Illustration showing smart SUV alternatives, including Subaru Outback, Honda Ridgeline, and Toyota Sienna
Illustration: Matthew Hollister

Most consumers looking for a new car want to buy an SUV. But getting one at a good price these days can be a challenge.

Pandemic-related microchip shortages, temporary factory closures, and labor problems have led to a scarcity of new models and have driven prices up significantly.

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For example, an analysis by Consumer Reports found that earlier this year people were paying upward of 20 percent over sticker price for a 2022 Kia Telluride three-row SUV, and many other SUV models are also being sold for more than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Creative shoppers may find deals by considering front-wheel-drive models or broadening their options to include alternatives that can provide most of the advantages of an SUV but are more widely available and priced within reach.

The three models below, all chosen by our experts and recommended by CR, deliver much of what consumers look for in an SUV—and even outshine them in certain ways.

Wagon: Subaru Outback

The Outback wagon stacks up quite well against many small and midsized SUVs. Standard all-wheel drive, elevated ground clearance, and integrated roof-rack bars give it crossover credentials. It’s lower than a comparable SUV, making it easier to use the roof rack, and a bicycle easily fits inside with the rear seat folded. Ride quality is impressive. The base engine gets good fuel economy, but the optional 260-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine is quiet and punchy, delivering 24 mpg overall.

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2022 Subaru Outback

Price Range: $26,945 - $39,945

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Pickup Truck: Honda Ridgeline

Weekend warriors and other active types who don’t need to transport more than five people may find that the Ridgeline meets their needs. Under that adventure-ready body is a platform shared with the three-row Pilot, complete with standard all-wheel drive and a smooth-riding independent suspension. The Ridgeline has a lined bed that can be hosed out, which beats throwing dirty gear into the cargo section of an SUV. The rear gate is dual-action; it can either swing open or drop down. There’s also a hidden cargo box to store valuables.

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2021 Honda Ridgeline

Price Range: $36,490 - $43,920

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Minivan: Toyota Sienna

If you want an SUV to accommodate a growing family, consider a minivan, which can also provide abundant space and great versatility in storage and seating configurations. For example, the Sienna’s third-row seat folds into the floor and the second row slides and folds forward. This minivan also stands out for its optional all-wheel drive, comfortable ride, and key standard safety features. And now the Sienna comes strictly as a hybrid, delivering a stunning 36 mpg overall in our testing. No three-row SUV can match that combination.

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2021 Toyota Sienna

Price Range: $34,460 - $50,460

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Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the December 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.