Consumer Reports: 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying a New SUV

Are you shopping around for a new SUV? Finding the best SUV to meet your needs can be a stressful endeavor. However, we’re here to help alleviate some of the stress and aid you with your buying decision. Take a look at the five things that you should consider when buying a new SUV, as recommended by Consumer Reports.

Drive system on the SUV (2WD, AWD, or 4WD)

Gray 2021 Toyota Highlander driving by tall buildings
2021 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

SUVs are equipped with a 2WD (front- or rear-wheel drive), AWD (all-wheel drive), or 4WD (four-wheel drive) system. Most crossover SUVs or car-based SUVs have front-wheel drive and offer an available all-wheel drive system. The truck-based SUV models have a rear-wheel drive setup with an available four-wheel drive system.

Both all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive systems provide power to all of the wheels of the SUV. However, there are notable differences. An AWD system either routes power between the front and rear wheels or stays permanently engaged. Relative to a 4WD system, an AWD system is for lighter duty and is usually good enough for slippery roads or dirt roads. 

4WD systems are typically on SUVs that are geared for heavy off-road use. By using a low range gear, 4WD systems can more easily traverse challenging terrains, such as rocks, steep dirt hills, and sand. 

If you plan on doing only on-road driving and don’t live in a place that gets a lot of snow, a two-wheel drive system should suffice. Not only will it likely get better gas mileage, but it is also cheaper.

Safety and driving assistance features

You’ll want to ensure that you can trust that a new SUV is safe for you and your passengers. Safety is a consideration that Consumer Reports weighs very heavily. Fortunately, safety and driving assistance technologies have rapidly advanced in recent years. For a new SUV, make sure to check that it comes standard with driving assistance technologies like forward collision warning, blind-spot warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and crash-avoidance technology.

Some SUV models come equipped with additional driving assistance features. Examples include lane departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, rear cross-traffic warning, dynamic radar cruise control, and automatic high beam headlights.

Seating capacity

Brown seats in 2021 Ford Expedition
2021 Ford Expedition | Ford

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One of the most appealing aspects of SUVs is their ability to carry many passengers. Nearly all new SUVs have at least a five-passenger seating capacity. Some SUVs, particularly midsize and full-size SUVs, have a third row that enables them to seat six, seven, or eight passengers. 

Cargo capacity and configurations

Evaluate your storage needs and choose an SUV that offers enough cargo space to meet your needs. Most SUVs have a great deal of versatility for how you can configure the seats. The second-row and third-row seats should be able to fold down flat for the times that you need more space for storage. 

Relative to minivans, SUVs have a higher cargo floor, which makes it more challenging to load cargo. However, SUVs on a truck-based platform usually have a higher storage capacity. Also, many SUVs have hands-free liftgates, which makes it easier to load up your cargo.

Towing capacity

Brown 2021 Chevy Tahoe towing a camping trailer
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe | Chevrolet

Do you have a boat, camping trailer, or another heavy load to tow? If you have serious towing needs, you’ll need to opt for a truck-based SUV, which has a higher towing capacity than a car-based SUV. The towing capacity of large SUVs is usually up to 9,000 pounds. Some midsize SUV models can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Also, to reach these towing capacities, you’ll likely need to get a towing package for the SUV.

Consumer Reports: Purchase a new SUV that addresses your specific needs

These five things from Consumer Reports are important considerations when buying an SUV. You’ll need to evaluate your specific needs and weigh each consideration accordingly. Whether it’s the drive system, safety features, seating, cargo, or towing, each SUV shopper has unique lifestyle needs that have to be addressed. Weigh each one, and then make a well-thought-out buying decision.

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