Is the SUV Cost of Ownership Worth It?

January 27, 2012

Evaluating the anticipated overall SUV cost is an important consideration for buyers looking to purchase a new or used SUV. SUVs have been in existence for many years, dating all the way back to the 1920s. Called "carryalls," the first SUVs were designed to do exactly as their name suggested: carry all manner of cargo, passengers or both. Throughout the years, the SUV evolved in size, shape, functionality, price and popularity. It wasn't until Ford introduced the Explorer for model year 1991, however, that SUVs became truly popular with the mainstream consumer. Their popularity continued to explode until the mid-2000s, when gas prices began to soar and the economy began to sour.

Generally speaking, SUVs have a higher total cost of ownership than cars. This increased cost can be broken out into a number of sub-costs associated with owning an SUV. First, since SUVs generally achieve lower fuel economy than cars, fuel costs tend to be higher. Second, SUVs have historically required a greater amount of maintenance as compared to cars. Third, most insurance companies charge higher premiums for SUVs than for cars or minivans. Finally, due to their added size, weight and heavier-duty construction, SUVs cost more money for an auto manufacturer to build. This increased cost is passed along to the consumer in the form of a higher sticker price.

With all these costs, many buyers may question whether the total cost of SUV ownership is worth it. For some, it simply may not be. However, for others, an SUV is the only type of vehicle they will consider purchasing. The following are some of the key considerations when determining if SUV ownership is worth the added cost:

Do I Need the Space and Utility Because I Have a Family?

Buyers with families make up a significant portion of the SUV market. SUVs are bigger, generally allowing more interior room for kids, pets,and all the accessories that come with them. They are also higher off the ground, allowing owners an added sense of safety and security. Additionally, many SUVs now come with standard (or optional) second-row captains chairs and 3-row seating, giving each child their own space in the vehicle (potentially sparing many arguments). While it is true that minivans have similar bragging rights, SUVs don't generally have the "soccer mom" stigma attached to them. Avoiding this label is priceless to many consumers.

Do I Need the Space and Utility for Other Purposes?

Besides families, SUVs are also popular among single adults, "early-nesters" (those who don't have children yet) and "empty-nesters" (those whose children are grown). The added space and utility are primary reasons why the childless demographic buys SUVs. People with large dogs may buy an SUV for the cargo room behind the seats. People who live in winter climates may buy an SUV for the ground clearance and optional four-wheel-drive capabilities. Many people without children have relatively active lifestyles, and an SUV is one of the best types of vehicles to support their "always on the go" way of life.

Certainly, other reasons exist that can justify the added cost of SUV ownership. Buyers must consider their personal situation to determine if an SUV is the right type of vehicle for them.

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