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The Smackdown: Sedans Vs. SUVs

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Wondering which one to buy? It’s the war of wheels as we pit one against the other.

It's no secret that when it comes to buying a new car, emotion often trumps logic. (Think: the city dweller who buys the tricked-out Ford Explorer even though she has a better chance of winning the lottery than she does actually going on an off-road adventure.) That's where we—and our car expert friends at Kelley Blue Book—come in, weighing the pros and cons of both SUVs and sedans. For newlyweds, the choice often comes down to cost, but there are several other factors you should consider when deciding which is best for your family and lifestyle.

1. PERFORMANCE

Sedans: Because they're lighter and more aerodynamic, two- or four-door sedans are great for whipping through city streets and weaving in and out of traffic, not to mention squeezing into parallel parking spaces. And though SUVs are practically synonymous with four-wheel drive, plenty of newer sedan models offer the very similar all-wheel drive, which can make icy roads in the winter a bit less treacherous.

SUVs: Since most of today's SUVs are built on car-like foundations—hence the term “crossovers"—they're much smoother riding and better handling than their truck-based forebears. An SUV's higher center of gravity can have some handling implications, but nothing that most drivers would notice.

The Winner: Toss-up, depending on whether you call the city or country home.

2. CARGO ROOM

Sedans: These cars have a trunk, and that's about it. Obviously, some are bigger than others—the pros at KBB.com have described the 2016 Chevy Impala's 18.8-cubic-foot trunk, for example, as “a black hole of loading space all its own."

SUVs: For big hauls, you can't beat SUVs. They have the ability to tow large loads, and removable or foldable rear seats that'll give you even more cargo room.

The Winner: SUVs, hands (or seats) down.

3. SAFETY

Sedans: In general, sedans are easier to maneuver than their larger, taller counterparts, making them the better bet in terms of swerving quickly to avoid an accident in the first place.

SUVs: Their sheer size makes them a force to be reckoned with, so they'll likely come out of a crash in better condition than a smaller sedan, and their higher seating position translates to a better view of traffic and road conditions. In addition, newer models have improved SUV rollover rates, thanks to features like electronic-stability and rollover-prevention systems.

The Winner: With automakers adopting more advanced safety features for all vehicles—blind-spot monitoring, auto emergency braking and lane-departure warnings, among others—we call this one a tie.

4. VALUE

Sedans: In general, sedans are cheaper to build, which translates to a more affordable sticker price. They're also cheaper to insure because of it. But where sedans really beat the competition is in fuel economy, with hybrid versions that can get as much as 50 miles per gallon.

SUVs: Basically, the bigger the car, the higher the price (though KBB did find 10 great SUVs Under $25,000). This is especially true of four-wheel-drive models—its extra gear costs more to maintain. And though they've improved over the years, SUVs can't touch sedans when it comes to gas mileage.

The Winner: Sedans. (For more detail on the different models, see Kelley Blue Book's 5-Year Cost to Own awards.)

5. COMFORT

Sedans: Since they sit lower to the ground, they can be easier to climb in and out of.

SUVs: On the other hand, the higher-from-the-ground SUV model is sometimes preferable for parents who'd rather not bend down to strap their kids in the back. Your backseat passengers will typically get more legroom too.

The Winner: With more cabin space, SUVs just edge out the competition.


The Nest and Kelley Blue Book present Get In Gear, a sponsored series featuring expert advice and car-buying tips to help you become new car smart. Visit Kelley Blue Book to research reviews and recommendations to find your next car..