Ask TFL: I Need A Used Three-Row SUV Around $25,000!

Fortunately, there are plenty of options

It’s been a little while since we’ve done a proper ‘Ask TFL’ post, and a great question came in via e-mail today. Tyler asks what three-row SUV he should buy. He’s never shopped for an SUV before, and both he and his wife have to agree on the choice. Here’s his full e-mail:

“I’ve loved your YouTube videos and reviews and am hoping you can help a fan out! I’m doing something I’ve never done before, which is seeking advice about what 3-row SUV to buy.

In the past, I’ve always known exactly what I wanted when it came time to buy a vehicle. Now, however, I’m married to a wonderful woman who liberally wields veto power over anything I would normally pick. I’m hoping your expertise with SUVs (particularly off-road capable models) will be able to come up with a creative “win-win” recommendation, as I’ve never shopped for or purchased an SUV before. And sorry, she’s already vetoed a 2004 Touareg.”

The purchasing musts

Tyler goes on to specify buying criteria in his e-mail. A used Lexus LX 570 (shown above) is his first pick, but his wife hasn’t been immediately sold on the idea. Regardless, here are the boxes his ultimate purchase needs to check off the list:

  • Under $25,000
  • Less than 10 years old
  • Room to regularly carry 5 (including 2 in car seats) and third-row space for someone up to 5’5″
  • 4WD/AWD capability is a must
  • Nice to haves: Reasonable maintenance costs; comfortable ride; 5,000-pound towing capability; “hides its size well”

Some of the contenders

Beyond a 2011 – 2013 Lexus LX 570, Tyler’s wife has floated some of her top choices as well. “My wife has been proposing models like the Mazda CX-9, Audi Q7, Acura MDX and Volvo XC90 (2015 or later, whereas I prefer the older XC90s). Since this is a vehicle I plan to own for 10+ years, I hope to take the kids backcountry camping in Big Bend, NM, CO, UT, and CA when they are older.”

As it stands, the main points of contention have been between something that’s more street-friendly (as Tyler puts it, “effectively a tall minivan”) and the need for some off-road capability. On that basis, then, the vehicle needs to be a reasonable compromise on both. “A root cause of disagreement on a vehicle stems from her preference for form over function versus my function over form.”

My recommendation: Chevy Tahoe Z71

Fortunately, Tyler and so many like him have a vertible sea of choices when it comes to this kind of vehicle. Every automaker is in the game of making three-row, all-wheel drive family haulers, and used options are plentiful as families are looking to upgrade (or downsize after their kids leave the nest).

Since the Lexus LX 570 seems to be out of the question, my recommendation more or less fills the same role. The fourth-generation Chevy Tahoe (2015 – 2020) is a solid choice for a four-wheel drive-capable, three-row family hauler. Roman and I actually thought of this SUV first along your criteria. It is large — sorry, there’s just no escaping that with this sort of vehicle, but it’s also immensely practical. Think about it — there’s a reason you see these all over suburbia.

On the whole, my family has owned several generations of Tahoe and Suburban, including the last two. I haven’t heard many horror stories, though bear in mind maintenance is a fact of life for any vehicle that’s up to 10 years old. At least from what I’ve experienced, those 5.3-liter engines are pretty stout. What’s more, it’s not as much of a gas guzzler as you might expect. We are talking a V8-powered SUV here, but against the Lexus LX it’s much better. It’s reasonably capable when the pavement ends (at least for your needs), it’s good-looking and it retains some of that old-school ruggedness you won’t get in a crossover.

Complaints? I do take a couple points away from GM interiors, though it’s still notably better than the previous generation (or the ones before that). If I had to pick a vehicle to live with for 10 years, this is the sort of SUV I’d probably choose. They’re absolutely everywhere, so picking one up for $25,000 is an easy prospect.

A Toyota Sequoia is a solid option as well, but it is horrendously inefficient on gas and it has as basic an interior as you can get, lacking many modern features. What say you, TFL community? Let Tyler know what your suggestions are in the comments below!