5 Things You Should Know When Buying a Used SUV

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If you are in the market for a vehicle, chances are that you’ve considered purchasing an SUV.

SUVs provide a number of advantages that many vehicles don’t, including storage space, off-roading capability, and strong fuel economy.

This article will discuss some of the advantages and potential disadvantages of buying a used SUV, giving consumers better insight into what to look for and hopefully improving their negotiating position. Read on to learn more.

What is an SUV?

Used SUV

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The term SUV stands for Sport Utility Vehicle. This term now includes a number of different body types and sizes, but generally refers to bigger vehicles with larger passenger capacities and sometimes off-roading capabilities.

SUVs were originally conceived as a more comfortable alternative to trucks, as many first-generation SUVs such as the Ford Excursion were built on light-truck chassis with very large, fuel-consumptive engines.

Like trucks, many full-size SUVs have higher ground clearance, four-wheel drive, and ruggedness typically not seen in compact cars or other commuter vehicles.

Like trucks, many full-size SUVs have higher ground clearance, four-wheel drive, and ruggedness typically not seen in compact cars or other commuter vehicles.

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Reaching the mainstream market in the late 1990s, SUVs provided truck drivers who needed additional room for passengers and a bit more refinement an appealing, legitimate second option within the automotive market.

To use the Excursion as an example, the Ford offering – which was produced from 1999-2005 – remains the heaviest and longest SUV to ever see mass production. The vehicle weighed ¾ ton and was largely based on Ford’s largest pickup truck at the time, the F-250 Super Duty.

Like the F-250, the Excursion was available with the Ford Triton V8 or the mammoth Triton V10 engine. While extremely powerful, these engines went through gasoline at an alarming rate, making them not only expensive but also environmentally-unfriendly.

The V10 Excursion chewed through an unconscionable 12-15 miles per gallon, and the cost to fuel the vehicle reflected in the sales figures. Sales for the Excursion spiked in 2000 before tumbling for five consecutive years. Ford discontinued the Excursion in 2005.

As the cost of fossil fuel products spiked in the early 2000s, SUVs were reimagined as roomier, sportier, more fuel-efficient alternatives to minivans.

Since that time, SUVs have become extremely popular as family vehicles, replacing station wagons and minivans as the spacious, versatile, do-it-all vehicle for the modern family.

Due to demand and popularity, SUVs hold their value well compared to many other makes and models. This will be discussed in detail below.

Used SUV

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If you are interested in buying a used SUV, know that while your next vehicle is very investible, it might also be a bit hard to find the right SUV for your family right away. Be patient with your search, and do as much investigation as possible before committing to a purchase.

Now that you better understand what an SUV is and what to look for in your search, below are 5 things you should know when buying a used SUV:

  1. Why Buy a Used SUV?

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Like most new cars, SUVs depreciate rapidly. Just driving a brand-new SUV off of a dealer lot probably reduces the resale value of the vehicle to 75% or less.

That said, SUVs with light use can be excellent investments, as the rate of depreciation for a well-maintained SUV is extremely low compared to most other vehicles.

As of 2015, SUVs overtook midsize commuter vehicles as the largest automotive segment on the market, accounting for almost a quarter (22.9%) of light vehicle sales and over a third (37%) of all passenger vehicles.

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These numbers are significant, and current demand alone is a strong reason to potentially invest in a used SUV. Moreover, it does not appear that demand will drop in the near future.

Euromonitor, an automotive speculation website, reported that SUV sales grew from 5 million vehicles in 2000 to 20 million in 2015, and SUV sales are anticipated to reach 42 million vehicles by 2031.

This is because SUVs, depending on the model, can cater to a surprisingly diverse number of markets.

Active families, outdoorsy types, and really any buyers with a crew or group are potentially interested in purchasing a used SUV.

So, finding a good used SUV without a lot of wear and tear can be a very heavy investment, even putting aside the practical reasons to purchase such a vehicle. But in many cases, SUV sales can be a real seller’s market.

  2. Fuel Economy

Things You Should Know When Buying a Used SUV

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The major drawback to full-size SUVs, aside from cost, is probably fuel economy. Due to their sheer size, full-size SUVs can be gas guzzlers, which can of course be a big concern to a growing family on a budget with an ambitious travel schedule.

To combat this problem, auto manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota have developed the wildly popular CR-V and Rav4 models, respectively.

These two models have been great sellers since their inception because they provide many of the benefits of a full-size SUV (room for 4+ passengers, versatility, in many cases all-wheel or four-wheel drive, etc.) while using more fuel-friendly engines and drivetrains.

To wit, the Rav4 sold an incredible all-time high of 407,000 vehicles in 2017, while Honda sold an all-time high of 377.895 CR-Vs in 2017.

Where Toyota and Honda really succeeded was producing a vehicle with a larger passenger capacity (4-5) while keeping the fuel economy in line with smaller passenger vehicles.

The rates vary depending on the year, but the Rav4 and the CR-V can each get anywhere from 23-34 miles per gallon. This is more than double the fuel economy of the original Ford Excursion.

While smaller SUVs like the Rav4 and CR-V may not be as big and imposing as first-generation SUVs like the Excursion or the Chevy Suburban, the drastically improved fuel economy is probably the main appeal for car buyers.

That noted, the Nissan Armada, though beautiful and intended for the luxury market, gets a disappointing 14 miles per gallon, greatly diminishing its appeal for most buyers. This is a nosedive from the MPG rates seen on SUVs such as the Honda CR-V.

If you are considering buying a used SUV, it’s definitely smart to check the vehicle’s expected fuel economy before finalizing a purchase.

  3. Safety

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Most SUVs have a reputation as being extremely safe vehicles, further enhancing their appeal.

For example, U.S. World and News recently reported that the 2011 Kia Sportage was one of the safest used SUVs under $10,000.

Articles like this have only bolstered the reputation of SUVs as being extremely safe.

Autotrader rated the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, and Acura MDX as being among the safest used SUVs in a recent report, and safety is a primary consideration when the car manufacturers are building their vehicles.

That said, some SUVs are safer than others. The Toyota Rav4 is extremely safe compared to most other passenger vehicles but slides a bit below a number of its direct competitors because the wheelbase is narrower and it rides a bit higher.

As with any other feature, it behooves consumers to thoroughly investigate a vehicle prior to purchase. If you are considering a used SUV, checking into a particular model’s safety is highly recommended.

  4. Size

Things You Should Know When Buying a Used SUV

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SUVs now fall into three general categories, based on size and fuel economy: small, midsize, and full-size.

Small SUVs include the aforementioned Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4, and Kia Sportage. These cars often feature fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engines and great maneuverability.

Midsize SUVs such as the Nissan Pathfinder provide more room and increased towing capacity for those planning to tow or transport bigger groups of people while providing similar fuel economy to small SUVs. For these reasons, midsize SUVs remain a popular alternative to pickup trucks.

Full-size SUVs often have the same frame as large pickup trucks and feature comparable towing capacity. But like large trucks, full-size SUVs are hard on fuel and can be cumbersome to drive and park.

It’s probably best to determine which size used SUV will best meet the needs of you and your family before narrowing down your search.

  5. Ease of Use

Things You Should Know When Buying a Used SUV

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A defining feature of an SUV is the number of conversion features that come on the vehicle. It’s great that the seats of an SUV can lay down or come out of the car, but if the process is a huge hassle, the feature loses much of its appeal.

As an example, the Mazda CX-5 gets high marks because its child seat anchors are extremely user-friendly. If you are a young parent, this is undoubtedly a major factor in your purchasing decision.

U.S. News and World Report rated the 2010-2014 Subaru Outback as one of their 10 easiest cars to work on and maintain for 2018. If you have a hectic schedule, it’s probably best to pursue a low-maintenance vehicle such as the Outback.

AutoWise provides a list of 15 SUVs and Crossovers to Avoid, citing issues such as faulty transmissions and leaky head gaskets. If you plan to purchase a used SUV, it’s probably best to check out a few lists like this to arm yourself with the best information available.

Choosing the Best Used SUV for You and Your Family 

There are plenty of things to consider before buying a used SUV and, hopefully, this article has given you some food for thought as you investigate options.

There are a wide variety of SUVs available on the market, and with some patience and research, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a great used SUV for you or your family.

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