Product Reviews

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Best SUVs Under $35,000

CR identifies the top picks based on extensive testing and surveys

Best SUVs include the 2018 Toyota Highlander

SUVs are the most popular type of passenger vehicle sold in the U.S. today. Buyers love their versatility, ride height, and comfort. But once you decide that an SUV is the right choice for you, it can be difficult to select the perfect model. That’s where Consumer Reports can help.

It can be a challenge to make a smart choice based on just a brief test drive at dealership. There are dozens of factors to consider before determining which vehicle is right for you. That is why we purchase every model we test, drive it for thousands of miles, and put it through an extensive array of tests. Then we reach out to CR members to collect their experiences.

From that mountain of data, we provide a straightforward ranking within each vehicle category based on the Overall Score, rolling together our test and survey findings, along with key safety information.

In short, if you’re looking for the best SUV, you’ve come to the right place. Below we present the 10 best SUVs under $35,000 based on their Overall Score, including compact SUVs, midsized SUVs, and entry-level luxury SUVs. Most models are 2018s, though there are two 2019s.

Be aware that the Overall Scores do change over time as new information, such as reliability data, becomes available. The model pages always reflect our latest ratings.

What Goes Into CR's Overall Score

Every car we test gets a score that encapsulates four key factors: road test, reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety.

Road test: We run roughly 50 new cars and trucks each year through more than 50 tests at our 327-acre test facility in Connecticut. Those tests include acceleration, braking, emergency handling, and fuel economy, among others. We also evaluate controls, fit and finish, headlights, noise, ride, and safety systems.

Reliability: Every year, we collect detailed information on CR member experiences with hundreds of thousands of cars. Information on 17 key trouble areas is presented online, alongside insights from members in their own words. We also use the data to calculate a predicted-reliability score for new vehicles on the market.

Owner satisfaction: This is based on whether a survey respondent would buy the same car again, effectively measuring whether a car lived up to its owner’s expectations. Owners also rate their cars in other areas: driving experience, comfort, and value.

Safety: These ratings factor crash-test data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We give extra credit to vehicles that have certain advanced safety systems—which are shown to reduce crashes, injuries, and deaths—when they are offered as standard equipment across all trim levels.

Toyota Highlander: 85-87

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SUVs in Our Ratings.
Current SUV Ratings