If you’ve ever been on a freeway and seen warning signs directed at high-profile vehicles, you may have wondered if you’re driving one or not. After all, millions of SUVs are on the road, and they have a high profile, don’t they?
High-Profile Vehicles — What They Are and Aren’t
The average SUV tops out at about 6 or 7 feet tall. A professional driver with a commercial driver’s license would tell you that high-profile vehicles are usually defined as commercial trucks or recreational vehicles and top out at 13 feet 6 inches. They’re categorized as high profile not just because of their height but because of their susceptibility to high winds.
The Weaknesses of High-Profile Vehicles
If you’ve ever driven on I-80 in Wyoming, you know that 50-60 mph sustained crosswinds are not uncommon there, nor is it uncommon for the authorities to close the interstate for safety reasons. You may have even seen videos of big trucks tossed like toys on their sides by these gusts.
Drivers of high-profile vehicles generally understand the risks and are more situationally aware than the average driver. But are these risks the same for SUVs?
High Profile Downsides
Compared to the regular family sedan or hatchback, SUVs and other tall personal vehicles certainly are a type of high-profile vehicle. This means that, relative to a sedan or wagon, your SUV presents more surface area to crosswinds and will be more difficult to control in windy conditions. Especially if there are crosswinds, you may find it difficult to stay in your lane, even with a lane departure warning system or something similar.
Those high winds don’t just make it difficult to keep your car in its lane; if they’re strong enough, they can cause a rollover. As always, even if your vehicle has all kinds of safety gadgets and gizmos, driving into dangerous situations is still unwise.
High Profile vs. Conventional Cars
SUVs are all the rage, but these cars are about image when you think about it. The only thing that separates a small SUV from a five-door hatchback is that the SUV rides at least 10 inches higher. In trade for that dubious benefit, you get a car with worse mileage, poorer handling, and so-called off-road ground clearance you’re unlikely to use more than a few times.
Are SUVs Worth Buying?
If you’re considering buying an SUV because you’ll be able to see over traffic, think again — they’re ubiquitous. Driving one won’t give you any advantages, but it does have many drawbacks. Perhaps it’s time to take cars off stilts and rediscover the safe and frugal hatchback or wagon. Some benefits of a low-profile vehicle include:
- Better economy
- Better road holding
- Just as much utility
- Thousands of dollars less expensive (both to buy and to maintain)
- Safer in everyday situations
So if SUVs are more expensive, riskier, thirstier, and harder to drive, it makes sense to ditch the stilts. As a daily driver, a conventional, low-profile car still makes the most sense for your transportation needs.