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How To: Purchase a truck or SUV

November 13, 2009

Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) have gained tremendously in popularity in recent years, because they allow their owners the flexibility to go anywhere, nearly any time.

They are available either in all -- four -- or two wheel drive configurations, typically with a raised ground clearance, to enhance the off roading experience. All SUVs, no matter what segment size, are designed to carry a minimum of five passengers. The mid-sized and larger models may also have a third row of seats available. Rear seats in the compact segment are usually a tight fit for three adults, but will accommodate children well.

If you're concerned about safety, as most consumers are, SUVs are becoming more and more safe with each model year. On the larger SUVs, manufacturers are adding such desirable features as side air bags and side curtain air bags, rollover protection systems and stability control. If you are considering a smaller SUV, check to see if these safety features are available, either as a standard feature, or as an option.

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Another thing to consider when shopping for a SUV is its platform. Do you want one that is a carbased platform, versus a truck-based platform? The car-based versions will offer sharper handling, a more comfortable, car-like ride, and may even offer more interior space.

Truck-based SUVs will feel sturdier behind the wheel, and may be able to tow greater weights and have more off-road capabilities.

Americans sure do love their trucks, and you needn't only be a farmer or rancher to appreciate the versatility this type of vehicle can offer. From towing horse trailers to ski boats, from hauling fencing materials to gardening supplies, trucks enable their owners to accomplish a variety of tasks and take advantage of a number of recreational activities.

Manufacturers are also adding even more features to their truck model lineups, so that not only can you haul plenty of cargo but, with these new crew-cab configurations, you can also haul a full complement of passengers. Before buying a truck, however, you will have to figure out just exactly what you plan on using it for, and how many people will be riding in it on a regular basis. Some people can do just fine with a two-seater and a traditional truck bed, while others want seating for six and a long truck bed for carrying lengthy items. Do you make regular runs to the garden supply store and need a truck because your regular sedan's trunk is just not large enough? Or, do you find you would be typically hauling much heavier loads, such as fence posts, bags of cement, and equipment such as tillers and mowers? Your expected usage will determine if you should select a truck with a short bed, a long bed or a traditional bed.

Now, how many people will typically ride with you and will you use the truck for other activities, such as driving people around a work site or commuting? There are trucks that offer passenger compartments to seat just two passengers, while others have a slightly extended passenger compartment with fold-down jump seats, to accommodate the occasional third or even fourth passenger. There are also trucks with even larger passenger compartments that offer a rear bench seat for two to three additional passengers.

Now, will you be using your truck to tow things? Would it be just to tow the occasional rented concrete mixer or a small trailer? Or are you planning on pulling a fully loaded recreational vehicle? Will you be rolling around relatively flat areas, or do you need extra engine power to pull things over the mountains? It is important to compare the truck's engine size, and rating for Towing Class and Maximum Loaded Trailer Weight. A Ford Ranger, for example, is rated at 5,980 pounds for Maximum Loaded Trailer Weight, while the Ford F350 Super Duty is rated at 14,200 pounds for Maximum Loaded Trailer Weight.

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