High Clearance Vehicle for Buyers that Need Taller and Tougher Rides
March 21, 2022
Car buyers have their own checklist of features they need in their dream car. Some buyers just want a budget-friendly option, but others have their eyes set on luxury autos. Other buyers, though, are a bit more discerning.
Some zero in on the cars that will best fit their driving needs, but these driving needs might have little to do with a commute. Buyers might look for the cars, trucks and SUVs that are dubbed high clearance vehicles. What does this mean? Why are high clearance vehicles desirable?
What is a High Clearance Vehicle?
A high clearance vehicle sits higher off the ground than a standard vehicle. While the definition of a high clearance vehicle may include varying measurements, the National Parks Service (NPS) defines this type of vehicle that dares to venture into Death Valley National Park as one that has tire rims measuring 15 inches (or more).
In comparison, NPS defines the standard vehicle as having “…less than 8 inches of clearance from the lowest point of the frame, body, suspension, or differential, to the ground.”
A high-clearance vehicle can have two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive capabilities. The NPS designates that certain roads can only be navigated by vehicles designed to handle their terrain. This is why the NPS offers definitions for these types of vehicles on its site.
Other auto sites could have different definitions for what is considered a high-clearance vehicle, but anything less than 15 inch wheels can’t take on the toughest terrain designated for high-clearance 4WD vehicles on the most rugged roads/trails in national parks.
Highest Ground Clearance SUV
- Volvo XC90
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
- Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
- Land Rover Discovery
- Land Rover Range Rover
The Range Rover is noted by Motor Biscuit as being the highest clearance vehicle, towering 11.7 inches. The Rubicon stands 10.8 inches.
For buyers wondering how any of these vehicles can possibly tackle the 15-inch wheel criteria of NPS, it should be noted that larger rims can be equipped to certain vehicles to expand ground clearance. Jeep owners or those who drive other massive SUVs might swap out standard tires for larger options to adequately equip the vehicle for rougher terrain.
Smallest Cars with High Ground Clearance
Cars that are only equipped with front-wheel drive likely won’t be able to take on any serious terrain—buyers won’t want to hit the paths not traveled. However, some buyers might wonder what small cars offer the highest ground clearance.
For standard cars, high ground clearance likely won’t be high as defined by off-roading vehicles. Autobytel compiled a list of the highest ground clearance sedans and hatchback vehicles. Here are the top five models with the highest clearance:
- 2021 Nissan Versa (stands 6.8 inches)
- 2021 Mazda 6 (6.5 inches)
- 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage (6.3 inches)
- 2022 Subaru Legacy (5.9 inches)
- 2021 Nissan Leaf (5.9 inches)
Why Would Buyers Prefer Cars with High Ground Clearance?
High ground clearance isn’t just beneficial for off-roading or taking on tough terrain, high ground clearance also is beneficial for those who have difficulty getting in and out of vehicles.
When a car is higher, it’s easier for an individual to slide in and out of the car. In contrast, vehicles that sit low require drivers and passengers to squat down or pull themselves out of the vehicle. For those with injuries or who might have medical conditions that impact movement, lower vehicles can be very difficult for entering and exiting.
Pregnant women or individuals with families also might find vehicles with higher ground clearance easier. When putting toddlers or small children into car seats, taller vehicles can just be easier. Caregivers don’t have to duck down or bend over as much.
Does High Ground Clearance Affect the Price of a Vehicle?
Are taller vehicles an option for buyers on a budget? Of course! While new SUVs might be more expensive than standard smaller vehicles, shopping used or pre-owned SUV or truck models can make these vehicles affordable to budget-conscious buyers.
Some buyers need a higher vehicle because they are easier for those who might have difficulty getting into or out of the vehicle. Used models can be found at all different price levels, however, when shopping on a budget, buyers might have trade-offs when it comes to that low price.
Used models could have lower prices because of:
The value of a vehicle is impacted by these factors, and a car’s value will decrease as it ages and racks up more miles. The condition of the vehicle impacts its price, too. If a car is rusty or if the interior is a bit shabby, this less-than-stellar condition will lower its price.
Buyers looking at luxury used or pre-owned models will still pay more for these makes/models than the standard models of the same age and mileage. However, no matter the buyer’s budget, there might be something that fits their needs.
Least Expensive High Clearance Vehicle
For buyers who want the most affordable high clearance model, what is the least expensive high clearance vehicle? MotorTrend ranked the off-roading vehicles that are less than $5,000. The options included:
- Jeep Cherokee XJ
- Nissan Xterra
- Suzuki Samurai
- Subaru Forrester
- Subaru Outback
- Jeep Wrangler YJ
For the least expensive standard vehicle that sits at the highest clearance, buyers might opt for the Mitsubishi Mirage. The Mirage also offers the best gas mileage, too.
However, buyers also shouldn’t disregard minivans. These body types also offer high clearance. Here’s the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and the
The Kia Carnival offers the highest ground clearance for minivans, but the Toyota Sienna is only slightly lower. For families, minivans could provide maximum passenger space and higher ground clearance. However, the Kia Carnival is the most affordable option of the three minivan choices; the Carnival has a base price of $32,300.
How High is High Clearance? Use RelayCars to Visualize the Options
Today’s buyers might start their new car research from home. Trying to understand the height of a vehicle using two-dimensional or flat photos might be difficult. How high is the vehicle? Buyers might have to do their best to understand the height until they can make a visit to the dealership.
However, many car manufacturers now include augmented reality tools that help buyers better understand the design of models. Sites like RelayCars also offer augmented reality and virtual reality experiences that can transform the user’s environment into an augmented reality showroom.
How does augmented reality work? Car buyers who have never experienced augmented reality shouldn’t be hesitant or wary of using this technology. Augmented reality platforms are often incredibly easy to use; they only require a smartphone or a tablet.
With RelayCars, buyers also can explore thousands of different makes/models in virtual reality using Google Cardboard. Download the RelayCars app for free via the App Store or Google Play.
Then choose the model from the inventory list offered by RelayCars. To explore the model in virtual reality, the user will need Google Cardboard. Users can then explore different makes and models in a virtual reality experience. .
For buyers who are accessing RelayCars online with a phone or tablet, they also can explore an augmented reality experience. On the RelayCars website, explore cars using a smartphone or tablet camera to view the model.
RelayCars also offers other information about each vehicle. Buyers can explore the MSRP and the specs of the model. This helps buyers to find the car that might best fit their budget.
After the Research
Augmented reality, virtual reality and 3D models can help buyers better visualize and understand the design of a model, but, often, the in-person experience is a necessary part of the buying process. At the dealership, buyers should take a test drive of their favorite models.
For those who have difficulty entering and exiting a lower vehicle, explore the different options to find the model that is easiest to navigate. Buyers who want a higher vehicle for passenger ease should check out the back seat to ensure that it’s easy to access.
Finding the best vehicle for off-roading may require a bit more research for buyers, though. Those who want to go off-roading or who are interested in venturing through national parks might need to upgrade their vehicle with special tires or just larger tires/rims.
While there are many vehicles that are equipped to handle rough terrain, base models might not have all the options needed for the specific needs of adventure seeking enthusiasts. Talk to dealerships about what modifications or upgrades might be needed for off-roading, rock crawling or tougher terrain.
For online research, buyers can use sites and apps like RelayCars to find more information and to better visualize their top vehicle choices. For buyers who need high clearance for off-roading adventures or to make the vehicle more accommodating, exploring the vehicle in person might be a necessary part of the buying process.