SUV Buyers’ Guide: 5 Important Things to Consider

Sport utility vehicles or SUVs have become more popular in New Zealand. Utes still dominate the market, but SUV sales have also been steadily increasing in the past years.

One of the reasons that SUVs are popular is that they’re excellent family cars. Indeed, compared to sedans, SUVs can ferry more people and more cargo.  

They’re also great for driving on rough or challenging terrain, making them an excellent choice for those who love off-roading and similar activities.

While it’s easy to appreciate the benefits of getting an SUV, picking one can be a little trickier. That’s because there are a lot of options to choose from nowadays. 

To help you decide on the best SUV for your needs, here are some points to consider:

Used or Brand New

SUVs are bigger and often more powerful than sedans. Thus, they are more expensive. Luckily, you can find plenty of second-hand SUVs for sale that are still in good condition.

Cost savings is the biggest reason to buy a used SUV. However, if you buy an older model, make sure that it’s easy to find spare parts. Look for a trusted auto parts supplier so you immediately know where to go if you need to replace any components. 

Meanwhile, buying brand new means not having to worry too much about what’s under the hood or what kind of driver the previous owner was. However, you’re going to have to spend considerably more money. 

For example, the 2020 Toyota Fortuner GXL costs more than $55,000 while the Limited model is priced at more than $58,000.

Size and Seating

There are four kinds of SUVs based on size: subcompact, small, mid-sized, and large. 

The first two are ideal for those who want a more agile SUV, but don’t need too much space. Mid-sized SUVs are perfect for families, with two- and three-row models to choose from.

Most SUVs can seat at least five, with three-row models able to carry up to seven or eight passengers. This third row of seats can be folded up when not in use, which increases the cargo space.

Large SUVs, meanwhile, are ideal for the outdoorsy types who love off-roading. These vehicles are also perfect for towing trailers and boats. 

Do note that the trade-off for all the extra power and space is that large SUVs are not as fuel-efficient. They can also feel a little too bulky for daily driving.

Cargo Space

The various seating configurations of SUVs allow you to customise the cargo space. For example, there are three-row SUV models that have split seats. This means that you can fold the other half so you can carry more baggage, while still having room for an extra passenger in the back.

SUV second- and third-row seats can also be folded up and flat. All the space behind the driver can then be converted to a cargo hold. 

This is ideal if you’re shopping for a lot of products or a big item such as an appliance. There are also truck-based SUVs with higher load-bearing capacities.

The only downside of SUVs is that they have higher ground clearance. This is advantageous when dealing with bumps and potholes, but it can be inconvenient when you have to lift heavy objects to load into the vehicle.

Drive System

If you’re already decided on getting an SUV, you’ll have three choices when it comes to the drive system: 2WD, AWD, and 4WD. 

Standard SUVs are either 2WD front-drive or all-wheel drive models. Meanwhile, truck-based SUV models are either 2WD rear-wheel or four-wheel drive.

AWD and 4WD systems are similar in that they both provide power to all wheels. 

The difference is that AWD systems are always engaged and the amount of power sent by the engine changes depending on the amount of traction. If the SUV detects traction loss in one axle, the engine will send more power to compensate for the loss.

AWD SUVs are ideal for moderate off-roading as well as for driving in harsh weather. Meanwhile, 4WD SUVs are the best for extreme off-road terrain and steep roads. They’re also the best option for icy or snow-packed roads.

If you drive mostly on pavement, a 2WD model is more than enough. However, if you often tackle dirt roads and other unfriendly types of terrain, consider getting an AWD or a 4WD model SUV.

Safety and Driving Features

SUVs come with a host of features, specifically to make driving safer and easier. These include automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind spot warning (BSW), and forward collision warning (FCW). 

If you’re buying newer-model SUVs, these are just a few features that you should look for.

AEB detects imminent collisions and activates if the driver doesn’t step on the brakes on time. BSW warns the driver about oncoming vehicles that are in the driver’s blind spot. Meanwhile, FCW alerts the driver if they’re going to collide with something that’s directly on the vehicle’s path.

Other features you may want to look for are lane keeping assistance, lane departure warning, and rear cross traffic alert.

Much like any other vehicle, there are pros and cons to an SUV. If you’ve already decided that an SUV is what you need, then this list can help you finalise your choice. Good luck and happy hunting for the perfect one for you!


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