After 12 years of resisting, I finally bought an SUV — and I can’t believe I ever survived suburbia without it

The author's Honda CR-V EX at Whole Foods.

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The author’s Honda CR-V EX at Whole Foods.
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Julia Tell/Business Insider

  • Small cars have advantages in cities, but in the suburbs, I’ve found that they aren’t quite as common or useful as larger vehicles – SUVs, in particular.
  • An ugly-colored SUV is now my suburban camouflage, allowing me to see eye-to-eye with other drivers while disappearing into the background.
  • Here’s why I finally decided to buy an SUV after 12 years of resisting it.

I like small cars. There’s a huge advantage to a small car in a city with tight parking. After living in San Francisco for years, and then in Brooklyn, I could squeeze my little hatchback into the tiniest of spaces.

I was used to driving a car with a short nose and a compact derrière, and I hated it when I rented a car and got a big sedan or SUV. I was always afraid of hitting things because I wasn’t used to the length and width of the vehicle. I was a small-car gal.

But after moving to suburban New Jersey and spending years navigating the area with smaller cars, I decided I needed to move up to an SUV – the Honda CR-V EX – and I’m glad that I did. Here’s why.


Driving small cars in the suburbs presented a host of issues.

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Shutterstock

I moved to the suburbs of Princeton, New Jersey, 14 years ago with my little hatchback. I got no respect on the roads as zippy sports cars zoomed past me and ladies in SUVs seemed to want to drive right over me. The worst was in the Whole Foods parking lot.

For some reason, this lot seems to be completely populated with the largest SUVs. Skinny moms in the latest workout gear would zoom in and park all while talking on the phone and handing a cookie to the toddler in the backseat.

They had no time to notice anyone beneath them in a small car. I can’t count the number of times I was nearly run over by one of these SUVs speeding into a three-point turn to grab that good parking spot.


I moved on to two cars that weren’t quite big enough.

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A Volvo v50.
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Volvo

About three years into my suburban existence, I graduated to a mini station wagon – a Volvo V50 – which seemed more like a family car, though it still had my small-car aesthetic.

Somehow, I thought, a wagon would help me blend in with the strip-mall, soccer mom crowd. Nope. I was still completely invisible, like a bug to be squashed on the roadway by the monster machines of everyday life.

A couple years later, an upgrade to a sizeable Volkswagen Passat sedan helped a little, but I was still the odd-mom out.


Finally, I settled on a reliable SUV.

When I set out to buy a new car two years ago, I settled on a Honda CR-V as my model of choice. It had good ratings, it was reliable, and it was reasonably priced. It had plenty of legroom in the backseat, and it was big but not huge.

The gas mileage was as good as my smaller cars, but the pickup is sluggish. Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t minivan sluggish. But suburban driving involves lots of stop lights and turns, so you can’t go that fast anyway.


My Honda CR-V EX offered more car for less money.

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The author’s Honda CR-V EX.
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Julia Tell/Business Insider

I wasn’t thinking about color when I bought my CR-V, but function. I wanted leather (spills clean up easily) and heated seats, both of which mandated the upgrade to the CR-V EX.

I wanted a cheap, used car that had high mileage for its age. Why? I don’t drive many miles a year, so I won’t be putting many miles on the car. Yet, I figured a three-year-old car with high mileage was likely driven mostly on the highway by a professional who needed to travel daily, so the wear-and-tear on the vehicle to the mileage would be lower.

I settled on my lovely, 2013 brown-grey CR-V EX because it had 82,000 miles on it, and was cheaper than the other three-year-old SUVs. The color was whatever.

Now I can haul the kids in comfort. They are far enough behind me that they do less seat-kicking. The back can hold a bike or stroller in a pinch, though I haven’t tried to see if it could fit a long car trip’s worth of luggage, food, toys, and gear for the kids.


I now have a form of suburban camouflage.

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The author’s car, blending in.
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Julia Tell/Business Insider

The real benefit of the car is the ways its ugly, brownish-greyish color acts as suburban camouflage. You can’t tell my car from any of the other medium-sized SUVs in blah colors that populate my suburban landscape.

I can barely find my own car – it conceals me, the city girl with a small-car fetish, from the uncomprehending stares of the suburban pro-moms. I don’t belong here, but my car sure does – I can hop in and blend.

Plus, I am now high enough up that I can stare down the SUV-speeders in the Whole Foods parking lot. I am on their level, and they take one look at my inexpensive ugly monster of a car and know that I am not scared of a scratch. When I have the right of way, I take it, and no one can look down on me.