5 Alternatives to the Minivan

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5 Alternatives to the Minivan

December 23, 2016

Written by: : Jenna Joubert

As your family grows, you need more space in your vehicle to accommodate extra passengers and cargo. At capacity, most sedans can hold five people, but not comfortably. So, no matter what, if your family is expanding, you need a bigger car. One of the first vehicles parents consider is the minivan, but there are other options on the market for safely transporting your children.

There are a lot of reasons why families decide to buy minivans. The sliding doors and low clearance make entering and exiting the car easy for adults and children. It also makes for easy loading and unloading all the stuff you can haul. Bucket seats in the back mean the kids have plenty of space between them, so they don’t fight on long trips. Plus, there’s enough room so you don’t have to worry about getting kicked in the back while you drive.

However, they aren’t cool. Is there a way to get the car you need for your family but also avoid the minivan? Here are five alternatives to a minivan and how they compare. Research your options and choose the vehicle which best suits your family’s needs. Once you have made your decision, make sure you follow up with regular maintenance with a professional mechanic so you can safely transport your family.

Sport Utility Vehicle

An SUV is the first car that comes to mind when you want an alternative to a minivan. There are a lot of options in this category, from the massive Chevy Suburban down to the diminutive Honda CRV. Most SUVs have similar storage space and passenger capacity. Here’s what stands out:

  • Entry and Exit: The biggest advantage that minivans have over SUVs is ease of entry and exit. Kids must step up pretty high to get into an SUV, and the lack of sliding doors means it is harder to get in and out, as well as harder to load stuff in from the sides.
  • Storage: Storage for an SUV is not as flexible as in a minivan. The seats typically fold down to convert cabin space into storage space. But SUVs are designed, first, to be off-road vehicles, so there is a lot of clearance. The floor of an SUV is higher than a minivan, so there is less storage space in an SUV.
  • Towing: Here is where an SUV shines when compared to a minivan. They are great for towing. An SUV can drive the family and tow your boat or trailer when you go on vacation.

Aside from towing and rutted road clearance, the main reason to get an SUV is the cool factor. SUVs have a sporty vibe, like you take your car off road on the weekends or haul your boat down to the lake house.

Crossover

Do you ever wonder what the difference is between an SUV and a crossover? Crossovers use a unibody design, meaning the body is built on the frame. SUVs use a body on frame design, where the body is built separately and then placed on the frame.

Crossovers typically have similar passenger capacities, storage, and legroom as SUVs. There are some differences, though:

  • Gas Mileage: A crossover’s smaller frame and low to the ground design helps to make this a more efficient choice. While full-size SUVs tend to have gas mileage in the mid- twenties, crossovers get closer to 30 mpg.
  • Storage: A lower profile means storage can be easier, too. The hatchback design allows for easy lifting in and out of the vehicle. While not as low as a minivan, the low height means you don’t have to lift heavy objects as high as you do from an SUV.
  • Handling: The crossover feels like you’re driving a sedan, but it has the space of an SUV.

 

Station Wagon

Station wagons have come a long way. Modern station wagons are stylish and sporty, with plenty of room.

If there is a continuum between the SUV and the compact car, the station wagon is the last step in the series. It looks and drives more like a sedan than an SUV. It is a mid-size car with an extended trunk. Here’s what makes the wagon stand out:

  • Passengers: They have a similar capacity as crossovers and SUVs but with a little less room. Legroom is more like a sedan than a minivan, so everyone will get packed in a bit tight. The seats all fold down to maximize storage space.
  • Gas Mileage: Wagons get better gas mileage than the rest of the SUV continuum because they are most like the sedans, with a lower profile and less weight. Many wagon manufacturers are European, where diesel is the preferred fuel. If you’re willing to go that way, you can get a wagon that gets 40 mpg or more.

Those Boxy Vehicles

Cars like the Nissan Cube and the Kia Soul defy any kind of classification, except the term “boxy.” In some ways they are like a crossover but, in others, they are more like a compact car. They deserve a list of their own.

  • Passengers: These vehicles are typically smaller than crossovers, and they hold fewer passengers—usually four or five. What they lack in passenger capacity, they make up in legroom.
  • Storage: Some of the box vehicles have very creative storage solutions. The back seats in a Honda Element fold up on the side walls of the car, leaving the floor completely flat from the back to the driver’s seat. While these cars are shorter than minivans, this feature makes them just as easy to load and unload while maximizing available space.
  • Handling: These cars are not going to win any races. They are designed like spacious compact cars, so the engines have low power. They are efficient, however. These vehicles tend to have a gas mileage at and above 30 mpg.

 

These cars are not cool, but base models start around $16,000, so their price is their best feature.

Conversion Van

A conversion van takes a standard commercial van and converts it into a family vehicle. These vans have lots of options for the family going on a trip or carpooling to a game. Here’s what makes them stand out:

  • Entertainment: Conversion vans have lots of electronics options. There are outlets to charge your favorite portable gaming device, TV screens to show movies on the road, and multiple music options. These vans will keep everyone entertained.
  • Gas Mileage: These vans drink gas like a college student drinks coffee after an all-nighter. Many of them only get 14 mpg.
  • Space: There is a lot of space for both passengers and stuff. Removable seats mean using the full-size van capacity for hauling. There’s plenty of legroom for the kids—enough to store whatever they need for a long ride.
  • Handling: A gigantic vehicle means that it drives like one. It takes some time and skill to get used to driving a conversion van. They do not handle well, and they can slide in bad weather.

If a minivan just doesn’t work for you, there are a lot of car options to choose from. From full-size SUVs that look like they could climb a mountain to the Honda Element, there are plenty of alternatives to minivans that will fulfill your needs.

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