Shopping for a safe used SUV for family needs? Key things to look for include high safety marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and as much standard or optional safety features as possible.

Each of the following used SUVs earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick and four (or five) out of five stars in overall crash protection from NHTSA. Whether you need a compact, midsize or large SUV, there are several excellent choices here.

2013 Buick Enclave – A large family SUV, the 2013 Buick Enclave (along with its siblings, the Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia) offers plenty of standard and optional safety equipment to keep driver and passengers safe on the road. Besides IIHS Top Safety Pick, the Enclave earned a perfect five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA. Safety features include a full roster of airbags, including a front-center airbag (standard on Buick Enclave, optional on 2013 Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia), electronic stability control (ESC) including roll stability control, antilock brakes, and daytime running lights (DRLs). Pricing ranges from $29,500 to the vicinity of $32,000.

2012-2013 Dodge Durango – Antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard on the 2012-2013 Dodge Durango. Blind-spot monitoring and cross-path warning systems are standard on Citadel and optional on Crew. Pricing varies and can range from $22,900 to $47,340.

2013 Ford Explorer – In addition to a full roster of safety equipment, Ford amped up safety features in the 2013 Explorer midsize SUV to include a passenger airbag to minimize knee injuries in the event of a frontal crash. Optional inflatable seat belts for second-row outboard seats add even more safety for Explorer passengers. The 2013 Ford Explorer earned a five-star overall crash protection rating from NHTSA. As for pricing, it ranges from around $27,200 to nearly $40,000.

2012-2013 Honda Pilot – Plenty of room for eight passengers and gear, coupled with numerous standard and optional safety features make the 2012-2013 Honda Pilot a good bet for safest used SUV. Safety features include the full roster of airbags, including head curtain airbags for all three rows of seats and front seat-mounted torso airbags, rollover sensor, ESC, antilock brakes, rearview camera and DRLs. While pricing varies, depending on options, mileage, condition and model, the range is generally between $24,990 and $41,000.

2012-2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee – Sharing components with the Mercedes-Benz M-Class (the result of Jeep’s tenure under Daimler/Chrysler), the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee five-passenger midsize SUV is an excellent choice for on- and off-road travel. All the usual list of airbags is standard, along with active headrests, trailer-sway control, hill-descent control and hill-start assistance. Notable safety options include rearview camera, parking sensors, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and a collision-warning system. Expect used Jeep Grand Cherokees to fetch anywhere from $21,500 to the mid- to high-$40,000s, depending, of course, on model, options, mileage and condition.

2012-2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class – The midsize luxury SUV has a lengthy list of safety features: full complement of airbags, including front pelvic airbags and driver knee airbag, driver drowsiness monitor, rollover sensor, ESC with roll-stability control, antilock brakes and programmable DRLs. Optional safety tech to look for include blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning systems and Pre-Safe Brake and Distronic Plus to help prevent frontal crashes. Look for used GLK-Class prices ranging from about $26,000 to $37,800.

2012-2013 Subaru Forester – A compact SUV, the Subaru Forester for 2012 and 2013 offers strong safety scores and the expected list of standard safety features. Standard all-wheel drive is a big draw for consumers who want to go off-road. A rearview camera is optional. Look for pricing on used Forester models to range from $17,500 to about $26,000.


2012-2013 Toyota Highlander – Need room for up to seven passengers? Check out the 2012-2013 Toyota Highlander for a comfortable, safe used SUV to meet your requirements. Along with a full complement of airbags, stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes and active front head restraints, hill-start assist is also standard. All-wheel drive models get standard hill-descent control.

Are there other used SUVs considered safest? Check out the IIHS and NHTSA websites for how other SUVs compare with safety scores.