Smart Family Finances: How To Get Your Money’s Worth From Owning An SUV

Smart Family Finances: How To Get Your Money’s Worth From Owning An SUV

With a spouse, three kids, and a dog, you’ve got a big family. And big families usually mean big budgets, so you’re all about making wise financial choices. Can you do that without sacrificing style, comfort, and reliability in a vehicle. Yeah, you can.

Despite the negative press SUVs seem to be getting lately due to their inferior gas mileage compared other family-designed vehicles like mini-vans and wagons, there are some features that actually make SUVs better buys for the long-term, so don’t discount them yet. Choosing the right SUV can actually save you thousands of dollars over the course of six and a half years… if you do your homework and choose well. Here are three essential features to look for in an SUV if you want a bigger bang for your buck over a wagon or mini-van.

Gas mileage isn’t as important as you think. Don’t get this wrong, filling up less and saving a few bucks each month does add up. But not as much as you probably think. For example, the average SUV gets 22 mpg on the highway while the typical wagon, for example, the Subaru Outback 2.5 XT Limited gets 26. That’s a four mile savings per gallon. If you drive on average 10,000 miles each year, you’re burning through only 70 more gallons of gas in an SUV than you are in a wagon. Sounds like a lot, but in reality, at the average gas price of .00 per gallon, you’re only saving 0 each year.

If gas mileage is silver, warranties are gold. We’re not suggesting you don’t try to save money in fuel-efficiency, but it’s all for naught if you wind up spending all that savings on major repairs down the line. Finding an SUV with better warranties—particularly the powertrain warranty which covers typically the most costly repairs—can save big dollars down the line. For this, we like the Isuzu Ascender.

With a 7-year/75,000 mile powertrain warranty, you’re covered for twice as long as you would be if you bought the Dodge Durango, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, or the GMC Envoy. The Ascender’s impressive warranty also puts to shame that of most mini-vans including Dodge Caravan, the Ford Freestar, and the Honda Odyssey.

When it comes to safety, look at the data. If you’ve heard that SUVs they are more likely to roll over in an accident than say, a minivan, due to their high center of gravity combined with a short wheelbase, that’s true. But while marketing departments saddled with the task of promoting mini-vans and wagons would like you to think SUVs are unsafe, they’re not. And when one major accident can thousands in medical bills and lost work time, safety is an important financial factor when choosing a vehicle as well. Look at the data. According to statistics collected in 2005 by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), very large sport utility vehicles have the lowest death rates—about 24 occupants killed for every million registered vehicles.

Midsize SUVs average 57 deaths, while fatalities associated with midsize cars top out at a whopping 70 deaths per million vehicles—more than three times that of large SUVs. The advantage large SUVs have over other cars is their size and their weight. When it comes down to it, would you rather be in an SUV hit by a mid-size car, or be in a car hit by an SUV?

A vehicle is one of the most important purchases you can make. A large chunk of your money will inevitably be dedicated to it, so research your options and make the best decision you can based on facts, not marketing. And when it comes to SUVs, don’t be so quick to rule them out. There’s a reason their popularity surged so quickly.

People like them.

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