When it comes to SUVs or crossovers, two frame options exist. Which begs the question, which is best: body-on-frame vs unibody? Body on frame means that the body and frame are two separate entities. Unibody, the newer style, offers extra maneuverability and a more comfortable ride. Which is better? We’ll list a few benefits and drawbacks of each.

Body on Frame

It’s harder to find a body on frame SUV, these days. The process starts with an underlying frame. Next, the vehicle’s body goes on top. In the typical case of the body on frame pickup, the manufacturer mounts the bed on the frame separately. When you look at the side of a truck, you’ll see where the cab meets the separate bed. The body on frame design is more common among pickup trucks. But, a few popular SUVs still use this design, such as the:

What are the benefits of having a body-on-frame construction? The primary benefit is that this design makes for a better off-roading and hauling vehicle. The body on frame style makes the vehicle resistant to twisting forces, the kind one experiences when crawling over rocks. Or, what you feel when you’ve loaded down the cargo area. These types also tend to be cheaper to manufacture and repair, if you do get into an accident. 

A few drawbacks exist for the body-on-frame construction. This is why many SUV automakers abandoned this design template. The primary drawback is that this construction adds weight, which diminishes fuel economy. Most note that this design also hinders handling and cornering capabilities.


The other design type is unibody construction. This is often associated with the terms, “crossover” or “car-based”. 

Unibody design differs from body-on-frame in one major way. Instead of the body placed around a separate frame, the frame and body are one single piece. This is the style used for many popular models, such as the:

What are the drawbacks of the unibody design? In general, unibody styles don’t offer the same off-roading capabilities as the body-on-frame models. They can’t withstand the wear and tear or twisting forces that the other models can. They also are more expensive to manufacture and more expensive to repair.

The benefits are obvious when driving a unibody vehicle, versus a body on frame model. Unibody SUVs offer a much smoother ride, easier handling and weight savings, which results in better fuel economy. 

Accidents in Unibody Vehicles

A common myth regarding accidents is that unibody frame damage always results in a total loss. This isn’t true. In most cases, the skilled technicians at CBS Collision can handle extensive damage. Most insurance companies do simple math to determine if a car is totaled or not. Your insurer will add up the cost to repair the damage and compare it to the car’s current value. If the repairs exceed the value, they deem the vehicle a loss. However, even with significant frame damage, it usually costs less for us to repair your vehicle than the total value of the vehicle. 

Modern cars handle accidents much better, thanks to unibody construction. This design means that the car and frame are one. If the body is damaged, so is the frame, more than likely. But, since the frame comes in several pieces, even if one section is totalled, that doesn’t mean the entire frame is lost. This means that unibody frame damage is much easier to repair in modern vehicles vs older vehicles.  If your car has suffered an accident, our technicians can help get your vehicle back to its original factory specifications.   

Which is Better: Body-On-Frame or Unibody?

If you’re looking to haul, tow or go off-road, you’ll probably want a body-on-frame SUV, or if you’re looking for a vehicle to drive around town, a unibody design will be a better option for you. However, if you want to do both, you’ll have to decide whether the handling drawbacks and fuel economy of a body-on-frame SUV is worth the hauling and off-roading benefits. Irregardless, before you deem your beloved vehicle “totaled”, give CBS Collision a call. We may be able to repair your frame for less than your car’s value. 

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