Every year, people purchase around 17 million new passenger vehicles and approximately 40 million used vehicles. While some buyers simply need a vehicle, others go into the process weighing the sedan vs SUV question.
It’s not a simple question either. Each vehicle type offers different benefits and drawbacks that can make them ideal, no good, or equally valuable depending on your needs or wants.
If you’re considering buying a new vehicle but can’t decide between buying an SUV or buying a sedan, keep reading. This guide will help you decide which option will serve you best.
SUV Benefit – Space
One of the main benefits of an SUV is that you get more space. While this may not matter much to the single professional who works and plays in the city, it’s a big factor for families and outdoors enthusiasts.
Consider the prospect of taking a family road trip to visit family or a national park. In an SUV, you can pack all of your luggage into the cargo area, which leaves the cabin space free for things like legroom. As a general rule, SUV seating also proves more spacious.
In a sedan, there is often overflow from the trunk into the vehicle cabin.
For the avid outdoorsman or outdoorswoman, equipment often plays a crucial role in any adventure. If you’re going camping with friends, the space afforded by the SUV lets you pack tents or fishing gear and still leaves everyone comfortable in the cabin area. Again, a sedan often can’t accommodate all the gear in the trunk, which leaves you and your friends cramped with luggage in the car cabin.
That extra room can also prove beneficial for carting around groups of kids to events or even for big shopping trips.
SUV Benefit – Better in Bad Weather
For anyone who lives in a warm climate, the driving differences between a sedan and an SUV might seem negligible. For anyone who lives in a place where it routinely snows in the winter, the difference is tremendous.
Sedans typically offer front-wheel drive. That means that the engine delivers power and torque only to the front wheels. The rear wheels just turn in time with the front wheels.
This approach means that if the front wheels get stuck, the vehicle gets stuck.
Most SUVs offer either all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The popular Chevy Tahoe Sport offer 4-wheel drive on all of the most recent trim models.
All-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive provides power from the engine to all four wheels. That means if one or even two of your tires loses traction, there is a good chance that the other wheels will maintain traction. That makes the vehicle safer on roads during snowy conditions.
Power to all the wheels means you are less likely to get your vehicle stuck. If the front wheels or back wheels get stuck, the other wheels can probably pull your vehicle free.
This feature is beneficial for both poor weather, but also if you like getting off the beaten trail for outdoor adventures.
SUV Benefit – Visibility
Your average sedan sits fairly close to the ground. You also have smaller windows than you typically see in an SUV. While these aren’t crippling disadvantages, they do limit your field of view.
Your average SUV sits higher off the road than your average sedan. SUVs also sport bigger windows than their sedan cousins. This gives you improved overall visibility.
Better visibility can give you an extra second or two to spot a hazard. If you’re traveling at 70 miles per hour on a highway, an extra second or two can mean the difference between an accident and a close call.
Sedan Benefit – Fuel Economy
The days of all-steel car construction are long gone. These days, your typical sedan is a composite of aluminum and plastics, which gives it a significant weight reduction.
While SUVs also enjoy construction with these lighter materials, sedans are also smaller than your average SUV. That makes your average sedan a more fuel-efficient machine than your average SUV.
Lower gas prices in recent years made that difference less significant to many vehicle owners, but economic fallout from the Covid pandemic may see people turn back toward fuel-efficient sedans.
Sedan Benefit – Driving and Parking
SUVs are often a bit top-heavy. Pair that up with sitting higher off the ground and sharp corners can pose a serious risk for rollover. That top-heaviness also makes them a little trickier to drive even in normal conditions.
The lower-to-ground profiles of sedans make them less prone to rollovers in the same conditions.
Since you can get very compact sedans, they often prove easier to maneuver in heavy city traffic. Plus, that size gives them a real advantage when looking for a parking spot. A small car can often fit into places that a typical SUV could never park.
Sedan Benefit – Cost
Sedans and SUVs come in a variety of sizes and classes from compact up to luxury. As a general rule, though, you will pay more for an SUV in a given size or class than you will for a sedan in a similar size or class.
Chalk it up to the difference in size. The bigger SUV takes more raw materials to make, which means it costs more to buy.
The price difference will also show up in your insurance costs. You’ll typically pay more to insure your SUV than your sedan.
Sedan vs SUV – Picking for You
In the sedan vs SUV question, picking the right vehicle for you isn’t always obvious.
For someone who enjoys the outdoors or has a family, an SUV can make sense. You get extra room for hauling equipment or kids around. An SUV will typically perform better off the beaten trail than a sedan. SUVs also offer more visibility and better winter weather performance.
For the cost-conscious, though, a sedan offers more benefits. Sedans cost lost to buy, insure, and fuel.
Looking for more tips on buying a vehicle? Check out the posts in our Buy Cars section.