SUV Buying Guide

There was a time when it was fairly simple to choose an SUV. They were all pretty much the same size, same power, same safety, and same amenities. Now, they’ve become nearly as diverse as every other line of vehicle available. Choosing one to suit all your needs can be a tedious pursuit. Here are some things you should know before heading out on your buying adventure.

Size

SUVs come in all sizes now. There are still the giant, hulking SUVs that first stepped on the scene; those are the full-size SUVs. Then there are the crossovers. These come in a couple of different sizes. Small crossovers and midsize crossovers are the most common. They are basically half-breeds; SUVs which exhibit more of the features of a sedan. Crossovers are typically going to give you better handling, better fuel efficiency, and in most cases a more comfortable ride. Full-size SUVs will provide more power, more towing capacity, and typically more seating.

Powertrain

If you opt for the full-size, you’re probably going to get a much bigger engine; something in the realm of a large V8 is the most common. Don’t look for these powertrains to do you any favors at the gas pump. They do, however, come in very handy should you have a need to haul or tow. Most of the big boys have a towing capacity starting somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 pounds and ranging all the way up 8,600 pounds. Full-size SUVs generally have more availability concerning 4WD and AWD as well. As said before, if you have a need for towing, or even if you simply live in a non-temperate climate, these features can be extremely handy to have.

Crossovers are going to be much nicer when it comes to fill-up time. They have available four and six-cylinder engines, and most will still offer the convenience of four and all-wheel drives. Those that don’t get the four-wheel systems are typically front-wheel drive, making them handle more like mid- to full-size sedans.

Interior space

Just because a full-size SUV is bigger on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean it can provide more interior space. Granted, if you want to seat 8 or 9 people, you’re probably going to need one of the big fellas; but if you’re simply looking for more storage area, don’t count out the crossovers. The rear storage of the crossovers is actually quite comparable to larger models, and the seats in crossovers are typically much easier to maneuver. Full-size SUV seats can be bulky, heavy, and difficult to adjust when you need extra storage space. Most of them must be completely removed to provide the added storage, whereas crossovers have features like stowaway seating, power folding, and collapsible seating. That’s not to say all the full-sizes don’t offer interior convenience, but you’ll typically need to step up to one of the more expensive luxury models to enjoy it.

Driving experience/features

If you’ve ever driven a truck, you’ll have a fairly good idea of how to handle a full-size SUV. It’s not going to feel quite as bulky, and suspension is usually much better, but you are going to sit higher off the ground and need to use your mirrors quite a bit to navigate. Crossovers are going to handle more like cars. They have smaller wheelbases, which give them better turning radii, and are lower to the ground which provides better cornering. As such, crossovers have a better rollover safety rating than the big boys. Contrarily, most of the larger SUVs do perform better in front and side-impact crash tests. Having the extra bulk does provide a small layer of additional safety; but look for a model with side-curtain and rear passenger airbags if you really want one of the safest models.

Features and amenities don’t really change much when talking about SUV size; but, like any other type of vehicle, SUVs do come in different lines of luxury. An economic crossover costing under $25K will come with handy features like automatic climate control, Bluetooth, storage bins, and even navigation systems. However, if you’re looking for heated leather seating, parking cameras, auto-leveling headlamps, and Collision Mitigating Braking Systems, look to be spending $40K and up. Which brings us to our next point…

Price

SUVs can range anywhere from $16K for some of the more economical models, all the way up to $126K for the top-of-the-line gems. It all depends on your needs. A very nice luxury crossover, like the Acura MDX or Audi Q5, can be had for between $35K and $45K. Power-mongers with heavy towing capacity, such as the Chevy Tahoe, Land Rover LR2, and Ford Expedition, also start in this range. Performance SUVs, like the Infiniti FX50 and the Porsche Cayenne, are going to run closer to $50K and $60K. Still, there are the very buyer-friendly SUVs which are more in the $20-$30K range. Some of these include the Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Honda CR-V, Kia Sorento, and the Hyundai Santa Fe.

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