If you’re looking to buy a new vehicle and are uncertain over midsize cars vs. midsize crossovers, how to decide can be somewhat of a problem. Don’t let it. Read over this handy checklist first, before you head out to the dealer’s lot.

How much size do you need? Let’s face it. In the size department, as in, how many passengers the vehicle will carry, as well as how comfortable it is for everyone to sit and the amount of cargo room a vehicle has definitely makes a difference. Analyze exactly what your needs are. If you have a family of five, you can find a good number of fairly roomy midsize sedans and midsize crossovers that can accommodate everyone. But when it comes to carrying more than five people and how much cargo you can carry, it’s another matter entirely. Generally speaking, the midsize crossover will trump the midsize sedan in this area – but not always. The 2012 Ford Explorer and Ford Flex (two very different types of midsize crossovers) seat up to seven in three rows, while the 2012 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia and 2012 Honda Pilot can seat up to eight. The 2012 Ford Edge and 2012 Toyota Venza, however, seat five in two rows. It pays to know the specifications of any car or crossover you’re considering, but the real driver is when you sit in the car with the whole family and figure out if it will tote the loads you require on a regular basis.

Where do you most often drive? No kidding, this is an important consideration. If you do mostly city or highway driving, that is, pavement driving, then a sedan could be more appropriate. With low-to-the-ground stance, getting in and out will be easier, plus the driving dynamics are likely to be more forgiving. Performance versions of midsize sedans, usually found on upper trim models or available as options, give even better road-hugging ability. If you go off-road on occasion, or like the somewhat taller stance of a capable crossover, and all other factors are equal, maybe the midsize crossover will suit you better. Take the 2012 Ford Explorer vs. the 2012 Ford Flex, for example. The Explorer is equally capable off-road as on, while the Flex is more of an alternative to a minivan. The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango are two other excellent off-road crossover SUVs that handle equally well on pavement.

Is fuel economy a main concern? There’s no question that the larger the vehicle, the more it weighs, the more it will consume in fuel. The 2012 Ford Edge gets an EPA-estimated 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway, while the 2012 Toyota Venza gets 21/27 mpg. The 2012 Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer each get 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway, but the Ford Flex comes in at 16/23 mpg. As for the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango, the numbers are 17/23 and 16/23 mpg, respectively. The larger 2012 Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia have estimated fuel economy of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway.

Now, check out the fuel economy of popular midsize sedans. The highest fuel economy numbers are from the midsize hybrid sedans: 2012 Toyota Prius at 51 pg city/48 mpg highway; 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, 43 mpg city/39 mpg highway (vs. regular Camry’s 25/35 mpg); 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Kia Optima Hybrid at 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway (vs. regular Sonata and Optima’s 24/35 mpg). New for 2013 are the Ford Fusion (available in gasoline, plug-in hybrid and electric models), Nissan Altima, and Chevrolet Malibu (available in Eco, gasoline and turbocharged models). There’s also a new Honda Accord midsize sedan coming out this fall.

Finally, how much do you want to spend? Expect to spend under $30,000 for a well-equipped midsize car, unless you’re going for a luxury brand. In that case, you’re looking at $25,000 to $40,000 and up for Cadillac CTS, Buick Regal, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti G, Lexus ES, Audi A6, BMW 3-Series, Volvo S60, and so on.

Midsize affordable crossovers have starting prices that generally begin under $35,000 to the early $40,000 range (with the exception of top-end 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee at a little over $55,000.

Go through the parameters of what’s important to you. Then, the decision should be fairly easy. But be sure to do a test drive of all vehicles on your short-list of contenders. That’s the only way to really be certain.

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