Many people are buying SUV’s now more than ever. In the past, you had two choices when it came to a bigger vehicle: a pickup for hauling gear and a van for hauling people. There was also a third choice in the station wagon, which could conceivably do both and was a favorite of soccer moms and huge families with dogs.
Today, the landscape has changed. SUV’s rule the roost, with a combination of truck-like power for hauling gear and enough space to seat 5 – 7 people. Bigger, taller and heavier than cars, SUV’s are also a lot safer because of the taller ride height, higher ground clearance and more crumple zones. Larger and wider tires coupled with AWD or FWD also allows it to grip the road better, making the ride safer especially in snow and rain.
If you’re in the market for an SUV, here are a few tips you can use to come out on top and choose the best one to suit your needs.
- Choose the Right Size
When it comes to SUV’s, there are many sizes to choose from. Larger SUV’s can tow the most gear (up to 8,500 lbs) and have the most cargo space, but will hurt your wallet at the pump. Mid-size SUV’s are probably the best combination of size, power and fuel economy, while small and compact SUV’s get better mileage but have cramped interiors and smaller cargo space. When choosing an SUV, asses your needs first.
- Safety First
This is one of the reasons you should consider when buying an SUV. It’s why you’re getting one in the first place, right? The overall safety of any vehicle is very important, so check its safety rating first. Five Stars is the best and the highest. Also, look for SUV’s that have loads of safety features like dual air bags, side air bags, ample crumple zones, higher ground clearance, all wheel drive, hillstart assist, electronic brake force distribution, stability and traction control and a rearview camera among others.
- Space, and lots of it
Another reason to get an SUV is the loads of space you’ll get. Cargo space isn’t created equal, I’m afraid. Just like people, some SUV’s have bigger and more generous rear cargo space than the others. Check the specs online or visit a local dealer first and compare each and every model. If the cargo space is car-like, then scratch it off your list and just get a hatchback.
- Seating Capacity
If you’ve got a big family and seating is important to you, there are SUV models that have a flexible third row that has folding seats for extra passengers. Fold it back and you got space for gear. I personally like this option because it gives you the flexibility to add more people on trips where vehicles are limited. Although, when the seats are in use, you’ll be sacrificing your cargo space. Thank god for roof racks!
- Time to D-V8
Most SUV’s come with a 6-cylinder engine, which is powerful enough for most tasks, but still guzzles gas. Some mid-size and large SUV’s come with V8 engines, which are smooth and powerful, meant for towing heavy gear, but also suffer from poor gas mileage. Your best bet would be a four cylinder SUV equipped with a turbo. A perfect example would be the Land Rover LR2, which has 2.0L L4 Turbo DOHC 16-valve engine that churns out 240 horses and 250 lbs of torque. Compare that to the naturally aspirated Ford Explorer 3.5 V6, which pumps out 290 horses and 255 lbs or torque. The LR2 also gets better mileage than a standard V6.
When choosing an SUV, always factor in maintenance costs, insurance and real cost of ownership. Remember that you’re buying a bigger automobile, and it naturally comes with a bigger price tag and higher insurance premiums. What you’ll be getting in return is a better and more versatile ride that can do anything a car can do and can go anywhere a car can’t.