How To Choose An SUV

And should you buy a used one?

Back in the ’80s we probably wouldn’t have imagined that there would be a range of Kia SUVs on the market. Kia made passenger cars and dedicated SUV brands such as Jeep and Land Rover built SUVs. Then things changed and now even Porsche, Lamborghini, and Ferrari are in on the game – brands that previously only built sports cars. In fact, the Cayenne brought Porsche back from the brink of bankruptcy, so popular was its first SUV. Are you in the market for an SUV and should you consider a used one?

Should You Buy An SUV?

Is an SUV just an SUV, regardless of whether it’s a Kia or a Jeep, and do they all basically perform the same job? No, because there are so many types of SUVs on the road today that we could classify them under countless headings. To make things simpler, we can condense all the SUV types into more or less three classes of ability, ignoring size. The best SUV for you will be in one of these categories, so you start by determining what type of SUV you need based on what you’ll use it for.

The three classes are:

  • Crossover SUVs. A crossover is just one class above a normal car and offers additional ground clearance in comparison to a car and little more. These can be anything from the tiny Ford EcoSport to three-row SUVs such as the Acura MDX. The base car is usually 2WD, but AWD is often offered. They are not meant for off-roading and their increased height is meant for seeing further while driving and to traverse the odd gravel road. Models with AWD can also traverse slippery roads well, but they’re not meant for off-roading.
  • Normal SUVs. We’ll call them “normal” for the lack of a better word. These are the in-between SUVs that are higher off the ground than the light-duty crossovers and with AWD an expected feature. They can not only drive on gravel and mud, but can venture off the beaten track and do light off-road work, as far as their road-biased tires, ground clearance, and lack of low range will allow them. They’re available in all sizes and examples include the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Kia Telluride, and Toyota Highlander.
  • Off-road SUVs. These are heavy-duty off-road vehicles. Often – but not necessarily – built on body-on-frame platforms, they are all 4WD, usually have low range or at least a proper crawler gear, run on off-road tires, and can actually go well off the beaten track and into the wilderness, such as the Trailhawk Jeep models and the Land Rover Defender. They’re available in all sizes, from the tiny Jeep Renegade Trailhawk to the Mercedes G-Class or three-row Land Rover Discovery.

Should I Buy A Used SUV?

Now you know what type of SUV you’re in the market for. Bew cars are expensive, especially the large SUVs. And many people prefer to keep their sedans and hatchback for daily use in the city and use an SUV for weekend trips to the countryside only. For this reason, a used SUV is better value but, as with all used cars, you have to keep a few things in mind to avoid buying a lemon, especially in the case of SUVs. Consider taking an expert along to view the car.

These are the most important things to keep in mind when buying a used SUV:

  • The vehicle must have a vehicle history
  • It should have a full service history, preferably at the official dealership network
  • Avoid cars with a salvage title
  • It should be free of off-road and/or flood damage
  • Odometer fraud is another reason a full, verifiable service history is important
  • Check the maintenance costs, which can be expensive, even if the car isn’t
  • Don’t buy something with abilities and features you will never use
  • Check its safety ratings and features
  • Check its reliability ratings and recall data
  • Determine the seating configurations you require, as well as how much cargo space
  • Consider engine horsepower if you will do heavy hauling or towing
  • Consider diesels or hybrids if you do long trips and require excellent fuel economy
  • Consider buying additional warranty cover on expensive, complicated vehicles


A used SUV doesn’t have to be a money pit and even if there is additional maintenance, you save a lot of money by not buying new. A used SUV is the ideal solution for people who cannot justify spending money on a brand-new vehicle, or who only want it for weekend or occasional use. There is an enormous number of used SUVs out there, so you are certainly spoilt for choice in this corner of the market.

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