Choosing the Right SUV – Part II

    Choosing an SUV — Once you have decided that an SUV is what you need to satisfy your adventuring needs, there are five crucial things you will need to consider.

    1. How many people will I be hauling around?

    When accounting for people, you must also consider their cargo. When using your SUV for an adventure, their gear will take up almost as much room as they do. A Mid size SUV that holds 7 usually won’t fit 7 people and their stuff.

    Take a look at the cargo room dimensions and try to visualize backpacks, ropes, tents, sleeping bags, food and cooking gear for yourself, as well as all your passengers.

    2. How much cargo will I be hauling?

    These days SUVs are built to have many functions. They double as a passenger car and a truck. Large cargo areas that are bigger than trunks are characteristic of a SUV, as well as seats that fold down to reveal even more room, similar to an enclosed truck bed. But if you are planning on routinely hauling large, bulky, or oversized items, you might not have enough room.

    Take a close look at the interior dimensions of the cargo hold before making a final decision. Other options include towing a trailer to haul bulky loads, as most SUVs can handle towing tasks.

    3. How much off-roading will I be doing?

    Truth be told not all SUVs are built alike, and not all SUVs were built with off-roading in mind. I have seen instances where a SUV couldn’t make it up a steep angled hill because of its unsuitable approach and departure angles. Another off-road factor to consider is the ground clearance.

    Some SUVs don’t have much ground clearance or lack skid plates to protect the under carriage of the vehicle. If these are a must for you than you should check into this before you purchase.

    Make sure you look at factors like horsepower, torque, low range 4wd, ground clearance, larger tires, approach and departure angles, skid plates, tow hooks or whatever else you might think you need. For more detailed information see my article, The Search for the True Off-roader.

    4. Will I be encountering extreme conditions such as snow, ice or mud?

    If you live in an area where snowfall is as common as sunshine and ice isn’t just something you put in your drink, then you probably need a 4wd. Some opt to save the extra money and go with a 2wd SUV.

    If your SUV never plans on seeing a dirt road or trail, then this might not be a bad choice. 2wd SUVs tend to get better fuel economy and are less expensive to buy. You still have the convenience, cargo space, and clearance, but without the 4wd.

    5. Will I also be using my SUV to tow a trailer or boat?

    SUVs are more than capable of towing and some will even tow large, heavy loads. However, if you’re planning on doing a lot of towing, your standard base SUV might not be enough. What you’ll want to look at is the towing capacity of the vehicle and then compare that to the weight of your load.

    When shopping for a SUV that can tow, check for things like a bigger engine with more horsepower and torque, a trailer hitch and receiver (a must!). Also, if you’re hauling big loads, it helps to have a heavy duty engine and transmission cooler and a larger battery. These options will usually come in a standard trailer-towing package.

    Once you’ve done a little thinking (and maybe shopping) and decided what your basic needs are, from here-on-out it’s simple and just a matter of picking the right one—ok, simple for some, harder for the others. It’s important to also look and see if you want a truck frame for a more rugged and capable SUV or a car frame for a better riding and handling SUV.

    Here is a summary of the SUVs categories to help you in your decision:

    People mover—primary needs are to drive people around with or without gear.
    Runner—smaller, needed for commuting, or running errands. Not for many people on a regular basis
    Off-roader—primary need is a vehicle with excellent off-road capabilities.
    Fuel Economy—used for commuting or driving long distances.
    Luxury—this segment is seen more and more as companies like Cadillac, BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Infiniti, Lexus, Land Rover, Volvo and Acura are bringing luxury to a higher level. These vehicles are usually equally off-road capable, but probably aren’t pushed to their limits that often.

    Most SUVs can fit into several categories. For example, the Toyota Landcrusier is a very capable and powerful off-roader that is used in hundreds of countries as a primary means of transportation and yet is one of the more luxurious SUVs sold in America. It satisfies two categories at once. The same can be said for Land Rover and Range Rover, as well as many others, and the list of vehicles keeps growing at an exponential rate.

    See, now that you know a little more about the SUV, it dosen’t seem so complex and confusing. Ok, so maybe still a little, but that’s nothing that a little homework can’t fix. Remember to just look for your needs, and then look into that category. Let’s hope that your new SUV brings you closer to those adventures you’ve been just dying to fulfill.

    Previous: Choosing an SUV – Part 1