The True Costs of Larger Vehicles

Your MSRP probably tells you how much a truck or SUV costs, but there could be a few hidden expenses to consider before driving your new vehicle off the lot.

Line of large trucks on lotAdobe Stock

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In the 2023 U.S. car market, SUVs and trucks hold the dominant share of cars sold. According to sales data from automotive consumer analysis company J.D. Power, these larger vehicles made up nearly 78% of all new-vehicle retail sales in the United States in June 2023. Based on sales numbers from that month, this means more than 850,000 SUVs and trucks were purchased in the U.S. alone.

As SUVs and trucks become more popular among U.S. consumers, the market may need to shift manufacturing priorities to accommodate demand. However, one potential effect of these changes could be an increase in expenses for those seeking larger vehicles.

The Truth Behind Hidden Truck and SUV Costs

Not only are trucks and SUVs generally more expensive to purchase than cars, they may also be more costly to own over an extended period of time. Using a cost of ownership calculator, such as the Edmunds True Cost to Own calculator, you can discover some of the hidden burdens larger vehicles present to buyers.

When you compare a range of models from the same carmaker — Chevrolet, in this case — there are a few key areas where SUVs and trucks are more costly than smaller vehicles. One key cost difference is fuel. A 2023 Chevrolet Malibu has an estimated fuel cost of $13,273 over five years, while the projected fuel costs of the 2023 Chevy Suburban and 2023 Silverado 1500 are $23,413 and $20,944, respectively. The Suburban also has a much higher overall depreciation cost compared with the Malibu. While the Suburban is expected to lose nearly 52% of its overall value over the next five years, the Malibu is expected to lose about 42%.

Larger vehicles can also cost more for manufacturers to transport, resulting in higher destination charges that are ultimately tacked onto the final price tags. For example, the 2023 Suburban and Silverado 1500 each have a $1,895 destination charge, compared with $1,095 for the Malibu.

More Large Vehicles May Impact EV Affordability

A shift toward larger vehicles doesn't stop at just internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. According to Kelley Blue Book, electric utility vehicles (EUVs) were included in the list of the top 10 most sold electric vehicles (EVs) in the second quarter of 2023. The Chevy Bolt, which is considered a compact car, has an EUV version that is technically a subcompact SUV. EUVs typically cost more than their compact counterparts, potentially creating a barrier for the EV-curious, as cost was found to be the top concern for U.S. car buyers in a recent survey by Deloitte, a financial services company.

Although the majority of the top 10 most sold EVs come in under $50,000, some newer EUVs and electric trucks are priced higher than the cost of luxury ICE vehicles. The 2023 GMC Hummer EV, for example, starts its pricing at nearly $85,000 and goes up to almost $105,000 at its top trim (excluding destination charges). Even the electric version of the ever-popular F-150, the F-150 Lightning, starts at more than $15,000 above its gas-powered counterpart.

Bigger Is Not Always Better for EV Savings

Bigger often means heavier when it comes to EVs, as larger batteries are required. This increased size can also mean less efficient miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), the fuel standard used by the EPA to measure EV fuel efficiency. A top-performing vehicle such as the Lucid Air averages 140 MPGe, while a larger model such as the Rivian R1S averages almost half at 71 MPGe.

This added weight can also lead to a shorter lifespan for the vehicle's tires. EUV tires typically last 30,000 to 40,000 miles before replacement is needed, while regular tires typically last around 60,000 miles with average wear and tear. Generally speaking, manufacturers recommend you buy EUV-specific tires to maximize the tire lifespan. However, since there are fewer EUV tire options available, you may end up paying more per tire than you would on an ICE vehicle, which likely has a great number of tires — and therefore prices — to choose from.

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Elliot Rieth
Elliot Rieth is a writer who was born and raised in Michigan, the center of the American automotive industry. With a background in the industry that spans from sales to digital marketing, Elliot has years of experience working directly with dealers and OEMs to create digital content and educate potential customers. When Elliot isn’t writing about horsepower or EVs, he can be found with his two greyhounds enjoying a new book or record.