What SUV should I buy?

I have been looking at several 2007/2008 SUVs and am trying to narrow my search down to the top five makes and models. My price range is $18,000 to $28,000 and I am thinking of doing a lease versus buying for 24 or 36 months at 12,000 or 15,000 miles per year. What would you recommend?

Larry, Los Angeles

Cars.com editor and reviewer David Thomas has driven and reviewed a good majority of the SUVs in this price range, so he’ll take you through his recommendations,   

“If you have a pretty steady income, I'd suggest buying, as automakers are making deals these days (see Incentives: Rebates and Financing offers). Leasing will get you more for your money, though, especially if you're not sure if you're going to like an SUV body style. 

“Now for the cars:

“There are two categories you'd really be choosing from: The compact `utes and the midsize ones. Being in L.A., front-wheel drive will be fine — no need for the pricier all-wheel drive.

“I'd recommend the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 in that group (compact), with the CR-V being my pick of the bunch. If you went with the Honda I'd almost suggest buying because they have rock-solid resale and you'll be kicking yourself when you turn it in.

“In the midsize segment, the Saturn Vue (not really a compact), Mazda CX-7 and Ford Edge would be my recommendations. All three are cool-looking and have decent power. The CX-7 has the best engine of the three, and it's standard. There have been some early problems reported with the CX-7, so leasing would probably be a good idea. Otherwise it's my personal favorite — I almost bought it myself had the wife not opted for a Subaru Outback instead. The Saturn is too new for reliability reports, but it’s very nice when you opt for the leather interior. 

“The FJ Cruiser and off-roaders like the Jeeps are also not really optimal for daily driving — meaning they get worse mileage — if you're not an offroad enthusiast, and the FJ has proved to be not very kid friendly, according to some staffers.

There you have it, in the compact SUV segment, the Honda CR-V is a sure bet, followed by the Ford Escape and RAV4. In the midsize group, the Saturn Vue, Mazda CX-7 and Ford Edge will equally do the trick. OK, so it’s not exactly five cars like requested, but this segment is extremely popular right now and there are a lot of solid offerings. See below for links to our Research section and Expert Reviews on each of the recommended cars.

If you’re still torn on leasing versus buying, check out our Leasing Advice section to help you make the right call.

Learn more

Expert Reviews:

Vehicle Summaries:

Answered by Joe Bruzek on November 2, 2007 in What Car Should I Buy? | Permalink

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