9 of the Most Affordable 3-Row SUVs Deliver More for Your Money

Car makers have packed the most affordable 3-row SUVs with features like AWD, Apple CarPlay, leatherette seats and more, and yes, 3rd row air vents! Here are our favorites.

The Three Row, 7 Passenger Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition Offers A Plethora Of Value-Packed Features.
The three row, 7 passenger Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition offers a plethora of value-packed features. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Lots of space, not a lot of cash? Yes, Please!

No matter where you are on the road, 3-Row SUVs are everywhere: the family road trip, commuters, ferrying kids to and fro. If this is what you need, there are a lot to choose from. And that can be a problem; it can make your head swim.

How to choose? First, narrow down what you really need: technology, a spacious cabin, good storage, and a solid suite of driver-assist and safety features. Add to that all wheel or 4 wheel drive, comfort for 3rd-row passengers – cup holders, USB ports and air vents easy access to the 3rd row.

Finally, an affordable price; these things can get expensive.

Is that too much to ask? 

Hyundai Palisade One Of The Most Affordable 3-Row Suvs

Carpooling with my daughter in the Hyundai Palisade! Photo: Allison Bell

Most Affordable 3-Row SUVs

Apparently not. There are many 3-row SUVs that start in the low-to-mid-$30K range and are comparable in price and features to minivans, but with a sportier look and feel. 

When shopping for an affordable SUV, look for a solid offering of standard features across all trims, such as 3rd row air vents, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and driver safety and assistance features.

You can even get standard AWD, wireless feature or leatherette seating, depending on the brand.

2023 Toyota Highlander Awd Third Row Most Affordable 3-Row Suvs

The slide and tilt second row seats in the Toyota Highlander, one of the most affordable 3-row SUVs. Photo by Erica Mueller

What’s Included in the Base Model? 

When looking at the entry-level base model, keep a few caveats in mind: it may have cloth seats, smaller wheels and the smaller engine option. It may even have an actual key, and a keyed ignition rather than a push button starter and smart key. 

It probably has a center row bench seat and there may be a narrow choice of standard paint colors and interior trims. Extras such as a larger multimedia screen, additional USB ports or a wireless charger my be just that: extra.

And, all wheel drive is typically about $2,000 more than front wheel drive.

Many car makers will allow buyers to upgrade the entry level model so you can add extra features, but if it’s something you really need, make sure the SUV you want offers it as an option; not all do.

Where you won’t have to compromise is in passenger seating and cargo space; these features are usually the same on all trims, though keep in mind, a center row bench seat can make the cabin feel less open.

Here are our favorites among the most affordable 3-row SUVs.

Kia Sorento Hybrid Suv

We took the Kia Sorento for a ride at the amusement park. Photo: Brian Roskelly

Kia Sorento

Why You’ll Love It

The Kia Sorento makes an impression with more-for-the-money details and technology, and with plenty of power. Kia is on a mission to leave behind the idea that this is a budget brand, but it’s still a great value when you want it all but don’t want to spend it all. This 3-row SUV has seating for 7, Kia’s new multimedia system and a nice suite of driver assistance features.

Why Your Family Will Be Spoiled

Seating for 7, slide-and fold 2nd row seats make the 3rd row easy to access, USB ports in all 3 rows (6 total), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, power windows and doors, and a smart key for easy access.

Pricing starts at $30,090

We have never been more obsessed with the Kia Sorento than right now

2023 Honda Pilot Trailsport

The 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport three row SUV is stunning in Diffused Sky Pearl blue. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Honda Pilot 

Why You’ll Love It

Redesigned for 2023, the Honda Pilot, long the leader among roomy 3-row SUVs that don’t break the bank, is even more thoughtful with your time and money. Honda added details like a wide under-dash cubby that is big enough for two phones to lay side by side, 4 standard USB ports, including one USB-C port, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and power slide and tilt center row seats.

Why Your Family Will Be Spoiled

With seating for 8, you can say yes to the request to bring a friend along. And then, there’s the ease of getting into the 3rd row: center-row seats slide and tilt; center-row seats that slide forward or back and recline; and rear seats that can fold flat in a 60/40 split for a little more or a lot more cargo space.

Pricing starts at $37,090

Why we simply adore the Honda Pilot Trailsport

2023 Hyundai Palisade Bigger, Bolder Grill

A trending option in three row SUVs is the big and bold 2023 Hyundai Palisade. Photo: Allison Bell

Hyundai Palisade

Why You’ll Love It

Hyundai has strived to become a top name in the automotive world, and part of the strategy is a solid car at a solid price. This means the Hyundai Palisade features luxe details, the even in the base model. This includes the 12″ multimedia touch screen, grips to help passengers climb into the 3rd row, USB-C ports in the 2nd row and a standard suite of safety features, all wrapped up in a beautiful 3.8L V6 with 291 horsepower and Hyundai’s 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Why Your Family Will Be Spoiled

All seats are easy to access, the cabin is open and airy and the sound system will entertain everyone. Families with younger children will find car seats easy to install.

Pricing starts at $36,400

The compelling Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy has us smitten

Notice The Tubular Roof Rack On The Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition Three Row, 7 Passenger Suv.

Notice the tubular roof rack on the Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition three row, 7 passenger SUV. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Nissan Pathfinder

Why You’ll Love It

A long-time family favorite, the Nissan Pathfinder got a makeover not long ago, adding sharp new headlights and tail lights, a sporty new shape and more interior space. But it’s the seating for 8, smart key and a V6 engine with 284 HP and 6,000 lbs of tow capacity that will take you where you need to go, with confidence and power.

Why Your Family Will Be Spoiled

There are lots of features for families, including storage nooks and cubbies, 4 USB ports, lots of places to put a water bottle. The 3rd row is easy to access with center row slide and tilt seats, and everyone can keep cool with air vents in all 3 rows and chill out with a great sound system; this will let you drown out the cries as you leave the campground (or Disney World) parking lot.

Pricing starts at $35,810

Ready for an Adventure? Check out the Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition

The 2024 Vw Atlas

The 2024 VW Atlas. Photo: Scotty Reiss

VW Atlas

Why You’ll Love It

The VW Atlas has long been one of our favorites for families for center row seats that may be the best for accommodating kids car seats; they slide and tilt with a car seat installed. VW updated the Atlas for 2024 with standard leatherette seating, a digital drivers screen and upgraded multimedia system. And it comes with a newer, more modern look on the outside.

Why Your Family Will Be Spoiled

The Atlas has voice activated assistance, so you can ask for what you want. It also has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and 6 USB-C ports for charging phones.

Pricing starts at $37,725

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander

The front end of the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander shows the brand’s new design approach. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Mitsubishi Outlander

Why You’ll Love It

The Mitsubishi Outlander is a great place to start for 3 rows of seating, though keep in mind that the 3rd row is more for short trips than long rides; it’s a very small seat. Still, standard Outlander features include multiple terrain drive modes, smart key and a really nice standard suite of safety features, including auto brake hold – one of our favorites and one that not all car makers include, even in more expensive trims. 

The stellar feature here is the Outlander’s starting price; you can upgrade to the SE AWD for less than $5,000 and add AWD, larger wheels, heated front seats, multi-view camera, leatherette seats, navigation and adaptive cruise control.

Why Your Family Will Be Spoiled

Standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 2-zone climate control and rear air vents. Everyone will be comfortable.

Pricing starts at $28,395

2021 Subaru Ascent Review

If we named our cars, this one would be Tardis. She’s definitely bigger on the inside. Photo by Erica Mueller

Subaru Ascent

Why You’ll Love It

For Subie fans, the Subaru Ascent keeps the adventure going, even as your family grows. With seating for 8 and standard all wheel drive, Subaru includes its best features standard: Eyesight driver assist and safety suite, the 11.6” center multimedia system and the brand’s 4-cylinder Boxer engine that produces 260 HP.

Why Your Family Will Be Spoiled

The third row is reasonably sized so passengers will feel comfortable, standard USB and USB-C ports in the front and second rows, and air vents in the 3rd row. And, roof rails are standard, so everyone can bring all their sports toys.

Pricing starts at $34,195

The 2022 Chevy Traverse On Vacation. Photo: Rich Lacey

The 2022 Chevy Traverse on vacation. Photo: Rich Lacey

Chevrolet Traverse

Why You’ll Love It

Long the 3-row SUV that other car makers strive to live up to, the Chevrolet Traverse is a leader in interior and cargo space. And with its makeover for the 2024 model year, it’s even better. In the 2023 model, however, you’ll find seating for 8, a V6 engine generating 310 HP, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Why Your Family Will Be Spoiled

Chevrolet loves to add features that make getting around easy for families; these include OnStar, WiFi hotspot, smart key, USB ports, air vents and cup holders in all 3 rows and a rear seat reminder. So no one gets left behind.

Pricing starts at $34,520

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Side View. Photo: Sara Lacey

2022 Toyota Highlander is not just one of the most affordable 3-row SUVs, it’s pretty, too. Photo: Sara Lacey

Toyota Highlander

Why You’ll Love It

How much do we love the Toyota Highlander? Toyota has continually improved this versatile 3-row SUV to get more into a compact space. Its 4 cylinder turbo engine produces 265 HP, it has a standard multi-terrain drive mode selector, Toyota’s Toyota’s TSS 2.5 safety suite and comes with two years of no-cost maintenance.

Why Your Family Will Be Spoiled

The Highlander seats 8 and has a sliding second row for easy 3rd row access, though the 3rd row is better for occasional use rather than every day use. This SUV is filled with cubbies, consoles and lots of storage, there are 5 USB ports and the 3rd row has air vents. And with a rear seat seatbelt reminder, back seat passengers may actually believe you have eyes in the back of your head.

Pricing starts at $36,620

The View From The Drivers Seat In The 2024 Vw Atlas

The view from the drivers seat in the 2024 VW Atlas. Yes, that screen is standard. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Not All SUVS Need to Be Expensive to Be Pampering

Car makers have leaned into the popularity of SUVs and are competitive when it comes to delivering more for the money. Buyers have a nice choice of brands and models and get a lot for the money, even in the entry-level base model. 

It’s great to see that features like driver assistance and safety, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 3rd row vents are pretty much standard across most brands — features that will make even your pickiest passengers happy.

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Raconteur, bon vivant, and Managing Editor of A Girls Guide to Cars, Oklahoma-based Gigi Leonard has vivid memories of... More about Gigi Leonard