12 Hidden Costs of Owning a Truck or SUV That Everyone Ignores

Trucks and SUVs may be popular and more convenient for some drivers, but they could also hurt your wallet.

Person sitting on an SUV
Updated May 28, 2024
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More Americans are buying larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs, which are perfect for hauling big items or handling families on the go.

But you might not have thought about the hidden costs or realize you need to make extra money to cover the added expenses of a truck or SUV.

So before you buy that truck or SUV, you should consider estimated ownership expenses. Here’s a checklist to help you make the right decision for your situation.

They’re reliable

mimagephotos/Adobe Smiling woman driving

One benefit of trucks and SUVs is that they are built to be more reliable than your typical sedan. They may have to deal with more rugged terrain, towing capacity, or other tough tasks that sedans just can’t handle.

But that means they have to be built with higher standards in order to handle those tasks. You may be paying extra for durability and reliability whether you’re running your vehicle down dirt roads or smooth asphalt on a regular basis.

Auto insurance is expensive

ArLawKa/Adobe car dealer

Trucks and SUVs usually cost more to insure than a typical sedan, which may come as a surprise when you call your insurance company to tell them you’re buying a new vehicle.

If you’re trying to save money on car insurance, it may be a good idea to get estimated costs on insurance before you buy a vehicle to find out how much extra it may cost to get a truck or SUV.

Bigger size means more materials

daviles/Adobe man hands driving a car at sunset viewed from inside

A truck or SUV is going to cost more than a sedan simply because there is more of it to pay for.

You need to pay for the extra materials such as seats and storage space as well as basics like the steel needed to make a bigger vehicle. Those costs can add up and make it more expensive than a sedan.

You have to fill a big gas tank

alexanderuhrin/Adobe woman pumping gasoline fuel in car

One benefit of driving a truck or SUV is it has a bigger gas tank so you can fill up a big tank and go. But that bigger tank also means more time and money each time you go to the gas station.

A smaller car can usually handle 12 gallons of gas compared to 15 gallons or more for a larger vehicle. That extra cost can add up per trip when gas is an average cost of $3.69 per gallon in the U.S.

Trucks and SUVs have lower miles per gallon

Songwut Pinyo/Adobe dashboard of mileage driving a car

While trucks and SUVs may hold more gas in their tanks, you’ll have to use more gas when you’re out running errands or on a longer trip.

Make sure you check the miles per gallon, or MPG, when you’re shopping for a new vehicle and compare how far you can travel on a gallon of gas in a larger vehicle compared to a smaller one.

They’re popular

Oleksandr/Adobe suv cars in parking outside car showroom

The popularity of trucks and SUVs can drive up the price tag. It’s simple supply and demand. More people want them, which means more demand, and dealers use that to their advantage when selling trucks and SUVs.

In fact, the top three best-selling vehicles in the U.S. in 2022 were pickup trucks and nine of the top 10 best-selling vehicles were either trucks or SUVs. The Toyota Camry was the only sedan to make the top 10.

They have powerful engines

เลิศลักษณ์ ทิพชัย/Adobe car mechanic in an auto repair shop is checking the engine

Bigger vehicles need more power to get around than a typical car engine and that can cost you.

Take into account how much gas the engine needs to operate a truck or SUV. A larger engine may also require extra materials for its assembly as well as the engineering involved to get it running properly for your particular vehicle’s needs.

Registration fees can vary by state

rh2010/Adobe couple signing documents at the car dealership

It’s a good idea to check your state’s registration fees before you buy a vehicle to see how much more it might cost to register a truck or SUV.

Some states, such as Colorado, Utah, or Iowa, may charge you a higher registration fee based on the weight of your vehicle, which could increase the cost for a heavy vehicle like a truck or SUV. Other states like Michigan base the fee on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP, which can be higher for a truck or SUV.

Financing could be harder

Sergey/Adobe approved car loan application

Because trucks and SUVs cost more, you may run into issues with financing a new vehicle that could take money out of your pocket.

You may want to consider financing through a bank or credit union rather than through the dealer to get a better deal. 

Either way, remember that a bigger loan means you may have to pay more over the long term based on the amount of the loan and the interest rate.

Maintenance costs can add up

AA+W /Adobe A person is repairing a car
car repair

The extra weight of a truck or SUV can take its toll on vehicle parts, meaning you might have to replace them more often.

Consider things like tires and brakes, for example, which may get worn out with a heavier vehicle than a typical sedan. So factor in any potential replacement costs over the life of the vehicle.

Parking is an issue

Алексей Закиров/Adobe underground parking

It may seem like a trivial issue, but driving a truck or SUV in an urban or suburban area could hit your wallet when it’s time to park your vehicle.

The size of a truck or SUV could make it difficult to park on the street, which may limit your options and force you to park in expensive lots with more space or valet your car at certain locations.

You need a big garage

bilanol/Adobe cars standing in driveway

You may not realize just how long or wide a truck or SUV is compared with a typical car. Do you have the space for it in your garage?

If you really want to own a bigger vehicle, that could mean upgrading an older home or an older garage to fit the vehicle. 

And there could also be buyers who decide a move to a bigger home with more garage space is something they may be willing to do in order to accommodate the vehicles they want.

Bottom line

PiyawatNandeenoparit/Adobe silver SUV car parking on the asphalt road

There are advantages to driving a truck or SUV, but make sure to do your research and compare the costs before you buy. Understand all of the estimated costs so you know how much to set aside each month as a truck or SUV owner.

And if you’re still struggling to pay for your truck, consider a side hustle and find ways to use your pickup truck to earn money.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.