Useful Car Tips

Family Haulers: Minivans vs SUVs

March 05, 2019

The humble minivan has been the quintessential choice of family-hauler vehicle on American roads for over two decades. Minivans are large, spacious, and comfortable, giving one the ability to seat up to seven passengers in comfort while simultaneously carrying a great deal of groceries or luggage due to generous cargo space. On paper, a minivan seems like the perfect family car, but there a handful of catches and caveats. This is especially true when comparing them to a class of vehicles that has surged in popularity in the US: SUVs.

SUVs and crossovers (CUVs) have also been around for decades but have only recently seen a huge surge in popularity. In fact, the US Energy Information Administration notes that CUV sales exceeded car sales in 2018, with almost 40% of light-duty vehicles sold belonging to this category. Standard SUVs accounted for almost 10% of sales, while minivans accounted for less than 7%. Consumers’ opinions seem to be changing, but that doesn’t mean a crossover or SUV is necessarily the best vehicle for you. Let’s take a look at some similarities and differences between the two to find the best one for your needs.


Purely from the perspective of practicality, minivans may claim a victory. Large and imposing from the outside, they’re just as sprawling inside as you might imagine. This provides ample space for third-row seating, a feature that some compact and even midsize crossovers either lack or disappoint with. In minivans, the third row isn’t just a gimmick or feature to tick on the options list, it consists of bonafide full-size seats that can comfortably seat adults, even for long road trips. A low ground clearance and sliding doors that open up wide combine to make access to the second and third rows easy. Compare this to the cramped conditions offered in some crossovers with a third-row, which on some models are too small to even fit teenagers, and you’ll see the first clear advantage of minivans.

Want to put the third-row down? Go for it! Minivans offer cargo space equal to or exceeding that of full-size crossovers. With internal storage too, the advantage goes to minivans due to their plentiful amount of storage cubbies and spaces, perfect for kids’ toys, snacks, and extra water bottles. Easy access to third-row seating with abundant cargo and storage space make minivans a compelling package for those looking for a dedicated family-hauler.


Practicality and comfort aren’t the be-all-end-all characteristics for everyone though. For some, the design and stigma of driving a “soccer mom” minivan is reason enough to not even consider buying one. SUVs can offer much of the functionality of minivans in a different shape and form factor, which can appeal to younger buyers or those simply looking for a more modern or stylish alternative. You get variety in your choices, too. While there are only a handful of minivan models offered in North America, the selection for SUVs and crossovers is wide and diverse. The ability to choose the perfect size, engine configuration, and drivetrain puts another point up for the SUV camp.

The difference in drivetrain options is another crucial distinction between the two. All-wheel drive comes standard or as an option on many SUVs and crossovers. The same cannot be said for minivans, which are only offered with front-wheel drive (with the exception of the Toyota Sienna). For those living in snowy climates, all-wheel drive alone can be a tremendous advantage, and a dealbreaker for a vehicle which doesn’t offer it. If you live in a warmer climate or don’t expect to encounter much snow throughout the year, a front-wheel drive minivan will do just fine.


If you’re looking for a capable family-hauler, you can’t go wrong going with either a minivan or SUV. Both classes of vehicle are comfortable, spacious, and can transport a family of up to seven in safety. Upon closer inspection, the differences in design and engineering philosophy become more apparent, and each class best suits a slightly different job.

Looking for uncompromising practicality? Consider a minivan. Want most of the practicality of a minivan but with all-wheel drive, and in a more stylish package? An SUV or crossover might be right for you. There’s no wrong answer here, and there are so many great vehicles to choose from that you’re bound to find the one that best fits your needs. Good luck in your search and happy hauling!

Previous Article Next Article