Why a Wagon is Better than SUV

The other day, I was walking up from the train to work and I couldn’t help but notice the number of large black SUV’s. Years ago (and it still may be the case today), there was a popular trend or cliche of stay-at-home-moms driving minivans. The popularized term, “soccer mom” describes the stereotype well. If there is a stereotype (that is probably accurate) for the small city the I work in, it would be one of women driving massive, black SUV’s. While I am sure some large families utilize the 3rd row of seating most of these large SUV’s, I can’t help but think it is a huge waste.

A little while ago, I wrote an article on all the negative aspects of SUVs. I am still hopeful that SUVs are on their way out, but I thought I would share a little more about my personal distaste for SUVs and why I think wagons are a much better alternative.

Growing Up in a ‘SUV Family’

I grew up in a family with two older brothers. All three of us were active in several sports, meaning that we were constantly going to baseball games and often with friends. We’d sling out baseball bag over our shoulders and throw them into the back of our 1988 suburban.

Not our actual suburban, but very similar

As a kid, I loved this suburban. It has vinyl seats (do these even exist anymore?) and three spacious rows so you could comfortably fit 8 people in this thing. To say that I have many fond memories of this beast would be an understatement. We had it for many years and it was as reliable as they come. We even took this thing on road trips from Washington State down to Disneyland. I can still remember my parents driving through the night as us kids slept in the back and watched videos on the portable TV that we brought with us. This SUV did it all! The 4WD also allowed us to take it on the beach when on vacations. Talk about every kid’s dream.

What I failed to understand at the time is the impact of the low fuel efficiency. I had to look it up (because I wasn’t thinking about MPG as a 10 year old), but the 1988 suburban 4WD got a whopping 15 MPG on the Highway. In town? 11 MPG. Wowzers! Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, we need to talk. 😉 Gas prices were significantly lower and times were certainly different back then, but this influenced how I understood cars.

My Experience with Cars

Growing up, as I have already shared before (you can see a picture of my first car here), I got a nice car for my first car. I had bought into the myth that a nice looking car mattered more than the practical uses of it. I didn’t care that it was only meant to bring me from point A to point B. I wanted a nice car. One to impress the ladies.

This quickly changed in college. I had to suffer through four summers of moving in and out of new dorms and apartments in my small mustang. I swear that I took 2-3x more trips than any of my friends because I had a trunk the size of a microwave and an even smaller backseat. I stuck with the car and eventually sold it at the end of my college years (just a week before graduation). It was only a few months later that I made one of the wisest choices of my young adult life. My wife and I bought a nice wagon.

Our actual car that we purchased in 2009. Still have it today.

While I wasn’t sold on the color at the time, my wife and I knew that we wanted a wagon. If you compare wagons to SUV’s, they beat them in almost every category. Here are some of the reasons why I think wagons, while socially unpopular, are better than SUV’s:

  • Cost Less to Buy – For some reason or another, SUV’s are at minimum, thousands of dollars (brand new) more than a wagon
  • Cost Less to Drive – Our wagon gets about 30MPG on the highway, compared to 22-26MPG from some of its SUV counterparts
  • Just as Much Passenger Space – Unless you go for an SUV with 3rd row seating, our passat wagon has just as much legroom and seating for our passengers as small suvs.
  • Just as Much Cargo Space – I know many of you may question this, but our wagon has tons of space. It has more cubic cargo space than several small SUV’s. I regularly put the back seat down and throw my bike in the back with lots of extra space. When we last moved, we even fit our 3 person loveseats in the back of our car. It was tight – but they still fit inside!

Will I Always Buy a Wagon?

In case you can’t already tell, I absolutely love our wagon. I plan to keep it for many more years. I will probably look to buy a wagon or hatchback next time we buy a car. I am bummed that our exact make and model has ceased production now (VW only makes Jetta Wagons now), so I will also consider the Subaru wagons. We test drove the outback and we enjoyed it just as much as the one we purchased.

While it may be hard to change your mind on which car you like the best, it worth asking yourself WHY you prefer what you do. Is it practical? Do you like this car because it looks nice? Is it more fuel efficient? These are all important questions to ask before buying your next car. Understanding the motivation for buying something is essential to change your spending habits and ultimately become more responsible with your money.

17 Responses to Why a Wagon is Better than SUV

  1. We have both an SUV and a wagon. You’re right, there is no discernible difference once you get in, other of course than the high vantage point of view in the SUV.

    But then there is the issue of getting in. I’m tall, old, stiff and overweight, so this bending down and folding myself double to get in the wagon… why?

    Gas mileage? I just make a point of taking fewer unplanned trips. But when I do, I get in easy and don’t have my view blocked as much. 🙂

    • Corey says:

      I’ve always felt more comfortable driving in a car, but maybe because that is what I am used to. The MPG advantage may also influence my preference too.

  2. Some of the old volvo wagons did even have a 3rd row of seats that faced backwards out the rear window! I can’t tell you how many times I had to sit in those because I was the smallest person in the car =)

    Personally I hate SUVs, but Mr. PoP keeps saying he wants to get me one for my next car for safety reasons. It’s a few years off at least, but I need to start finding all the information I can on why SUVs aren’t necessarily safe!

    • Corey says:

      YES! The 3rd row facing backwards! How did I forget to mention my childhood memories from my friend’s wagon! Yeah, sounds like a game plan. I would imagine that cars are just as reliable as cars.

  3. Daisy says:

    One of the things that I would say is the most important to me in this sort of consideration is how horrible SUVs are for the environment. Wagons are great alternatives to that. Unless you have 7 kids, they SUVs with that much seating and weight are just unnecessary.

    • Corey says:

      That’s a good point. Families with lots of kids have very little options. But then again, I’d probably opt for a minivan (as much as I hate them) because they probably (I’d have to check) get better MPG than a SUV.

  4. Right now I have a 4 door civic. I don’t ever want an SUV or.van and would probably only get one if I end up with two or likely more kids. I don’t think I will have more than two kids though so hopefully a wagon would be the largest vehicle I would ever need…

  5. My parents purchased an Acura TSX Wagon last year and they love it. It gets 30+ MPG and the cargo room is spacious. We have an SUV and I like it because it is perfect for winter driving in the mountains. I would like to think we will never go the minivan route, but never say never. 🙂

  6. Great timing for this post. The AC in my Honda Civic just went up. We’re looking at new vehicles and we’re pondering a SUV because we have two kids. My wife wants an SUV and believe it or not I am pushing for a minivan. Never thought I’d see the day when I pushed for a minivan but here it is. I have already copy and pasted this link and sent it to my wife’s inbox 😉

    • Corey says:

      Haha. Great. Yes, an SUV may feel nice, but it adds very few benefits to a wagon or minivan. Practicality is key.

  7. We have a Nissan Altima that I drive, and a truck for the 4WD and camping. We also have an old Civic for my husband’s commuting. I don’t see the need for an SUV at all, and we shouldn’t have to buy any vehicle for many years.

  8. DUDE! We are on the same wavelength here. My dream car: 2006-07 Subaru WRX Wagon Limited, World Rally Blue, leather heated seats, sunroof, roof rack and one of those awesome nordic storage boxes on top!

    BUT, we are currently looking at a Minivan for around $5,000, which will be for the mama and kiddos. I am still eyeballin’ the WRX wagon, though…

  9. CF says:

    When we had a car, it was a station wagon as well. We sold it a few years ago, but I’m partial to vehicles with hatchbacks. We’re a bit in love with the Mazda 2 that we use through the car co-op 🙂

  10. Christa says:

    Okay, you might have me sold on the VW Jetta Wagon. Your Pasat is so cute! We currently have an SUV, and the gas mileage isn’t terrible…but it’s not 30 mpg The main reason we bought it was that my Great Dane could comfortably fit standing up in the back. For long trips, this is crucial. Since she’s part of the family, we’d have to try out her head room in a wagon.

  11. I absolutely love wagons. When I got married a few years ago, my wife and I were thinking of getting a wagon but we settled for a suv. We went for a more stylish ride. Maybe when my car dies, I’ll get a wagon … hmm…