Utility/Offroad Car Buying Guide

Utility and offroad vehicles compose two related segments of the U.S. auto market. SUVs are considered utility vehicles. Although many have offroad capabilities, they are popular with families or people who live in regions with challenging winter weather. These vehicles are unlikely to be frequently driving offroad. Offroad vehicles are a portion of the SUV market, but are primarily marketed to weekend warriors and adventurers who plan to drive unpaved, rugged mountain roads on a regular basis.

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About Utility and Offroad Vehicles

Offroad vehicles are capable of driving on paved as well as unpaved surfaces. Most of these models come in four-wheel or all-wheel drive. Vehicles of this kind initially became popular after World War II when a flood of military jeeps found their way onto the market. Drivers appreciated the utility of jeeps and soon, driving offroad emerged as a recreational activity.

Jeep began to produce commercial models of the vehicle, and it wasn’t long before a number of other manufacturers entered the market. During the 1950s and 1960s, Jeep competed for market share with vehicles like the Toyota Land Cruiser, Range Rover, and Ford Bronco.

Utility and offroad vehicles remained fairly rugged throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. However, in 1984, Jeep introduced a model that would effectively turn the market on its head: the Jeep Cherokee XJ. This innovative vehicle was widely regarded as the first modern SUV. A compact offroad vehicle that was equipped with the comforts of a plush station wagon, the Cherokee XJ struck a resounding chord with drivers across the U.S.

The success of the Cherokee XJ set the stage for the SUV era. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, more and more families began choosing utility vehicles as alternatives to the station wagon, which was popular for decades. Upscale manufacturers soon began producing luxury sport utility vehicles, expanding the market even further.

Used military Humvees found their way onto the market for several years until maker AM General introduced the consumer Hummer in 1992. General Motors then purchased the brand and began manufacturing the vehicle in 1998. The car was popular for several years, but its high cost and poor gas mileage led to its demise in 2010.

Modern drivers appreciate SUVs for their durability, versatility, and the high vantage point they provide when driving. They also offer ample space for passengers and cargo. Offroad enthusiasts appreciate their durability and ability to handle rough terrain.

Utility and Offroad Brand

SUVs come in a variety of brands and styles. Offroad enthusiasts are more likely to prefer less luxurious versions of the SUV. The Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Bronco, and Jeep Wrangler are popular off-roading vehicles. The military Humvee is also prized, but is only available in the used market.

Luxury SUVs dominate a huge share of the market. Popular models include the BMW X6, Volvo XC90, Lexus LX 570, and Cadillac Escalade.

There are also a number of popular Japanese models such as the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Toyota Highlander. Nissan also makes several popular SUVs including the Xterra SUV, Pathfinder, and Rogue, whereas Honda produces the CR-V, Pilot, and more-compact Element.

American auto manufacturers are also responsible for several of the better selling utility and offroad vehicles on the market today. Examples include the Chevrolet Tahoe, Jeep Cherokee, GMC Yukon, and Ford Escape Hybrid.

Who Drives Utility/Offroad Cars?

While they have generally been regarded as rugged vehicles for exploring the great outdoors and off-roading, today’s utility and offroad vehicles offer something for everyone.

SUVs have largely taken the place of the station wagon as the standard vehicle for many families with children. While it offers the space for passengers and cargo that station wagons do, it has added advantages of a higher vantage point and greater durability in challenging conditions.

Despite being designed to drive better in difficult weather conditions and over rough terrain, utility and offroad vehicles also make excellent cars for commuters. Many of today’s models are as spacious and well-appointed as luxury cars. Their high vantage point and smooth suspensions make them ideal for making your way through traffic. Of course, the Jeep Wrangler will always be the vehicle of choice for outdoors enthusiasts who use their utility/offroad vehicle for what it was truly intended to do.