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Do We Really Need SUVs?

Last month, I drove a U-Haul van from Detroit to Atlanta.  With all of that time on the road, my mind had a chance to wander.  I also made some observations: SUVs and pickup trucks rule the road, and sedans and coupes are nearly nonexistent.  In fact, it felt like 80% of the vehicles on the road were SUVs.

Even though my observations were over a small period of time, they did encompass five states and over 700 miles of highway.  As vehicles passed me, I took the time to count off the number of trucks in each group of ten vehicles.  It was a consistent eight out of ten, with pickups, SUVs (and crossover utility vehicles, which I count as SUVs) making up that majority.

Do my keen observation skills align with actual sales data?  Let’s take a look!

report showing percent of vehicle sales by segment

2023 Calendar Year Vehicle Sales

Based on sales data from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), my observations were not too far off the mark.  In calendar year 2023, nearly 80 percent of vehicles sold were trucks.  

Crossovers and SUVs (which many people lump into the same category, so I will too for this article) made up 57 percent of total sales alone.  Pickup trucks and vans rounded out the truck category to account for the 80 percent market penetration.

I remember a time when the midsize car segment ruled the market. Where does that leave them now?  A mere 7.4% of total sales.  How long before cars fade into extinction?

Truck Popularity

Don’t get me wrong, I love trucks.  I grew up in a time when trucks were only used by businesses and people pulling trailers.  Cars were king and styling was unique and beautiful.  Sport and muscle cars were truly special, and fun rivalries pitted Camaro versus Mustang, GTO versus Challenger, etc. 

Today, everyone seems to own an SUV.  In fact, if you go to a store parking lot that is all you see.  Row after row of look-alike vehicles.  It’s hard to tell them apart.  I wonder if high school kids are debating the coolness of their Chevrolet Tahoe versus the Ford Explorer?

Why is it that so many people own SUVs and pickups?  At some point, I suspect there is a feeling of safety in a vehicle that is larger and sits up high.  I get that, but what exactly are people hauling on a daily basis that requires these large trucks?  How big is too big? Is it the idea that they may need that space some day? 

If so, rent a U-Haul when you need it. That way you can enjoy driving the right vehicle every day.

Pay The Price

A number of SUVs are based on a similar passenger car.  The Honda CRV is based on the Civic, the Subaru Outback is Legacy based, etc.  These are mechanically identical vehicles, but the crossover is several thousand dollars more expensive.  

The larger vehicles are less fuel efficient and don’t ride and handle as well as their car counterpart. More importantly, SUVs are hard to tell apart.  Is all of that added utility really worth the lack of unique styling?

When I dropped off the U-Haul in Atlanta, I picked up a rental car at the airport.  When I approached the National Car Rental Emerald Aisle, I scanned for a cool looking car.  All I saw were SUVs, so I grabbed one that I thought was a Range Rover.  As it turns out, it was a Mitsubishi Outlander.  Between the styling and the word “LAND” on the grille, I thought it might be a Land Rover of some kind.  

I suppose that’s a good thing for Mitsubishi.  Had it not been for that hurried moment in the Atlanta rental car center, I might not have considered driving their SUV.  Or any SUV.

Final Thoughts 

When you think about buying your next new vehicle, stop and think how you will use it.  Don’t follow the crowd and buy an SUV or pickup just because everyone else does.  Look at vehicles that satisfy your daily needs and that stir your soul.  There are still some really nice sedans and coupes on the market that are more unique, stylish and less expensive.

You can always rent a U-Haul or a truck at Lowe’s or Home Depot.  Why give up style and fun just for that rare moment when you need the utility?

Let me know if you have any thoughts, questions or a cool story to share.  You can reach me in any of the following ways:

Email: wct.billtaylor@gmail.com

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Facebook:  Vehicle Nanny

Want to learn more about me?  Go to this article:   Who’s Your Nanny?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dave Rhinehart

    Well we have owned mini vans for the past 30 years. They were great for raising a family. I still have a 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan. I can take 4 guys, golf clubs and luggage on trips. I’ve hauled 4’x8′ sheets of plywood and drywall. Even had to transport a whitetail deer harvest once (covered the back with plastic). My wife has a 2022 Chrysler Pacifica Limited. It has many bells and whistles and is a please to take on trips. I prefer to ride high in a vehicle when I’m not cruising in one of my camaros.

  2. Bill Taylor

    It sounds like you have that van for a regular purpose. I am willing to bet you are in the minority of truck owners.

    Of course, you also get a pass because you have Camaros as fun cars.

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