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The Definitive Vehicle Category Guide for Newbies

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Here’s a handy list of vehicle categories that should help guide when you’re shopping for a new vehicle.

Shopping for a new car? With hundreds of models available, it can be rather confusing. What’s the difference between a coupe and a sports car, or between a minivan and a station wagon?

Don’t worry, as we make it easier for newbies by lumping them all into more convenient categories. With the guides and descriptions for each vehicle type, you should find it easier to find the vehicle you need for yourself and for your family.

1.       Sedan. This used to be the stereotypical car design. You have 4 doors, a fixed roof, and a trunk. Sedan sizes include midsize, compact, and subcompact. There are of course, various variations. Sports sedans include the BMW 3-series and M3, along with the Subaru WRX and STI. You also have luxury sedans that may entice you to hire a chauffeur while you relax at the back.

2.      Hatchback. These cars have a fixed roof, and a rear hatch door that flips up instead of a regular trunk. The hatch door lets you access the cargo area, which is usually more spacious than a trunk. Traditionally, hatchbacks are compacts or subcompacts, but now these rear doors can be seen in a few larger cars. The hatch rear door lets you put in more stuff, while they’re also easier to put in or get out.

3.      Coupe. This is a 2-door car with a solid roof and a trunk. Some are 2-seaters, while others have rear seats which require the people at the front to bend their seat backs forward so people at the back can get in and out.  This is not a family car at all, and it’s for those singles who like only having a single friend to come with them when they drive around.

4.      Convertible. If you want the option of driving without a roof, then you want a convertible. Most of these cars have roofs that can be controlled to go up or down, but some need to be manually put up. Traditionally, you have a fabric roof, but you may also find retractable hard tops. There’s now a version that lets you put down only the front section of the roof.

This is a car for people who want to enjoy the sunshine and who like to be seen driving a cool car.

5.      Sports Car. This goes fast—very fast. They look cool too. They’re often 2-seaters, but some have tiny rear seats that may fit in small children (or your golf bags). Most of these cars are expensive and impractical, but they sure are cool. Just be careful you don’t break speed limits, though cops will be more watchful when they see you.

6.      Minivan. This is what you get when you want to transport people to and fro. It usually features sliding doors on the side and a rear hatch door. Inside, you have 2nd and 3rd row seats for people, but you may fold and detach them for more cargo space.

7.      Station Wagon. This is a longer version of the sedan and it comes with a rear hatch instead of a trunk. They’re no longer as popular for families as they used to be, as crossovers have become more popular.

8.     SUV. Sport-utility vehicles are also known as crossovers, and they’re like the loved-child of a sedan and a station wagon. Basically, it’s a sedan that’s boxier and taller with a higher seating position. Often there’s a rear hatch door, and you generally have AWD options.

9.      Pickup Truck. This is a large vehicle with an open cargo bed at the rear. It may or may not have a second row of seats for passengers. Virtually all pickup trucks have AWD, though there’s a 4WD option for off-road use. This can be a workhorse for people who need a lot of space to transport cargo, though there’s no denying its masculine appeal.

10.  EVs and Hybrids. An electric vehicle gets power from a large battery or hydrogen fuel cell stack. A Hybrid is a car with an electric motor and a regular gasoline engine.

Just remember that this is a general overview of vehicle categories. You may find some vehicles that don’t fall precisely into one of these categories. Bu for the most part, these are the basic types of vehicles you can choose from if you’re looking for private transportation.

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