Why buying an SUV is a bad idea for your pocket (and your safety)

The first choice for anyone buying a car these days seems to be an SUV. The demand for these beasts has shot through the roof and has no signs of stopping.

According to IHS Automotive, the market share for SUVs touched 25% with nearly 22 million units sold in 2015. Today in 2019, that number has ballooned to an astonishing 48% of market share in the US, which is almost a ten per cent increase from last year.

From the numbers, it’s quite clear why you’ve seen a lot more SUVs on the road in recent years – and will probably see more in the future. Although this might be an indicator of a healthy economy purchasing them might not be a very good idea.

Fuel, fuel, and more fuel

It’s no secret that these off-road beasts are massive fuel guzzlers. SUVs have miserable fuel economy compared to a regular sedan or a car. Even the much-hyped BMW X3 which boasts about its 20d xDrive along with an economy of 4.9 litres for every 100km, failed to live up to expectations during a test. A German automobile publication, Auto Motor and Sport, reported that instead of 4.9 litres, the machine consumed nearly nine litres for every 100km. Other SUV makes didn’t fare any better either. But why?

One of the reasons behind their dismal fuel economy is weight. SUVs are heavy, with the BMW X3 weighing in at 1,820kg. Heavier vehicles will need more fuel to operate. Period.

Other features of an SUV like wide tyres, large wheel arches, and short overhangs lead to high drag. Simply put, drag is a dimensionless element used to quantify the resistance of an object. Vehicles with more drag consume more fuel during long journeys or high speeds. Weight and drag are the main culprits when it comes to pulling an SUVs fuel economy down. However, you can improve the mileage by nearly 33% if you drive carefully. So if you are someone who loves to off-road on a shoestring fuel budget and are thinking of buying an SUV, think again.

SUVs are dangerous and a risk to other drivers

Almost all SUVs on the market are naturally top-heavy. This can prove to be fatal during an accident. During crash tests, it was seen that although the occupants of the SUV were safe, the other smaller car was completely totalled. Even if the driver tries to avoid a fatal crash, the weight hampers quick manoeuvrability and can result in a nasty incident.

In fact, researchers have studied more than 80,000 head-on collisions between an SUV and a smaller vehicle. It was observed that the occupants of the smaller car were 7.6 more likely to sustain fatal injuries. Interestingly, SUVs having a higher safety rating merely increased the chances of fatalities of the smaller car, which further hampers the risk SUVs pose to drivers of sedans and vans.

Test have also found out that due to its low manoeuvrability and increased weight, they are more prone to rollovers. Although advances in electronic stability control have led to a reduction in these occurrences, an SUV is far more prone to rollovers than a car—and you’re more likely to die in a rollover.

Also,SUV vs SUV crashes result in far worse outcomes than sedan vs sedan. Basically, driving an SUV is more dangerous.

Too expensive

According to reports, most people choose an SUV because it has become a status symbol. Driving a big chrome-plated beast might be right for an ego boost, but it fails from a cost perspective. They tend to be involved in more accidents than a sedan, so the insurance premiums may be higher. (You  can get an online quote here.) Even though people say they are buying an SUV to off-road, most don’t – and many SUV’s are not 4WD anyway.

As a solution, if you pick a cheaper SUV, they generally come with fake underbody crash protection which isn’t ideal for off-roading. Most of the modern SUVs are usually bought as a luxury vehicle rather than a genuine off-roading machine.

Poor visibility

Due to its large size, SUVs create visibility problems and can obscure certain parts of the road. Poor rearward vision has often resulted in reversing deaths where the car has backed into animals and children. The National Roads’ and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) carried out tests where they discovered blind spots of more than 15m in SUVs as compared to standard cars.

In a nutshell, SUVs are overhyped, expensive and unsafe. If you are someone who enjoys a safe and cheap road trip, choose a regular sedan instead of a fuel-guzzling beast with questionable safety standards.