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SUV Shoppers: Do You Really Need a Sport Utility Vehicle?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro

Sport utility vehicles are popular with shoppers interested in a high seating position and room for the whole family. But there are several reasons why you might want to avoid an SUV, including a few you might not have considered. We've listed reasons you might want to add a few non-SUVs to your shopping list.

Gas Mileage

Although SUVs have made great strides in fuel economy, they still can't touch most cars. Hybrid SUVs are uncommon, especially at low prices, and the most efficient SUVs lag behind similarly sized cars. For instance, the Honda CR-V returns 22 miles per gallon city/30 mpg hwy -- a good figure, until you consider the Civic reaches 28 mpg city/39 mpg hwy. That's a difference of around 30 percent. 

Not surprisingly, the same is true with larger SUVs. Yes, the Ford Explorer's 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with its 4-cylinder engine is admirable. But the midsize Ford Fusion sedan easily beats those numbers, recording 25 mpg city/37 mpg hwy with its 4-cylinder. Plus, for the same money as a 4-cylinder Explorer, you can get a Ford Fusion Hybrid. That model returns 47 mpg in combined city and highway driving. 

You May Not Need the Room

Of course, gas mileage isn't a concern if you need the extra space. Third-row seating is a must for some drivers, as is a large cargo area or towing capacity. But our experience says many drivers don't necessarily need the extra space. Some shoppers think they'll need the space but end up not using it. 

Our suggestion: Take stock of what you really need. If it's 3-row seating you're after -- and you don't need an SUV's off-road capabilities -- you may want to consider a family-friendly minivan. If you don't fill up an SUV's cargo area, consider a midsize sedan. You'll save money at the dealership and at the pump. 

Parking Woes

Most SUVs are larger than their sedan and wagon counterparts. As a result, parking can be a challenge. The Ford Explorer, for instance, is about six inches longer than a Fusion. That amount might not seem like much until you're trying to parallel park. It's also six inches wider, which makes it that much harder to park in narrow spots. 

If you live in a crowded city, parking alone may eliminate an SUV from contention. Consider test driving your vehicle of choice on some narrow roads and parking it in some tight spots before you sign the papers. 

Insurance Increases

You may not realize it, but SUVs are often more expensive to insure than cars. There are a few reasons for this, but the primary one is rollover risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says SUVs are twice as likely to roll over as cars, and insurance companies are aware of this. Rollovers can be both dangerous and costly, since such an accident usually causes extensive damage to a vehicle. Check with your insurance company before signing the papers. 

If You Still Want an SUV, That's Okay

While there are many reasons shoppers may look at other vehicles, we understand if an SUV is still at the top of your list. They're fashionable and attractive, and they offer great capability and seating position. If you still want one, that's okay. But if you're not so sure, remember: There are alternatives.

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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SUV Shoppers: Do You Really Need a Sport Utility Vehicle?