What’s the Difference?

SUV or Crossover?

Is this your next family car? Most people consider SUVs or crossovers and maybe you’ve wondered, what’s the difference? Why are some models called Crossovers while others are known as SUVs? Aren’t they all the same?

The Frame Game Makes The Difference

For many car experts, the difference between the two is simple: A crossover is based on a car’s platform, while an SUV uses the chassis similar to a truck. The result is that crossovers use “unibody” architecture, meaning the body and frame are one piece, while SUVs use a “body on frame” design. In that case, the body is built separately from the frame and placed together later.

Here’s Where It Gets a Bit Tricky

While that definition is strictly true, it doesn’t always work in practice. For example, many shoppers refer to car-based, unibody vehicles as SUVs even though they’re crossovers by our definition. How often, for example, do you hear the Ford Explorer called an SUV? Or the Toyota Highlander? Or the Jeep Grand Cherokee? All use a car-based unibody design, despite their appearance and marketing vs. an Escalade or Tahoe for that sit on Full Frame construction. The new 2020 Bronco is scheduled for Full Frame.


The result is that the term “SUV” Sport Utility Vehicle is often applied to both Crossovers and SUVs. In the past, that was even more common. Before, “SUV” brought up negative associations with large size and poor gas mileage. That’s when many automakers started using the term “Crossover” to describe a vehicle that was “crossing over” from the practicality of an SUV to the drivability and fuel efficiency of a car. 

So, When Is It An SUV?

If you’re unsure whether your vehicle of choice uses a car-based unibody design or body-on-frame construction, the safest bet is to use the term “SUV.” That acronym is still used to describe nearly anything with available all-wheel drive and raised ground clearance, so you’ll probably be safe. However, some Manufacturers today are making Front Wheel Drive SUV’s and calling them both Crossovers or SUV’s to complicate what you might know today. Then you have raised height AWD Cars and Wagons that can climb hills, jump dunes, or take you the back way to Grandmas house in a Blizzard. Not sure, just ask us and we will help!


For years, automakers cut costs by simply mounting different body designs over the same frame. Today, very few vehicles (aside from heavy-duty commercial vehicles, trucks, off-road vehicles, and some large SUVs) still use body-on-frame construction. This method allows for greater torsional flexing, preferred in off-road vehicles, and it can be more easily repaired, which is helpful for fleets. Traditional SUVs with body-on-frame construction are excellent for towing and hold a trailer with ease.

What Are Your Needs?

If you are looking for a large vehicle, or priorities include towing or off-roading, a traditional SUV may be a good fit. Also, if you are a consumer that prefers Trucks over Cars, an SUV would be a good choice. Otherwise, there is a myriad of options available in the Crossover segment that will fit almost every need while providing better safety and fuel-efficiency. Some people just like sitting a little higher in traffic and thats enough to seal the deal.

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