SUV vs Crossover: What’s the Difference?

By Justin Cupler | May 18th, 2017

There are buzzwords in every industry, but in the auto industry, the terms SUV and Crossover are used synonymously. But are they really interchangeable? The short answer is no. There are a few key differences between the two regarding construction and capability that make these very different. Allow us to explain and help you find the best vehicle that suits your needs.

It comes down to how the vehicle is made to determine if it’s a true SUV or the more likely crossover. SUVs are made similarly to trucks, where there is a rugged, heavy-duty frame that houses the drivetrain with the body of the SUV added on top of that. With a body-on-frame construction, traditional SUVs are well suited to towing and hauling heavy loads, rock-crawling on the off-road trails, and driving over rough terrain with its tall clearance. In certain situations, they can be easier to repair in an accident – depending on the damage.

List of common SUVs:

  • Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Ford Expedition
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Toyota 4Runner
  • GMC Yukon
  • Mercedes G-Class

On the other hand, crossovers are built on a car’s platform and have unibody architecture, making them more efficient thanks to the lighter materials and more agile just like a car. However, they don’t have the heavy-duty capability that the SUVs have, so crossovers are better for running errands around town or taking the kids to soccer practice than towing a boat to the cabin. One thing crossovers have that SUVs don’t is greater numbers of crumple zones to redirect damage away from passengers in the event of an accident, making them marginally safer on paved road driving.

List of common crossovers:

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Acura MDX
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Nissan Pathfinder
  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Honda Pilot
  • Buick Encore

Each segment has their uses but in general, if you’re planning to use your vehicle for towing and hauling industrial-sized loads, go with an SUV. But if you want a vehicle that’s focused on ride quality and has a lighter, more agile feel on the road then a crossover is perfect for you. Obviously, this is a very simplistic view of these two vehicles and what they are capable of, but these are the original intentions and a good starting point. In recent years, the line between these two has blurred somewhat thanks to the use of lighter materials used in SUVs and the addition of all-wheel-drive systems in crossovers, for example. But their performance overall will still come down to frame architecture, and you should base your decision on that first and foremost.

Both crossovers and SUVs deliver great driving experiences, ample cargo space, and plenty of room for passengers. Their safety ratings are roughly equivocal, and both offer superior visibility to traditional sedans on the road. It’s easy to see why these vehicles have become so popular in the auto market.

If you have additional questions about whether a crossover or an SUV is a better fit for you and your driving needs, talk to one of our team members today. We’re happy to help you choose a vehicle that you’ll love to drive every day.