Ever since man invented the wheel, they have debated whether it should be used for the car or an SUV. That debate still continues today, with both sides aggressively taking their stance. I’m here to act as a mediator between both parties.
The short answer? It depends. As a daily driver, it really depends on what you’re looking for. People who value comfort, speed, and maneuverability should go with a car. If you want more space for people and groceries, better visibility, and a safer ride, you should pick an SUV.
I’m going to give you a full comparison of cars vs SUVs and outline the pros and cons for either choice. In the end, I’ll highlight which option is right for certain buyers.
Car vs SUV: The Pros and Cons Compared
The best way for me to explain this match-up is to just give you a list of the pros and cons of both types of vehicles. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which are impactful to you, personally.
Pros of Cars
Let me start by saying some of the good things about cars.
Have you ever wondered why Vin Diesel’s character in Fast and Furious isn’t driving a CR-V? When people have a need for speed, they opt for a car.
Since cars are much lighter, they’re a lot faster in a straight line. In addition, there isn’t a huge availability for sports SUVs, meanwhile, there are sports, super, and hypercars you can pick up today.
Actually, if you look at the record-holding fastest consumer cars in terms of top speed and 0-60 times, you won’t find an SUV anywhere on the lists.
Easier to Maneuver
Since cars are a lot smaller and have a smaller wheelbase, they’re also easier to maneuver. That means parking and zipping around corners is simpler.
Parallel parking in an SUV can feel like jury duty a lot of times. In a car, it’s so much easier.
More Comfortable Ride
A lot of cars have a more comfortable ride than what’s available in an SUV. Luxury options put a big focus on the quality of the ride.
Since there’s less weight to suspend, the suspension can focus on keeping you comfy during your trip. The only problem is when you run over a pothole or hit uneven roads — then you’ll wish you had something a little beefier.
More Options for Fans of Luxury or Performance
Speaking of luxury, you’ll notice a more abundant selection of performance or luxury options when you’re looking at cars rather than SUVs. This doesn’t mean that an SUV can’t be more luxurious than a car. A fully loaded Cadillac Escalade or Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon can easily be considered luxurious and command a premium price.
Brands like BMW are built all-around sports cars while Lexus makes a whole line of luxury cars. There are only a handful of examples of SUVs doing this, and they still don’t do it better than a car. After all, you can’t be sportier than a Porsche or more luxurious than a Bentley.
Across the board, cars have better gas mileage than SUVs. This is mainly due to their smaller engines and much lighter curb weight.
SUVs will typically offer mpg’s in the high-teens to low-twenties. Cars start around the high-twenties and work their way into the forties effortlessly.
If you want to minimize your carbon footprint, then a car is the only option.
Cheaper to Own and Operate
When it comes to money, it doesn’t get much better than a car. Not only are they a lot cheaper to purchase, but they’re also much cheaper to operate and maintain over time.
For one, you’re spending less money on gas. But beyond that, routine maintenance is a lot cheaper and quicker to do.
Plus, an SUV has bigger parts and that usually comes with bigger dollar signs from a mechanic.
Cons of Cars
Next, I’ll dive into some of the negative aspects of owning and operating a car.
Worse in Bad Weather
Since most cars come standard with 2WD, you’ll experience worse handling in bad weather. When ice, snow, or mud coats your road, you have a higher chance of getting stuck or spinning out.
This idea also extends to the off-roading of your vehicle. There are very few reasons to purposefully drive your sedan off-road. An SUV on the other hand can handle itself pretty well.
Not as Safe
The field of vision is a lot narrower in a car. You see less of the environment around you which translates to more possibilities of getting hit or hitting something.
Two-Doors are Tough for Friends or Family
Two-doors make it really hard to haul around more than one other person at any given time. Flipping down the passenger seat so people can crawl into the back is always a problem, especially with older friends or family members.
Two-seaters make it even tougher. Say goodbye to carpooling or sharing a ride with others. I mean, you could always have a buddy squeeze in the trunk of your 270Z.
Not a Lot of Space
Cars are simply smaller than SUVs. That means less headspace and legroom for your passengers. It also means fewer people can fit in your vehicle.
Don’t get me started on how much stuff you can fit into the vehicle. Moving out of your apartment with a Honda Civic is like an expert-level game of Tetris. Meanwhile, someone in a RAV4 can throw their junk in the back and drive into the sunset.
Not as Popular
If buying a car was a popularity contest, the SUV would always win. Looking at the top 20 most popular cars in America for 2020, 10 of them are SUVs and 4 are cars.
I’m not sure what that says about the viability of a car versus an SUV, but it seems like the market has spoken.
Pros of SUVs
Enough about cars, let’s dive into SUVs. First up are the good parts of SUVs.
You’re higher off the ground, have more window space, and overall better visibility in an SUV. You almost feel like the king of the highway as you cruise around thanks to the stance and visibility.
Also, the rear visibility is leagues better than a standard car. Since the trunk has a massive window, you can actually see what’s going on behind you as opposed to the tiny window you get with a Camaro.
Much More Space
I can’t stop talking about the space difference here. An SUV can seat up to 8 people as opposed to the 5 people that can barely squeeze into a sedan.
Grocery trips are so much easier when you can fold down seats and pop a massive trunk.
Better Resale Value
I mentioned that SUVs are more expensive. This is a good trait if you’re looking to sell an SUV after some use. The resale value is always favorable and SUVs tend to depreciate slower than cars do.
Vehicles are not an investment, but it feels nice to make up a little bit of lost money when selling an SUV.
A Lot Stronger
In a head-on collision, an SUV usually comes out victorious. The framework and body are a lot stronger than a car’s.
A lot of SUVs use a body-on-frame construction which entails bolting components onto an independent, rigid frame. Most cars use a unibody construction in which the body is built directly into the frame like a little shell around you.
Towing Capacity is Higher
Want to tow a trailer behind your car? You’ll need a Fisher-Price wagon. The only real way to tow anything sizable behind your vehicle is to grab a pickup or an SUV. In this case, an SUV has a towing capacity up to about 9 times higher than a car’s.
A Ford Expedition can tow around 9,300 pounds comfortably.
Better Safety Ratings
Almost across the market, you’ll find that SUVs have higher safety ratings when compared to a car. Again, it has to do with the weight, size, and power of these SUVs. They can take a beating and keep on chugging along.
A sad statistic cited from Consumer Reports says that in a head-on collision between a car and an SUV, the car’s driver is almost 8 times more likely to die than the SUV’s driver.
Cons of SUVs
Now I’ll move onto some of the downsides of having an SUV as your daily driver.
More Expensive to Purchase
SUVs aren’t cheap when you’re looking to purchase them. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a new or a used car, you’ll still see some big numbers after the dollar sign.
As I just reviewed, there are a lot of reasons to justify this price difference. For one, it’s more material and more vehicle than a car. On top of that, you’ll find larger items in an SUV than you will in a car. It seems like everything was hit with a shrink ray when you sit in a car after.
Worse Fuel Economy
If you want to avoid the gas pump, you need to avoid SUVs. They are notoriously awful when it comes to fuel consumption.
They’re heavier, the motors are much larger, and they have to work harder. The result? More gas wasted.
Finding an SUV with EPA-estimated mileage in the high-twenties is really rare.
Which Vehicle is Right for You?
After reviewing some of the pros and cons of both choices, I want to talk about the desired clientele for both. In this section, I’ll recommend either an SUV or a car for the detailed group of people.
For City Drivers
If you’re in a city, you absolutely need a car (if you’re getting a vehicle at all). They’re easier to squeeze into tight parking spots and you can drive with less stress through tight roads.
The ability to go longer without filling up your gas tank is always a positive.
For Family People
If there are more than 4 people in your family, an SUV is a no-brainer. You can comfortably fit all the kiddos and even let their friends tag along.
Family outings are always better when you’re not cramping kids in the back seat of a small sedan.
For families that do a lot of grocery shopping, you’ll love the added space for bags.
For Thrill Seekers
Do you love allegedly going above the speed limit and theoretically taking fast corners? Then the car is the right choice for you.
If you’re seeking thrills, you won’t find many behind the wheel of an SUV. That is unless you have a foosball table stored in the back.
Cars go faster, accelerate quicker, and can brake harder.
When the pavement ends, so does the viability of a car. For off-roaders, an SUV is right for you. Ideally, you’d like to grab one that has 4WD and some sick tires.
If you love off-roading, I’d suggest reading my piece about comparing trucks to SUVs since pickups are an even better option.
For Cost-Conscious Buyers
Want to minimize your upfront, operating, and maintenance costs? You should seriously consider a car. They’re way cheaper to buy, the gas costs are lower, and it won’t cost so much to do maintenance along the way. Check, check, and check.
For Fans of Safety
Anyone who has safety at the forefront of their brain should grab an SUV. They’re larger, heavier, and much safer than a sedan.
Plus, plenty of SUVs come chock-full of safety features and added goodies to keep you and your family safe and healthy.
For Luxury Lovers
If you want to ride on a cloud and feel heated leather around you, I’d suggest a car. There are plenty of makes and models to choose from that prioritize luxury and a comfortable ride.
Now you have a better understanding of how cars and SUVs compare. I ran through a few lists of pros and cons of both options and even explained which choice was right for different people. If you have more to add about this comparison, drop a comment below. Be sure to explore the rest of my blog and check out the best products to have for your car or SUV.