Consumer Reports Recommends Every SUV Shopper Considers These 5 Important Qualities

When shopping for a new SUV model, we usually start with a list of features we’d like to have. While this list is often divided into requirements and wants, the following criteria fall into the required category whether you’re shopping for a used or new SUV model.

For example, if you have a family of 6 that enjoys weekend camping trips, sufficient SUV seating and cargo capacity becomes critical. So let’s break down the five important qualities you should consider when shopping for a new or used SUV model.

Seating is in important in a used or new SUV model

People generally want an SUV because it offers more seating and cargo space. We’ll discuss cargo in the next section, but first, it’s critical to note that not all SUVs provide seating for more than five people, according to Consumer Reports. If you need to carry more than five passengers, you’ll find seating for up to eight in the largest, full-size SUVs with three rows of seats. However, maxing out an SUV’s seating capacity limits its cargo-carrying capacity.

Cargo capacity

Person loading luggage in a new SUV model that is red.
Person loading luggage in an SUV | Getty Images Photographed by Chandan Khanna

Automotive engineers are masters of utilizing space and reducing weight. They combine these talents to design small and lightweight vehicles while providing the passenger space desired for a particular SUV. So a large SUV that provides seating for eight may also advertise cavernous cargo space, but you’ll rarely get both simultaneously.

SUV shoppers should look for second-row and third-row seats that fold flat for the most usable cargo space. Also, Consumer Reports points out that while truck-based SUVs “typically have higher maximum payload capacities” to accommodate heavier loads than minivans, it’s often easier to load items onto a minivan’s lower cargo floor. 

Safety/Driver Assistance Technology

Another factor that leads many to purchase a larger vehicle is SUV safety. Every SUV shopper should thoroughly review government and insurance-industry crash test results and crash-avoidance capability assessments before buying an SUV. Crash-avoidance technologies that Consumer Reports suggests include:

  • FCW – Forward Collision Warning alerts the driver of an object in the vehicle’s path.
  • AEB – Autonomous (Automatic) Emergency Braking applies braking to avoid a collision if the driver doesn’t react quickly enough.
  • BSW – Blind Spot Warning alerts the driver to other vehicles that may be in the driver’s blind spot and difficult to see. 

Drivetrain (FWD vs. 2WD vs. 4WD vs. AWD)

According to Consumer Reports, car-based SUVs feature either front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), whereas truck-based models have rear-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). While AWD and 4WD sound similar, the mechanics involved are different. It’s true that both provide power to the front and rear tires. Still, AWD systems often remain engaged all the time or switch on automatically, whereas 4WD systems usually require the driver to engage them manually. 

Of course, AWD vehicles often feature driver-selectable drive modes and locking center differentials, and some 4WD systems offer “full-time” versions to complicate things further. Drivers that never expect to drive on slippery roadways will find FWD or 2WD SUVs satisfactory and at a lower purchase price, and either AWD or 4WD will serve those that live in snowy climates well. If you plan to take your SUV off-road, you should seek a 4WD SUV with a two-speed (high and low range) transfer case.

Towing is important in a used or new SUV model

A truck-based SUV is the best SUV for towing trailers. As Consumer Reports notes, full-sized SUVs “can tow up to 9.000 pounds,” making them suitable for large boats and some camper trailers. Properly-equipped midsize SUVs can tow “as much as 5,000 pounds, enough for a small boat or camper.” It is critical to understand your vehicle’s towing and payload capacity and your abilities before towing near the maximum load, as is appropriately distributing the load on your trailer. 

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