SUVs: They get us places, but is the fuel worth it?

By Marion Fernandez
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SUVs are without a doubt the preferred vehicle type for both outdoorsmen and those who live in more harsh climates. It makes sense considering they are built to handle slick and rocky terrain, allowing you to get in and out of places that would be difficult in a standard car. But one thing that SUV owners also know is that they are not the most economical cars out there. So we have to ask: are SUVs worth the amount of fuel that they burn.

The Pros

Let’s start by looking at the advantages of owning an SUV.

1. They can carry the whole crew

A huge advantage of driving an SUV is that there is a good chance your whole family or friend group will be able to fit into one car together. Not only is that more efficient for getting around, that also means less gas money since you won’t need to take more than one vehicle to get everyone moved to the next location.

2. SUVs are better in bad weather and off-road

With its ground clearance and suspension system, an SUV is literally built to take on the elements

With its ground clearance and suspension system, an SUV is literally built to take on the elements. They also typically come equipped with differentials and transmissions that are made to handle being jostled about. They are called sports utility vehicles because of how well they operate when doing sports. Because of their ability to handle tough terrain, they are also ideal for winter weather and rough conditions.

3. SUVs are safer on average than a sedan

This really comes down to a matter of force and weight. In a car crash, if an SUV and a sedan meet head to head, even with the same brakes and airbag systems, an SUV is going to handle a crash better. If the average sedan weighs about a ton and the average SUV is twice that, you are going to have a better chance walking away from a crash in an SUV.

4. They can haul all of your gear

Going on a road trip? Not enough space for your luggage? SUVs to the rescue!

If you haven’t loaded up the SUV with people, you will have a spacious rear-end, making transporting and hauling camping gear or anything else really, much simpler. Most SUVs have a third-row seat that folds down, giving you extra space.

5. SUVs can pull trailers and boats

Pulling trailers or boats is also pretty easy with an SUV and is not something that you will be able to do so easily with a sedan. SUVs, no matter what their size is, are still heavy enough to pull trailers. You will need to make sure that your SUV has a brake controller so your brakes don’t die on the hills, but otherwise, you should have a pretty easy time.

The Cons

Just as there are advantages to driving an SUV, there are some cons as well.

1. They are not economical

SUVs tend to be gas guzzlers

This is absolutely the biggest downside of an SUV. They are typically heavy fuel drinkers. Even though this is something that is being worked on in newer vehicles with some of the SUVs now on the market are not as thirsty as the older SUVs, they still aren’t as economical as other vehicles. Even with more fuel efficiency technology, SUVs are still heavier than sedans and thus require more fuel to get around.

2. Too many people who don’t need them own them

I am talking about the folk who bought an SUV when living in a temperate climate or who do not actually use the added features in the outdoors. This would mean you would be driving around in an heavy uneconomical car and using it in the same manner that a user would a regular commuter car. There are also, sadly, some drivers out there who wouldn’t dare risk scratching up their SUV by taking it off-road.

3. They do not handle turns as safely

SUVs don’t have a tight turning radius

Because SUVs are higher off the ground, when you turn one sharply, it is more at risk of rolling than a sedan would be. This is especially a concern if the driver is speeding or driving in especially slick conditions. Because of the high center of gravity, you may have a harder time keeping the SUV under control. Of course, this does not mean you are going to flip your SUV anytime you are speeding, it just means that it is more of a risk than a lower and lighter car.

So what do you do?

The bottom line when it comes to deciding whether an SUV is the right car for you is that if you live in a harsh or extreme weather climate, are traveling off-road often, or have a large family that needs the extra seats to get around, then an SUV would be an appropriate type of vehicle for you. If you are a commuter, sit in rush hour traffic a lot, or only go skiing on the mountain once a year, you can get by using a standard sedan.

Something else to remember is that while gas prices are not improving, the technology regarding cars generally is getting better. With more car companies working on their electric technology as well as a car’s ability to be fuel efficient, the fuel efficiency concerns that we deal with today are not the same concerns that we will be dealing with in the future.

That said, the average consumer probably cannot afford the latest technology, because that is just incredibly expensive. Buying a standard or used SUV is going to be easier on the pocketbook and the way that car consumers will go until the prices for the more economical SUVs drop.

So, unless you have the funds to finance a brand new, state of the art SUV, do what you need to do. If you need the gas-guzzling SUV to get to where you are going, that is the right choice for you and no one should make you feel bad about it. Good luck!

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