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Which Is Right for You: Midsize SUV or Full-Size SUV?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro

If you're searching for a new vehicle that will have room for the whole family (and all their accessories), you're probably one of the many shoppers trying to choose between a midsize SUV and a full-size SUV. So which is best for you? We have some suggestions to help you make up your mind.

Third Row: Necessary or Not?

One of the most important factors when choosing a modern family SUV is whether or not you need 3-row seating. Of course, many families like 3-row seating, if only because it's there should they ever need to use it. As a result, nearly all SUVs -- both full-size and midsize -- offer the feature.

But simply having a third row doesn't necessarily mean that you're ready to carry seven or eight passengers. The question you'll need to ask is: How often do you plan on using the third row? If you're constantly carrying passengers that need access to those rear seats, you'll probably want to go for a full-size SUV. They have roomy, usable third-row seating, whereas many modern midsize SUVs offer a tight third row that's best used in emergencies only.

Where Do You Drive?

Another question you should consider before buying a new SUV -- full-size or midsize -- is where you plan to drive it. Of course, most shoppers won't be taking their SUVs off-road, but if you live in a tight city, a full-size SUV might be more than you can handle. Full-size models such as the Chevrolet Suburban and Ford Expedition can measure several feet longer than standard passenger cars, and that will make everything more difficult, from parking to negotiating tight corners.

What Are You Transporting?

Do you often tow? Do you frequently find yourself carrying large loads in addition to a car full of passengers? If so, then a full-size SUV might be the right vehicle for you.

That's because midsize SUVs are primarily designed for hauling families and their luggage -- and not necessarily a whole lot else. By comparison, full-size SUVs are often built on pickup-truck chassis, so they're frequently capable of towing or hauling, giving them a major leg up over midsize models. But if you're one of the many car shoppers who isn't looking to tow big objects or haul heavy loads, a full-size SUV might offer more than you really need.

Think Gas Mileage

Although gas mileage may not be the first thing on your mind if you're considering an SUV, you might think differently when you actually look at the Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy numbers for some of the models on your shopping list. Many full-size SUVs offer truly abysmal gas mileage, owing to their large, towing-friendly engines and their heavy curb weights.

Our suggestion: Before you buy any SUV, consider whether you really want to take on the fuel burden that some models require. And if you're harboring any desire to conserve fuel, stay far away from full-size, V8-powered SUVs such as the Expedition, Suburban, Tahoe and others.

Your Choice?

In the end, full-size SUVs are rarely a practical choice for shoppers. They're a great idea for drivers looking to tow or haul heavy loads, and they can be excellent vehicles if you're always carting around passengers in the third row. But we suspect those descriptions don't apply to most SUV shoppers. As a result, a midsize SUV is often an excellent choice for drivers interested in a family vehicle that's easy to drive, easy to own and good on fuel.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Which Is Right for You: Midsize SUV or Full-Size SUV?