The New Generation of Cargo Vehicles

Trucks, vans and SUVs leave their gas-guzzling reputation in the dust.

The compact car trend may be perfect for parallel parking in the smallest of spots, but when you need to haul cargo, you need a vehicle that was built to, well, haul cargo. Two dozen bags of mulch, a new coffee table or BBQ supplies for 30 guests simply will not fit in a small car.

Cargo vehicles account for nearly half of all autos sold off the lot. According to Edmunds.com, that’s more than 2.3 million vehicles—just since the beginning of 2013. As gas prices remain relatively stable, experts say these larger vehicles are primed for a hearty comeback.

“The economy doesn’t matter when hauling is something you have to do,” says Dan Edmunds, director of Vehicle Testing and Evaluation at Edmunds. “There are only so many things from the hardware store that fit into a sedan.”

Cargo carriers aren’t necessarily gas-guzzlers, either. Fuel-efficient crossover utility vehicles are growing in popularity, and hybrid models are also emerging. The Chevy Tahoe hybrid averages 20 mpg in cities and 23 mpg on highway, Edmunds reports, as opposed to the non-hybrid Tahoe’s 15 mpg in cities and 21 mpg on highways.

Manufacturers are boosting the safety factor of cargo vehicles, as well. “Look for above-and-beyond features like lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, rear-parking camera and even airbags built to protect your head and knees,” says Brian Moody, site editor for AutoTrader.com.

Cargo vehicles that are on Moody’s radar for good utility and fuel economy include models from Mazda and Nissan. “Today’s more car-like SUVs can handle a lot of cargo and still get good fuel economy,” he says. “The Mazda CX-5 is a spacious compact SUV that gets 29 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder also does well, with a 26 mpg rating for highway driving, which is a respectable number for an SUV with three rows of seats.”

If your car is too small for your haul, it may be time to upgrade. Learn how auto loan financing from Nationwide for new, used and refinanced vehicles can make it easy for you to get the car you want—and keep more cash in your pocket.

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