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SUV vs Minivans



  • jona57jona57 Posts: 194
    While others have pointed out the people-moving utility of minivans, another advantage is that the enclosed cargo capabilities of vans are unrivaled for a given fuel consumption. For example, the larger mini's (e.g. Chryslers, GM's) have a cargo capacity roughly that of a Suburban (160+ cu. ft.). If you can tolerate mid-teens MPG highway mileage, a full size van can haul significantly more than any of the large SUV's (well over 200 cu. ft) and can be outfitted to carry a dozen people (or more in long wheelbase vans). The old Chevy Astro and the somewhat pricey VW Eurovan split the difference between the mini and full-size vans in size.
    The downsides of minivans are limited trailer towing capability (about 3500#) and limited off-road ability. Those 4WD systems on minivans do not make them into Hummers.

    Personally, my family has had a FWD minivan and a sport sedan as our 2 vehicles since the modern minivans first came out in the mid '80's. I have found that a nice mix as I can grab a set of keys appropriate to what I need (or want!) to do that day. I have never needed the off-road capability of an SUV, and have found the minivan's FWD with traction control to be quite adequate for most all Midwestern suburban winter driving. On those few days when I got my sedan stuck in deeper snow in my driveway, I was able to get the minivan out & moving with its higher ground clearance. The penalty in weight, complexity, and handling with 4WD systems in the minivans does not seem to be a worthwhile trade-off for my driving needs.
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    Ah, but the AWD minivans are great for carrying 7 eager skiers to the ski slopes! :-)

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  • I've been reading the posts saying nothing is a better people mover than a mini-van, but I'm many people and what else are you moving. I have 4 kids, 3 are in carseats. When I throw a stroller in the back of my Windstar, there's not much room left for the groceries! I caught a glimpse of the inside of a Suburban, and the SPACE looked like a dream come true to me. Can someone tell me why or why not to go there?? I had a Taurus Wagon ('90 - hubby still drives it) then went to the mini van with baby #3. With only 1 sliding door, getting everyone in and out is a pain. We've looked at other vans...but they seem smaller than mine! We do travel alot...45 miles to the grocery store, home to see Grandma every 6 weeks or so. I'd appreciate any input!
  • egrandegrand Posts: 14
    Having four kids myself I would urge you not to get too excited about the added storage space in a suburban vs minivan. The access to the third row I think is much more difficult in the suburban vs minivan particularly if you'll be the one trying to yank them out of their cars seats in the third row. You may want to consider Caravan/Town and Country or odyssey minivans which give more storage room. Elliot
  • gasguzzgasguzz Posts: 214
    the suv and minivan. We picked the van over a mid-size suv. Wouldn't have without the DS sliding, but I have half your load - 2 car seats plus stuff. If it's a consideration, you'll pay more for gas (and insurance???) on the Suburb. Higher ingress/egress too on the suv, but a bigger engine. Yes, traversing through front/mid rows a boon in bad weather fastening the lil ones in the minivan.
    Good luck.
  • This problem goes into the "grass is always greener" category. We have 3 kids, all in car seats. We had a Dodge Durango, and got tired of pulling kids from 3rd row, dinging doors, etc. So, we looked for the biggest AWD Minivan we could find, which wound up being a 2002 Chevy Venture AWD WB edition. Seats 8, plenty of room to haul stuff (we are on the road nearly every weekend). The two power sliding doors are very convenient. The entertainment system keeps them busy on long trips. If AWD is not necessary (it is for us), I believe other vans will match for size...but the Chevy seating (pull out individual seats or fold down) is extremely convenient. When the kids get older I can see us moving back to a SUV, but for now the minivan is better.
  • cavillercaviller Posts: 331
    Obviously, there are exceptions. But when comparing a large wheelbase minivan like Odyssey or Grand Caravan to an SUV with similar cargo space like Expedition, consider:

    The minivan will get better mileage and less emissions. The minivan will have more seating flexibility, and easier access to rear rows. The Minivan will have larger sliding doors and a lower step-in height making loading and unloading easier. The minivan will have better handling and braking. According the the IIHS, Vans over 4000 lbs (Includes Odyssey, Windstar, Grand Caravan etc) are in the best group for lowest death rates ( ). The minivan will have lower tendency to rollover. Odyssey and Windstar also get top crash ratings across the board, something matched by very few SUVs of any size. The minivan will also be less hazardous to other vehicles in a crash, as the unibody design tends to crush to absorb energy instead of acting like a battering ram. Similarly equipped, minivans tend to be a bit less expensive, though this can vary depending on trim level.

    On the other hand, the SUV will be much better for towing. With 4WD, it will also be much better for serious off-roading and very severe weather. The also don't have the family "image" of a minivan. These are not small considerations, especially if you must do heavy towing or off-roading on a regular basis. In those cases, a minivan is probably not an option.

    Again, there are exceptions, I only state some generalizations for sake of debate. Which is right for you depends mostly on your specific needs.

  • Mom,

    Prior to purchasing our 2001 AWD Chrysler T&C, we test drove large SUVs. We have two kids in car seats, but with their friends and the grandparents and all that, functional seating for 4 rear passengers was always a requirement.

    Though we enjoyed the Suburban, Sequoia, Tahoe etc. the choice for an AWD minivan was easy. Price and operating costs were factors, but so was ease of access and configurability of the interior for hauling all the kids' stuff.

    The minivans are far more flexible. We go to downtown Seattle regularly, and my wife found parking the Suburban to be a hassle. In addition, they don't always fit into newer parking garages.

    Re: storage, we easily fit our stroller and ten grocery bags behind the third seat. If you need more space, consider getting a roof box--they are wonderful and affordable.

    Another option that I have seen larger families go for is a full-size commercial-style van. They aren't sexy, but they are sure functional and not pricey.
  • scape2scape2 Posts: 4,124
    is an ego thing. I am a 35 year old male and would not be caught in a mini-van!!! Thats why a mini-Suv with my 200HP v6 suits me fine!
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    We have a discussion just for you :-)

    Where are the high performance minivans?

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  • dcf1dcf1 Posts: 10
    We have 4 kids, 3 in cars seats also. Our '99 Odyssey is great for around town and some trips but strollers, portacribs etc. required a hard cartop carrier. I would recommend the '02 with 4-wheel dick brakes, a new 5-speed trans, more horsepower (it was powerful before!) and driver/passenger side air bags. We live in a metro area and the smaller exterior (and roomy interior) is a major plus. Forget about the folding 3rd seat -- you'll never get a chance to use it while the kids are onboard!

    Two neighbors have Suburban and Excursion. The Excursion is just too big and needs an IV for gas (single digit gas mileage). The Suburban has great horizontal storage behind 3rd seat as opposed to Odyssey's vertical storage. In fact the Surburban seems "horizontal" compared to the Odyssey. Gas mileage is poor but this is a truck that can do truck stuff like towing and off-road rambling. However it costs at least $10k more than any minivan. We are always tempted by Suburbans, but will put off owning one until the children are older (say 6+ years of age).

    Odyessy is a well designed minivan but has had problems with transmission (check out Odyessy Problems forum)and power doors (very nice at protecting little hands and fingers). But it is a minivan. If you need a van then buy a 2002 and get extended warranty.

    Suburban is refined but it is still a truck. If you need a truck for hauling and tough winter weather then buy a Suburban.

    PS - There are other minivans and SUVs but none in my opinion are the complete package for a young family of 6 like the Odyssey and Suburban.
  • I wish Honda had not discontinued old Odys to make new ones. We have one of each body style bought in reverse order (bought a new 2000 and just recently got a used 96 with 4 captains chairs (seats 6 total)). We are a family of 6. I consider the old Ody more of a wagon than van, with a little bit of SUV thrown in. The Subaru Forrester is even more SUV leaning, but lacks the seating and "pedigree" (others may disagree). My old Ody is weak in the engine department, but it is FWD and fairly light, so it will slog slowly through not-too-heavy snow or mud better than many vans. If you need a lot of power and ground clearance, you wouldn't be considering a compromise anyway right? The newer Ody is a no compromise big honkin' minivan.
  • OK - I admit to not "getting it" when we talk cargo space being equal in the big SUVs and the bigger mini-vans. Horizontal space is useful, while vertical doesn't do me much good. I can't really stack the groceries on top of each other. We do trips to BJ's/SAM's where I'm piling things on the kids just to get home (a 40 minute drive). We're going looking/test driving on Saturday...if I were going to drive 4 vehicles, what would y'all suggest. NJ requires car seats until 8years 2 of my 3 in seats can take care of themselves (4th child doesn't need a car seat/booster). I'm looking to move kids and stuff without having to completely unload the stroller, etc for every trip to the store. Also to be able to go to Grandma's without a cartop carrier, as I often make this trip without hubby,and needing a stepladder to load the car is right out. And I'm looking for safety - that's why I have a Windstar now. I'm looking for room to take Grandma or other visiting company along. I'm looking for Ford's have been great - 11 years with hardly a problem ever, but I'm not seeing a Ford with my name on it right now. Hubby has no time to help on this one...he'll buy it if I pick it. So...what would be my top 4 to test drive? I've driven big trucks before...not my first choice, but we aren't in the city, so I'm not trying to weave in and out of traffic or anything. Just need to move 6 people (minimum) and lots of stuff:everything from strollers(double) to groceries to bags of mulch and flowers for the yard...all with 4 kids in the car. I do love my frustration level is just getting higher and higher every time I can't get things in and have to make another trip. thanks for the input...I'm reading and researching like crazy now!

  • Hello,

    If you really need to carry six people AND a lot of stuff, and if you feel
    your Windstar is not nearly large enough, you will have to get a
    Suburban / Expedition / full size van. No minivan offers significantly more
    room than a Windstar. I recently bought a minivan (2 weeks ago) and
    I looked at them all. The Honda Oddy is the largest, the rear storage area
    begind the third seat is bigger than the Windstar, but not that much
    larger. You can easily fit two rows of paper grocery bags back there,
    probably about 10 bags total. If that's not enough for you, you will need
    the larger SUV.

    The disadvantage of the SUV is in access to the third seat. I don't think
    kids under 10 would really be able to do that alone. You have to flip
    the seat pan forwards, then tumble the seat back down. If you have a
    car seat there - forget about it. So if you have car seats in the third
    seat, then YOU have to crawl back there each time the kids gets in
    and out. With a minivan you open the door, and there is relatively easy
    access to the third row seat. I have three kids, 7, 4, and 7 months. The
    seven year old walks to the third row and belts herself in. The 4 year old
    sits behind the passenger seats. She gets in the seat herself but I need
    to do the buckle. I can reach the buckle without climbing in. The baby sits
    behind the driver and I can easily put him in the seat.

    I test drove a Tahoe and I loved it. The problem was that with yound
    kids the seating arrangement doesn't work.

    Good luck,
  • I agree about the seats. If you have children that are very young you can either get a minivan or an SUV only with captain chairs. I dont see how a single mom can climb into the vehicle to buckle in their child in the 3rd seat. That would be a hassle. I dont have children yet and dont use the 3rd seat except when I take my dogs so I cant comment on the hassle.
  • avro1avro1 Posts: 6
    Our 1993 Astro lasted just over 200k, our 1995 Windstar had just under 300k (no problems). Our 2000 Astro died with 78 000km (replaced the tranny and rad at different points, when the engine cracked decided to replace), the stop gap solution is a 220k Mazda MPV, the other current ride is a 98 Windstar with over 240k (again no problems) The only problem the 93 astro had was with its awd system. Now looking to demote the Mazda to G1/G2 duty (teen drivers), looking maybe at a Caravan, a wagon (audi?) or a cute ute, any ideas. This is primarily a vehile for 2 to 4, 6 in the family (2 teens, 2 adults, 2 kids). Any ideas? The Windstar will probably be replaced by the mrs with another windstar in a few months. She's sold on them, despite dire warnings about tranny problems, gasket problems, have had two with well over 200k (km)and no problems.
  • I think all minivans currently selling in the US have sliding rear door(s). That hasn't always been true, if you consider the old style Odyssey and the Mitsubishi Expo to be minivans (some consider them tall wagons). A coworker of mine considers his Lexus RX300 to be a minivan. I disagree, due to seating and profile.

    Is there a real definition somewhere?
  • My wife and I do Greyhound Rescue with Greyhound Pets of America and we have both a van and SUV. We do many events that are held in open fields and many a time it would have just rained and we have to park our in a very large muddy lot and the SUV (Suzuki XL-7) is perfect. Two dogs and 4X4. what else can you ask for? Actually a van is what you can ask for. We will take tents and lots of things to sell to these events and the Windstar is just what the doctor ordered. The SUV gets about 21 and the Star gets 23 MPG. Not great but it beats 15 in an Explorer. However, I must sat I get tired of taking the office to lunch since the van holds 6 plus me. Last month I took both sets of seats out and put them in storage. No more taking people to lunch.
  • kingwkingw Posts: 6
    My husband and I have four kids and a large dog and like to camp and travel occasionally. He drives a small car with barely enough cargo space for his guitar...

    I love having a Suburban. It doubles as a pick up truck for us, carries 8 people, and a ton of cargo. We spent a week camping in Yosemite last Summer and were able to get everything in, or on, the Suburban, including five bicycles, one on top, four on a hitch mounted carrier. Last week my husband and I brought home a small freezer, a 32- inch television, and a couple of weeks worth of groceries without even removing the seats, although we did tumble the third seat forward.

    I am very glad we didn't buy the Odyssey we had put the deposit down on. It was nice, but we would have needed a cargo trailer to go on any vacations, and we don't have room to park a trailer where we live.

    I have to add... many of my friends with mini vans have husbands who drive trucks. That really makes a difference. A truck with a crew cab, or even just an extended cab, can take a family of five and a lot of stuff just about anywhere. That wasn't an option for us because of the family size ( none of the kids are big enough to sit up front even if the truck could seat six), and the fact that with my husband doing about 50% more driving than I do, it makes sense for him to drive an economical car.

    You have to make a decision based on your family's needs, not the recommendations of others with different needs.

    I'm not sure that getting car seats in and out of the third seat in any car is really a breeze. That is just something that has to be put up with for a few years. There are other more important (imho) factors to consider.
  • li_sailorli_sailor Posts: 1,081
    I am very glad we didn't buy the Odyssey we had put the deposit down on. It was nice, but we would have needed a cargo trailer to go on any vacations, and we don't have room to park a trailer where we live.

    Not saying I disagree (since I've never tried to load up either one) but I'm wondering about your assertion that the Suburban holds more than the Odyssey. They are spec'd at about the same space (Sub at 138 cu ft and Ody at 146). I realize that the shape of the area is a bit different, but when I pack to the gills, I use all the height as well. Granted that pulling a trailer gives that advantage to the Sub, obviously...but that didn't seem to be your point.

    I'd really like to know how you evaluated them cargo-space wise. I have a Pathfinder now and I consider the Odyssey a very practical vehicle. Someday, I won't have to tow anymore.

  • cavillercaviller Posts: 331
    "I'm not sure that getting car seats in and out of the third seat in any car is really a breeze. That is just something that has to be put up with for a few years. There are other more important (imho) factors to consider."

    As you said, each family has different needs. IMHO, the most important thing for my family is safety and that includes seatbelt systems and easy access for proper carseat installation every time. Motor vehicle crashes ARE the #1 cause of death for ages 1-14. Also, while the big SUVs can accomodate 1 more passenger than most minivans, keep in mind that many DO NOT have a lap/shoulder belt in the rear center seat. Such a position is unsafe for kids in boosters and adults, and is only useful for a harnessed carseat.

    We find the cargo space in Odyssey very similar to Expedition and the eariler Suburbans (don't know if 2001/2 has more room than the 2000).

    No need to restate the other points that have already been stated regarding safety, but here's some more food for thought:

  • kingwkingw Posts: 6
    With respect to cargo room, I only know that the Suburban "seems" to have more cargo room. It probably isn't as "tall" of a space, but it is deeper and wider. That works better for me for loading groceries and things like plants. You can't stack them.

    The earlier Suburban was bigger. At least ours was. It was a 94.

    With respect to seat belts, I agree that a lap/shoulder belt in all positions is ideal. I would definitely like to see that. We do use the center seating positions some, but generally every child is in a shoulder belt. Four kids, four shoulder belts in back. I've got one large enough to sit up front now too. I do think about all of those things... there's a lot to consider. I remember obsessing over cargo flying around in an accident when I was told that a person had been killed in an accident by a flying kleenex box(?). A person could go crazy trying to prepare for every possible hazard in an accident. You have to do the best you can with the information and other assets that you have (i.e. $)

    I personally would like to see bigger mini-vans. They are well thought out, well designed(usually), but just not quite big enough. I don't even like how close the rear seat passengers are to the rear bumper on a mini-van. I've been rear-ended a few times in my life, but never been in a roll-over accident. I have seen a mini-van that had been rear-ended. The hatch door was up against the back seat. My husband and I both cringed when we saw the relatively small distance between the rear passengers and the rear bumper on the Honda Odyssey. Everyone has their perspective.
  • kingwkingw Posts: 6
    I do want to add that I think rollover resistance ratings are an issue. NHTSA is a great source. Safety is the most important issue when carrying your family. The Suburban gets three stars, the Odyssey gets four. The Dodge and Chrysler mini-vans get three stars. I am not sure that those statistics indicate that the Suburban is much less safe rollover-wise that mini-vans in general (The Venture gets three stars, the Sienna, Windstar and Villager get four stars) but it could do better. They all could. They should all be getting five stars. Heck, we put our most precious cargo in them... The fact that stands out when reading the stats on rollovers, is that the cars that most of us put our kids in (vans and suvs) are a lot more likely to roll than a sedan or traditional station wagon. It's kind of scary.
  • UNC81UNC81 Posts: 1
    My wife uses a scooter and wheelchair for mobility. The chairs are placed into the rear of our minivans ('94 Villager and '00 Sienna) by Bruno lifts. This system works well in both. However, the Sienna's rear opening (41") is just tall enough.

    We would like the option of a luxury SUV. Unfortunately, few SUV's have rear openings of 41" or more. The Toyota Sequoia's (a favorite of mine) opening is 38 1/2". The Lexus RX300's opening is much shorter.

    Our problem could have been solved by a true luxury minivan. Mercedes had one planned, but it was killed by the merger with Chrysler. To my knowledge, no luxury manufacturer has such a minivan planned. Hybrids and SUV's are the luxury vehicles of choice. I do believe that there is a market for such a luxury minivan. The minivans' idea of luxury is video entertainment systems for kids. D.I.N.C.'s and empty nesters do need to haul antiques, fertilizer, camping gear, and suitcases. We need a wheelchair. Why is there no option of a such minivan?

    In addition, SUV's and hybrid's with larger openings would also offer more options for hauling objects.
  • fedlawmanfedlawman Posts: 3,118
    What about the minivan based SUV's such as the MDX, Pilot, and Rendezvous?
  • vchengvcheng Posts: 1,284
    1999 GC Sport with 29N

    30K summary

    Miles Covered: 29,913
    Running Cost : $2,767.49
    Running Cost per mile: 9.25 cents

    Gas consumed: 1,460 Gallons
    Cost of Gas: $2,030.57
    Average Economy: 20.5 MPG
    Best: 28.1 MPG
    Worst: 13.4 MPG

    Maintenance Cost: $736.92
    Maintenance Cost per mile: 2.1 cents

    Gas Cost: $2030.57
    Gas Cost per mile: 6.8 cents

    Miscellaneous costs: 0.35 cents per mile

    (Still working on Total Cost of Ownership with depreciation and insurance)
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Those are among my favorite types of posts. I need to update my spreadsheet - it's been 15,000 miles since I last played with my TCO :-)

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  • mendez1mendez1 Posts: 4
    In 1996-2000 I owned a Ford Explorer and presently I own a Dodge Caravan SE. Of the two, the caravan wins. The dodge fits my babies child seat and her baby bag. My wife's belongings (pulse, jacket etc. The dodge also has enough room to fit five more people comfortable. Let's not forget that the mini drives is smooth and isn't as noisy as a big Suv. Also the mini doesn't need a ladder to get into it. OH, it won't cost you alot in gas. My friend bought the big Lexus 470 and he pays between 300-400 dollars a month!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    "There's just no beating a minivan when it comes to getting the most comfort and utility for the money."

    Choices are diverse for still-popular style

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