With hundreds of vehicle choices available, it can be daunting trying to decide exactly which one is right for you. Rest assured that whether you’re shopping new or used, economy or luxury, there is something to appeal to everyone. Here we have compiled some of the most common vehicle body types, a brief description of each, and what might make them appeal to someone.
Sedans are by far the most common type of car on the road today. The most obvious difference between a sedan and a coupe is that a sedan has four doors, and a coupe has two doors. Some vehicles, such as the BMW 3 Series, used to be available as either a coupe or a sedan; others are available exclusively as one or the other. Although traditionally coupes were seen as being sportier than sedans, newer and more powerful examples have completely blurred that line. There’s an ever growing number of highly potent four door cars that can blow the doors off most anything next to them. On the other end of the spectrum, sedans make up the majority of both very high end luxury vehicles, and extremely fuel efficient or electric vehicles, as well as everything in between.
- Perfect for you if: You want a four door car with ample room for four or five passengers and an adequate amount of cargo space. You have a nearly limitless variety of sedans to choose from, and no matter what you seek, be it luxury, performance, or economy, you are sure to find a sedan that suits your needs.
Coupes have generally been seen as the sedan’s more athletic brother; a little bit lighter, and a little bit quicker. Despite the fact that there are plenty of tire melting sedans on the market today, all the absolute fastest cars are still built as two doors – just look at Corvettes or Koenigseggs.Having just two doors not only saves weight, but it also makes them more structurally sound and resistant to body flex. Although some coupes have rear seats, they’re usually “fun size” and more difficult to access than a government run website. Cargo space varies from the same as a similarly sized sedan to completely nonexistent, and anything in between.
- Perfect for you if: You want a slightly more stylish and sporty take on the sedan, with room for one other passenger, or three other passengers, two of whom you don’t like very much, plus decent room for cargo. Also perfect for you if you’re in the market for a supercar, since most, if not all, supercars are coupes.
Convertibles are usually a coupe or sedan with the roof cut off and replaced with some fabric over a metal frame. Although this sounds like a recipe for disaster in an accident, there have been advancements to protect passengers in the event of a rollover. Either the car will have a permanent, solid roll bar, or it will have electronically deployed rollover bars. If a rollover situation is detected, the car automatically deploys a set of locking rollover bars that protect the passengers.
- Perfect for you if: You like the size and shape of coupes, but prefer to let the wind whip through your hair and the sunshine pour in. There’s plenty of room for at least one other passenger, with some models even offering a full sized back seat that could actually fit an average sized adult. Storage space varies, but is usually minimal due to the folding roof being stored in the trunk. No worries though, because there is plenty of storage room for a beach blanket and a picnic lunch, which is all you ever need when driving a convertible anyway. Hopefully you live somewhere sunny and warm, so you can drop the top more than twice a year.
Minivans had a major image problem when they first hit the market, mainly because they were ugly and drove terribly. They appealed to larger families and anyone else looking to comfortably transport 5-7 people with ample room for both passengers and storage. Although they still aren’t the most visually appealing vehicles on the road, they have come quite a long way. Modern minivans routinely feature engines with well over 200 horsepower and modern suspension systems that enable them to outperform their predecessors which handled like sailboats. Even better, many premium examples also feature a luxurious, comfortable interior, a fantastic stereo, multiple entertainment screens, and power opening tailgate and sliding doors.
- Perfect for you if: You gave up trying to look cool a long time ago, and now just want to get the kids to soccer practice on time– or if you regularly transport a large number of people who want to travel in comfort. They make great family vehicles, and allow plenty of room for both passengers and storage. On the other hand, minivans have been the definition anti-cool for so long, that they are actually kind of cool now. They basically stay under the radar and are super comfortable and easy to drive making them a surprisingly popular choice for some younger people looking for a road trip vehicle.
The station wagon and hatchback were born out of the desire for a coupe or sedan size car with ample extra storage space. Most station wagons and hatchbacks are based off popular sedans and coupes, just featuring a more versatile body design and increased cargo capacity. Crossovers came around several years ago to fill a void nobody knew existed, but was apparently extremely desired. Bridging the gap between an SUV and a station wagon, they have enjoyed tremendous success, especially in the United States. They are lumped with station wagons in this article because foundationally, they typically resemble sedans and station wagons much more than they do SUV’s. They are essentially tall station wagons, usually having smaller, more fuel efficient engine offerings and sedan-like handling characteristics.
- Perfect for you if: Station wagons and hatchbacks are perfect if you love the size and driving characteristics of a similarly sized sedan or coupe, but wish you had more storage room. Crossovers are perfect if you love station wagons, but want even a bit more room without sacrificing too much in fuel economy or handling. Crossovers typically have all wheel drive as an option, making them more appealing to those looking for an all season car.
The sport utility vehicle (SUV for short) was born out of the desire for a vehicle as rugged and capable offroad as most pickup trucks, with plenty of ground clearance, and room for 4 or more people and cargo room for gear or equipment. Factory installed roof racks are almost ubiquitous on SUV’s, further extending their cargo capability. Often equipped with 4WD(4 wheel drive) or AWD (all wheel drive) systems, they are well suited to driving in a variety of conditions, with the only major sacrifice being reduced fuel mileage. Modern SUV’s are also available in a large range of prices, from bare bones examples to fully loaded luxury versions.
- Perfect for you if: You love the great outdoors, and want a vehicle you can drive across far more surfaces than a typical passenger car while comfortable carrying 4+ people with ample storage room. Also very popular with city dwellers whose everyday roads are more damaged and rough than a typical country dirt road.
Pickup trucks have been around for a long time, and have always been a very rugged yet versatile vehicle, with most examples able to drive almost anywhere desired. The open bed design is ideal for hauling, and different engine types and frame sizes are offered to allow getting a truck specifically suited to your performance needs. 4WD is a very common option for most pickups as well, adding to their versatility. A fiercely competitive market combined with consumer desire for luxury SUV’s has led manufacturers to introduce a level of luxury and refinement never before found in pickup trucks, while losing none of the brute force or ruggedness they have been known for.
- Perfect for you if: A heavy duty pickup with a powerful diesel or gasoline engine is great if you need to tow a heavy trailer, or regularly carry heavy payloads. A compact pickup is great if you need a vehicle to use for lighter duty work in the trades, and often work in urban environments. A standard full size pickup is great for any heavier duty work use, with moderate towing capabilities. Compact 4WD pickups are very popular among outdoor enthusiasts, because they have great ground clearance, and will take you across almost anywhere, including many places few other vehicles will make it.
Ultimately, there’s no perfect vehicle for each person. Usually finding the right vehicle means making a compromise; deciding what’s important to you, and where you’re willing to sacrifice. It’s important to consider is what the primary use of the vehicle will be as well as what your ideal use is, and whether you’re willing to lose one strength in order to gain another. Ultimately, whatever you decide to buy, you can avoid buying a lemon by having a pre-purchase inspection done by a qualified, trusted technician.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What type of vehicle is right for you? and was authored by Toby Schultz.