Whether you're buying new or buying used, the most fundamental decision you're going to need to make is what body style you want. It isn't too hard to decide between an SUV and a subcompact, but what about between an SUV and a crossover? It can be tough to understand the differences between the two, and manufacturers don't always make it easy. That said, the differences between the two are significant, so it's well worth taking the time to consider which one might be best for you. Here are just three questions you should ask yourself.
1. Is Off-Roading Important?
It's common for both SUVs and crossovers to be offered with an all-wheel or four-wheel drive system, and manufacturers tend to tout both as able to cross tough terrain. However, crossovers tend to be designed to stay on the road, even if they might be able to handle lighter off-road trails. SUVs possess greater ground clearance, a tougher body, and their powertrains will usually have been optimised for both backcountry exploration and heavy-duty towing.
Of course, that does make them less agreeable for city- and highway-based driving; if you're never going to head off-road, an SUV makes less sense.
2. How Much Space Do You Need?
SUVs are usually significantly larger than crossovers, and some will come with three-rows of seating, letting you carry up to 8 passengers. You should also enjoy far more storage room when the seats are folded; if you have a large family or frequently need to take a lot of cargo, an SUV can be ideal.
While crossovers aren't as large, there is one thing to be said in their favour; they often provide more space behind the rear row. Since crossovers usually only seat 5 as opposed to 7 or 8, they don't need a third-row, so cargo space with all seats occupied might be a little more impressive. You could always fold down the rear seats of a three-row SUV, but the bother might not be worth it if you rarely need to fill the vehicle to capacity.
3. How Important is Fuel Economy?
The key technical difference between an SUV and a crossover is that the former uses a body-on-frame platform while the latter uses unibody architecture. Unibody means that body and frame are a single piece; body-on-frame means they are two independent pieces joined together.
Body-on-frame vehicles are much heavier, so SUVs typically demand more fuel than crossovers, an issue exacerbated by the fact that they usually have larger engines. If you list high mileage ratings as a prime concern, you'll be better off looking for a crossover than an SUV.