To the inexperienced shopper, shopping for a SUV or ute might appear the same as choosing a car. But depending on the use and function of the SUV or ute, you find a magnitude of choices and features available for you to choose from. Picking the right SUV or ute for your purpose can be like traversing a shopping minefield with so many options on the market. SUVs tend to imply a 4WD vehicle, and while a traditional ute is more like standard sedan, 2WD versions that look similar to 4WD vehicles are often still called SUVs by some people and utes by others. So when I use the terms ute or SUV in this article, I am not really talking about the more standard sedan type ute. I am talking more about larger utility vehicles that are generally higher off the ground.

The first thing to do is prepare yourself. Buying an SUV or ute is usually more expensive than a car, especially if you are buying brand new from a dealer. If you are borrowing the money from a moneylender, get pre-approved first so you go into the process with a set budget. Once you know your budget you can start looking at potential pickups.


If you are going to be towing a boat, inflatable or jet ski, you should look at getting a four-wheel drive SUV. The last thing you want is a two-wheel drive struggling to get traction on a slippery boat ramp with the tide coming in. The results will be a disaster.

Similarly, if you are towing heavy trailers or a large camper van, you might want a “dually”, which has 6 wheels instead of 4 (they are doubled up at the back). The extra two rear wheels provide increased towing stability. If you aren’t planning on hauling anything then a two-wheel drive, midsized SUV or ute will do the trick.


Think about the weight of what you’re going to be towing. As a general rule, the light duty SUVs perform well up to 4 tons, the medium to 6 or 7 of a ton and the heavy duty for 10 tons and upwards. It is usually better to overestimate than underestimate. But don’t go much heavier than you will need because it will cost you more every time you fill it up.


Walking the tightrope between power and fuel economy is most people’s battle when choosing their first SUV. Even with efficiency improving year on year, the larger size and weight of an a huge SUV can make them far from economical. I would recommend opting for a Diesel engine. They deliver higher torque for low speed towing, making it easier to get a heavy load moving than their petrol counterparts.

Another impact on your fuel consumption is your axle ratio. The higher the axle ratio the more weight you can effectively tow but you compromise on fuel consumption. For these reasons, it is essential to have a good idea of what you will be towing before you set foot on the forecourt.


There are usually three cab sizes. The regular cab usually offers a single bench of three seats in a row. For more space, you also have the crew option. These feature 4 doors and more room in the back for longer journeys. If you are chasing something truly palatial, Toyota and Ram also have the “mega cab” option in their medium and heavy duty SUVs.

Bear in mind that the larger cabs usually eat into the bed size. So, if you want luxury legroom, you may be forced to settle for less space in the bed. The bed sizes are usually between 5 and 8 feet, not including the tailgate. Unless you are carrying serious lumber, the 8-foot bed should be sufficient.


What do you think and what is your experience? Is there anything else you would like to recommend to anyone who is considering buying a SUV or ute? Share your thoughts through the comments section below.

Mike G

Mike loves to travel on the open road, he's really into vehicles of any kind, especially those with 2 wheels.