What are the best used and safest SUV models available today? That depends on how far back you’re looking, what class of SUV you’re interested in (small, midsize or large), whether you’re going to be off-roading a lot, how much you plan to spend and lifestyle preferences. In short, there are a number of safe used SUVs out there.

In this list of the Best Used Safest SUV, we’ve selected three: one each from the small, midsize and large categories. They all meet the following criteria: 1) Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 2) top crash test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and, 3) standard electronic stability control (ESC). We’ve also included some comments by the automotive experts to lend credence to their overall appeal and value.

  • Volkswagen Tiguan – Some say it’s late to the party, but the all-new and first compact crossover SUV entry from Volkswagen, the Tiguan has already snagged Top Safety Pick from IIHS for 2008-2009 (for 2009 vw_tiguan_2009models). And it receives perfect 5-star NHTSA crash test ratings. Edmunds hails Tiguan’s pros of “peppy turbo engine, composed handling, comfortable ride, upscale cabin ambience, solid build quality,” but knocks cargo space and price relative to the competition. Motor Trend says “bottom line: dumb name, super SUV.” U.S. News and World Report says the “all-new VW Tiguan stands out for its German driving dynamics, which set it apart in a class dominated by SUVs with ho-hum driving experiences.”
  • Acura MDX – Named an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2007-2009, the 7-passenger midsize Acura MDX (redesigned in 2007) also has a 5-star NHTSA rating for frontal and Acura_MDX_2009side impact crash tests, standard ESC and better than average accident avoidance. In addition to safety accolades, Forbes named the 2007 Acura MDX in its list of 15 Safest SUVs for its standard road-oriented all-wheel drive (AWD) system, “three rows of seating…more powerful 300-HP V-6 engine and more athletic appearance…impressive 5,000-pound trailer-tow rating.”  Consumer Guide names 2009 Acura MDX a Best Buy, saying the SUV is “a highly desirable blend of luxury, performance and convenience.” U.S. News and World Report says “MDX offers one of the best combinations of a high-tech interior, excellent safety and smooth handling in its class.”
  • Audi Q7 – The 5- or 7-passenger Audi Q7 large luxury SUV features standard Quattro AWD and choice of V-6 or V-8 engines. Named IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2008 Audi_Q7_2008and 2009, Q7 also received perfect 5-star NHTSA frontal and side impact crash test scores.  Forbes named the 2007 Audi Q7 one of its 15 Safest SUVs. U.S. News and World Report says Q7 “fits the bill as a luxury family SUV, offering excellent safety features, an available third row and a luxurious interior,” but cautions buyers to get the turbodiesel model for overall value. Consumer Guide gives Q7 its Recommended nod for “mechanical finesse, terrific all-weather road manners…fuel-frugal diesel option…Audi design and workmanship.”

Other considerations for best used safest SUV include Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Edge, Escape, Flex and Taurus-X, GMC Acadia, Honda CR-V, Element, and Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe and Veracruz, Infiniti EX35, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Murano and Rogue, Saturn Outlook and Vue, Subaru Forester and Tribeca, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Highlander and RAV4, and Volvo XC90.

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