Just because U.S. drivers are buying more pickup trucks and SUVs doesn't mean they can take all of them off road... or would know what to do with them on dirt or sand once they get there.
Last year, the Ford (F) - Get Report F-series of pickup trucks were the best-selling vehicles of the year, according to MotorIntelligence. That's 40 years as the best-selling truck in the U.S. and 35 as the best-selling vehicle. Nearly 821,000 F-Series trucks were sold in 2016, up 2.4% from a year earlier. That outpaced GM's (GM) - Get Report Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup (almost 797,000, down nearly 5.5% from 2015) and Fiat Chrysler's (FCAU) - Get Report Ram series of pickups (489,400, up 8.7% from 2015). The Toyota (TM) - Get Report Camry (388,600), Honda (HMC) - Get Report Accord (345,000) and Nissan Altima (307,400) midsize cars all remained massively popular, as did the smaller Honda Civic (367,000) and Toyota Corolla (360,500), but there's little question that last year was the year of the SUV.
With gas prices still below $2.40, U.S. vehicle buyers purchased more than 6.7 million sport utility vehicles and crossovers in 2016. While just 1.8 million of those were the truck-based SUVs that rose to prominence in the '90s and early 2000s, more efficient car-based crossovers saw sales grow twice the rate of standard SUVs year-over-year.
Both standard SUVs and crossovers combined still fell short of the number of cars sold during the same span (7 million), thanks largely to low gas prices, but their renewed popularity is raising questions amid a new presidential administration. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a Midterm Evaluation of its goal to raise fleet-wide average fuel efficiency to a 54.5 miles per gallon (roughly 38 miles per gallon on window stickers) by 2025. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that cars and light trucks purchased in 2016 got an average of 25.2 miles to the gallon.
That's actually down from 25.3 mpg the year before, and 25.4 the year before that, and it's made the EPA a little anxious about whether or not automakers can hit that 2025 mileage mark.
While 25.2 mpg is far better than the 19 miles per gallon that the Department of Transportation measured for the same pool of vehicles in 1995 -- and is closing in on double the average mileage of the light-duty vehicles on U.S. roads in 1980 -- it's the less more versatile gas guzzlers that tend to perform best off of the asphalt. They come at a premium, too. According to Kelley Blue Book, even an unmodified full-size pickup will run you $46,182, on average, while a full-size SUV goes for nearly $61,000. With summer here and the dunes, deserts and deep mud calling, we've pulled from multiple sources and came up with 15 of your best options for off-roading this season.
These vehicles will get you onto that rugged terrain, but novices may want to invest in roadside assistance to get out of it.
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