What Does SUV Stand For?

What Does SUV Stand For?

SUVs are some of the most popular vehicles in America and around the world. They’re versatile, powerful, and suitable for traversing a wide number of environments relative to traditional passenger vehicles like sedans.

Indeed, recent statistics indicate that the volume of SUVs in operation around the world has increased nearly six times the volume in 2010, with approximately 200 million units in operation by 2019. Furthermore, SUVs typically represent nearly 30 million global car sales per year.

But although SUVs are very popular, many of their drivers or fans aren’t fully sure what SUV stands for in the first place. Let’s take a closer look at the name “SUV” and explore other key facts about this vehicle class in detail.

SUV Definition

“SUV” is an acronym that stands for sports utility vehicle. In a nutshell, an SUV is a kind of vehicle designed to help bring sports gear, camping equipment, or other outdoor activity stuff with you and a “normal-sized” family. As a result, most SUVs have enough room for between five and six people depending on their seating arrangements.

SUVs are very similar to station wagons or minivans, but they are also characterized by a “sporty” aesthetic with their stockier yet sleeker frames. Furthermore, many SUVs are designed for off-road adventures, either because of their wheels or engines or because of the types of drivetrains they have (i.e. two-wheel-drive versus four-wheel or all-wheel drive).

You may occasionally hear SUVs referred to as RVs or recreational vehicles, but most people think of RVs as massive camping vehicles with enough room for multiple people to sleep. 

Types of SUVs

SUVs are very common throughout the United States, especially because they fulfill multiple purposes simultaneously. SUVs also come in several primary types. Just like passenger cars, SUVs have different classifications that are based on the dimensions of the vehicle and certain other core factors.

The major types of SUVs are as follows.

Mini SUVs

Mini SUVs are the smallest SUV class in the category. They’re particularly popular in Japan because heavier vehicles are taxed more due to local laws. Regardless, mini SUVs are often suitable for driving in off-road environments, but they don’t usually have as much passenger space compared to other SUV classifications. They may still have ample room for storing hiking gear or other equipment, however.

Compact SUVs

Compact SUVs have similar sizes to C-segment or compact passenger cars and are frequently manufactured by organizations like Nissan, Land Rover, Jeep, Ford, and Lada. Compact SUVs are small enough to fit into many compact parking spaces, but they retain the SUV advantages mentioned above, like four-wheel drive, space for storing gear, and usually enough room for between four and five passengers.

Compact SUVs are particularly popular in many mountain towns, as these vehicles can traverse snowy or wet roads reliably with a little preparation.

Mid-Size SUVs

Mid-size SUVs are the next size up and share platforms with passenger cars in addition to mid-sized pickup trucks. Thus, mid-sized SUVs are practical, powerful, and can cross most terrains. Mid-size SUVs are oftentimes the most desirable type in this classification.

Almost every automaker manufactures at least one type of mid-size SUV. These SUVs usually have enough room for five people, although some may have enough room for six, plus enough room in the back for equipment or emergency supplies like spare tires.

Full-Size SUVs

Lastly, full-size SUVs are large and are built on full-size chasses comparable to those of pickup trucks. Note that some manufacturers, however, construct their own unique platforms for their full-size SUV models. Toyota and Chevrolet focus primarily on off-roading capabilities while other manufacturers, like Lincoln and Cadillac, prioritize factors that improve comfort and luxury elements.

Regardless, full-size SUVs have enough space for five to six people on average, plus plenty of room for additional perks, storage space, and more. Some full-size SUVs are also prized since they have more powerful engines (though this is dependent on the model) compared to SUVs of smaller sizes.

Why Do People Use and Rent SUVs?

SUVs are purchased and rented for three key reasons:

  • They’re spacious and comfortable enough to hold multiple people, including families with two or three children
  • They’re versatile enough to function on some off-road environments, like dirt roads and mountains or hills, and to facilitate safe driving on snowy or wet roads
  • For many, they’re comfortable to drive, especially for long distances 

As a result, SUVs can be used for practically any driving adventure you have in mind. If you want to take your family up into the mountains or to visit a snowy resort, an SUV can get you there. SUVs are also suitable for visiting families in rural areas where dirt roads may be more common than paved roads.

At the same time, many SUVs get excellent gas mileage and can be used as commuter vehicles. In some cases, a family can purchase one SUV and have a vehicle that functions for every conceivable need. In short, SUVs are incredibly versatile, and they prevent families or couples from having to purchase multiple cars for different specific uses.

Similar Vehicle Acronyms

While SUVs are ubiquitous across the US and are particularly popular the further west you go, you may also find similar vehicles in your travels or at rental agencies. These include:

  • MPVs or multipurpose vehicles. These are often minivans, although some of them are close enough to the typical SUV size that they’re effectively interchangeable. MPVs are characterized by plenty of room for multiple occupants and not as much power in the engine. Many MPVs are also two-wheel drive
  • CUVs or crossover utility vehicles. Crossover utility vehicles are essentially combinations between regular SUVs and family-sized station wagons. They have more space compared to a typical SUV but still retain some of the drive and maneuverability benefits of this vehicle class. These days, you can find more CUVs than before as the vehicle class is becoming more popular

Remember that if you’re ever unsure what type of vehicle you’re signing up for, it should be in the name or paperwork. Additionally, you can always ask a rental agency employee what type of vehicle a given car is or specify that you’re looking for an SUV during your search.


Ultimately, SUVs have been popular ever since their inception and will likely never lose their top spot as one of the most affordable and personal car classifications on the market. So long as SUVs can function both as commuter vehicles and as ideal family cars for trips into the mountains or on off-roading adventures, you can bet that SUVs will sell by the millions for the foreseeable future.

However, you can also find plenty of SUVs at rental agencies like Advantage Rent-a-Car. In fact, our diverse fleet of rental vehicles includes SUVs of each of the above major types. Whether you need a small and nimble SUV or a larger car for your entire family, Advantage can help.

Contact us today to see about our rental vehicles or to ask for rates at locations near you.

Sport utility vehicles worldwide – Statistics & Facts | Statista
SUV Meaning: What is an SUV? | Car and Driver
What Does SUV Stand For? | Autolist 

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