There may be nothing worse than buying a used car, SUV, or truck only to discover that you’ve bought a lemon. Buying a used car is always a risk, but buying an 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. This is why we’re here to help you avoid the really dodgy used SUVs and crossovers on the market.
The below specific 15 vehicles have suffered from well-documented defects. Though similar to our list of used trucks you might want to avoid, this list doesn’t mean every single model is bad, but there are a few rotten model years you definitely will want to avoid unless you enjoy costly repairs and/or an unreliable vehicle.
In 2008, the Buick Enclave was all new, and it replaced both the Rendezvous and Rainier SUVs. At the time, it was a step in the right direction for Buick who desperately needed something modern in their lineup. However, the GM-Ford 6T75 automatic transmission didn’t really match the Enclave’s enthusiasm.
For starters, the transmission was misprogrammed from the beginning, leading to strange behavior like improper shifts and a high RPM 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 meant a driver could put the shifter in park, but the vehicle would stay in drive.
The 2008 and 2009 model years are probably the ones you’d like to avoid, even though most of them are supposedly fixed by now. Still, you never know, so be sure to ask for relevant recall paperwork or licensed mechanic’s receipt if you really must shop for ’08 or ’09 Enclave.
Chevrolet Equinox 3.4L V6
Unfortunately for prospective Equinox buyers, some early first-gen models of the Chevrolet Equinox have suffered from well-documented head gasket problems. This is probably due to the poor design of the engine cooling system, but Equinox’s 3.4L V6 deserves the title of “head gasket eater.” Even proper maintenance and a reserved driving style simply won’t do you any good here.
The 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 swap out your engine entirely. A 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 for, know that millennium models suffered from very unreliable engines, which were prone to building up oil sludge and stalling or shutting down while driving. The Magnum V8 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 (Totally Integrated Power Module) which, in turn, leads 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 a Durango is your vehicle of choice, try to find one between these two model year runs.
Bad news: it’s the brakes on this one. As a mid-size crossover SUV, the Dodge Journey might be a good-looking car, but its first two model years were plagued by thin brakes and rotors which would wear down after less than 10,000 miles. The brake kit simply wasn’t made for a vehicle of the Journey’s size and weight. Dealers would either cover this under warranty or bill you, but that wouldn’t fix the issue. It was only a temporary solution as they replaced the worn-out brakes and rotors with the same faulty units.
Most people that have stuck with their Dodge Journeys through thick and thin have been forced to replace their brakes and rotors several times over the course of the years. Some owners are closing in on the tenth replacement set. If you go in for a 2009 or 2010 Dodge Journey, just know that your best option is to go for aftermarket (more quality) brakes and rotors.
The Ford Explorer has had long and well-documented transmission troubles — most notably during the early 2000s. 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. Along with the issue, you can expect hard shifting, slipping gears, and flashing O/D light.
Typically, the early 2000 Ford Explorer will get somewhere in the range of 50,000 to 100,000 miles before requiring an entirely new transmission. You’ll agree, however, that vehicle with that kind of mileage on its odometer shouldn’t require a fully rebuilt trans. Even one with double the figures shouldn’t be having that problem. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
The 2007 and 2008 GMC Acadia suffers from a faulty transmission. That doesn’t come as a surprise given the fact first-gen Acadia has the already mentioned GM-Ford 6-speed automatic transmission. From what we’ve been able to confirm, these 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 breaks which requires a complete transmission overhaul. In other words, that’s at least $2,000 in 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 when it comes to this issue. It definitely wouldn’t hurt to ask the seller if the car was already subject to such repairs.
If you see a 2015 Honda CR-V for sale at a reasonable price, don’t jump on the opportunity just yet. There may be something off with this model year of the most popular compact crossovers in the U.S. Many CR-V owners have reported vibrations coming from both the engine and the transmission. And they experienced them straight upon delivery which can only mean one thing — it’s a manufacturing defect on Honda’s part. Even numerous test drivers experienced the issue when reviewing the car.
The 2015 Honda CR-V shakes violently while idling and at low RPM, and it’s not only the shifter and the steering wheel. Vibrations can also be felt on the dash and pedals as well. Apparently, Honda has found a solution, but neither they nor the dealers seemed to feel obliged to inform the owners of that. This can only mean Honda is trying to play this one quiet in hopes that the word won’t spread. In other words, they know they’ve screwed this one up.
Brace yourselves. We are entering the Jeep section of this unfortunate list. First of the lot — the Cherokee. The 2014 and 2015 model of the smaller of Jeep’s two Cherokees has experienced some consistent transmission troubles. ZF Friedrichshafen’s 9-speed auto trans assembled in the Gray Court facility in South Carolina simply doesn’t adhere to ZF’s usual quality standards. It shifts rough, has odd shift points, and even suffers from sudden shutdowns.
These are only a few transmission-related problems that Jeep Cherokee KL owners experience. In the Cherokee’s defense, it was the first vehicle to be outfitted with the 9-speed ZF trans, so both ZF and FCA were probably using the SUV as some sort of a testbed. So if you have a used Jeep Cherokee in your sights, be honest with yourself if your comfortable being their guinea pig. Oh, we should probably mention that the same thing goes for the compact Jeep Renegade.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Years: 2011, 2014
It’s perhaps understandable that the larger of the Cherokees also suffers from issues of its own. For example, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee suffers from faulty TIPM. FCA’s totally integrated power module can cause a lot of ruckus if faulty, and Fiat-Chrysler seem to simply love making things that break down.
The TIPM is basically an FCA-manufactured car brain for all electrical-related things. With that, you can guess how big of an issue a defective brain might be. A faulty TIPM affects everything from the car’s power windows to the engine. The biggest issue can be that the engine won’t start or stalls on the drive because some part of the TIPM system doesn’t do its job properly. Regardless, this is a headache you want to avoid.
The 2014 Grand Cherokee, on the other hand, suffers from good old transmission problems. Apart from standard shifting troubles like irregular shifts, jerking in lower gears, etc., the 2014 Grand Cherokee has also had a recall for rolling away while in park. Sadly, not soon enough for actor Anton Yelchin who was tragically killed when his 2015 Cherokee rolled backward down his driveway, pinning and crushing him.
Though relative to other used SUVs on this list, the 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty’s defect may not seem like such big of a deal. However, if you aren’t up for constant window regulator replacements, steer clear of these used Jeep Liberty models. If a cold ride to the job on an early January morning sounds like fun to you, be our guest. You just can’t be surprised if your window decides to slide down and decides to stay there. Moreover, it seems that the 2006 and 2007 models are especially notorious for this issue.
The Kia Sorento’s main problem is related to engine and engine cooling, so it’s crucial to save your oil change receipts if you wanted Kia to honor the warranty — a tip that 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 the oil regularly.
It doesn’t really matter if it’s a 4-cylinder or a V6, both of the Sorento’s engines are prone to catastrophic failures. If you’re buying a used one it probably won’t come with those receipts, so it’s better to avoid 2012 through 2014 model years altogether. Unless replacing an engine is something you’re eager to do.
The Nissan Pathfinder has always been one of the most competitive vehicles in its segment. However, the early third generation SUVs were plagued by coolant leaks which have ruined many a Pathfinder’s transmission. Buy a used Pathfinder, model years 2005 through 2008, and you can likely plan to join the army of Nissan owners who have experienced the issue.
A 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 transmission. If not, better stay away from this model of the Pathfinder.
Another Nissan, another 2005 through 2008 model year run, and once again the same problem — coolant leaks leading to transmission issues. Nissan did a really lousy job with their radiator design a decade ago, and more than one SUV model suffered from the failure. Xterra owners, just like Pathfinder owners, have had their share of transmission failures due to this defect. Be forewarned if you are shopping for an Xterra if you don’t want to join these ranks.
Saturn Vue CVT VTi
Though this model died with the Saturn badge in 2010, the 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, and Mexico plants.
GM has long ago settled the class-action suit related to Vue’s extremely unreliable VTi continuously variable transmission. An 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.
All of them are now officially out of the extended 125,000 miles/8 year warranty. Plus, the CVT VTi itself was discontinued after 2005, so now there’s the added issue with the lack of replacement parts. Our recommendation would be to avoid this one like the plague.
Toyotas are generally some of the most reliable cars on their market, and so, usually, is their best-sold crossover/SUV, the RAV4. However, if there are model years to avoid when shopping for a used RAV4, keep an eye out for the 2006, 2007 and 2008 models. Problem? Excessive oil consumption.
Of course, Toyota will tell you that it’s nothing serious or even normal behavior for the RAV4, but running through a quart of oil every 1,000 or so miles can’t be normal. It may be caused by defective piston rings, but the only thing Toyota has done so far is to issue a TSB to their dealerships which doesn’t mean your vehicle will be covered by full warranty. Save yourself the headache, and pick a different model year of the RAV4 instead.
Be a Savvy Buyer & Avoid These Used SUVs & Crossovers
Buying a used car might feel like a bit of a roll of the dice, but with the proper research, a little buyer’s savvy, and a tiny bit of luck, you can land yourself a solid and reliable SUV or crossover that will serve you well for many miles to come. Just take our advice and skip over the listing next time you see these particular models for sale.