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One thing you do not want to do is spend hours researching a vehicle on the internet, find The One, buy it and then drive it home to discover that it doesn’t fit into your garage.
Yes, that is a thing. And if there is anything we’ve learned from our cold winter, it’s that storing your car in a garage has its benefits.
Misjudging whether a car will fit in the garage doesn’t just happen to people who trade in an old car for a different model that’s bigger, taller, roomier and has more cargo space. It also happens to people who trade in a years-old version of a model they love for a newer one, only find out that the latter is taller, wider and longer than its predecessor.
MotorBiscuit.com contributor Matthew Skwarczek says garages aren’t getting smaller – vehicles are getting bigger. A couple cases in point: The length of GM’s largest three-row SUV, the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban, is 226 inches – up two inches from the previous model and seven inches from the one before that. Its slightly smaller brother, the Tahoe, measures 211 inches, making it seven inches longer than the 2020 version.
That’s good news if you’re looking for room inside your vehicle. According to Chevrolet, the new Tahoe has a whopping 66 percent more cargo space behind the third row and 10 more inches of legroom for third-row passengers. Suburban’s extra length and some interior design reconfigurations create a 19 percent increase in maximum cargo space.
But, will these vehicles fit into your garage?
Many customers do their research before visiting the dealership and often will measure their garage and compare its dimensions with vehicle details listed on the manufacturer’s website. They also are aware when a model gets bigger as the result of a redesign.
Skwarczek says that most automakers have trended toward making many models bigger. Toyota, for example, added three inches to the length of the Siena for 2021, but also has reduced the minivan’s height by half an inch.
“It’s good to know the size of your garage,” says Alex Neuburg, sales rep for Wilde Toyota in West Allis. “If you do know that, but not the dimensions of any specific model, we can easily look it up in a few seconds at the dealership.”
Skwarczek also notes that a model’s height, width and length can vary from one trim level to another. Pickups are an obvious example, given the huge differences between traditional, crew and quad cabs and bed lengths.
There are other considerations to keep in mind, though. Skwarczek says the average garage is 20 to 28 feet deep. “Based on this, it would appear that even a new Suburban could comfortably fit in most garages,” he says. “But will it leave enough room for you to move around, or use the garage for storage?”
Because a garage’s size is typically derived from its outside parameters, he recommends measuring the inside space, which takes into account the thickness of walls and intrusions like steps and built-in or free-standing shelves.
Skwarczek also notes that newer garages tend to be larger than older ones.
Furthermore, if there are any pillars, make sure the spaces between them and the garage walls and doors are long and wide enough to fit a certain type of vehicle.
And don’t forget to measure the height of the garage’s ceiling and overhead storage spaces and to check how much room there is under the garage door when it’s open.
“Go to your garage with a tape measure, and see if the vehicle will actually fit with the door opened and closed,” Skwarczek says. “Next, lay tape on the ground corresponding to the SUV’s dimensions and walk around it. Can you comfortably move around? Can you still store ladders, tools or other things in it?”
If you’re going to want to load and unload the rear cargo area or trunk inside, you should also know how far back from the end of the vehicle the lift gate extends as it goes up and down and how high above the top of the vehicle it goes when fully open.
This final consideration is one that many car companies took seriously years ago by making lift gate height adjustable. For example, Toyota offers a lift gate that can open to whatever height you want, plus several pre-programed settings. Chevrolet is one of several manufacturers that allow owners to choose to open a lift gate to its full extent or limit it to three-fourths open.
If, however, you can’t seem to find a vehicle you want or need that fits into where you’ll have to park it, ask the sales rep for suggestions. Most automakers offer alternatives to meet a variety of needs. And many will allow customers to take the car home on a test drive and pull it into the garage just to make sure it fits.
“If someone wants a Tahoe, but it’s too long,” one sales rep says, “they should consider getting a Traverse. It still has the three rows and plenty of cargo capacity for most people.”
One more thing: If you’ve hung a tennis ball from the rafters to let you know where to stop your current car when pulling in to your garage, check to see if it has to be moved before parking your new one.