SUV vs. Sedan: Which Type of Car Is Right for You?

Choosing the right car can be a difficult choice. It involves setting a price before going into reliability and safety, before eventually settling on power. Before all that, a customer must decide on the size of the car and why they need it in the first place. Generally speaking, there’s no right or wrong answer, but there is a correct answer for each customer. Knowing what body style to get is half the battle, but it’s paramount. Here’s how you can tell which body style between an SUV and a sedan is the best choice for you.

Figure out the car’s primary purpose

Once you figure out what you’re going to use the car for, everything else falls into place. Are you taking it to the snow? Off-road? Are you carrying a lot of things all the time? Are you taking a few kids to daycare before dropping off cans of soup at the homeless shelter? Trying to cram 100 cubic feet of stuff into a 90 cubic-feet space is never going to work, so before you get wrapped up in the brand, safety, and horsepower, decide what the car is for. Both SUVs and sedans have strengths and weaknesses no matter what they’re used for.

SUV strengths and weaknesses

Honda CRV on display in Brussels
Honda CRV on display in Brussels | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

Moderate-size people carriers have evolved most provocatively in the 1990s. Station wagons were all the rage until minivans stepped in, and then finally, the SUV made its presence known. An SUV combines the cargo of a small truck or station wagon with the comfort and size of a sedan. Typical SUVs come with all-wheel drive configurations and a big empty space behind the second row of seats, but not strictly a separated trunk like a sedan. SUVs are tall, have superb visibility, and if you pick the right model and engine, they can be quick and responsive. 

Honda CR-V, for instance, is a comfortable car with plenty of torque from its turbocharged four-cylinder. It comes with gadgets like lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. The CR-V is easy to drive, safe, and provides plenty of cargo. The flip side of owning an SUV is they are big. If you live in a dense city, then parking will be difficult. According to Fleet Financials, SUVs won’t be as good as some sedans on gas. You could get a hybrid powertrain, but that usually comes with a heftier sticker price. 

Sedan strengths and weaknesses

Toyota Camry on display in Chicago
Toyota Camry on display in Chicago | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

In the case of a sedan vs. SUV title fight, the sedan brings a cozier driving experience and generally more efficiency. While a sedan could offer a more cramped interior, there are affordable sedans that provide ample space for front and back passengers. The Toyota Camry, for instance, is a mid-size sedan with lots of comfortable interior space. A Honda Civic is a prime example of a smaller sedan that maximizes its cabin. Sedans are easier to park on city streets and aren’t as cumbersome as an SUV. A full-size sedan can be somewhat unwieldy in tight spaces, which is where the sedan loses out to SUVs. 

Decide which one is right for you

SUV driving in Iceland
SUV driving in Iceland | Tim Graham/Getty Images

There’s any number of reasons to choose an SUV over a sedan and vice versa, but the only thing you need to decide is what you’re going to use the car for. If you’re just commuting, get a nice mid-size sedan with lots of torque, air conditioning, and comfortable seats. An SUV is probably a better option if you’re going to the mountains every weekend out of the summer. Test drive everything and don’t discount power and comfort. 

RELATED: Why Are SUVs More Popular Than Sedans?