Oftentimes, when people are shopping for a vehicle on a budget, they opt for a base model because they think it’s all they can afford. But that’s not always the case.
The truth is, if you’re smart about the way you build your vehicle of choice, you can actually get a lot more for your money. And if you are choosing between a few models, a great way to help you aid your decision making is to set a budget and see how much equipment you can get on each for that amount of money.
To prove this, we used Chevrolet’s and Hyundai configurators, set a budget of $32,500 and tried to find out which mid-size SUV offers the best value for a daily driver/family hauler: the 2017 Chevrolet Equinox, or the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe.
Photo via Chevrolet
2017 Chevrolet Equinox LT 3.6-liter V-6, all-wheel drive (starting MSRP $29,395)
The Equinox’s base trim starts at $23,995, but we have a budget for a reason, and the extra money really improves this vehicle. The relatively low price allowed us to fit the Equinox with all-wheel drive, giving us the extra traction we’re looking for. We spent an extra $1,500 for the 3.6-liter, V-6 SIDI engine with Variable Valve Timing, but it allows us to fit the Equinox with a Sport-tuned suspension. The 17-inch painted aluminium wheels don’t pop as much as some of the other vehicles we’ve looked at, but the included LED DRLs, rack side rails and body-colored side mirrors make up for it. The LT trim also carries over standard features from lower trims, such as three months of free SirusXM Satellite Radio and a digital compass.
Options: Convenience Package 3.6-Liter V-6 SIDI Engine ($1,500) ($1,300) Technology Package ($890) Hitch Ball Mount Assembly and Tow Ball (Combined $75)
The 3.6-liter V-6 produces 301 horsepower and 272 pounds-feet of torque, which is great bang for our buck, though the other packages are nothing to snuff at. The convenience package comes with a remote vehicle starter, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats. The technology pack also is great, coming with Chevrolet MyLink with navigation and a Pioneer audio system. Finally, the ability to tow is important to us, so we had to purchase the tow ball and mount assembly.
The total price — with $895 destination charge and $1,250 cash back — of our 2017 Chevrolet Equinox LT 3.6-liter V-6, all-wheel drive in Blue Velvet Metallic: $31,910.
Photo via Hyundai
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe SE, 3.3L V6, (starting MSRP $30,800)
Starting above the Santa Fe’s standard trim would’ve put us over budget. That’s okay, though, because the SE is a solid vehicle. The 3.3-liter V-6 engine puts out a robust 290 horsepower, and the vehicle comes with a pre-wired trailer-prep package that has 5,000 pounds of towing capacity. The seven-inch display is great, as is Hyundai’s Blue Link system, and we love some other nice touches, such as the blind spot mirror.
Options: Tow Hitch ($350) Roof rack cross rails ($250) All-weather floor mats ($155)
There wasn’t much we could afford here, and truth be told, there wasn’t much available. That said, we needed the tow hitch, and the roof rack is a must for a busy family. Additionally, we opted to go with all-weather floor mats over cargo nets or trays, because we’re probably going to make a mess.
The total price of our 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe SE, 3.3L V6, in Regal Red Pearl: $31,555.
To be perfectly honest, you can’t go wrong with either of these vehicles. Budgets, however, are in place for a reason, and the Equinox simply provides more than the Santa Fe, given the amount of money we had to work with.
Unfortunately, neither vehicle comes standard with everything we need to tow, which cost us some extra money. Our Equinox, though, does come with roof rails, something we had to pay extra for with the Santa Fe.
But in the end, our Equinox is more powerful than the Santa Fe, includes LED DRLs, and left us with enough money to fit with all-wheel drive, as well as a great technology package.
Thumbnail photo via YouTube/Chevrolet