Best Used 3-Row SUVs
Graduate, find a mate, procreate, and buy a crossover with three rows of seats. For millions, it’s the American dream: space for the entire family and then some. SUVs with the ability to carry up to seven passengers are more popular than ever. They’ve become the must-have for dads and moms from Newport, Rhode Island, to Newport Beach, California.
And why not? Little Billy Jr. shouldn’t be forced to share a row with his sister. She’s icky. And sister Jane deserves her own row of seats as well. There you go, girl. Stretch out and dream of someday owning your own three-row family truckster. Yes, we can stop for ice cream. But with dozens of used 3-row SUVs out there, which is best for your family? Well, we’ve done the research for you and narrowed it down to the 10 we think are the best. We’ve also limited the selection to crossovers. We’ll cover big-daddy SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition separately. Here are our favorites in alphabetical order.
1. 2015-2017 Chevrolet Traverse
The Chevrolet Traverse was first introduced in 2009 and its first generation ran through 2017. It was Chevy’s largest crossover, even bigger inside than the full-size Tahoe SUV, and proved to be extremely popular.
Larger than most of the other vehicles on this list, you would expect the Traverse to be cumbersome around town and lack performance, but just the opposite is true. The big Chevy is quite maneuverable, is surprisingly easy to park, and packs plenty of power from a large 3.6-liter V6 engine. Fuel economy can be below 20 mpg, but you can’t have everything. Prices for well-kept examples start at about $13,000.
2. 2015-2018 Ford Flex
Ford discontinued the Flex last year after a successful 10-year run. First introduced in 2009, the crossover featured acres of interior space and cutting-edge styling. Its boxy look either reminded you of America’s great station wagons of the past, including classic woody wagons of the 1940s, or it triggered your gag reflex. Many people liked it and bought their Flexes with contrasting white roofs.
In 2013, Ford gave the Flex a facelift that including a new front end design and revised tailgate and taillights. Inside the designs of the dashboard and steering wheel were also improved. Buyers could still choose between a pair of 3.5-liter V6 engines, one with twin-turbos making 355 hp and one without that produced 287 hp. Prices start right around $12,000.
3. 2015-2017 Ford Explorer
Over the last decade, Ford has actually flooded the market with two three-row crossovers: the Flex and the more popular Explorer. The fifth generation of the Explorer was introduced in 2011 and was produced until 2019. It shares its platform with the Flex, but it isn’t quite as roomy. It still seats seven just fine when equipped with the available second-row bench seat, but the way way back is a bit tight for adults.
Like the Flex, the Explorer was offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and most were powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine. Ford did offer the twin-turbo 3.5-liter Ecoboost as well as a couple of turbocharged four-cylinder engines: a 2.0-liter with 240 hp and a 2.3-liter. In 2016 Ford gave the Explorer a facelift that included LED headlights. Prices start right around $15,000.
4. 2015-2016 GMC Acadia
A mechanical twin to the Chevrolet Traverse, the GMC Acadia was first introduced in 2007 and its first generation ran through 2016. It was GMC’s largest crossover, even bigger inside than the Yukon, and it proved to be extremely popular. Like the Traverse, the Acadia is larger than most of the other vehicles on this list, and it is also considerably larger than the second-generation Acadia that GMC sells today.
Though large with a 118.9-inch wheelbase and an overall length of over 200 inches, the Acadia is easy to maneuver around town and its performance is impressive. A large 3.6-liter V6 engine was standard and produced 288 hp. In 2016, the Limited model got a bump to 310 hp. Prices for well-kept examples start at about $16,000.
5. 2016-2018 Honda Pilot
Honda builds the three-row Pilot in Lincoln, Alabama, and gets the most out of this platform, which the SUV shares with the Acura MDX, Honda Passport, and Honda Ridgeline. They all use the same engine as well, a spunky 3.5-liter V6 with 280 hp. That’s plenty. A six-speed automatic transmission was standard on the LX, EX, and EX-L trim levels, while a nine-speed automatic was standard on the Touring and Elite trims. The extra gears improve fuel economy, but not as much as you may think.
This is the third generation of the Pilot, which is Honda’s largest SUV, and it’s still the same version of the SUV sold today. It’s the most luxurious Pilot ever. Its ride is smooth and its interior is quiet. In 2017, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were added to all trims except the base LX. Prices start right around $24,000.
6. 2015-2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai offered the seven-passenger version of the Santa Fe from 2013 to 2019 alongside a smaller five-passenger version called the Santa Fe Sport. In 2019, it replaced the Santa Fe Sport with an all-new five-passenger Santa Fe and renamed the Santa Fe as the Santa Fe XL. Then it replaced Santa Fe XL a year later with the Palisade, which has received rave reviews. Confused yet?
The seven-passenger Santa Fe offers used SUV buyers a compelling combination of space, style, performance, comfort, and value. (My brother-in-law has one and loves it.) Its 290-hp 3.3-liter V6 offers plenty of power and delivers decent fuel economy. The crossover also rides well, and Hyundai offered second-row captain’s chairs that make third-row access much easier. Prices start right around $15,000.
7. 2016-2019 Kia Sorento
Kia is part of the same company that owns Hyundai, and the Sorento shares its platform with the Santa Fe. This is Kia’s most affordable three-row SUV. It’s also been one of America’s most affordable seven-passenger SUVs for years, and its third-row seat has been standard on all trim levels.
This third-generation of the Sorento debuted in 2016 and it’s still available today. Like the Santa Fe, the Kia is spacious, well-built, attractive, and comfortable. But unlike the Hyundai, it was available with a choice of engines, either a 190-hp four-cylinder or a 290-hp V6. In 2018, Kia gave the Sorento a successful facelift and replaced the 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a more powerful 2.4-liter. Prices start right around $12,000.
8. 2016-2019 Mazda CX-9
This is another one that flies mostly under the radar, but the Mazda CX-9 is universally considered to be one of the best driving three-row crossovers ever. Mazda has also given the SUV’s second generation an upscale design inside and out, and it rivals the look of many luxury SUVs. After five years, it still looks fresh. And it’s spacious — adults can fit in the Mazda’s third row if the ride isn’t too long. With an overall length of 200 inches, the CX-9 is larger than it looks.
Under the hood is a powerful and fuel-efficient 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine makes 227 hp, which is sufficient. In 2017, the CX-9 was awarded the first-ever IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award. Prices start at about $18,000.
9. 2017-2018 Nissan Pathfinder
Another staple in the three-row SUV arena is Nissan’s popular Pathfinder. Its fourth generation debuted in 2013, and the vehicle got an extensive upgrade to its exterior four years later. That year, Nissan also improved the Pathfinder’s engine, installing a new V6 with an impressive 284 hp. The Nissan is the only crossover on this list with a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT, which responds and feels a bit differently than a conventional automatic. Most buyers don’t notice the difference, but it’s something to think about during your test drive.
In 2017, Nissan also made a few changes to the Pathfinder interior, including by improving the cupholders. The Pathfinder is spacious and it rides smoothly, but it isn’t very athletic. The Mazda CX-9, for instance, is sportier. Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive were available. Prices start around $16,000.
10. 2016-2019 Toyota Highlander
As we write, Toyota has recently introduced an all-new version of the popular Highlander, the SUV’s fourth generation. The previous generation was sold from 2014 to 2019, and it’s one of the best buys of all used three-row crossovers. The Highlander has always sold well, so there are hundreds of thousands of them out there. They’re also attractive, spacious, comfortable, and powerful, plus they’re known to be reliable. Also, this is the only SUV on this list that was offered with a hybrid powertrain for improved fuel economy.
In 2016, Toyota gave the Highlander an extensive facelift with revised styling and a new transmission. The V6 models were now equipped with an eight-speed automatic and it was a huge improvement over the old six-speed. Four-cylinder models don’t have as much power as Highlanders with the large 3.5-liter V6 or the Hybrid. Prices start about $20,000, and Hybrid models cost about $10,000 more.