Which full size SUV year/make/model is best choice for a used vehcile purchase?

Looking for suggestions on a used SUV purchase (years, make models). Under consideration are GMC Yukon, Ford Expedition (Max also made the list due to recent rental experience), Chevy Suburban and Chevy Tahoe. We require 3rd row seating and prefer models with navigation, bluetooth 4.0, rear cameras and towing capacity. We are a Volvo household but our family has outgrown our XC90 which is necessitating the change. We setup an alert on the major used car sites with a price range up to $40k to cover the bases but in reality comfort level puts price in the $30k/100k miles or less market. We have been fortunate to have had great reliability and owner experiences from our preowned Volvo’s, have had our 2008 XC90 for about 8+ years now, and since we intend to keep our next purchase for another 8+ years, looking for a make/model that will not disappoint. Interested in hearing of actual owner experiences for the aforementioned models, input from those who have experience maintaining and repairing them (I currently do 90% of all repairs/maintenance) as well as any other input or make/model suggestions that can be considered as factual to aid in our decision. Just as background we live in New England so weather handling and rust are definite concerns, as previously stated have a growing family so seating, cabin access/comfort, storage and flexibility to tow are also basis for consideration. Since we have always owned vehicles that are several years old we are not slaves to tech and prefer vehicles that are not rolling beta boxes (more tech means more issues), likely base models will do nicely, but we would like to upgrade to a point with tech that has proven to be bug free and works as intended. All input appreciated. Thank you.

The GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe are essential the same vehicle with similar options. The Suburban is the longer version. If your kids turn into teens while you own the vehicle choose the Suburban.

I have had experience with the Expedition but a much earlier model. I owned 2 earlier model Suburbans. I liked all 3.

But you say…

I would ignore navigation, use your phone or a tablet, you won’t want to pay for the map updates. A 100K vehicle gets you an 8 year old SUV that may not be new enough for Bluetooth 4.0. All mentioned have some towing capacity. It just depends on how MUCH towing capacity. All tow very well if properly equipped. At your price point the tech will be limited and you want it to be so you can get newer models with lower miles.

Since this…

I’d seriously consider buying the vehicle in a southern state. It makes finding 4WD more difficult but 8 years of New England salt can really get embedded into a car and kill it before it is time. Look for south of the Mason Dixon… no farther north than Tennessee. Fly down, inspect it, buy it and drive home. Or have it shipped.

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Also consider a minivan, if you have a family. It’s a far better vehicle than an SUV for moving people around. I’d suggest a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna.

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Appreciate the suggestion but despite trying to convince my wife that a mini van would be a wiser solution she refuses to be a mini van mom. She likes the size, height, power, looks of an SUV and so this is one disagreement that is not worth sleeping on the couch over. I will still try to sway her using jedi mind tricks to see I cant persuade her to the dark side but after all these years hoping to change her mind is diminishing.

Honda Pilot? I had a Suburban, fine, huge, gas guzzler, but great for scout campouts.

Thanks for the info.

When I say slaves to tech I no longer consider navigation, bluetooth and cameras as futuristic add ons, they have been around long enough that I now consider them to be as common as HD radios and auto adjusting rear view mirrors, in fact most manufacturers include these as part of base model pricing and would be a minimal price impact on a used car.

The tech I am referring to are the options that are not proven to be bug free or even value added like lane assist and auto braking, or cruise control pacing and dont get me started on auto start or any of the bells or whistles that jack up the price and are rarely used like the various dash modes, driving modes, etc many of which are not set and forget and have to be set again when the vehicle is shut off, I learned this when we rented the Expedition Max and it was extremely frustrating and the reasoning confusing.

I agree with your navigation comment although I have never had to pay for a map update, roads dont seem to change much where I travel and didnt realize that was actually a thing until recently but a good point. We can still use the phone or I can buy a handheld GPS which can also double for hiking and camping outings.

I have done well in the past with buying low mileage vehicles at attractive price points and I think to your point focusing on mechanical and cosmetic rather than tech is what made that possible so I will maintain that approach.

Yes I have always felt that cars from the south were in better shape corrosion wise but the distance factor and not being able to do a physical inspection before making an offer is what keeps me from actually pursuing that especially since my philosophy has always been that I prefer to buy from an owner rather than a dealer for many reasons.

If there is a way to make the purchase without the risks I may look into this option, however traveling to the location as you suggested adds to the price and if it doesnt pan out that is an expense which again adds to the final cost of making the purchase as you have to add all that up in the final analysis. Not something I have ever done so experience in this area is limited.

What model years and power trains of the vehicles you mentioned you owned were the most reliable?

I did a search and compiled recommendations from various sources and then noted which ones were consistently recommended and have used that as my baseline for my search to narrow the field.

Example for GMC Yukon 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018 with either the 6.2 or 5.8 V8 were suggested as being most reliable.

For Suburban 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019 were the recommended choices. (I have nothing noted on power train)

For Expedition excluding Max 2013, 2014, 2015 were recommended. (again no notes on power train).

It seems all of the makes have had their fair share of issues usually during the introduction of new designs or during revisions of existing designs or when CAFE standards change or new regulations come out.

Thanks again for your feedback.

Thanks for sharing.

Yes I agree a mini van in this instance is the wise choice but since it will be my wifes car it has to appeal to her so have limited sway in this area. She just refuses to be a mini van mom and not exactly sure why.

We dont put much mileage on the cars, in 6 years that I have had mine and I love my turbo XC70, I put on about 80k but that was when I was driving 500+ miles per week to and from work for about 2 years. My wife works local and if we take a long trip we rent rather than put the wear and tear on ours cars and having a contact in the rental biz we get rentals at a huge discount so it just makes sense.

So yes to your point mileage is a concern given fuel costs and tank capacity (25+ gallons) but since I am pigeonholed based on her want of an SUV I can only control the engine type/size and go with the one that is most efficient. I may use this as a bargaining chip in the mini van debate and see if any cracks show up in her logic assuming there is any.

After all these years I still dont know why she is so averse to them, I can bet there is no real logical argument like value, performance, reliability, as those are arguments reserved for me.

Given your experience what year(s) and power trains do you feel are the most reliable?

Just a note - the Pilot is an SUV.

As for powertrains, I don’t have an opinion, my Suburban was older.

The April issue of Consumer Reports (annual car issue) has extensive info on reliability as well as their recommended used cars and used cars they recommend against.

I know thats what they market its as but call me old school, if it cant tow a backhoe or you cant see over the roof of the car in front of you to me its not an SUV. Its all about perspective I guess, we are looking for the full size, super size, make that a double SUV. Also if I am correct the Pilot doesnt have a 3rd row but I could be mistaken.

The pre 2009 or so GM V8s will run 300K miles. You might need a transmission rebuild in there. Post 09 or so V8s run on 4 for more economy and 8 for power. Many of these have had issues, especially if the oil wasn’t changed frequently. Some problems with piston rings. They got better as time passed. I have a friend with a Suburban with tons of miles with this engine but he is OCD about maintenance… he’s a racer and that is his tow vehicle.

That said, avoid Ford 5.4 V8s. They are very problematic. 4.6s are good but a little weak for towing. The turbo V6 is powerful and fuel efficient and seems to be durable… we don’t get many angry posts about those.

Keep in mind you can update any of the connect features by swapping the radio for an Android head unit giving you Waze, phone connections and more. A visit to Crutchfield.com covers that.

While you may prefer to buy person to person, it mostly eliminates a southern car. You can buy used from CarMax and they will ship it from nearly anywhere in the lower 48… for a cost… but they warranty the car and give you a CarFax for each car you might like. They are a no-dicker dealer without commission salespeople. It may cost you a little more but the advantages outweigh the cost, IMHO. I’ve bought 2 cars from them.

I spent most of my life in rust prone Ohio. I moved to Florida 10 years ago and own 9 and 10 year old cars with NO rust. Working on rusty cars is horrible!

Pilot has a decent sized third row.

But if you want big, go with a Suburban/Yukon XL, or Expedition Max. Whichever appeals to you. Going used means condition and maintenance will be more important than specific drive train.

Is there an issue or resource that discusses earlier models? We are looking at the 2013 to 2018 time frame I think but have yet to say for sure, keeping options open. I found sources online that discussed them in retrospect but having additional resources doesnt hurt for comparison. I am sure they have back issues that you can pay for to see how they were rated at the time of release but I am most interested in historical data since this will be a used car purchase. I have to where the statistics and user feedback lead me. Thanks for your feedback.

Wow didnt think it would be so equipped, must be larger inside than I thought. Maintenance history is always something I verify as well as cost of ownership but drive train is also important as mentioned before some production models are just plagued with issues. This puts me in mind of when I was looking for an F350, the years and price I was looking at whether diesel or gasoline there were head bolt issues, injector issues, connecting rod issues and issues on top of issues not to mention class action lawsuits which is when I dug deeper I came to realize that certain years even models released in the same year were better than others for many reasons. That is why I rely in large part on feedback from owners and those who have worked on them so I can avoid making a poor choice. Nothing is 100% but thus far feedback from people such as yourself has proven to be invaluable in the decision making process.

Excellent feedback, most appreciated, I will definitely update my notes. I wasnt aware of being able to replace the audio head will have to do my homework on that. As I am not familair with buying out of state I will look at CarMax and others and see if there is a level of confidence in making the purchase and some form of satisfaction guarantee and or warranty that can hedge against issues. Again great info, thanks much.

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Not much experience w/any of those vehicles, but the Ford Expedition is the one I’d be focusing on. Good advice above to read what Consumer Reports Used Car Guide has to say about the reliability and total cost of ownership. Also suggest to use the forum search feature here (upper right this page) to see what sorts of problems prior posters have posted about on those cars All vehicles eventually have problems of course, but you want to avoid certain types of problems, esp with the fuel system, or those that seem hard to diagnose. Ford has had some problems with their infotainment system I think, so if that’s critical to your decision, Ford might not be your best choice. It wouldn’t matter that much to me. When buying a used car, good idea to have it inspected by your own mechanic before deciding. Your mechanic may find a small problem which the seller will agree to fix for you, making your mechanic’s inspection free.

Used, I would only recommend an Acura mdx or Rdx depending on size. But service the trans. I don’t trust ford or subbie anymore. Maybe Toyota but seems like the dealers are having
Problems. No European.

I admit I’m biased.

The 2023 April issue of CR covers used cars from 2022 back to 2015. The 2022 issue, 2021 back to 2014, etc.

Looking at the GMC Yukon, Chevy Suburban and Ford Expedition, the most common Overall Reliability is Much Worse Than Average. Exceptions are:
'18 Yukon Average, '20 and '22 Yukon Much Better Than Average;
'15, '16 and '20 Expedition Worse Than Average, '19 Average, '21 Better Than Average.

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@shanonia beat me to it. Not much to recommend any of those.

How about a Toyota Sequoia?

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You can get a 2016 Suburban LT with 2WD for about $30,000. For the same price you can get a 2018 Honda Odyssey EX-L. They are comparably equipped. You will spend about $3000 more for gasoline in the Suburban over 5 years if you drive about 15,000 miles each year and the average price for gas is $3.87/gal according to fuel economy.gov. Maybe it’s worth the extra cost to run the Suburban to your family. I found a long time back that only the largest SUVs have comparable cargo and people carrying capacity. My wife prefers minivans and I agree with her. We are in our third in the last 28 years.