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Crossover Buying Guide

The blend of SUV and car, the crossover, has become a modern staple among vehicles today. It’s a suburban school car, a tool for getting out of the suburbs with hiking boots and your dog or a thing young adults use to move in and out of apartments by themselves. Crossovers offer versatility that has made them the fastest-growing new car segment in the U.S.

With so many different crossovers on the market now, the used car market is flooded with lots of different models from lots of different manufacturers. It can be a daunting choice. But consider a few things before you start shopping to make buying a crossover a little easier.

How Much Crossover Do You Need?

Crossovers come in lots of different sizes now, from the subcompact Buick Encore and Mini Countryman to the large Chevrolet Traverse and Mercedes-Benz GL. Much like any car, establish how much space you need. Adding in size usually escalates the price quite a bit for some of these crossovers. Compact models are predominantly powered by four-cylinder engines, while midsize ones usually have standard V6s. A few luxury models offer V8s at the very top of the range.

Two or Three Rows of Seats?

Picking a size may also determine whether or not you get two or three rows of seats. Many midsize models offer a third-row seat, lifting overall capacity to as high as eight passengers. The usefulness of that third-row seat can vary greatly, however. Larger models like the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse can seat adults in the third row in comfort and with room to spare for luggage. But the BMW X5’s optional third-row seat is almost too snug for kids, and it leaves very little cargo space when up and eliminates the spare tire. Again, another option you’re going to want to consider how much you’ll use it.

Two-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive?

All-wheel drive sounds like a given in these vehicles, and many come standard with the feature to prevent tires from slipping in wet or snowy weather. But because crossovers are often essentially cars underneath, adding the system doesn’t do much for the vehicle’s all-terrain abilities, and you can get yourself just as stuck in deep mud or snow as you would’ve in a two-wheel drive car. Consider that all-wheel drive usually decreases overall fuel economy by at least a couple mpg. Additionally, the mechanicals do wear out and are costly to replace when the crossover gets older. You’ll want to determine whether or not those are sacrifices you’re willing to pay for added abilities in certain seasons. If your crossover’s commute is limited to paved roads in sunny areas that never see snow, all-wheel drive might be something you can live without.

Which Features Do You Want?

Crossovers tend to offer a lot of features, especially as you move higher up the price ladder. Midsize and luxury models are often equipped with niceties such as parking assist features and power liftgates, while larger models also offer second-row captain’s chairs or those optional third-row seats. If you’re using a crossover as a family hauler, consider a rear-seat entertainment system, as well as how many USB ports and power outlets are in the back seats for the kids to keep their devices charged and entertaining. A large moonroof might also make the interior seem more airy and comfortable.

How Does It Drive?

Even though crossovers are mostly derived from car platforms, they are heavier with a higher center of gravity – like an SUV. Some models are better than others, but expect a crossover to behave differently than a car.

Also consider the engine. Especially on four-cylinder models, some crossovers can feel perfectly adequate at city speeds with one or two passengers on board, but quickly run out of breath during highway passing maneuvers. And if the crossover can’t handle that type of driving when unloaded, what happens when you fill it with people and cargo? Take a thorough test drive to be sure that you enjoy the driving experience.

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