Best 4WD SUVs

By Anthony Sophinos

Though all-wheel drive crossovers often suggest they can play off-road, the full-time four-wheel-drive SUV is the real McCoy. With its full frame, transfer case, and available low-range gearing, it can conquer terrain that no AWD crossover can. But despite their reputation for being rugged go-anywhere machines, not all SUVs are created equal.

In order to find the best new and used 4WD SUVs for consumers, we analyzed reliability, gas mileage, and safety data. The results were ranked primarily by reliability, followed by NHTSA safety ratings. 

Reliability was based on iSeeCars’ recent Longest-Lasting Cars study, which analyzed 15.8 million vehicles to determine those that had the highest likelihood of lasting to 200,000 miles. Other factors we considered include average fuel economy across all available powertrains, average prices for both new and 3-year old used models, and interior space. In order to make this list more consumer-friendly, technical off-roading specs were not factored in.

Our favorite four-wheel-drive SUVs are safe and reliable above all else. These top picks are the only four with both a 5-star safety rating and a 0.80 percent or better likelihood of reaching 200,000 miles. 

1. Ford Expedition

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 5.20%
Average fuel economy: 18.7 mpg
NHTSA safety rating 5 stars
Average price of a new Expedition: $63,528
Average price of a 3-year-old Expedition: $31,563

 

The Ford Expedition takes an easy first place on our list. That’s not because it can out-crawl a Jeep Wrangler on the boulders of Utah (spoiler alert: it can’t), but because it has the highest likelihood among SUVs with a 5-star safety rating to reach 200,000 miles.

The Expedition also has a lot going for it as a family vehicle, with an average of 167.4 cubic feet of passenger space between both standard and long-wheelbase models. In Max form, the Expedition will hold up to 121.4 cubic feet of cargo space and has a maximum towing capacity of 9,300 pounds. 

Pricing is the only not-so-savory aspect of the Expedition, as new models sell on average for $63,528. Three-year-old used models are significantly more affordable at $31,563.

2. Lincoln Navigator

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 2.60%
Average fuel economy: 18.0 mpg
NHTSA safety rating 5 stars
Average price of a new Navigator: $88,528
Average price of a 3-year-old Navigator: $39,914

 

The Lincoln Navigator is built on the same chassis as the Expedition and shares all of its mechanical hardware, so it’s no surprise that this big Lincoln shares the podium with its Ford cousin. 

It’ll tow and carry as much as the Expedition and is just as safe. But why is it not as long-lasting? The likely culprits are complicated electronics and advanced features that can leave old luxury vehicles with expensive repairs once they’ve hit a certain age or mileage. This can lead many owners to sell or trade them off for a new vehicle. 

There’s also the simple fact that the big and expensive Navigator doesn’t accumulate mileage like the workhorse Expedition does. The different uses to which they are subjected could account for the three-percent difference between the Navigator (2.60 percent) and Expedition (5.60 percent). 

3. Ford Explorer

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 0.90%
Average fuel economy: 19.3 mpg
NHTSA safety rating 5 stars
Average price of a new Explorer: $46,804
Average price of a 3-year-old Explorer: $27,382

 

Next on our Best 4WD SUV list is yet another Ford: the Ford Explorer. It’s a more manageable vehicle than the full-size Expedition, yet retains three rows and ample cargo space. It’ll also tow up to 5,600 pounds when properly equipped. 

It’s one of only two reasonably sized SUVs with a 5-star safety rating, making it an ideal choice for hauling around your precious cargo. In a quest for better gas mileage, it uses a turbo engine, which garners its 19.3 average mpg rating.

Average prices for a 3-year old model come out to $27,382, but new ones typically sell for a hefty $46,804. Yet either way that’s a big savings over an Expedition.

4. Nissan Pathfinder

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 0.80%
Average fuel economy: 22.4 mpg
NHTSA safety rating 5 stars
Average price of a new Pathfinder: $34,705
Average price of a 3-year-old Pathfinder: $22,436

 

The Nissan Pathfinder may be aging, but don’t write it off just yet. This SUV tows 6,000 pounds and averages 22.4 mpg. On average new Pathfinders can be purchased for $34,705; 3-year old used models sell on average for $22,436. Vast interior space and cargo room rounds out this compelling package. But only 0.80 percent of these big Nissans were sold last year with more than 200,000 miles, resulting in a fourth-place finish on our list.

Runner-Up Best 4WD SUVs

 

The top four SUVs are as safe and long-lasting as they come. There’s plenty of other great SUVs out there, though. They may not have as impressive reliability data or 5-star safety ratings, but the following four SUVs remain excellent options.

1. Chevrolet Suburban

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 4.90%
Average fuel economy: 16.3 mpg
NHTSA safety rating 4 stars
Average price of a new Sububran: $62,119
Average price of a 3-year-old Suburban: $40,444

 

It might not be the most miserly family chariot or the most suitable choice to go rock crawling, but the Chevrolet Suburban is a mainstay in the full-size SUV class. This long-running model actually predates the entire SUV segment, having first graced the flanks of a Chevrolet vehicle back in 1935. 

Since then the big Chevy carryall has seen plenty of changes, but the overall product remains the same as ever: a truly full-sized four-wheel drive vehicle with room for up to nine passengers and all their cargo. 

Nearly 85 years of Suburban production has allowed Chevrolet to work out the kinks, and our reliability data attests to this: 4.90 percent of this model sold in 2019 had more than 200,000 miles on them. That outdoes most vehicles from nearly any class outside the heavy-duty truck category. 

Pricing for the Suburban isn’t cheap, with new models selling on average for $62,119 and 3-year old used models for $40,444.

2. Toyota 4Runner

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 3.90%
Average fuel economy: 18.0 mpg
NHTSA safety rating 4 stars
Average price of a new 4Runner: $43,300
Average price of a 3-year-old 4Runner: $33,107

 

It’s hard to talk about SUVs without mentioning the Toyota 4Runner. Properly equipped, it can run with the Jeep Wrangler on trails. Yet it will likely prove more livable on a daily basis thanks to its fully enclosed cabin, available third-row seat, and ample average cargo space of 47.2 cubic feet. 

Headlining the show is its excellent track record for longevity: 3.90 percent this model sold in 2019 had 200,000 or more miles on the odometer, according to our study. 

Average fuel economy from the standard V6 engine isn’t the best at 18.0 mpg, but the midsize 4Runner otherwise does a fine job of combining off-road prowess with everyday usability.

On average, new models sell for $43,300, and 3-year old used models sell for $33,107.

3. Jeep Grand Cherokee

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 0.90%
Average fuel economy: 20.2 mpg
NHTSA safety rating 4 stars
Average price of a new Grand Cherokee: $42,015
Average price of a 3-year-old Grand Cherokee: $28,254

 

The Jeep Grand Cherokee doesn’t boast a 5-star crash test rating, but it offers comparable space, efficiency, and reliability of the Best 4WD SUVs on this list. 

There’s a 0.90 percent chance it reaches the 200,000 mark on the odometer. Though worse than many full-size SUVs, it’s a marginal improvement over the Pathfinder and in lockstep with the Ford Explorer. Its average fuel economy of 20.2 mpg is also fairly enviable for a genuine SUV.

With an average transaction price of $42,015 for new models, the Jeep Grand Cherokee isn’t the cheapest SUV you can buy new, but it undercuts the Ford Explorer by a few thousand dollars. The average 3-year old used price for the Grand Cherokee is $28,254.

A Grand Cherokee Pro Tip: Don’t discount the Trailhawk trim level if you’re looking for an off-roader. It adds more trail-rated equipment, skid plates, and an upgraded suspension that makes easy pickings out of most any trail.

4. Audi Q7

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 0.10%
Average fuel economy: 21.2 mpg
NHTSA safety rating 5 stars
Average price of a new Q7: $66,524
Average price of a 3-year-old Q7: $39,305

 

While the other runner ups have higher reliability over safety ratings, the Audi Q7 flips the script. It’s rated 5 stars for safety, but with just 0.10 percent of vehicles of this model selling with more than 200,000 miles on them, it’s difficult to call the full-size Audi SUV long-lasting. 

Ample space, three rows of seating, and an efficient supercharged powertrain make up for its lack of high-mile proficiency.

The average transaction price for new Q7s is $66,524, while 3-year old used models go for $39,305.

Honorable Mention Best 4WD SUVs

 

The following four SUVs didn’t make the final roster because of abysmal gas mileage, a lack of safety data, absurdly high prices, or perhaps all of the above. But those demerits don’t discount their capability or appeal. For certain buyers, the following SUVs might be the only ones to consider.

1. Toyota Land Cruiser

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 15.70%
Average fuel economy: 15.0 mpg
NHTSA safety rating N/A
Average price of a new Land Cruiser: $86,333
Average price of a 3-year-old Land Cruiser: $62,557

 

It sells in too little volume to be safety tested and the gas mileage is bad enough to single-handedly keep the oil companies in business, but the Toyota Land Cruiser is another icon among 4WD SUVs. 

It earned that status through being nearly indestructible. Our data found that over 15 percent of vehicles of this model sold in 2019 already had over 200,000 miles on them. That’s 1.5 out of every 10 cars with that kind of mileage. The only other vehicle from any category that comes close is the Toyota Sequoia - and it’s more than six percentage points shy of the Land Cruiser’s enviable stat. 

Pricing for this Toyota is eye-watering, though. On average, a new model sells for $86,333, while a 3-year old used model goes for $62,557.

2. Jeep Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 0.90% (0.20% 4-door models)
Average fuel economy: 18.9 mpg
NHTSA safety rating N/A
Average price of a new Wrangler: $43,910
Average price of a 3-year-old Wrangler: $31,921

 

For many people, the Jeep Wrangler - both the two-door model as well as the four-door Unlimited variant - is the 4WD segment. After all, this is the vehicle that kickstarted the segment back when it helped win the second World War. Since then the Wrangler has become a beloved icon.

With 0.90 percent of two-door models being sold with more than 200,000 miles on them, the Wrangler has a solid track record for being long lasting. 

An average of 40 cubic feet of cargo space for four-door models and 31.7 cubic feet for two-doors means that there’s plenty of space as well. Average gas mileage of 18.9 mpg is actually better than its main competitor, the Toyota 4Runner. 

And of course the Wrangler’s off-road ability, particularly in its Rubicon trim, is legendary. But because the NHTSA has yet to conduct crash-testing, we can’t rank the Jeep Wrangler higher than an honorable mention.

Pricing is affordable for the segment stalwart. On average a new four-door sells for $43,910 and  a 3-year old model for $31,921. Two-door models are $36,128 new and $26,965 3-years used.

3. Mercedes-Benz G-Class

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 0.20%
Average fuel economy: 12.6 mpg
NHTSA safety rating N/A
Average price of a new G-Class: $164,967
Average price of a 3-year-old G-Class: $134,082

 

Perhaps the most absurd vehicle on this entire list, the boxy Mercedes G-Class was redesigned for the 2019 model year. It was the model’s first overhaul since being introduced in 1979. 

It isn’t rated for safety by the NHTSA, has downright embarrassing gas mileage, and just 0.20 percent of models sold last year had seen 200,000 miles. Regardless,the G-Class defines opulent capability. No other vehicle built by a mainstream manufacturer is so outlandish in styling, capability, or engineering. 

Unsurprisingly, the average prices for the G-Class reflects its unique position in the Mercedes lineup. New models sell on average for $164,967, and used models remain a six-figure proposition at $134,082. 

4. Land Rover Range Rover

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 0.10%

Vehicles with more than 200,000 miles: 0.10%
Average fuel economy: 19.2 mpg
NHTSA safety rating N/A
Average price of a new Range Rover: $116,630
Average price of a 3-year-old Range Rover: $75,931

 

Another low-volume, high-priced favorite is the Land Rover Range Rover. This debonair ride is the original luxury sport utility, equally at home on the Serengeti as it is on Savile Row.

But its imperfections reduce it to honorable mention status. For starters, it hasn’t been rated by the NHTSA. Its reliability ranks low, with just 0.10 percent of Range Rovers sold in 2019 at 200,000 or more miles. 

Then there’s the pesky issue of price, with new models going for an average of $116,630 and 3-year old used for a still-expensive $75,931.



If you’re in the market for a new or used 4WD SUV, you can search over 4 million used and new cars, trucks, and SUVs with iSeeCars’ award-winning car search engine that helps shoppers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check report. Filter by drive system, third-row availability, and other parameters in order to narrow down your SUV search.