There is no greater and worst investment than buying a vehicle, whether you finance it or pay cash for it. Once a new car or truck leaves the dealership lot it immediately begins to lose its value, and this is a far cry from the real estate market. The sports utility vehicle market has exploded in popularity and sales in the last three decades, with hundreds of new models hitting the scene from all of the major automakers.
Because owning an SUV can be a fun and recreational experience, the cost of ownership can be quite expensive in the long run, which is why many consumers have shifted from traditional SUV models to the more mainstream crossovers.
Certain SUV models have become more notoriously unreliable than others, and this has created a long term problem for the owners of SUV models who have been slowly retiring their family sedans and making the SUV an integral part of family life.
When it comes to making a smart vehicle purchase decision nothing is worse than buying a money pit, and the certain SUV models have become worse than a money pit. While some sport utility models have managed to increase in value such as the Jeep Wrangler, there are many others which have just become more and more costly to maintain and own. We are going to be taking a look at 30 of the least cost-effective SUV models that you can buy, and how purchasing these vehicles would be worse than literally burning money.
30 Isuzu Trooper
Anyone who was around the automotive industry during the early nineties will remember the tons of negative press that Isuzu and the Trooper were receiving, and much of it was due to the vehicles penchant for rollover injuries.
The Trooper never really recovered from this negative press, and in the meantime, the vehicle became an aged dinosaur. The Trooper is notorious for transmission failures which can become quite costly, not to mention the vehicle's complete lack of resale value.
29 Isuzu Rodeo
While there has been a good deal of massively popular SUVs over the years, very few have taken the industry by storm like the Isuzu Rodeo. This single SUV was responsible for carrying the Isuzu brand through the hardships of the Trooper debacle, and the model manages to remain a popular portion of the used car market.
But, the Rodeo had a lot of reliability issues which crept up on owners many years after the models were first sold, and this has created a good deal of headaches for the people who buy these on the used car market.
28 Ford Explorer 1st Generation
When the compact S-10 Blazer hit the scene, the automotive world was taken by storm at the marvel of this mainstream domestic compact SUV, and Ford had to answer with something that was going to be better than their lackluster Bronco II model.
The first generation of the Ford Explorer was massively popular in every way, and the company managed to sell millions of these examples. This generation was notorious for electrical failures all through the interior, as well as general reliability issues with the V6 engine.
27 Hummer H2
If burning money was a sport the Hummer H2 would be a winning contestant in every aspect, and with a number of reasons for this, the most obvious was the horrible gas mileage. So bad in fact that the Hummer H2 was named one of the worst offenders by the EPA fuel rating system, and that is just one of the many negative accolades that the H2 received.
We can’t imagine why anyone would still want to drive this wasteful machine, but in the long term, the H2 will always be remembered for its awkward styling and huge road presence.
26 Isuzu Ascender
At the end of its life cycle, the Isuzu Ascender was insignificant at best, and the vehicle managed to remain that way into the last models. Isuzu was no longer a relevant force in the sports utility market, and with the Ascender being a rebadged Trailblazer there was no longer anything that was unique about the brand in any aspect.
We found the Ascender to be a lackluster vehicle at best and the numerous owner complaints have only been magnified by the fact that Isuzu or its dealership network no longer exists.
25 Mercedes ML320 1st Generation
The SUV boom of the nineties was a positive time for the automakers and everyone wanted to get in on the hot new business opportunity, which meant that even the luxury automakers were going to jump in.
The Mercedes ML320 was the first in a string of luxury SUVs that were released by the legendary automaker, and for the most part, the model ended up being one of the most popular for the Mercedes company. But, even great selling products can be faulty and the original ML320 had its fair share of reliability problems.
24 Porsche Cayenne 1st Generation
The first generation of the Porsche Cayenne is a winning combination of speed and the legendary Porsche styling that has made the brand's cars famous. But, the SUV was also prone to a whole lot of expensive repairs which caused owners a good deal of heartache when it came to maintaining the beast of an SUV.
The first issue with the Porsche Cayenne came with the very expensive transmission, and after that was repaired the regular maintenance of the Porsche was quite costly.
23 GMC Envoy XUV
Perhaps one of the more unique sport utility vehicles to come out of General Motors, the GMC Envoy XUV was a rare mix of style and innovation at a time when the GM SUV trio was just bland and otherwise boring.
The GMC Envoy XUV was notable for its retractable back roof, but in the long run, the SUV was quite expensive to maintain. This was an issue on a lot of GM SUV models around this time, and the Isuzu Ascender was also related to the Envoy so the two trucks share a lot of the same issues.
22 Lincoln Navigator 1st Generation
When the Lincoln Navigator came onto the scene it was absolutely trendsetting, because an old domestic luxury brand had never ventured into the full-size truck market before and an SUV was a big jump.
The Navigator was flying off of dealership lots so fast that Cadillac even jumped into the fray with their Tahoe based Escalade. The Navigator had a new engine which was called the Intech V8, and this engine was prone to reliability issues.
21 Chevrolet Avalanche
GM is always a company to take advantage of trends in the automotive industry, and one trend was the rise in popularity of sport utility vehicles. This rise was also accompanied by the rise in pickup trucks, which had become a common part of everyday life and car ownership.
The Chevy Avalanche was a new breed of vehicle that looked to combine the versatility of a pickup truck, and the one of a kind attributes that come with a sports utility vehicle. The Avalanche also had its fair share of reliability issues, and this is what eventually caused GM to discontinue to model.
20 Land Rover Discovery
Although Land Rover is one of the most historic automakers on the planet, there was a time during the late nineties and 2000s where the brand became obsolete. Many consumers didn’t even have the Land Rover brand on their radar when it came to choosing an SUV, and thus the brand had to try and innovate with new models.
The Land Rover Discovery was one of the defunct models, which in the long run had reliability issues as well as being a gas hog. The model lived on for quite a few years until it was ultimately discontinued in favor of new crossover models.
19 Land Rover Freelander
Of course with the advent of the SUV boom came a need for smaller gas efficient models, and the consumer base who purchases these SUV models generally is more embracing of a compact model.
The Land Rover Freelander was a well-known SUV for most of its life, and sales were actually pretty good. But, the reliability became an issue on these and as such many owners simply ended up trading these little trucks in and that is why you will find so many of them on the used car market.
18 Land Rover LR2
The Freelander was a good concept for the Land Rover company but the vehicle suffered from reliability issues, so the company ended up redesigning the little sports utility model.
But, the redesigned Land Rover LR2 still had a good deal of reliability issues, which tended to cause the consumers to give up on these vehicles early on. Still, the LR2 was a good concept and if the vehicle had been a little bit more reliable we can only assume that the sales would have been better.
17 Pontiac Torrent
Released late in the life cycle of the related Chevrolet Equinox, the Pontiac Torrent was released at a time when the company was trying anything and everything to save the dying Pontiac brand from its demise.
The Pontiac Torrent was known for reliability issues as well as a cheap interior that tended to fall apart quite easily, which contributed to poor reviews from the automotive press. The Pontiac Torrent could have done better if it had been a little bit more exciting, to say the least.
16 Suzuki Grand Vitara
Suzuki has been a contender in the SUV marketplace since before the utilitarian vehicles were even in style, and for the most part, their Sidekick and Samurai models had gotten high marks for reliability.
But, the Suzuki Grand Vitara which was released later on through the traditional SUV formula that the company had used for decades was out the window. The Suzuki Grand Vitara tried to do everything right, but with an unproven platform the model just never really caught on with consumers.
15 Lincoln Aviator
Right off the heels of the successful Lincoln Navigator, the folks at Ford decided to try and give consumers a miniature Navigator. Taking the Ford Explorer platform and dressing it up we were presented with the Lincoln Aviator, which on paper seemed like a great combination of luxury and value.
But, in reality, the model was ill-fated and suffered from many reliability issues that this generation of Explorer was already having trouble with anyway. Although the Lincoln Aviator was brought back years later as a crossover the original model was a dud.
14 Geo Tracker
The Geo Tracker will always be remembered as that one SUV that no one ever really took seriously, as it was a value priced topless compact that was sold during the nineties. You have probably seen these little SUV rides everywhere because they were selling like hotcakes during the nineties.
But, the Tracker is also one of the more unreliable models that are on the roads, and this is partly because of the extremely cheap build quality that went into the Tracker. Another issue that consumers report with the Tracker is that pesky convertible top leaking during storms.
13 2006 Toyota RAV4 (Seven Passenger)
When the Toyota RAV4 was redesigned for the 2006 model year the automotive community received a shocker. Because Toyota had decided to throw a third-row seat into their compact RAV4 which was a first for such a small SUV other than the XL 7 from Suzuki.
The 2006 Toyota RAV4 sold very well, but this generation is plagued with reliability issues that are well known and taking one look at Car Complaints will give you an idea of just how unreliable this RAV4 was.
12 Toyota RAV4 EV
We gotta give Toyota props, they have tried to innovate when it comes to electric vehicles and hybrids, and the company has done a pretty good job. But, for a while, there was an all-electric SUV that was making its way around the car shows, and that was the RAV4 EV.
You might have seen one of these in the bigger metropolitan areas because that is where they actually managed to sell. But, the RAV4 EV is a huge money pit and when it comes time to replace that Hybrid battery - you are looking at a lot of money.
11 Honda Passport
The popularity of SUVs during the nineties caught a lot of automakers off-guard, and Honda was not a company that traditionally sold SUV models, to begin with. Thus, they went the unconventional route and hit up Isuzu to rebadge a Rodeo as the Passport.
The Passport offered nothing as an improvement over the Rodeo, which was a downfall because a lot of consumers gravitate directly to the Passport because of the Honda badge. The Honda Passport could have been a success for the brand had it not been a quickly rebadged product.
10 Acura SLX
Honda decided to borrow a car from Isuzu again in the SLX, which was so closely based off the Trooper that you have look real hard to even tell the two apart. Acura was a mismatched product line during the nineties, and the SLX was not original by any means.
With all of the issues that plagued the Trooper, we can only wonder why Honda would want to use this SUV for their luxury line. The Acura SLX sold so poorly that finding one is extremely hard, and the model will live on as a failure.
9 Chevrolet Equinox
With the demise of the Chevrolet Tracker, the brand needed a compact SUV, and the Chevrolet Equinox was the next generation of compact SUV cars. The original Chevy Equinox had a good deal of reliability issues, which also plagued the Pontiac Torrent that it shared its platform with.
Although the Chevy Equinox was a good idea, the new transmission was problematic at best, as with many of the new CVT transmissions which have not really been tested. The Equinox was also lacking any off-road capability, whereas the outgoing Tracker was actually quite capable which surprised a lot of people.
8 Mercury Milan Hybrid
When the Mercury brand was trying to rebirth itself in the early 2000s, the Mercury Milan was a new type of sedan that was based on the Ford Fusion. While the Milan was a definite success in many aspects, offering a stylish exterior and a much more luxurious interior the car still had a good deal of reliability issues.
The Mercury Milan has also been the subject of recalls which pertain to the model's airbag system, so it might be worth it to avoid this car on the used market altogether.
7 Chevrolet Blazer
The Chevrolet Blazer was one of the first mainstream mid-size SUV models to hit the market during the late eighties and the early nineties. While the Blazer was one of the best selling models to hit the market the model did have its fair share of problems.
The main issue that plagued the Chevrolet Blazer was a defective spider injector, which can be quite an expensive fix. The Chevrolet Blazer also had issues when it came to its electronic 4-wheel drive system, and these were just some of the issues.
6 Oldsmobile Bravada
The Oldsmobile brand was on its way downhill during the nineties and GM needed a way to infuse some life back into the brand, thus the Oldsmobile Bravada was born. The Bravada was a stellar SUV in many aspects, with a luxurious interior and the Smart-Trak traction system.
The Oldsmobile Bravada did suffer from the same issues that the Chevrolet Blazer suffered from, which caused a lot of owners frustration. Plus, when the Oldsmobile brand was shuttered in 2004, a lot of owners lost their dealer network.
5 Saab 9-7X
GM rebranded their Trailblazer model so many different times that it is almost a myth, and after the Oldsmobile Bravada went the way of the legend the brand decided to donate their proven SUV platform to the struggling Saab brand.
The Saab 9-7X was a great concept, added a few notable luxuries to the aged platform. But, the same reliability issues were still rampant on the SUV and this caused an issue for many of the owners who were interested in owning one of these.
4 Hummer H3 SUT
Towards the end of its life cycle, the Hummer brand was in a bad place, and there didn’t look to be any way up. The Hummer H3 SUT was released right during the 2008 economic recession, which made no sense in itself, then the SUV was saddled with the same problematic 5-cylinder engine that was found in the Chevrolet Colorado.
The Inline-5 was recalled for having a weakened intake gasket, which would cause owners to suffer from premature engine failures and much worse.
3 Buick Rendezvous
Perhaps one of the best selling Buick models ever, the Buick Rendezvous was made famous by the PGA Tour pro-golfer Tiger Woods. With a stylish exterior and a unique interior the Buick Rendezvous was everything that the automotive public was looking for, but later on, the model featured a good deal of reliability issues which made the car a pain to live with.
The engine was problematic and the transmission would also suffer from issues, not to mention all of the plastic body cladding.
2 Pontiac Aztek
What was once the laughing stock of the automotive industry, the Pontiac Aztek reached a high level of fame after the hit TV show Breaking Bad made its debut in 2008. The Pontiac Aztek was actually one of the worst SUV models to come out of GM, from the weird looking styling to the awkward driving characteristics there is nothing unique about the Aztek, to say the least.
Not to mention the fact that the Pontiac Aztek was prone to transmission failures, which ended up costing a lot of consumers a good deal of money.
1 Jeep Commander
Released as the first seven-passenger Jeep ever, the Jeep Commander was supposed to be the start of a new brand image for Jeep. But, unfortunately, the SUV suffered from a massive problem and that was its Mercedes-Benz derived transmission which was very much prone to failures.
The Jeep Commander did have a successful run for its first couple of years on the market, but after the recession, the traditional Jeep consumers were moving on to crossovers which were being offered by other automakers.
Sources: Motor Trend, Car Complaints