What Is A Crossover?

And Is It The Best Car For Me?

by Bill Flitter

If you, like me, feel like you’re somewhat aware of the differences between cars and trucks. However, the question I have is what’s the difference between a crossover and an SUV? Also what is a crossover?

Let’s settle this. I see industry pundits lump them together in one category but intuitively I know they are not the same, right?

Is this a debate like New Coke vs. Old Coke? New recipe but still Coke. Or is the difference like Gluten free bread vs regular bread? Both are a bread but made significantly different. Of course, with bread there are more severe consequences if you eat the wrong type with an allergy.

No severe consequences if you choose a crossover vs. compact SUV. Well, maybe. Depends how you want to use it. For me, I have a family of 4 plus a dog named Friday. As a Coach, Uber driver, 1-800-Got-Junk picker upper, and with things like date night and a myriad of other dad duties, I need a vehicle that can handle diversity of activities and jobs.

They say the devil is in the details and boy is that true in the actual definition of what is a crossover and what is an SUV.

what is a crossover

Is It a Car? Is It a Truck? Is it Both?

OK, so here are the widely-accepted definitions and a few of the key distinguishing features that define what is a crossover vs. what is an SUV.

Let’s start with what with car experts and manufacturers consider to be the basics.

What is an SUV?

An SUV, or a sports utility vehicle, which debuted in the 1930s with the “Carry All” Chevrolet Suburban, is constructed using a “body on frame” design. In layman’s terms, an SUV is essentially a truck with a station wagon body. It is built on the chassis, or the underpart of a truck, which consists of the frame on which the body is mounted.

Maybe this will help. If your mom’s station wagon from the 70’s married your dad’s pick-up truck the result is an SUV.

If that still doesn’t make much sense and you need a picture like I did, see the image below which shows an illustration of these two separate pieces.

Because of this two-part build, trucks and SUVs tend to be heavier than other types of unibody vehicles, like a car. This is also why a lot of SUVs have 4-wheel drive options, because like its sister vehicle, the truck, it is meant to pull, drive and off-road with ease.

I know, you’re probably wondering what I did, which is if this is the SUV’s purpose, why the heck are soccer moms driving them to Starbucks and to cart their kids around? Well, even though they might not be pulling two-ton trailers or off-roading their way to tournaments and such, they don’t have to worry about getting stuck in inclement weather. That’s for sure.

what is a crossover

What is a Crossover?

CUVs, or crossover utility vehicles, are a cross over between station wagons and SUVs. Like a car, they are constructed on a unibody, aka they are built all in one piece.

Again, I like pictures, so please refer to this image I found which shows how cars and crossovers are built.

What is a Crossover - Car chassis example

Unlike most cars, crossovers are built on platforms with high ground clearance. And while they do not have the same off-road capabilities of an SUV, they do have similar storage capabilities.

OK, so this was my ‘ah-ha’ moment. Crossovers are getting a good rap with mom groups because, like I pointed out, who needs to tow a ton? Not a lot of every day drivers. But! We sure do need all the space we can get. Am I right?

Crossovers ride more like their sister vehicle, the car, and also tend to be more fuel efficient than SUVs. Again, like a car, crossovers come with all-wheel drive options, but don’t typically have 4-wheel drive.

what is a crossover

Why Does This Matter?

SUVs and crossover sales are digging into the sales of cars. According to Carjojo data, SUVs and Crossovers are closing in on nearly half of sales in 2017. That’s crazy! Especially when you consider how young the crossover is in relation to the car. Arguably the first crossover utility vehicle was distributed in 1998 when Toyota took a Lexus ES and a Camry, made it taller, gave it a higher seating position, optional all-wheel drive and stuck a station wagon body on top of it.

SUVs and crossovers are changing the way we’re getting from point A to point B. Not only do they hold more, go through more and hey, we even get to sit up high like a truck, but they also come with some of the best safety features and perform well in common car accidents, like front-end collisions.

These are the vehicles getting the research, investment and upgrades to watch for, and the reason you should care about the difference in what is a crossover and what is an SUV is because they are different vehicle types with very different capabilities.

what is a crossover

So Which Should I Buy?

In my humble, not-so-expert opinion, there are a few questions you should ask yourself as you consider whether to buy an SUV or a crossover.

-Do you tow heavy equipment? If the answer is no, then you should look at a crossover, not an SUV.

-Do you live in Alaska? No? Then you should consider a crossover, not an SUV.*

-Do you regularly go mudding or drive up steep, rocky cliffs? See picture for what I really mean. No? Then you should probably look at the crossover, not an SUV.

-Do you get stomach cramps after eating bread? Yes? Try a gluten free option.

So if you are dad like me, living in Northern California that take the occasional trip to Tahoe in the Winter, a Crossover will suffice. Most of my driving consists of driving the kids back and forth with lounge chairs or stadium seats, a pop-up tent, catcher gear or a bag full of basketballs.

* I understand there are other states in the United States with inclement weather. If you live in: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, parts of New York, parts of New Jersey, parts of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota, parts of South Dakota, Montana, northern Idaho or Washington and Oregon, you might also consider getting a 4-wheel drive vehicle, like an SUV.

what is a crossover

Over To You

In all seriousness, I get it.

I, too, like Chevy Suburbans and Cadillac Escalades. So, if those are the kinds of vehicles you’re attracted to, by all means, they come with pretty robust features, and they’re great looking, too. But, if you’re looking for something a little more practical but with a lot of the same features of an SUV, the crossover is a really good option. Hopefully this answered your question of, “What is a crossover?”

Happy shopping!


Choose from any new SUV or Crossover at your local dealer.
We’ll negotiate the Lowest Price Guaranteed — Backed by 30 Day Price Match*