SUV Buying Tips

Sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) are currently the most popular segment.   There are different types for varying budgets, styles, needs, and lifestyles. Navigating through the myriad of options can be daunting.  Here are some pointers to help you make a more informed  decision.

visit a few dealers

Look around and see what is available.  Do you need a SUV?  Is a hatchback better for what you need in a vehicle? Is there something that might cost less and be more fuel efficient?  

Two-Wheel or All-Wheel Drive?

Do you need All-Wheel Drive?  Do you need Four-Wheel Drive? Will you be off-roading or just driving to work each day?

Two-wheel drive (2WD) powers one set of wheels, and on most SUVs with it, it’ll be the front ones (FWD stands for front-wheel drive).   2WD won’t be as good in the snow or if you need to go off-road. 

AWD (All-Wheel Drive) works differently depending on the vehicle. Many power the front wheels until slippage is detected, then the system will transfer some power to the rear wheels when it’s needed for traction. Some systems, including Subaru’s, send power to all four wheels all the time, although the front may get a little more, depending on the vehicle. Either type should work for most drivers, but even with AWD don’t expect to do real off-roading.  For that you need four-wheel drive and your choices of vehicle becomes much more limited. 

How much cargo capacity?

It’s useful to compare the volume of cargo capacity for your initial list of possible SUVs, but you’ll want to see in person exactly what you’re getting before you choose. Look at how wide the hatch is, how far the liftgate opens, how high you have to lift items over the bumper, if it’s easy to fold the rear seats down, if they fold flat, and if the wheel wells or other components intrude into the cargo area. A vehicle won’t work if you can’t fit the things into it that you need to fit into it.  

Bigger Tires Usually means Bigger Costs

An SUV will usually have larger wheels than a sedan or hatchback. Those can then get even bigger as you move up the trim ladder – and those tires will cost a lot more to replace when they wear out, or when you buy winter tires. Larger wheels are usually clad in lower-profile tires, which have a smaller sidewall. These can give you a firmer, harsher ride, and more chance of expensive wheel damage if you hit a pothole. Keep these extra costs in mind when shopping for an SUV.

Bigger Vehicle Means More Fuel

The more a vehicle weighs, the more fuel it takes to get it moving. If you’re going from a car into an SUV, your gas bills will probably go up. Auto manufacturers regularly add fuel-saving technologies to their new SUVs, but they can have mixed results. For example, many put small, turbocharged engines into large SUVs – the idea being that the smaller size is inherently more efficient, while the turbocharger provides extra power when needed. But if you drive aggressively or the vehicle is fully loaded with people and stuff, the turbocharger kicks in more often to make power, and uses more fuel when it does.

It’s Not a sportscar

A sport-utility vehicle has a higher center of gravity than a car, and along with its extra weight, you’ll notice a difference in handling. 

Don’t make the mistake of assuming a SUV with AWD can go through anything.  You will need winter tires and you will need to change your driving to suit road conditions. 

Final Thoughts

Compare, compare, compare.   Visit our What SUV is Right For You Page and consider what vehible will really be the best for you.   Just because you think you need a SUV doesn’t mean that you really do.