What Car Should I Buy Guide
Types of Cars Explained
Knowledge is power during the car buying process, instilling confidence in the customer when they’re browsing online or chatting to the local car dealer. A car isn't simply a car. There are so many types of cars to consider, each offering distinct pros and cons for their length, shape, number of doors and much more.
Nissan wants you to find the right car for your needs, and if we do say so, we think our selection can provide the answer you're looking for. Whether you're looking for a two-door sports car, a station wagon, or anything in between, here's some useful information to keep in mind when you're looking for a new or used car.
Vehicle Body Styles
Vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, and they're designed to meet the unique needs of drivers, whether they’re looking for lots of interior/cargo space, power or towing capability among many other considerations. Here are the most popular vehicle body styles so you can assess what suits your lifestyle.
The growth in popularity of the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) could be argued as the biggest phenomenon of 21st century motoring. This body style essentially serves as a hybrid between the nimble handling of a small coupe, with the higher seating position, additional space and performance of a truck. SUVs contain either five or seven seats with ample passenger room and storage space. The SUV market is quite broad, and often sub-categorized into 'small', 'medium' and 'large' models, so there is plenty of choice. View the full Nissan SUV & crossover range here.
When buying a car, it’s important to recognize that crossovers and SUVs are almost interchangeable terms. Crossovers are essentially a subcategory of SUV and tend to be smaller. The primary difference is the platform used. Pure SUVs use a body on frame, while crossovers have a unibody platform. Click here to view the full range of Nissan crossovers & SUVs.
This is a catch-all body style offering ample performance and enjoyable handling, as well as plenty of passenger space and an enclosed trunk. Usually propelled by a simple two-wheel drive (2WD) drivetrain, it’s perfect for day-to-day driving on unchallenging road conditions. There is a huge selection of these four-door sedans on the market, with pricing to suit any type of budget. Of course, you won’t find better value than Nissan with an array of great sedan choices. View the full Nissan sedan range here.
Similar to a sedan in many ways, can have 2 to 4 doors but typically has a shorter body with a steep rear end. Perfect for most road conditions, hatchbacks like the electric-powered Nissan LEAF are a good choice for those who need rear seating but maybe not quite as much space as an SUV or a larger sedan for cargo and passengers.
Looking for added performance, with some practicality for day-to-day driving? Then the coupe is a good option. These two-door vehicles sometimes offer rear seating, but realistically they are only an option for drivers who typically drive alone or with one other passenger. This makes the coupe a largely inefficient option if you have a child but they do typically offer nippy handling and high performance, making it a special experience to drive during any journey.
Look outside the window before considering whether a convertible is a realistic option. Unless you have money to burn on multiple vehicles, this is not a good option for drivers in typically wet or cold parts of the country. But when the sun is out, there’s no better feeling than lowering the retractable roof and feeling the sun and wind brushing across you.
This is the type of car that generates a battle between heart and head. Designed with optimum performance in mind, sports cars are a joy to drive on clear tarmacked roads but the limited interior space and storage, allied with uninspiring traction in icy conditions, makes them largely impractical for day-to-day driving. If you’re looking for a car to consistently thrill you however, then the sports car will set the pulses racing like no other car type. Click here for the full Nissan sports car range, including the GT-R.
This body style revolves around practicality, with vast amounts of cargo space and plenty of pulling power. Pickup trucks are American staples – rugged, dependable and increasingly featuring the creature comforts and new-age technology of their small car counterparts. The long body features lots of cargo space behind the cab which can either be left exposed to the elements or fitted with a bed cover for added security. Depending on the cab type, you can even find many versions with four doors allowing for plenty of interior passenger space. Interested in a Nissan truck? Click here for the full range.
Looking for a vehicle for a big family? Then the minivan is something to consider. With seven or eight seats and excellent passenger and cargo space, this can reduce a lot of the stress associated with transporting young kids to soccer practice or trips to visit the relatives. Also a popular option as a commercial vehicle because of their vast cargo capacity, vans don’t tend to handle sharply nor outperform many other vehicles with their power. Looking for a work vehicle? Check out the great range of Nissan Commercial Vehicles, as well as the family-friendly NV Passenger which offers seating for up to 12.
Compare Popular Body Styles
Of course, there are many different body styles which will suit a multitude of your needs so it’s important to dig a little deeper to find the one that’s perfect for you. The differences between a crossover and SUV may be quite subtle, or even invisible to the naked eye in most cases. You may be wondering whether a coupe, sedan or hatchback is the right route to take for your lifestyle. Let us help you discover the pros and cons of these body styles, so you have a clear picture of what’s right for you when searching for a new or used car.
Coupe vs Sedan vs Hatchback
Sedans traditionally have four doors and coupes have two, while hatchbacks offer both versions (excluding the ‘hatch’ trunk which is also termed a door). Unlike the hatchback, sedans and coupes have a clear divide between the rear seats and trunk.
Despite the growth of the four-door coupe, there’s still a much larger selection of four-door sedans on the market, such as the Nissan Sentra and Altima. Two-door coupes still have rear passenger seats but are much more inaccessible. Sedans also often outperform smaller 2-door hatchbacks when it comes to legroom.
Similar to the seating capacity, the cargo space is much more prominent in the sedan than coupe because of its longer body. Coupes are designed to be sleek and sporty, and this usually comes at the cost of increased practicality. They will still have a secure trunk, but the dimensions are likely to be diminished compared to the sedan. Hatchbacks may outperform sedans in terms of cargo space, but trunk on sedans offer better privacy for locked items.
Most car manufacturers offer a broad range of sedans because of their popularity, which also eventually creates a healthy used car market for this body style. ‘Supply and demand’ means that these sedans are usually better value than coupes and hatchbacks as a result. Of course, one of the selling points of the coupe is the ability to stand out on the road but you’re likely to be paying a premium for that notoriety.
Coupes are built to stand out on the road not only in terms of performance, but also with their exterior looks. The removal of the back doors allows the designers of the coupe to create a long, sleek rear end which is often more pleasant on the eye. Sedans however, including the all-new Nissan Sentra, are increasingly testing the coupe’s monopoly on superior styling as they merge the practicality of a traditional four-door sedan with the beauty of a two-door coupe.
Coupes are designed to offer motorists an exciting performance package with some of the practicality needed for day-to-day driving. The typically shorter wheelbase and smaller body shape of the coupe sharpens the handling. The engine performance is often optimized by car manufacturers too, and this all contributes in making them more fun to drive than a sedan or hatchback.
This is, of course, dependent on many variables including engine size, but it stands to reason that your MPG (Miles per Gallon) can be better in a coupe. The body is even sleeker than a sedan or hatchback, making them more aerodynamically stable. This reduces drag as you’re travelling, so you’ll need less engine power to cover the ground. Coupes also usually weigh less than sedans or hatchbacks which should lead to more infrequent trips to the gas pumps.
Hatchbacks, like the Nissan LEAF, have a shorter body than sedans with a steep, tall trunk area. This creates much more cargo space, especially for taller items which wouldn’t fit underneath the shallower trunk lid of a sedan. This excellent cargo capacity can be further increased by folding down the rear seats, meaning it’s a surprisingly effective moving vehicle, so long as you don’t rely on it to transport furniture and other large items.
The shorter body length of the hatchback also makes it easier to maneuver in narrow spaces. This is particularly helpful if you’re looking for a small city vehicle which must be parked on narrow streets or in multi-storey car parks. Hatchbacks often have increased visibility through the rear window as well, which gives the driver a better view of their surroundings when they’re attempting to reverse into a parking space.
This might not be to the forefront of your mind as you look for a new vehicle, but it could be worth a few thousand dollars to you in the long run. Depreciation is an important consideration with new cars, in particular, and hatchbacks are generally better at holding their value than sedans or coupes. This means that you’re more likely to make back more of what you spent on the vehicle in the first place, when you decide that you need something new in a few years time.
Sedan vs SUV
If you’re looking for a reliable family vehicle, then it’s very likely that a sedan or SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) is top of the shopping list. SUVs offer increased passenger and cargo space, but at the expense of increased fuel consumption and up-front costs.
Sedans are typically smaller than SUVs, both in terms of body length and height. They also tend to weigh much less than SUVs because they’re not expected to be tasked with the job of hauling large loads, like work equipment, trailers or a boat (if you’re so lucky!). This aerodynamic efficiency and reduced weight have a significant positive impact on the MPG (Miles per Gallon) of the sedan, so you’ll be spending less time and money at the gas pump. The Versa is among Nissan’s most fuel-efficient sedans.
The seating position in a sedan is lower to the ground than an SUV, and the body tends to handle much more sharply during cornering. This makes driving a sedan a more comfortable experience, especially if you typically drive on winding roads. SUVs, especially smaller versions and crossovers, are becoming more cognizant of the desires of the modern driver. As a result, designers are increasingly focusing on increased comfort in SUVs to cater to motorists in search of a day-to-day vehicle for their families.
SUVs typically feature more complex performance technology than a sedan to allow for increased towing capacity and off-roading capability. This is reflected in the cost of an SUV which is usually quite a bit higher. Sedans also usually come with a standard two-wheel drive drivetrain, while SUVs are more likely to feature All-Wheel Drive or Four-Wheel Drive versions which are more complex and expensive to engineer. This makes the sedan a much better option for customers on a tighter budget, especially if you only drive on dry paved roads in an unchallenging climate.
Seating & Cargo
SUVs are taller and generally longer than sedans, so you’ll find much more interior space. Some, like the Nissan Armada, may even have eight seats if you need a big SUV for a large family. Cargo Space is generally excellent in SUVs and you’ll be able to fit even more in if you fold down the back seats. That’s a great option if you’re an outdoor enthusiast with lots of ski gear, or if you just need added cargo space as part of your job. Depending on your perspective, the high driving position can be a positive or negative. Many people love the increased elevation as they navigate around town.
If you’re fond of heading for the mountains, taking the dirt trails and covering the ground less traveled, then the SUV is the only option here. Sedans are much more likely to feature a simple two-wheel drive drivetrain, while SUVs commonly come with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive versions (Choose your drivetrain). This gives SUVs additional traction on uneven ground, while the suspension system is also likely to be better optimized to deal with rougher ground. Sedans are also lower to the ground, which leaves the undercarriage much more vulnerable to what Mother Nature might have poking out of the mud and ice.
If you’re looking to haul anything from a trailer to a boat, then the SUV is the way to go. SUVs won’t necessarily feature a tow hitch as standard, but you’re almost certain to be able to find one that can be fitted to the back of the vehicle. Sedans have much lower torque and towing capacity figures, and you probably won’t be able to find and fit a suitable tow hitch for most models. Even if you can, the tires will be spinning, and you’ll be left in a regular pit of despair.
Minivan vs SUV
Minivans offer excellent passenger and cargo space but, compared to SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicle), they are much more likely to become stuck in challenging road conditions. For additional performance, towing and off-roading capability, choose an SUV.
Interior & cargo space
Minivans feature seven seats as standard, so they are built to accommodate big families at all times. These vehicles are long and large, allowing for plenty of leg and head room for adult passengers too. This passenger space doesn’t come at the expense of cargo capacity thankfully, so you’ll still be able to fit in lots of sports equipment or whatever else you need to lug around on a daily basis. SUVs are still pretty big, but you’re better off going for a van if you need seven seats for small children on a regular basis.
Ease of access
Minivans are generally designed with less road clearance than SUVs, which means that the floor is lower too. This means that it's a much easier vehicle for kids to get in and out of. Minivans also tend to offer wider doors to make for easier access to the back seats, while some models feature sliding rear doors which are beneficial when parked in tight areas.
Minivans are built with excellent highway performance in mind and often feature engines that are designed to favor fuel efficiency. If you just need a large family vehicle to cover the short trips around town, then the minivan is more than capable of the doing the job.
Not all SUVs will feature a standard All-Wheel Drive (AWD) or Four-Wheel Drive drivetrain, but it’ll almost certainly be available if you need it. These systems provide additional traction when driving off-road, but it’s also a major advantage if you drive on consistently wet, snowy or icy road conditions throughout the year. Allied with even more power and ground clearance than a minivan, the SUV is a much better option if you want a vehicle for family practicality during the week, and a bit of fun at the weekends.
If you’re looking for a family vehicle, it’s possible that you might need to haul around a caravan or storage trailer from time to time. Power, torque and towing capacity are important specs to look out for here, and all three are likely to be much more impressive on an SUV. Minivans might well have standard or available hitch receivers on the back of the vehicle, but the less powerful engine will be under much more strain during towing, especially if it’s on challenging terrain.
SUVs have become increasingly popular over the last decade as a good middle ground option, offering excellent performance with plenty of practicality. That means that you’re likely to find a lot of new model varieties at your local car dealer, but you could also source an excellent cut-price option among Nissan's Certified Pre-Owned vehicles. Looking to buy a new vehicle? Check out the full Nissan SUV range here.
Truck vs SUV
The choice of the most adventurous – truck or SUV? While both have excellent performance capabilities, the truck is a stronger towing option with lots of cargo space. The SUV offers more interior space and is generally easier to drive.
This is the primary selling point of the truck. With vast amounts of torque and big towing capacities, trucks are the vehicles of choice if you need to transport a trailer or, even better, a boat around on a regular basis. Many trucks also have tow receivers fitted or available, and the larger versions should also have impressive towing figures. If you want to tow with confidence however, choose a truck that’s built specifically for the job like the Nissan TITAN XD. Towing capability varies by configuration. See [Nissan] Towing Guide and Owner’s Manual for additional information.
Trucks have a very distinctive look with a long, flat bed behind the two or four-door cabin. SUVs simply can’t compare with trucks for this level of storage space. Whether you’re looking for a work truck, or if you lug around a lot of equipment for weekend trips in the outdoors, then this vehicle should fit the bill. Make sure that the bed is fitted with a strong cover however to ensure stored items are out of view when the vehicle is unoccupied.
In case you haven’t noticed, America loves the truck. There are so many different models available on the new and used markets, and this excellent supply means that prices are kept very competitive. Trucks are also built to be dependable, which makes them some of the most reliable vehicles available on the market. This should help to lower overall running costs due to fewer trips to the mechanic’s garage.
Most modern trucks are fitted with rear seats, but they struggle to match the legroom of SUVs so your passengers won’t be as comfortable during trips. Many large SUVs also include third row seating so you can carry up to seven passengers, making them an option for larger families. Trucks are traditionally work vehicles which car manufacturers are increasingly adapting to the needs of families, but they struggle to match a lot of the inherent interior practicality of SUVs.
Easier to drive
SUVs, particularly smaller versions like crossovers, are more likely to feel like driving a conventional sedan or hatchback. This means that the handling in SUVs is usually much more nimble and pleasant. SUVs generally have a smaller body length than trucks too, which makes them easier to navigate around busy city streets. Parking in trucks can also be a headache owing to the long truck bed which is difficult to judge when reversing and looking through the rear cabin window.
Trucks might have lots of bed payload capacity, but there’s a lot to be said for having interior cargo space accessible from the rear door. It’s particularly important if you have a pet dog which you can’t fit into already crowded rear seats, so an SUV may be a better solution in that scenario. It’s also nice to have the additional security of having your cargo within the cabin itself rather than in an, albeit covered, truck bed.
Crossover (CUV) vs SUV
Crossovers (CUVs) and SUVs are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably, but both have distinguishing features. SUVs are a much better option for tough road conditions, while the smaller crossover has the edge on comfort and fuel efficiency.
Crossovers are smaller, lighter and contain less powerful engines than their SUV counterparts. All three characteristics have a positive impact on fuel efficiency, which makes the crossover the best option for good mileage among larger vehicles. Trucks and SUVs have a reputation as gas-guzzlers with their larger engines and heavier bodies, but these are unnecessary if you’re looking for a car for use on generally dry, unchallenging roads.
Crossovers are constructed by placing an SUV-like body on a unibody platform. This gives you a higher driving position than a sedan or hatchback, while also offering the nimble handling and comfort of those smaller vehicles. The body of a crossover is also lower to the ground than a SUV, making it easier to get kids in and out. Some models are fitted with third row seating to suit families, but head and legroom will be more limited than what you experience within a SUV.
Crossovers are toned down SUVs, offering much of the practicality of their older sibling but with the agility and styling of a smaller car. CUVs are in high demand at the moment and car manufacturers are doing all they can to make their models stand out from the crowd. If you’re looking to build a vehicle in your own image, then take a look at the Nissan Kicks Color Studio® to experiment with everything from the color of the door handle covers and rear roof spoiler, to a large selection of available accents and finishers.
To the naked eye the SUV and crossover can seem like peas from the same pod, but it’s what’s underneath the bodywork that makes the difference. SUVs are built on a truck-like frame giving the body increased ground clearance when travelling off-road. The SUV is engineered with challenging road conditions in mind, with many versions offering more powerful V8 engines and stronger suspension systems than a crossover. They are also more likely to feature All-Wheel Drive or Four-Wheel Drive as either a standard or available drivetrain, providing you with the necessary additional traction if you live in regions with particularly harsh winters.
If you need to tow heavy loads on a consistent basis, then go for a truck. But some of the larger SUVs on the market have excellent towing capacities which are up to most jobs. The Nissan Armada, for example, is capable of towing many medium sized trailers, and even small boatsTowing capability varies by configuration. See [Nissan] Towing Guide and Owner’s Manual for additional information.. The limited power and traction of the crossover means that it can’t match up with the SUV under this category.
Crossovers often contain seven seats, but they won’t match a full-sized SUV when it comes to passenger space. This might not be particularly important if you have young children, but a group of adults might start to feel a bit like tinned sardines if they’re crammed into a crossover. SUVs have a longer, taller body which accommodates increased cargo space, as well as more leg and head room. So, you’ll be able to fit much more of your luggage or sports equipment in the cargo area of an SUV, with less of a hindrance on the comfort of passengers in the rest of the vehicle.
Other Vehicle Considerations
Hopefully you have a better picture in your head about your desired car type, whether it’s a small, fun hatchback or a large, family-friendly SUV. Don’t rush into a purchase however. There’s a lot more to consider, including trims, buying new or used, drivetrains, engines and transmissions.
Each car manufacturer offers new models with a hierarchy of trim levels. The 'standard/base' trim of each model contains the fewest number of standard features.
New vs Used:
There are obvious cost benefits to buying from the used car market but beware of the shortfalls. You might end up paying more in the long run for an older, unreliable vehicle. Check out our comprehensive breakdown of the pros and cons of ‘Buying New vs Used’ .
Available drivetrains are also an important consideration depending on your lifestyle and home climate. Most vehicles feature a functional two-wheel drive system FWD vs RWD, but more traction is required if you’re an adventurous soul living with the perils of regular icy roads. Learn more about the benefits of AWD vs 4WD vs 2WD.
These components dictate much more than the power of a vehicle. They can also offer different benefits when it comes to fuel efficiency, towing capability and much more. Learn more about the difference between Gas vs Diesel powered vehicles, as well as the wider comparison between Gas vs Hybrid vs Electric vehicles.
Car Buying Tips
You might well have already found your perfect vehicle and want some help with the next steps. Check out our Car Buying Tips for useful information on planning a dealer visit or test drive, financing options and much more.