Toyota RAV4. The second category is the RWD/4WD SUVs, which includes the Chevy Tahoe, Chevy Suburban, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Toyota Sequoia.
Tackling the crossovers first, the most common used SUVs for sale in this category will be the 1st generation Traverse (2009-2017) and the 3rd generation (2014-2019) Highlander. Unlike the similarly-sized Equinox and RAV4, the Traverse is a significantly larger vehicle than the Highlander, measuring over 12” longer and weighing roughly 500 pounds more. This means the Traverse has almost 40% more cargo capacity than the Highlander at 116.3 cu.ft. against just 83.7 cu.ft., and makes the Traverse the obvious choice if you need space.
And as with the two-row comparison, the Chevrolet is also a much more powerful vehicle, coming standard with a 281 hp V6 engine while the base 185 hp four-cylinder in the Toyota. The Highlander does have an optional V6, but at 270 hp, this also falls somewhat short. However, one advantage of the Highlander is that it received a more advanced eight-speed automatic transmission as part of its 2016 facelift. Still, interior features tend to swing back in favor of the Traverse, including an optional Bose audio system added in 2013 and a standard 4G LTE hotspot in 2016.
Moving up to the RWD/4WD used SUVs for sale, you will find that Toyota’s offerings are much older than Chevrolet’s. Both the current Toyota Land Cruiser and Toyota Sequoia platforms date to 2008, while the 4th generation Chevy Tahoe and 11th generation Chevy Suburban were both introduced in 2015.
The two companies’ models also do not line up as neatly as with the smaller vehicles. As with the Toyota 4Runner, the Toyota Land Cruiser is an off-road optimized vehicle and, as mentioned above, it is smaller than the others. This leaves the Toyota Sequoia to compete against both the Chevy Tahoe and the Chevy Suburban. But since the Sequoia is almost exactly the same size as the Suburban, this means that the Tahoe effectively has no competition in its market niche.
Comparing the Suburban to the Sequoia is a close battle. While the Suburban offers slightly more cargo room at 121.7 cu.ft. against 120.1 cu.ft. against 121.7 cu.ft., the 381 hp V8 on the Sequoia is more powerful than the 355 hp V8 on the Suburban. However, the Sequoia is a couple hundred pounds heavier, which makes that extra power necessary to achieve similar performance.
As befits flagship vehicles, both the Suburban and Sequoia are packed with features such as satellite radio, three-zone climate control, and automatic headlights. However, the Suburban comes out ahead with amenities like a power passenger seat, rear-seat entertainment system, and parking sensors coming standard.