To SUV or not to SUV

Can you remember your childhood family car? What did you love about it – the style, the smell, that your friends thought it was cool or some other reason?

Can you remember your childhood family car? What did you love about it – the style, the smell, that your friends thought it was cool or some other reason?

With tight budgets and concern for the environment two of the biggest issues for young people today, according to the Deloitte 2017 Millennial Survey (, purchasing the family car needs careful consideration. It is often the first time we buy a car to meet more than just our own needs and when safety features rate highly in our priorities.

What do you need in the car, besides style? Make a list of essentials, such as how the vehicle will be used. How many passengers are likely to be in the car and what will you be carrying? Is it the only car in the household? What is your overall budget including ongoing costs?

While it may not suit all families, having only one car costs less and helps keep everyone organised. Cars are expensive once registration, insurance, maintenance, tyres, fuel and the purchase costs are considered. It may be cheaper and better to buy a larger car to meet all your needs instead of having two cars in the household.

What type of car do you want – hatch, sedan, SUV or wagon? Generally, the larger the vehicle the higher the cost and the greater the impact on the environment. A larger car may be required for a growing family. If you are buying a larger car for the first time, the range and options can be puzzling.

The Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) is very popular in Australia, accounting for 37% of new vehicle sales. For new parents, the higher seating means less bending to secure youngsters in and out of the car.

The wagon shape provides space for all the stuff that goes with the family and some have seven-seat options. The family wagon category includes some SUV-type cars and people movers.

Being in control of the purchase helps you avoid salespeople wanting to just sell you the car that makes them the most money. Understanding the choices and knowing where to find more information gives you that control.

There were four categories of SUVs judged in the 2017 Australia’s Best Cars, plus SUV-shaped vehicles in the family wagon class. Each of these categories include unleaded petrol (ULP), premium petrol (PULP) and diesel variants. Ideally you will have chosen your fuel preference prior to entering the showroom.

In 2016, PULP was on average 11.5 cents per litre more expensive than ULP, driving up vehicle running costs. Diesel vehicles tend to cost more to buy and service and produce more harmful emissions that affect air quality and increase smog. They are generally more economical, with a lower overall CO2 output making them useful for high-mileage drivers. The power and torque of diesel are better for heavy duty or off-road work.

The second big decision is whether to buy an all-wheel-drive (AWD) or a two-wheel-drive (2WD). The AWD has a higher purchase price, uses more fuel and has higher servicing costs. The advantage of buying an AWD is the ability to drive off-road.

Once you have a shortlist of vehicles that meet your needs and budget, check the ANCAP site for safety comparisons and adjust your selections accordingly.

Test drive all the vehicles on the list, as this is when comfort, style and cool-factor come to the fore. Take your time in making the decision, as this is a car that should last your family for a long time and a good time.