Do you really need a crossover? How to hack your current ride and avoid upsizing

Maybe you've added a kid or two to your household or regularly need to transport four people. Maybe you're considering upsizing from your current five-seater vehicle to a crossover SUV with a third row — or even a minivan. More space seems like a no-brainer, right? That is until you start shopping and realize the possible compromises of owning a larger vehicle:

Costs of upsizing

For starters, with a larger vehicle, it's easy to spend more on gas. And since the cheapest car to own is the one you already drive (especially if you've paid it off), it's important to budget for additional costs, like a monthly payment, or increased fuel consumption.

Compromised cargo space

Smaller SUVs are more affordable and get better mileage than their behemoth counterparts. However, they're also more likely to have third rows at the expense of cargo space. Being able to seat up to seven people for a road trip might not be all that helpful if you can't fit their stuff.

Maneuverability and dependability

Maneuverability is another consideration with a larger vehicle, as is dependability. Parallel parking or using a public parking deck is a totally different experience in a Suburban or even a four-door F150. If you're doing a lot of driving, reliability is going to be a big factor in your next car purchase. If you are set on a bigger vehicle, take a look at reviews and advice on which one might best suit your driving needs.

Hack your current ride with these sanity savers.

With all this in mind, it can make sense to hold off until absolutely necessary to trade up to a larger vehicle. Maybe that's why so many Americans are holding onto their vehicles longer these days.

There's still the issue though of interior space, though. How do you cram five humans into your current vehicle with all their gear, safely and comfortably? Here are some possible solutions:

Interior maximizers

You'll be amazed at what you can do when you Marie-Kondo your current car's interior. Empty out every seat pocket and side door, the glovebox, center console storage, and trunk. Get rid of what you don't need, and take stock of what you have left to work with. There's a good chance there's a bunch of stuff in there that you haven't had any need for in some time, so it's gotta go. Even compact cars have a pretty comprehensive set of cubbies and storage bins, and when you clean house on those you might be surprised at how much space is freed up.

If you're driving a pickup truck, make use of that space with truck-bed organizers. Free up trunk storage and legroom by taking advantage of your vehicle's vertical space too. Hang backseat organizers like this one that has room for everything from tablets to drinks and umbrellas.

Cleaning your interior may not technically increase your space, but it will make you and your passengers feel refreshed and relaxed.

Lastly, give your car's interior a deep clean. This step may not increase space for your passengers, but it will improve everyone's perception and experience of your old ride. If you want, protect seats and rugs from new wear and tear with durable rubber floor mats and washable seat covers.

Roof racks and carriers

When you've maximized your interior space, it's time to move up—to the roof. Install a roof rack that can secure a carrier, bags, and more without drilling a single hole. Roof racks like this one clamp to existing raised side rails or rain gutters, install in a few hours, and cost around $100. That's a lot less than that new minivan is going to set you back.

With your roof rack in place, you're ready for an aerodynamic car-top carrier that will help you stow gear with less drag. Or skip the roof rack altogether and purchase a soft car-top carrier that clips onto your vehicle's door-frame weather molding.

CURT offers many different options for maximizing storage space. See an overview of what they offer below.

Towing and hitches

If your vehicle doesn't come with a tow hitch, consider installing one with a DIY hitch kit. Once you have a hitch in place, you can tow just about anything from a trailer to a cargo carrier. Refer to your vehicle's manual for towing capacity information.

There's a hitch kit on the market for just about every type of vehicle. Installing a hitch requires varying degrees of skill and experience, depending on the type of vehicle and kit. If you're towing, hitches with receivers require some electrical work, while some of the basic hitch kits are as simple as turning a wrench. The good news about installing a receiver hitch for your vehicle is that the instructions are pretty comprehensive, and there are always videos you can refer to for more specific detail.

Once you have a hitch in place, you're ready to test out a tray-style cargo carrier. These platform carriers attach to a front or rear hitch. You can fit up to three or four large waterproof tubs of gear and secure them with high-quality tie downs. This is a great option for storing cargo that doesn't need to be readily accessible and that isn't temperature sensitive, like foods or electronics.

How to know when it's time to take the leap.

With all of these convenient options to hack your current ride, you may never have to upsize. However, in some cases, springing for a new vehicle becomes a must. You may need to bite the bullet if any of these apply to you:

  • You regularly need to transport six or more passengers.
  • You need to transport more than three children and none of them are old enough to ride safely in the front seat.
  • You have to fit two or more large car seats in the back row, in which case you can simply run out of physical space.
  • Maintenance expenses on your current vehicle outpace even a monthly payment on a newer vehicle.
  • You're not confident that your current vehicle would protect you and your passengers in a crash.
  • You have a passenger with physical limitations that are better served by the features of a roomier vehicle.

Keep your five-passenger and save on gas and car payments or take the plunge and improve your passengers' ability to move an elbow without touching anyone else? What do you think?

Have you tried any of these space hacks or did you choose to upsize to a crossover? Let us know in the comments.

Last updated October 23, 2019

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