Best used SUVs with 3rd row seating

Updated: August 12, 2013

We selected several models that are worth considering if you are looking for a used 7- or 8-passenger SUV. Of course, this list would have been different if we compared new cars, but when you opt for a used vehicle, the reliability becomes more important. We only looked at vehicles with a combined EPA rating of 17 mpg or better.

Toyota RAV4 2006-2012

Toyota RAV4

The RAV4 is a small fuel-efficient practical SUV. It's one of the most reliable in its class. The RAV4 is agile and fun to drive. It comes with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and with either a 4- or 6-cylinder engine. The third row seating is available from 2006, but this option is rare to find. The third row is very small and you may need to slide the second row seats forward to give the third-row passengers more room. The RAV4 rear gate is hinged on the passenger side and opens toward the curb. The EPA estimates for the 2009 4-cylinder 4WD automatic model: 21/27 mpg or 11.2/8.7 liters/100 km (city/highway)

Honda Pilot

Honda Pilot

Honda Pilot is a functional mid-size car-based SUV with seating for 8 passengers. It is available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The 2003-2008 Pilot is very roomy, and for the most part, reliable. The automatic transmission was a weak spot in early models. The 2009 redesign brought the "boxy" styling, but it's still one of the best SUVs in this segment. The Pilot handles well, although the ride is a bit noisy. The V6 engine offers plenty of power. The liftgate glass opens separately only in the 2009 and newer Pilot. There is some cargo space behind the third row, but not a lot. The 2008 all-wheel drive Pilot is rated at 15/20 mpg (15.7/11.8 L/100 km) city/highway. The 2009 AWD Honda Pilot gets 16/22 mpg or 14.7/10.7 L/100 km.

Acura MDX

Acura MDX

Acura MDX is a near-luxury car-based SUV. It was one of the first to offer third-row seating. The first generation 2001-2007 MDX rides firm, and other than some transmission issues, is pretty reliable. The second generation 2007-2013 MDX is more performance oriented and offers plenty of high-end features. The 3.7L V6 has a lot of power and the all-wheel drive is standard. The third row is small and the cargo space behind is limited. We estimate that the Acura will be more expensive to own in the long-run. The 2006 all-wheel drive Acura MDX is rated at 15/21 mpg (15.7/11.2 L/100 km) city/highway. The 2009 AWD Acura MDX gets 15/20 mpg on premium gasoline (15.7/11.8 L/100 km).

Mazda CX-9

Mazda CX-9

The CX-9 is another sporty choice in this segment. It handles crisply and is stable on twisty roads. The interior is nicely finished and roomy. The cargo space with the third-row seats up is not too bad. A power liftgate is available, but the liftgate window doesn't open separately. The ride is firm and not very quiet, but comfortable overall. The reliability is above average. Mazda CX-9 is available as front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. We recommend the front-wheel drive CX-9 because the AWD transfer case is a weak spot. The fuel economy is average for the class: the 2009 FWD CX-9 is rated at 16/22 mpg or 14.7/10.7 L/100 km. The AWD model gets 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway (15.7/11.2 L/100 km).

Toyota Highlander 2004 and newer

Toyota Highlander

The Highlander is one of the best mid-size SUVs. The first generation offered optional third-row seating from 2004. It was a fairly small comfortable Camry-based SUV. The second generation 2008-2013 Highlander is larger and although it looks more like a truck, it's still a car-based SUV with soft and very quiet ride. The 2008-2013 Highlander is available as a front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The cargo space behind the optional third-row is limited. The liftgate window opens separately. The small middle second-row seat can be easily removed and stowed under the center console. The Highlander is reliable, although there were minor issues with the 2008 and 2009 models. The 2009 AWD V6 Highlander is rated at 17/23 mpg or 13.8/10.2 L/100 km (city/highway). There is a 7-seater Highlander Hybrid, but they are very rare.

Subaru Tribeca

Subaru Tribeca

The Tribeca is the only Subaru with available third-row seating. The Tribeca comes with a 'boxer' 6-cylinder engine and a proven all-wheel drive system. It handles very well and has one of the best crash test ratings in its class. The 2006 and 2007 Tribeca came with a 3.0L engine that was a bit underpowered. For 2008, it was replaced by a 3.6L engine. The strangely-shaped front grille was also replaced with a restyled front fascia for 2008. The fuel economy is not great. The 2009 Tribeca is rated at 16/21 mpg (14.7/11.2 L/100 km). The second row legroom is limited and the third row is very small. The reliability is better than average.

Worth mentioning: Chevrolet Traverse

Chevrolet Traverse

Chevrolet Traverse is a full-size car based 7- or 8- passenger crossover SUV. It is available with front- or all-wheel drive. The Traverse is very roomy - the third row is good for adults and even the cargo space behind the third row is pretty good. It rides nicely and handles well for a vehicle of this size. In the long run, it won't be as reliable as other vehicles in this list, but if you need more space, the Traverse is a sensible choice. The fuel economy is not bad for a vehicle of this size. The 2009 FWD Traverse is rated at 17/24 mpg (13.8/9.8 L/100 km). The 2009 AWD model returns 16/23 mpg (14.7/10.2 L/100 km). We looked through common problems, and although there is nothing major, this vehicle won't be trouble free. We would recommend getting a good extended warranty with this vehicle. GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook share the same GM platform.

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