2003 Chevrolet Suburban Finds New Life As A Family Vehicle

February 26, 2009
My brother-in-law just bought a 2003 Chevrolet Suburban.


Some of us responded the same way when I announced I was buying a minivan -- shock. He's not one for big vehicles, even though he's quite tall. You get the point... this is not the vehicle most people would peg him to drive.

So, why on earth would someone who most recently drove a Jeep Wrangler ditch it for the hulking Suburban? If you're a friend of his on Facebook, you know its because of all the toys he stashes in Northern Michigan. Yup, he needs a towing vehicle.

Now, of course, I can guess your initial reaction is going to be focused on gas mileage. Suburbans aren't known for being kind at the pump. But, one comment about my brother-in-law's Suburban selection was a little off: Maybe you like living at the gas station.  Well, sure, the mileage isn't as efficient as more recent models, but don't forget that the gas tank on those things is huge:31 gallons. This makes it painful to fill, because so much fuel can fit in that thing, but that mega tank size also softens the MPG blow. The actual range of a Suburban is 558 miles on the highway. Heck, he'll have to fill up less often than I will on a caravan trip!

So, I decided to check into those fuel economy numbers at TheCarConnection. The Chevy Suburban maintains many similarities from the 2000 model year through 2006. Since not much changed, pretty much all those model years sport a 15 mpg rating in the city, and 18 mpg on the highway. Then along comes the 2007 model year, and a bit of an improvement in fuel economy. Sure, city MPG ratings still sit at 15, but the highway rating went up to 20 or 21 MPG, depending on the model. Plus, some of those Suburbans are FlexFuel, meaning you can put 85% ethanol fuel in that tank. Okay, so E85 pumps aren't on every corner in the city yet, but they sure are there as you head out from metro Detroit on your way up through the farmland in mid and Northern Michigan.   Oh, now I'm getting a bit jealous. My brother-in-law now can pile in as much stuff as he wants and still have room for my sister-in-law and their two kids. Portable DVD players in laps, snacks in coolers all over the place, and personal space to boot.

There's a part of the carbon-footprint-monitoring me that wants to chuck it all for a behemoth vehicle like this.  Fortunately, a six-year-old SUV like the Suburban could actually be a good buy now. Checking the classified link from the review, 2003 Suburbans can be had for $15k or under. Of course, you can insert whatever caveats about buying a used vehicle here. But, if you're inclined to scour local offerings, check out TheCarConnection's aggregated classified ads to get a feel for what's on the market.

Let me know what you think of buying a used car, truck or SUV for your family. I'd love your suggestions for future vehicles to review.

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