15 Used SUVs and Crossovers You Should Avoid Buying at All Costs
You should avoid these models if possible
Updated May 27, 2018
After we recently brought you the list of used trucks you might want to avoid, we’re now moving onto SUVs. Although the mentioned trucks list did ruffle a few feathers, this doesn’t mean all of them are bad. Only a few rotten model years. And we simply had to list every manufacturer in order to give you the best possible scope of the situation. Again; this doesn’t mean every pickup truck out there is bad. You should just be extra vigilant if you’re shopping for the ones (model years) listed there.
Now that that’s settled, here’s what we’ll do with this one. Since there are much more SUVs in general, we won’t be able to list all the makes currently out there, let alone those that have been discontinued. This is why we’ll only list really dodgy SUV model years that have suffered from well documented defects. Moreover, we’re only taking the last 15 years or so into account. Buying a used car is always a risk, but buying a nineties or older used car is even more so, and there’s no universal warning that can prepare you for what’s coming if you decide to tread that path.
Buick Enclave was all new back then, and it replaced both the Rendezvous and Rainier SUVs. It was a step in the right direction for Buick who desperately needed something modern in their lineup. However, GM-Ford 6T75 automatic transmission didn’t really match Enclave’s enthusiasm. 2008 and 2009 model years are probably the ones you’d like to avoid, even though most of them are supposed to be fixed by now. Still, you never know, so ask for relevant recall paperwork or licensed mechanic’s receipt if you really must shop for ’08 or ’09 Enclave.
For starters, transmission was misprogrammed from the beginning leading to strange behavior like improper shifts and high rpm count at cruising speeds which, in turn lead to lousy mpg rates. Then, there was the issue with the shift cable adjustment clip which wasn’t fully engaged. In other words, the lever and the actual position of the gear sometimes didn’t match. This means a driver could have put the shifter in park, but the vehicle would have stayed in drive. I’m not saying it’s the GM’s fault, but the industry’s fault in general. We have lost a prominent young actor Anton Yelchin due to the similar issue this year. How many more lives need to be forfeited before this transmission issue is finally addressed properly?!
Chevrolet Equinox 3.4L V6
Unfortunately for prospective Equinox buyers, some early first-gen models have suffered from well documented head gasket problems. It’s probably due to poor design of the engine cooling system, but Equinox’s 3.4L V6 deserves the title of “head gasket eater”. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it was made in China. Proper maintenance and reserved driving style simply won’t do you any good here. 2005 Chevy Equinox is one risky used car to buy, and it’ll likely fail you somewhere down the line. If it hasn’t failed the previous owner already. Needless to say, if you decide to join the army of disappointed ’05 Equinox owners, be prepared to rebuild or change your engine entirely somewhere down the line. Blown head gasket requires nothing less if not treated preemptively.
Years: 1999-2000, 2011-2013
If an older Dodge Durango is what you’re aiming at, know that millennium models suffered from very unreliable engines which were prone to building up oil sludge, and stall or shut down while driving. Magnum V8’s simply can’t be counted among some of the better things that Chrysler’s produced over the years. Newer Durangos, on the other hand, suffer from FCA’s well-known faulty TIPM’s which, in turn lead to all kinds of different electrical issues. It’s no wonder why most of 2011 through 2013 model year Durangos have been recalled for the mentioned issue. If Durango’s your vehicle of choice, better choose something in between these two model year runs.
It’s the brakes on this one. Mid-size crossover SUV might be one good looking car, but it’s first two model years were plagued by thin brakes and rotors which would wear down after less than 10,000 miles in some cases. They simply weren’t made for the vehicle of Journey’s size and weight. Dealers would either cover this under warranty or bill you to full extent, but that wouldn’t fix the issue. It was only a temporary solution as they only replaced worn out brakes and rotors with new faulty units.
Most people that have stuck with their Dodge Journeys through thick and thin have been forced to replace several brakes and rotors over the years. Some are closing in on the jubilee 10th set. Just to let you know what you’re getting yourself into with 2009 and 2010 Dodge Journey. Best option is to go for aftermarket (more quality) brakes and rotors.
Ford Explorer has had long and well documented transmission troubles – most notably during the early two thousands. One dealer goes as far as to suggest that one out of ten 2002-2004 Explorers won’t be able to avoid transmission failure somewhere down the line. Hard shifting, slipping gears and flashing O/D light are what accompanies the issue. Typically, early 2000 Explorer should be fine for anything between 50,000 and 100,000 miles before requiring entirely new transmission. You’ll agree, however, that vehicle with that kind of mileage on its odometer shouldn’t require a rebuilt trans. Even one with double the figures shouldn’t be having that problem. You can’t say you haven’t been warned.
Same thing as with the aforementioned Ford Explorer – Acadia too suffers from faulty transmission. That doesn’t come as a surprise given the fact first-gen Acadia has the already mentioned GM-Ford 6-speed automatic trans in it. From what I’ve been able to confirm, early Acadia’s tranny has been known to go bust after as little as 35,000 miles. It’s usually the 3,5,R wave plate that goes bust which requires a complete transmission overhaul. In other words, that’s at least $2,000 worth of repair costs, and since their warranties are long expired, guess who’ll have to pay that?! If you’re in a market for used 2007-2008 GMC Acadia, pay extra attention to detail when it comes to this issue. It also wouldn’t hurt asking if the car was already a subject of such repairs.
If you see a 2015 Honda CR-V for sale at reasonable price, don’t jump in on the opportunity just yet. There’s something off with one of the most popular compact crossovers in the US. Many CR-V owners have reported unnatural vibrations coming from both the engine and the transmission. Needless to say, they experienced them straight from upon delivery which can only mean one thing – it’s a defect on Honda’s part. Even numerous test drivers experienced the issue upon their review of the car.
New Honda CR-V shakes violently while idle and at low rpm, and it’s not only the shifter and the steering wheel that serve as vibration conduits. Vibrations break out from the dash and pedals as well. Apparently, Honda has found a solution, but neither they nor the dealers deemed they’re obliged to inform the owners of that. This can only mean Honda is trying to play this one quiet in hopes the word won’t spread out. In other words, they know they’ve screwed things up.
Brace yourselves, for we are entering the Jeep part of this unholy list. First of the lot – the Cherokee. Smaller of the two Cherokees has been experiencing some consistent transmission troubles lately. ZF Friedrichshafen’s 9-speed auto trans assembled in Gray Court facility, South Carolina simply doesn’t adhere to ZF’s usual quality standards. It shifts roughly, has odd shift points, and even suffers from sudden shutdowns. These are only a few transmission-related problems that give headaches to Jeep Cherokee KL owners. In Cherokee’s defense, it’s the first vehicle that’s been outfitted with the 9-speed ZF trans, so both ZF and FCA are probably using the SUV as some sort of a testbed. If you have a used Jeep Cherokee in sights, think first if you’d be comfortable being their guinea pig. Oh, and the same thing goes for the compact Jeep Renegade.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Years: 2011, 2014
Being so long into this world, it’s understandable that larger of the Cherokees also suffers from issues of its own. 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee suffers from faulty TIPM, for instance. FCA’s totally integrated power module can cause a lot of ruckus if faulty, and Fiat-Chrysler simply loves making things that are broken down. TIPM is basically FCA car’s brain for all electrical-related things and it’s understandable how big of an issue defective brain might be. It affects everything from power windows to engine. Needless to say, the biggest issue is engine that doesn’t want to start or stalls during driving because some part of the TIPM system doesn’t do its job properly.
2014 Grand Cherokee, on the other hand, suffers from the good old transmission problems. Apart from standard shifting troubles like irregular shifts, jerking in lower gears, etc. – 2014 Grand Cherokee has also been subjected to a recall for rolling away while in park. Sadly, not soon enough for Anton Yelchin as already mentioned above.
It might not be such big of a deal, but if you aren’t up for constant window regulator replacements, you’d be advised to avoid buying used Jeep Liberty – model years 2002 through 2007. If a cold ride to the job on early January morning sounds like fun to you, be our guest. You just can’t be surprised if your window decides to slide down into the door and decides to stay there. Window’s cold too, you know. Moreover, it seems that 2006 and 2007 models are the worst.
Sorento’s main problem is related to engine and engine cooling, so it was crucial to save your oil change receipts if you wanted Kia to honor the warranty. That’s a thing many Kia Sorento second-gen owners learned the hard way. They were baffled by the fact their car simply burned through the oil reserves even though they changed it regularly. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a 4-cylinder or a V6, Sorento’s engines are prone to catastrophic failures. Buying a used one – I reckon it won’t come with those receipts, so it’s better to avoid 2012 through 2014 model years altogether. Engine replacement isn’t something you’re looking forward to, isn’t it?
Now mid-size crossover, then mid-size SUV – Nissan Pathfinder has always been one of the most competitive vehicles in its segment. However, early third generation SUVs were plagued by coolant leakages which have ruined many a Pathfinder’s transmissions. Buy a used Pathfinder, model years 2005 through 2008, and join the army of Nissan owners that have experienced the issue. Defective radiator tank design that ruptures and leaks coolant is to blame. When coolant mixes with transmission fluid (and it does eventually), it triggers the irreversible process of transmission erosion. Lucky for you, previous owners have already likely rebuilt the trans. If not, better stay away from the Pathfinder.
Another Nissan, another set of 2005 through 2008 model year runs, and once again the same problem. This shows that Nissan did a really lousy job with their radiator design a decade ago since more than one model suffered from the leakage. Xterra owners, just like Pathfinder owners, have had their share of transmission failures due to this defect.
Saturn Vue CVT VTi
It died with the Saturn badge in 2010, but Vue should have been axed long before that. It’s almost forgotten now, although it wasn’t that long ago that it still rolled off the Spring Hill, Tennessee and Ramos Arizpe, Mexico plants. GM has long ago settled the class-action suit related to Vue’s extremely unreliable VTi continuously variable transmission. Extended warranty and covered repair costs don’t mean that the problem has magically gone away, however. There are still a lot of Vues out there, waiting for their next victim, and all of them are now officially out even of the extended 125,000 miles/8 years warranty. Plus, the CVT VTi itself was discontinued after 2005, so there’s the issue with the lack of replacement parts. Avoid it like the plague would be our recommendation.
Toyotas are generally some of the most reliable cars, and so is their best-sold Crossover/SUV, the RAV4. However, if there are model years to avoid when shopping for a used RAV4, those would be the 2006, 2007 and 2008. Problem? Excessive oil consumption. Of course, Toyota will tell you that it’s nothing serious or even normal behavior, but running through a quart of oil on every 1,000 or so miles can’t be normal. It may be caused by defective piston rings, but only thing Toyota has done so far is to issue a TSB to their dealerships. This still doesn’t mean your vehicle will be covered by full warranty.
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