An SUV is the natural choice when you have significant passenger and cargo needs. These vehicles tend to offer more leg and headroom for passengers than even the most spacious of sedans. Plus, many have captain’s chairs in the second row, so a lucky pair of passengers don’t have to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone.
General Motors is the parent company of three automakers known for making great SUVs: GMC, Chevy, and Buick. However, these three manufacturers are distinct from one another because they cater to slightly different audiences. When you’re browsing through used SUVs for sale, you might be considering any of these three automakers, so it would be wise to know which one is best suited for your purposes.
Fortunately, these three are each known for manufacturing vehicles that stand the test of time. Snagging a used SUV from GMC, Chevy, or Buick means you’re getting a high-value vehicle. With General Motors at the head of each brand’s operations, you can expect intuitive features, comfort, and style; picking up on the subtle differences, on the other hand, isn’t so easy for the untrained eye. Here’s a look at what makes SUVs from these top three names slightly different from their kin…
A Look at Chevy’s SUVs
Chevrolet produces numerous shapes and sizes of SUVs, and they’ve all stayed popular due to their abundantly comfortable seating, innovative infotainment interfaces, advanced driver assistance features, and other unique traits.
When checking out more recent generations of used SUVs, drivers will notice right away that Chevy offers more sizes than its siblings. In fact, between the 2020 and 2022 model years, only Chevy offered a midsize SUV; GMC and Buick ignored that segment. The Blazer—Chevy’s midsize SUV—can be a lovely option for drivers who find that compact SUVs are too small and that three-row and full-size SUVs are too big. GMC and Buick only offered small and large SUVs in recent model years to scratch that same itch.
Chevrolet tends to offer more options within each size range, too. For example, it offers two subcompact options through its Trailblazer and Trax; Chevy also has two full-size SUVs in its Tahoe and Suburban. GMC and Buick only offer one in each size category. Buick technically offers two subcompacts with the Encore and Encore GX, but these are really just different versions of the same model.
Chevrolet also tends to offer its drivers numerous engine options. For example, 2021 models of the Tahoe and Suburban have three engine options—two V8s and one Duramax Turbo-Diesel. The 2021 Blazer also has three engine options—two I-4s and one V6. However, recent GMC SUVs also offer a good deal of engine options, with 2021 Acadias and Yukons boasting three engine options each. Buick’s SUV engine options are limited; the 2021 Encore GX had two engine options, but that’s it.
Chevrolet is also the king of trim options. Take the 2021 Traverse, which boasts a total of SEVEN trims. Many of Chevy’s other SUVs for that year boast five trim options. Overall, Chevrolet offers the most diverse selection of SUVs and the most configurability of all three of these General Motors families.
A Look at Buick’s SUVs
Buick is an interesting automaker because they recently made the switch to only making SUVs—as recently as 2021. They’ve been putting a bigger focus on their SUVs, and subsequently, they have some truly luxurious options. When it comes to Buick SUVs, think “small but fancy.”
In 2021, Buick made two subcompacts, one compact, and one three-row SUV, so there’s a heavy focus on those that handle more like cars in this lineup. Pretty much every trim of a recent Buick SUV is a luxury trim, with each one becoming more indulgent than the last; think jewel-toned panels, shiny controls, tri-zone climate controls, quilted seats, leather upholstery, massage settings—you get the picture. Buick SUVs are designed to appeal to a customer who likes the finer things in life.
Buick is a great brand for the professional or socialite who wants an upscale vehicle that will impress, both with its exterior styling and its sophisticated cabin; however, this driver could have a kid or two and need more room than a sedan can provide.
Because Buick focuses on smaller SUVs, their models are also good for someone who is paying attention to fuel economy. They are not, however, made for someone who wants to do too much. Obviously, Buick SUVs aren’t going off-roading, whereas some Chevy SUVs definitely are—but the real capability competition belongs to the beefier GMCs.
A Look at GMC’s SUVs
If someone had to describe GMC’s SUVs in a few words, it might be this: the vision of a Buick with all of the utility of a Chevy. GMCs are attractive and highly capable, so while Buick leans towards the small end, GMC has made a name for itself by designing huge, accommodating SUVs. In fact, for 2020, 2021, and 2022, you’ll only find a full-size (the Yukon), a three-row (the Acadia), and one compact SUV (the Terrain).
GMC is the mind behind the Yukon XL, a massive and elongated version of the Yukon that can seat NINE passengers. If you have serious passenger needs, you want the Yukon XL. If you have several children who all want to bring a friend along on the day trip (good luck with that), you’re guaranteed to fit them all in the Yukon XL. All of their belongings can fit in there, too, with storage compartments everywhere you look.
GMC’s SUVs are also very powerful. In fact, when equipped with a V8, a 2021 Yukon can tow up to 8,200 lbs. (We must say, however, that a 2021 Chevy Tahoe can tow up to 8,400 lbs with a V8, so the two are comparable in this respect.)
GMC also offers drivers a nice range of trims, starting with more basic options and moving on to luxury ones. However, even the basic trims of a GMC SUV are going to feel quite a bit more elevated than the basic ones of a Chevy while feeling rather restrained compared to any Buick SUV.
Three Great Brands, Three Distinct Audiences
Upon taking a closer look, you can see that GMC, Chevy, and Buick cater to very different drivers. General Motors has done an excellent job of allowing each manufacturer to carve their own identity, justifying the existence of each.
Buick is undeniably the luxury offering. The beauty in a Buick SUV is in its high-end cabins, loaded with stunning upholstery, touchscreen panels, and fine attention to detail that luxury lovers will appreciate. Buick’s SUVs tend to be smaller, so they aren’t designed for tall orders.
Chevys are your everyday SUVs. They’re powerful, functional, and convenient. Chevrolet also does a great job letting drivers create the SUV they want, with so many trim and engine options. They also far outshine their kin when it comes to the sheer number of models available, ranging from subcompact to three-row.
GMC is a nice in-between. They offer elevated styling like Buick, with the powers of a Chevy. GMCs also deliver lots of trim and engine options. However, GMC mainly makes large SUVs.
Remembering these differences will make you more informed in your future auto shopping endeavors.