As every parent knows, there is an inverse relationship between their number of children and the cash in their wallet. It goes something like this, the more kids, the less cash. So unless you have seriously deep pockets, finding a vehicle to haul your growing family can be a little challenging.
Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of the best crossovers with three rows for around $20,000. This leaves you with more money for dance lessons, bumper stickers of your family, and that college fund you should have started 5 years ago. And by the way, every vehicle pictured in this article was listed on Mojo Motors for under $20k when this article was published.
10. Hyundai Veracruz
7. Mazda CX-9
6. Volvo XC90
5. Kia Sorento
3. Honda Pilot
10.) Hyundai Veracruz
Why: The Hyundai Veracruz is essentially a Santa Fe with seating for 7. That’s why in 2013, Hyundai decided to drop the Veracruz and add a 3rd row seat to the more popular Santa Fe. The cabin is quiet on the highway and the interior is elegantly styled, but some have noted that the 3rd row seats are cramped, making it best suited for young children. The Veracruz scored a Best Safety Pick from the IIHS for side, rear, and frontal impact, so you can rest assured that your family will be safe. Look out for a used 2012 Veracruz, this model year came standard with navigation, Bluetooth and rear view camera.
What you get for $20k: 2010-2012 model with less than 50,000 miles. Search for a used Hyundai Veracruz here.
MPG: 19/26 (2.4L) / 16/24 (3.6L)
HP: 173 (2.4L) / 283 (3.6L)
Why: The Dodge Journey has some cool features, like theatre seating (rear seats are higher than the front) and rear doors that open 90 degrees making it easier to install child car seats. The 3rd row seat folds to make more cargo room, but it provides severely limited leg room. Like the Veracruz, the 3rd row seat is best for small children, not for puberty-stricken teens subject to daily growth spurts. Speaking of spurts, the Journey is available with either a 4 cylinder engine or the powerful Pentastar V6 engine used in everything from the Grand Cherokee to the Charger.
What you get for $20k: A new Journey starts at $19,995, so finding one used in that price range is a breeze. Even 2013 SXT models with less than 30,000 miles can be found for 18k. Search for a used Dodge Journey here.
MPG: 23/28 (2.4L) / 19/26 (3.0L)
HP: 168 ( 2.4L) / 230 (3.0L)
Why: The Mitsubishi Outlander isn’t the most popular crossover, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good option. One of the neatest features of the Outlander is the “Flip-Fold” tailgate. As you can see in the picture above, the rear hatch is a two-piece system where the top flips up and the bottom flips down, creating a bench able to support up to 400lbs. The rear seats also fold away nicely to provide more cargo space. The Outlander was redesigned for 2014, but it lost some of its aggressive lines.
What you get for $20k: 2013 Outlanders with under 40,000 miles are plentiful. Search for a used Mitsubishi Outlander here.
Why: Although it is the largest vehicle Mazda builds, the seven passenger CX-9 is still fun to drive thanks to a 274 horsepower V6 engine. The interior is nothing special, but then again, this a car your kids will probably destroy anyways. There are a couple of additional thing to note including its average fuel economy and higher-than-average maintenance costs. Make sure to factor in these into your total cost if you’re thinking about buying this hefty Mazda.
What you get for $20k: 2010-2012 with under 40,000 miles. Search for a used Mazda CX-9 here.
6.) Volvo XC90
Why: The XC90 is one of the best selling crossovers in the world built by the Swedish manufacturer Volvo. It is also one of the most luxurious which means that you’ll have to step back a few more years and add a couple thousand miles to get one under 20k. In exchange, you get a luxurious interior, a fantastic safety rating and one the sportiest ride on this list. The XC90 only offers seating for seven people in its V8 models, not with the V6, so consider it if you can live with a combined 18 MPG. Of course the V8 has its benefits too, delivering a solid 311 horsepower. One major benefit the XC90 has over all the competitors is that it achieved a perfect rating for front, side, and rear impact protection. That means whoever is sitting in the third row, which is usually the littlest members of your family, will be just as protected as everyone else.
What you get for 20k: 2007-2009 with 60,000-90,000 miles (for the V8 model). Search for a used Volvo XC90 here.
MPG: 21/29 (2.4L) / 20/26 (3.5L)
HP: 175-191 (2.4L) / 276 ( 3.5L)
Why: The Sorento is a true testament to how far Korean automaker Kia has come in the past few years. For a modest price, the Sorento easily competes with more traditional crossovers like the Journey and Equinox. From 2011 to 2012 the Kia Sorento LX was available with a 3rd row seat option which is noted as being “actually useable” unlike many crossovers in this class. Better yet, Kia offered the Sorento with a 2.4L 4 cylinder that achieves fuel efficiency well above average for its class. If you like the extra power, the Sorento is available with a 3.5L V6.
What you get for 20k: 2011-2012 with under 50,000 miles. Search for a used Kia Sorento here.
4.) Toyota Highlander
MPG: 20/27 (2.7L) / 18/24 (3.5L)
HP: 187 (2.7L) / 270 (3.5L)
Why: The Toyota Highlander was one of the first crossovers on the market in North America. Its SUV styling and car-like handling has helped solidify Toyota as a leader in the category. The third row seats are small (is anyone noticing a pattern here?) but easily accessible due to a removable center seat in the second row. Popular upgrade options for the Highlander include a rear view camera, DVD entertainment system and navigation (on the Limited models). It is also worth noting Toyota tops our list of most reliable brands.
What you get for 20k: 2008-2012 with around 60,000 miles. Search for a used Toyota Highlander here.
3.) Honda Pilot
Why: When Honda redesigned the Pilot for 2009, they gave it more of a discernible SUV appearance than the true-to-heart crossovers on this list. They also made it capable of doing more than the other crossovers. The Pilot comes standard with a 250 horsepower V6 engine and an optional advanced AWD system. The unibody construction is reinforced for added towing capacity and stability. That being said, the Pilot still offers a comfortable car-like ride if you intend on using it primarily as a people mover. Speaking of people moving, the Pilot is capable of seating 8 passengers, not just 5 adults and 2 kids.
What you get for 20K: 2009-2012 around 60,000 miles. Depends on the trim level. Search for a used Honda Pilot here.
Why: While its not the most conventional choice, the Tribeca has some conventional features like seven seats (as of 2010) and standard AWD. Also standard on this Subaru crossover is heated front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control and a 7-inch display monitor. The Tribeca is considerably smaller than other crossovers, so if you constantly find yourself navigating through tight urban areas this might your best vehicle with three rows of seating. During safety testing, the Tribeca scored a perfect 5 stars on both front and side impact protection. In contrast to Subaru’s reputation, the ride is quiet and comfortable, and the handling is nothing like that WRX. The biggest complaint is its comically small 3rd row, which fits only the smallest of children and with a combined fuel efficiency of only 18MPG, the small Tribeca trails bigger crossover.
What you get for 20k: 2009-2012 with 50,000-70,000 miles. Remember, not all 2009 models are 7 passenger. Search for a used Subaru Tribeca here.
1.) Chevrolet Traverse
Why: The Traverse offers a spacious and comfortable interior for seven passengers and is one of largest vehicles on this list. In spite of its size, The Traverse is relatively easy to maneuver and steers precisely. The 288 horsepower engine does its best to haul this four-wheeled Chevrolet behemoth. If you’re leaving behind the minivan for a crossover, you’ll find this V6 isn’t sluggish. If you’re going from a car to the Traverse, you might find yourself wishing for just a bit more power. Like most crossovers in its class, certain aspects of the interior are cheap-feeling, but for the price (and size), the Traverse is worth a look.
What you get for $20k: 2009-2011 model years with 40,000 to 60,000 miles. Search for a used Chevrolet Tribeca here.
Written By Tristan Cathers