Crossover or SUV: What’s the difference?

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Drawing of a Crossover or SUV/Image Credit: Pixabay

A crossover and an SUV may look the same on the surface, but they’re actually quite different. If you’ve ever wondered how exactly you nail down those differences and tell this pair apart, we have you covered. Basically, it comes down to the construction and overall purpose of the vehicle.


These are the older type of vehicles in this matchup. The first sport-utility vehicles came out in the 1930s, but the one that made the world fall in love with the SUVs came out in 1969: the fantastic Chevy Blazer. Ironically, the Blazer has made a comeback as a sporty crossover, but the OG Blazer was a true to form SUV.

Right from the start, these vehicles have been exactly what their name states they are: sport-utility vehicles. They have a chassis or a rigid frame forming their base construction, and from there, you build your highly capable vehicle.

Body-on-Frame Construction

The body-on-frame construction is unique to sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks, but these days not all of these vehicles use them. The Nissan Armada and Toyota 4Runner still use body-on-frame, but now the body-on-frame construction is usually left to commercial vehicles and pickups like the Ford F-150.

The main advantage of this foundation is its rigidity. The construction allows the vehicle to tow more, support more weight in their cargo area, and have higher ground clearance. These are features you’ll find in abundance in pickup trucks, and many sport-utility vehicles can easily be compared to pickups. In fact, many manufacturers use pickups as inspiration for their sport-utility vehicles.

The Basic Premise

Getting down to it, a sport-utility vehicle has a rigid construction that can tow and carry more than other types of vehicles. They carry a lot of passengers, are always rear-wheel-drive unless you upgrade to four-wheel-drive, and they’re great for transporting families and gear day-to-day and on long trips.

2019 Hyundai Tucson/Image Credit: Duncan Winslow on Unsplash


If an SUV represents the space between a car and a truck, then a crossover fits somewhere between a car and an SUV. On the outside, crossovers and SUVs can be almost indistinguishable from each other. Confusingly, you’ll often see these terms used interchangeably for many of the newer models out there. The lines have been blurred over the years as all-wheel drive and more rugged design elements in crossovers have allowed them to venture farther into SUV territory than ever before.

For most of your daily driving purposes, crossovers and SUVs are almost identical nowadays. However, the differences do become starker when you head off the beaten path.


Rather than starting with the frame and attaching the body, these vehicles are constructed pretty much all-in-one. This cuts costs, leads to a lighter vehicle, and offers a more comfortable ride. It’s also easier to implement advanced safety features in these vehicles due to their uncomplicated, unionized-frame construction.

The Basic Premise

Crossovers were developed to look a lot more like an SUV, offering a lot of the same advantages (higher seating position and cargo capacity), while offering the tame road handling you get in a normal car. Crossovers can range from more compact vehicles with great cargo capacity to larger three-row people movers.

As we’ve mentioned, the lines between a crossover and an SUV have been blurred and it’s not going to get any easier to tell the difference as manufacturers continue to carve more segments into these classes of vehicle. But for the most part, if it’s body-on-frame and isn’t a truck or commercial vehicle – it’s probably an SUV. If it looks like an SUV, but it’s unibody and is mostly meant for moving people and their stuff – it’s probably a crossover.

Regardless, whether you want a crossover OR an SUV, you’re sure to find the perfect vehicle to meet your needs at