When buying a new SUV, more often than not you’re looking to get the best value you can for your budget. You pick the model, you select your options, and you set up a lease or finance, whichever suits you more. However, a consideration that is starting to also enter into the purchase decision is what kind of resale value you can get out of the SUV, as more and more consumers are buying certified pre-owned or privately sold used SUVs.

The reasoning for this can mostly be put down to economics and a fair bit of social culture. In the old days, pre-21st century, buying a vehicle was a much more involved, “permanent” thing. Cars, trucks, SUVs, all didn’t get put up for sale unless absolutely necessary or the vehicle was 10 or more years old, and by that time, the depreciation of the vehicle often meant you’d only recoup between 5% to 20% of the original price, if you were lucky.

Nowadays, you will often find one or two year old vehicles for sale either pre-owned or for private sale. The reasoning here is that the economy is much more volatile, and technology is driving newer, better, faster cars and SUVs to market. The social and cultural side of it can be broken down to the “ooh, shiny!” effect. People want the latest and greatest, either as a status symbol or because it is, in fact, new and fancy.

Today, however, we’re going to go over the five best 2021 SUVs for those looking to get an appreciable amount of mileage and time out of their vehicle before selling or trading. By this, we’re meaning at least three years, looking at the five year depreciation estimates, a good few intercity or interstate trips, and following proper maintenance and servicing schedules.


#5: 2021 Subaru Forester

2021 Subaru Forester

MSRP: $24,795

Subaru has not often shown up on value retention lists, with the notable exception of its WRX and STi performance cars. The largest reason for this is because for a lot of the late 2000s and early 2010s, the vehicle design department had a strange idea of what made an attractive, modern vehicle. Some manufacturers can get away with pushing the boundaries of design and slowly gaining acceptance, and some will try and fall flat on their face in a big pile of mud, which is what happened with Subaru.

Thankfully, from about 2016 onwards, someone went into the design room and stamped their feet loudly enough. The Forester, whose fourth generation from 2014 to 2018 looked like it had some kind of flu and was all swollen, was completely redesigned for the 2019 launch of the fifth generation, and now has much tighter lines, an attractive, modern shape with tons of technology held within, and, of course, the legendary AWD system.

The biggest value additions for the fifth generation, including the 2021 model, is that Subaru took a lot of the previously optional driver safety features and put them into all trims of the Forester, including the base model,following industry trends from other manufacturers. These are things such as Subaru Eyesight Driver Assist (a 360 degree constantly scanning collision avoidance and lane departure prevention system), DriverFocus (a constant scan of the driver’s face to detect drowsiness and distraction), and a new variable torque distribution transfer system for the AWD system that was previously only on Sport models.

Because of all the moves towards a safer, better equipped base model, and the availability of multiple trim levels that only pile on more and more features, the Forester has come a long way from previous depreciation analysis, where it was often over 60%. The fifth generation swings back strongly, sitting at 50% to 47% depreciation estimates, and real world 2 year resale showing numbers in line for a 5 year projection of just about 48.5% depreciation.


#4: 2021 Toyota RAV4

2021 Toyota RAV4

MSRP: $26,250 and up

The original CUV, the Toyota RAV4 has a storied place in automotive history. It defined an entirely new class of vehicle in 1994, and hasn’t looked back since, evolving year after year to keep on top of the CUV pile. While earlier models did have some poor resale value retention, Toyota did a mid-model refresh in 2015 that flipped the resale market on its head.

That fourth generation RAV4 refresh introduced a much better equipped base model, as well as bringing forth what is now considered standard equipment for most vehicles, such as LED headlights, TFT displays in the dash, a larger infotainment touchscreen, and the like.

The current fifth generation (2018 to present) packs even more standard equipment in, and also features a redesigned frame and crash structure to move the RAV4 to a class-leading safety rating, with only the front overlap crash test receiving 4 out of 5 stars instead of the full 5. As well, AWD was offered as an option for the first time on the base model, with standard FWD if it was not selected.

With a variety of interior options that start with synthetic leather and a comfortable, almost plush interior, the RAV4 is definitely aiming to keep its CUV crown. While the fourth generation generally did poorly in value retention, the new fifth generation has already shown an average of 45% depreciation, which is very good for a less-expensive CUV. It really does seem, according to analysts, that the only people that will try to undercut that figure are second-hand car dealers, and that’s because they run a business and need to make a profit.


#3: 2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Tellurid

MSRP: $32,190

The 2021 Kia Telluride is a bit of a special SUV. Before Kia did its whole push from economy manufacturer to serious competitor, the largest vehicle they made was a four door sedan that was sold only in South Korea. After the push? They recognized that a lot of markets, including North America, wanted a well-appointed mid-compact SUV that mixed comfort and utility.

In what is now typical Kia fashion, they quite literally squeezed every feature you could realistically want into the base model LX trim, and only really added uprate trims for luxury or technology add-ons. With the base model alone, you get parking assist sensors, 18 inch alloys, radar-guided cruise control with automatic distance keeping and stop & go functionality, an 8 inch infotainment screen, remote key locking, push button engine start, rear seating air conditioning, heated front seats… the list is exhaustive, but you get the general idea.

It is this seemingly insane level of standard features for a base model that puts the Telluride, as well as most Kia’s, in extremely good resale territory. Most analysis shows that if the resale values of Hyundai vehicles (Kia’s sister company) are anything to go off of, expectations of 40% to 45% depreciation is well within reason. As the Telluride is still literally brand spanking new, having only been on the market less than a full year, no real data exists quite yet to solidly pin that number down.

We took the worst estimate of 45% and used that as our placement. Still, that’s better than $17,000 in retained value, which is just about enough to buy a brand new Kia Forte compact car outright.


#2: 2021 GMC Yukon

 2021 GMC Yukon

MSRP: $51,000 and up

It’s becoming harder and harder these days to find a full size SUV, as the market is starting to prefer the midsize style. However, that doesn’t stop GMC from developing a brand new Yukon for 2021, and positioning it at a price that is thumbing its nose at other full size SUVs.

In developing the new Yukon, GMC intentionally broke down several barriers that had been artificially placed between a full size “American SUV” and a full size “European Luxury SUV.” It’s a one-two punch thrown at the Germans, an uppercut to the UK, and it’s dancing against the ropes with its American rivals.

So what makes it so special? On even the base model, you get a stonking 5.3L V8 that crushes out 355 HP and 390 lb-ft of torque through an adaptive 4x4 drive system, and has cylinder deactivation for fuel efficiency while cruising. You get four corner air-ride suspension. You get an industry best stability and traction control system that can correct slides and slips before you even notice they’re happening. You get an interior that looks like it belongs in a $100,000 premium SUV.

And most of all, you get a depreciation estimate of just over 42%. When you’re dealing with a base price of $51,000, getting $30,000 or thereabouts back in 5 years is amazing. Especially considering that the new Yukon is a hammer blow to luxury SUVs like the BMW X7 and the Mercedes G series. Even Cadillac can’t beat it, and they’re both from the same parent company!


#1: 2021 Toyota Highlander

2021 Toyota Highlander

MSRP: $34,910 and up

There is something about Toyota vehicles that is putting them at the top of the value board. Much like Honda, they have legendarily reliable engines. Like Subaru, their 4x4 and AWD systems, developed and honed in racing, are class leading. Like the luxury brands of the world, their interiors are well appointed, plush, and comfortable.

The Highlander is the very definition of all of those attributes, which is why most predictions put the resale value of it in five years at under 40% depreciation, some even putting it at less than 35% depreciation. Even a decade ago, any manufacturer would have fought for such value retention.

The biggest factor that we could see most analysts pointing to is the trim level. Base level Highlanders are expected to hold their value quite well, but if you get the desirable XLE trim, or the top of the line Platinum trim, those are expected to hold the most value. This is because both are the breakpoint trims, from base to luxury, and from luxury to “everything and the kitchen sink.”

As well, both trims have the best-spec 3.5L V6, with the only difference being the XLE is FWD, and the Platinum is AWD. This gives plenty of grunt for highway miles and the urban jungle in the XLE, and goes-anywhere-does-anything traction and stability in the Platinum. No matter which trim you choose, or what options you choose, having an anticipated return of 60% or better is ridiculously good, especially as a 5 year estimate.


AutoDigg Can Help You Sell & Buy!

When it does come time, 3 to 5 years down the line, to think about selling your SUV, remember that AutoDigg is the premier used car search and sale website for Texas. With the best search engine, a request system that allows you to search for the best vehicle at the best price, and a Texas-wide reach, you can always be assured that your vehicle will find a buyer.

On top of that, AutoDigg never shares out any personal information. All that dealerships and potential buyers see is the vehicle available for sale, and can bid competitively to get you the best deal that you feel is worthwhile. It’s in our name: we dig through the mess and confusion of the sales and purchase process for a used vehicle to make it as easy for you as possible!