Upsizing. Minivan to SUV

Updated on March 20, 2015
H.H. asks from San Clemente, CA
20 answers

For those who minivan with small kids, you only will understand my sadness. There is no part of me that wants to give up my minivan ways. But alas, three kids later, we feel the need to go SUV for the storage.
As DINKs we were a two SUV family (don't ask why, there is no good excuse for that). By two kids in we were a Prius/ Minivan family. It was a blow to the ego, but only for about 1 week until I discovered the that the minivan was in fact one of the best kept secrets on the planet (more head room, more leg room, rear captains chairs, no door ding sliding doors you can open before you even cross the parking lot with a hand full of groceries to send toddlers safely straight into the car and not waiting for you in the parking lot to open doors) Ohh let me count the ways! I tell you all this because we have owned it all- Full size SUV, compact SUV, Prius, minivan. The only thing we have not tried is a truck.
So I well know what I'm talking about when I say that giving up my minivan for a little more storage makes me sooooooo sad. In any case, we are looking. Can anyone recommend an SUV that is quite large and under $50 grand. We are open to used, but the budget is about $40,000. thx.
I've considered keeping the minivan and towing a small trailer for trips where we need to pack lots of stuff. But I"m concerned about the safety of that. Love to hear your thoughts on that. How do you all deal with large families and road trips with stuff?

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So What Happened?

we have the second row captains chair, but I could look into three across option. It may have to be welded into place though. I have a Toyota Sienna and yes we have the Thulle top storage. Its such comfortable ride when I need to be in back with kids. But baby is almost 2, so I hope to do less and less of that. We can fit three kids and two surf boards, but as of yet could not pull of any kind of camping trip with third row in use. But thanks, I will look into three across second row option so we can fit the gear in the back. Otherwise, we're probably looking at a Suburban.

Featured Answers



answers from Atlanta on

I wouldn't give up the minivan. They have a ton of cargo space with the dipped in trunk. Much more than any standard size SUV will give you. And to go to an extra large SUV, you're looking at a lot of money, plus horrible gas mileage.

Personally, if I needed more cargo space for an occasional trip, I'd keep the minivan, put the extra seat in the 2nd row, so that there are 3 across, put the three kids there, fold down the back seats, and tons of cargo space.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I am actually at the point in my life where I am so glad to be out of a minivan. Still back in the day they made them with extended cargo areas. Do they not do that anymore?

Oh, just on trips? They make those on top hardside things.

I can't believe I am here trying to talk someone into keeping a minivan, oh how the mighty have fallen

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

My minivan seats 7 holds La Crosse, baseball and soccer gear - as well as kids with no problems....what kind of minivan do you have??

You want BIG? Suburban. Seats 7 or 8 depending upon the model and a boatload of room in the back.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I want another Suburban. It has enough room behind the 3rd seat that we can set up a play pen or make a pallet of blankets for naps for the older kids.

We can also pack in 4-5 bikes, T-Ball gear, soccer stuff, gymnastics and dance bags, and more. We drove one for a while and the gas was an issue. BUT it was like taking a bedroom with us as far as extra room.

Plus it's made for 8 adults. There is so much room and the wide cushioned seats can't be beat for comfort. But don't get anything that doesn't have a DVD player!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have a Dodge Grand Caravan, the cargo area is 6 inches longer than a normal minivan--lots of room. My brother has a Chevy Tahoe and loves it. He is an electrician and has tons of stuff to cart around. He likes that he can put the seats down. He has had it for several years now though but got it for around $38,000 I think.

Quite honestly, I love my minivan. If I switched, it would be to an SUV with 8 seats.

When we go on trips, everything fits in the back. If we took an extended trip, we have a roof rack and could buy one of those "turtles" that can be placed on top if needed. A friend had a van with no rack and paid $1000 for a really good one installed.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Had a minivan - switched to a SUV and to this day I miss my minivan and that was 10 years ago.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

As far as large SUV's we have owned a Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, and Yukon Denali XL.

Best for room? Yukon, it was the extra long one so the trunk was huge. That's what we used for long trips - but the MPG was horrible.

The Expedition was our first large SUV and we liked that, but we aren't huge fans of Ford. We traded that for the Yukon a while ago.

The Armada was my absolute favorite. It drove like a dream, MPG was about 15, and the kids had plenty of room to spread out. The trunk space wasn't great though if we had all of the seats up.

We are now in a mid-size SUV and love it...minus the storage issue. We have a Highlander and it can have the captains chairs (which we usually do) or it has a piece to slide in to make it a bench and a 3rd seat. There is literally no trunk space with the back seats up, so when we travel we either have all 3 kids in the middle or put just one back seat up.

If you want a LARGE SUV with storage space, you're definitely going used for under $50k. They are closer to $70k brand new.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I have a 2008 Grand Caravan with 3 rows of seats. The cargo space has held enough luggage and food for 4 adult people. I don't know how large equipment would fit. I bought it used as a demo car in 2008 from Hertz Rental for around $25,000. It has 3 ro2s of seats. The space between seats is wide enough that I can fasten children in safety seats. The back row has leg room and room side to side for 3 adults to comfortably sit there. There is enough storage space for 4 adults' luggage. Because the back row seats fit down into the floor the storage space has depth. There is a long area for storage under the floor in front of the 2nd row of seats. And the spare tire is stored under the car allowing for more usable storage space.

My daughter and husband have a 2013 Toyota Sienna. They have 4 children. It's crowded and not a comfortable ride for me when I ride with them. although you can put down the back seats they don't make a level floor. And doesn't have under the foor storage. There is less storage space.

My SUV is noticeably larger, more comfortable and has more storage space. I don't know the size of Grand Caravans now.

My SUV is a 2008, purchased in 2008 from Hertz Rental Cars. It had less than 100 miles, looked and smelled new. It has 65,000 miles now and is still running well. i've not had to make any major repairs. I think I paid around $25,000 for it. This is the third car I've bought from them and had no major repairs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I don't have a recommendation on what TO get, but I can tell you that with the 3rd row seat in place, our Chevy Traverse has almost no storage space at all. I've always heard that minivans had more storage than SUVs.



answers from Fayetteville on

I've had 3 SUVs and I've really liked them all! First, I had a Volvo XC90 (1 kid). Beautiful vehicle. Once #2 came, the access to the 3rd row was cut off. The XC90 had a bench seat in the 2nd row and you couldn't fold it down with 2 car seats latched in. So, we bought a GMC Acadia with the captain's chairs in the 2nd row. Loved this vehicle too!! Then, we had #3. We just needed more space, so we now have a Suburban. I thought hubby was crazy when he suggested it, but the space is WONDERFUL!!! We take a lot of road trips and it's perfect! Ours was brand new and fully loaded. We paid over $50k (it's a 2012). But, you might be able to get a certified pre-owned for less. Also, they just came out with a new body style, so you might be able to find the old body style for a steep discount!

My sister has a Pilot and does not like the bench in the 2nd row...makes access to the 3rd row difficult.



answers from Norfolk on

I have a Tahoe and love it. While getting it serviced, my dealer was trying to convince me to get a new one. They now have stow & go! I'm sure the Suburban does too. That's what I would get. Our entire extended family has Tahoes and Suburbans and they all are well into 100, 200 and 300k miles! Can't go wrong. Good luck!


answers from Boston on

How often do you travel with a ton of cargo? Would a roof rack with a really good cargo net help? We used to have an okay net - not big enough for the whole cargo area but it was super stretchy with lots of hooks - like a bunch of intertwined good thick bungee cords. We also did a roof carrier for years - I forget the brand although I'd know it if someone suggested a few names of course (or 2 seconds after I post this, whichever comes first - LOL!). I've seen people with Thule units for sporting equipment, but ours was much bigger than that, but fit within the roof rack space. We used it for all the stuff we didn't need quick access to during the trip, and for stuff we didn't want the kids to get into. It did get hot up there so anything temperature sensitive stayed in the car (food, etc.) but all the beach chairs and toys and towels and umbrellas and so on went up there. If someone needed something from up there, we just undid a couple of latches, swung the top up on its hinges for a foot or so, and fished out what was needed.

A few years ago I took a bunch of kids to they airport with big camping backpacks and sleeping bags and other camping equipment, and we unloaded everyone in about 5 minutes in the drop-off area. My husband and I had a good routine together for unloading the whole thing at a vacation destination - easily flipping up the entire lid and then standing on the van running boards to unload, with one grabbing and handing stuff down to the person on the ground. We also had a bike rack on the back of the van or wagon, whatever we were driving that year.

So if you aren't on the go every day, but something like every 2 weeks, a carrier might work great. We kept ours in the garage rafters in the off season and on the deck if we were going to use it again soon.

I only suggest this option because you seem so reluctant to give up the minivan for all the other travel comfort reasons.

I agree with you about a trailer - you have speed limits with that, because they swing around especially if you're in a lot of wind. You have to know what you're doing when you put the car in reverse too. I think they're the only way to go for vehicles like skidoos and snowmobiles, but for regular cargo that's not secure, you need to add in chains or bike locks and that sort of thing. An enclosed trailer gives security and protection from the elements, but obstructs visibility. An open one is the exact opposite - not secure and not weatherproof, but good visibility.



answers from Portland on

I love the Dodge Caravans. Especially with the seats that fold right down into the floor - so much space. You could put a pod on top if you need to. And yes, you can tow a trailer. My brother towed a small laser sailboat with his, with the van itself full of family - on vacation. Super.



answers from Detroit on

I love my Honda Pilot. It has third row seating, 4WD, and a great safety rating. If I had to get a bigger vehicle, I would consider a Ford Transit.



answers from Los Angeles on

I have a GMC Yukon. Love it. We have a trailer we tow with it we camp. It does a great job. Lots of room, lots of storage. Wouldn't trade it for anything.


answers from Jacksonville on

I haven't had either (mini van or full/over sized SUV). I've had small SUV (Forester) and an Xterra, and currently drive an Outback (wagon).

However, I have friends with a Tahoe (probably a 2008-2010 or something like that, I'm not sure of the year exactly) and while the seats are wide and comfy, there probably isn't all that much more storage/cargo area than I had in my Xterra.
I also have a friend how has been driving a Suburban for YEARS. It's huge. I've seen the newer model ones, and they also look huge. My friend's (probably a 2004 or something) has 3rd row, and she's used it almost every year to take the kids to camp (8 hour drive away). 2 adults, 3 teens, and a week's worth of luggage plus sleeping bags/pillows for all 5, and a cooler or two. That's with nothing on the top. She *may* have strapped a cooler onto the tow hitch platform though.
We discussed gas mileage once recently, and she averages about what I did in my Xterra... around 20 mpg. I was surprised by that.



answers from New York on

Another option you may consider is a larger van. It would still have the sliding doors you like and the more storage space you are looking for and you could also still tow a small trailer.

We have Jeep Commander which isn't in production any longer. It gives great mileage on the highway but lousy in the city. It seats 7 comfortably but has little storage left when seating the 7 but if you only need to seat 5 it has plenty of storage with the last 2 seats folded down.



answers from Dallas on

Most large SUV have deceiving little cargo space with the 3rd row seat in use. Even a Tahoe has well less cargo space then a minivan so I think you're looking at a suburban which will be the perfect offset to your Prius; )

I know several families with 4 kids who road trip all the time on their Suburban.
Happy shopping!

I eagerly gave up my minivan for an enclave and smile every time I get in it!



answers from Las Vegas on

Why don't you buy a roof rack?

My husband says minivans are larger.



answers from St. Louis on

went thru 2 minivans in 15 years. Jumped for joy when I switched to an Explorer, much less body space...but a ton of cargo + excellent towing. It's all I need to haul my 3 dogs now that I am without young children.

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