A white 2021 Honda Ridgeline is shown from the rear at an angle in the forest after leaving a used Honda dealer.

Why Ground Clearance Matters in Your Vehicle

Some drivers have always had to think about ground clearance. Those who have grown up around agricultural sites or back country roads that aren’t well-kept know how important ground clearance is. However, some drivers go their whole lives never having to think about this feature of a vehicle. If you’ve always lived in the city or the suburbs, where the roads are paved, and city-operated vehicles come through to clear away piles of snow or pools of water, ground clearance may have never come up for you. But, if your life is changing, and so is your environment, you might find yourself needing to care about ground clearance.

Whether you’re leaving the city to finally enjoy the quiet life in a small town where nothing but a dirt road leads to town, or you’re moving from a sunny state to one with the four seasons, you’ll find that a sedan or similar low ground clearance vehicle won’t cut it anymore. You’ll need a vehicle with good ground clearance, and Honda makes several. If you visit a used Honda dealership and want one of their models with the highest ground clearance, ask to see a 2021 Ridgeline, a 2020 CR-V, or a 2020 Passport. We’ll take a closer look at those models eventually, but first, here are reasons you’ll want a vehicle with good ground clearance.

You Can Travel Over Uneven Roads

The moment you leave paved roads, even the slightest bumps and obstacles can have your vehicle bouncing up and down. More importantly, the higher the chance is that a small boulder or stump on the ground scrapes the underbelly of your vehicle. This can be very damaging and lead to costly repairs.

If you’ve ever seen a sedan travel down a bumpy dirt road, you probably saw them driving very slowly. They couldn’t risk their vehicle bouncing around and their undercarriage getting scratched up. Good ground clearance gives you the freedom to travel down a bumpy road with confidence in knowing the rocks and other obstacles on the ground won’t damage the undercarriage of your vehicle.

You’ll Absorb Shock Better

Driving down bumpy roads can be very uncomfortable for you and your passengers. This is especially true in a vehicle with low ground clearance. There is some fancy physics behind it, but basically, the further away you are from the bumpy surface, the less you feel the turbulence in the cabin. That’s why when you’re in a sedan on a bumpy road, you feel like you’re on a ride at a theme park. But if you’re in a vehicle with good ground clearance, the ride feels much smoother.

A blue 2022 Honda CR-V is shown from the front at an angle.

You’ll Enjoy Better Visibility

Having a vehicle with excellent ground clearance improves visibility in two ways. The first way is simple: if you have good ground clearance, you likely have a high riding height, which means you can see further ahead of you. When you sit up high, you can see over the shorter vehicles in front of you and other obstacles on and around your vehicle that might otherwise obstruct your view in a low vehicle.

Here’s the second way a good ground clearance and ride height improve visibility: dust mitigation. Think about it: if you’re in a low-to-the-ground sedan, driving down a bumpy dirt road, you kick up a lot of dust. That dust doesn’t have to travel very high to start covering your windshield and windows if your vehicle is low. On the other hand, if you have a vehicle with a high drive height, the dust might only reach somewhere around your door handles or the hood of your vehicle. That means it won’t obstruct your view (or leave you with dirty windows you have to regularly clean).

You Can Travel Over Water With Ease

You won’t want to go forging into streams or lakes with your vehicle just because it has a good ground clearance. But, when heavy rainfall leaves a couple of inches of water on the ground, you can easily drive over it if your vehicle has good ground clearance. Alternatively, low-to-the-ground vehicles can get in a lot of trouble after heavy rain. Even a couple of inches of water can reach the undercarriage of their vehicle, damaging important components.

You also don’t want to leave a low car like a sedan or sports car parked on the street when it’s been raining. Unless the street has extremely efficient drainage systems, water can pool under the vehicle and even rise so high it gets inside. On the other hand, if you leave your vehicle with tons of ground clearance parked outside in the rain, you face a much lower risk of returning to your vehicle and finding that the tires are completely immersed in pools of water.

You’ll Survive Potholes

If the mayor has done nothing about the potholes all over town, no matter how many times you’ve written, you know that driving can be dangerous. Hitting a pothole can cause major damage to the undercarriage of your vehicle. However, the risk is lower if your vehicle has good ground clearance. The underbelly has further to travel before hitting the ground once a wheel goes into a pothole. While avoiding potholes is obviously preferable, if you do happen to run over one, it will lessen the impact.

A grey 2022 Honda Passport Trailsport is shown from the front at an angle while driving off-road.

The Three Hondas With the Best Ground Clearance

Opinions vary on what constitutes “good” ground clearance. However, many schools of thought say that upwards of eight inches is required for off-roading, and six to eight inches is considered good for more “normal” environments. Honda does not at this time make a vehicle with serious off-road ready ground clearance, but, the closest you’ll get is the Honda CR-V. It gets 8.2 inches of ground clearance on all-wheel drive models, which is more than enough to handle dirt roads and some unpaved environments.

The vehicle with the second highest ground clearance is the Honda Passport, which boasts 8.1 inches beneath its undercarriage. As a midsize SUV, it has plenty of seating and cargo space. Its ground clearance is great because this vehicle boasts 5,000 lbs of towing capacity. If you want to utilize the Passport’s towing powers to go ATVing or boating, you might need to leave paved roads, and the ground clearance will help. Finally, those looking for a truck with good ground clearance can check out a Honda Ridgeline, which gets you 7.64 inches of ground clearance, making it the right height for agricultural and work sites.

Ground Clearance Is an Important Aspect to Consider When Choosing a Vehicle

Sedans have their benefits like they usually boast good fuel economy and are easy to park. However, unless you stick to flawlessly maintained streets, driving a vehicle that’s low to the ground puts its undercarriage at risk. It can even put you and your passengers at risk if bumpy roads get so bumpy someone hits their head or hot coffee goes flying. You’ll enjoy a smoother ride on bumpy roads in a vehicle with good ground clearance and avoid causing damage to your undercarriage.

Next time you’re purchasing a vehicle, ask yourself in which environments you’ll be driving on a regular basis. Make sure your vehicle is ready to safely travel over all of the roads you need to cover. You don’t want to have to rent an SUV every time you head out of town to visit wine country two hours away or to your friend’s remote ranch property.

The undercarriage of your vehicle holds critical components to its operation. Having so much as a little mud or some rocks get up there can cause major damage, and you’ll get stuck with the bill. In fact, some vehicle user manuals state that you cannot travel over certain types of terrain if you want the warranty to apply. You might find those on low-to-the-ground vehicles because the risk is so high. Get a vehicle with great ground clearance, and you’ll travel over more roads with confidence.