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Best passenger van for a large family?

My wife and I have a blended family, which means that together we have seven children (3 week old, 3yo, 3.5yo, 4yo, 7yo, 10yo and a 13yo.) Currently we have a 2008 Grand Caravan and a 98 Pathfinder. Trips with the whole fam means two cars - even if its just across town. Recently someone suggested the Nissan NV. Nice lookin vehicle but the gas mileage - oy!

My question to the comunity is "Can anyone suggest a passenger van that is comfortable, easy to get in and out of with boosters and child seats plugged in and gets (comparatively) good gas mileage?

I also grew up in a blended family (eight in total), and with that many persons you need a large van or two cars. We ended up with a Buick Roadmaster and a Plymouth. You seldom need the two together, so for gas consumption, two roomy vehicles with small engines is your best bet.
I would have a minivan and a compact car.

I like the minivan and compact idea too for over all best economic sense. Toyota Sienna and a Matrix for example? Having said that, vans like the GMC Savanna in 8,12 and 15 passenger configurations are options if everyone must go together. Mileage for this clan will never be great. Think passenger miles and larger vans make more sense. These are 2 options IMO.

I would vote for a full size van in which you can all travel together. It is more relaxing on a trip to travel in one vehicle and not have to try to stay together as happens when you have two vehicles. I agree with dagosa that if you think passenger miles per gallon, it would be more economical to go in one van than two separate vehicles. Your other vehicle could be a compact car or even two compact cars with the full size van used when the whole family wants to travel together.

Start with seating for 9+, that will cover 2 adults and 7 growing kids. Therefore to get everyone in one vehicle, forget decent mpg. If you can find something large enough to seat all and it comes with a diesel motor that would give the best shot at the best mpg you could get. It could come with higher maintenance costs, too. For the big take everyone vehicle focus on space, comfort, and ease of access to get everyone in and out. MPG as a criteria is way down on the list of priorities.

Since you have to go large to seat everyone, your 2nd vehicle should be a small car with a back seat. Something like a 4 door Honda Civic. Good mpg and you can use that for trips when less than the whole crew have to be hauled around. For this vehicle focus on MPG and enough space for groceries and a couple of kids.

If you want to all fit in one vehicle, you need something Very Large. A Ford E-350 passenger van will seat 12. A Chevrolet Express 2500 or 3500 will also seat 12. Gas mileage is miserable, but that’s what you get when you need to take two basketball teams somewhere. Mercedes Benz has a 2500 144 WB passenger van that seats 12 and a 2500 170 WB that seats 12 with 26 inches more cargo space. They both used diesels, and are about $6000 more to start than the Ford or Chevy vans. That’s about it for a family of 9 that travels together.

Add the mileage of two different vehicles for one trip together just to haul everyone, and you’ve got the mileage of ONE Ford or GM full sizer. Add in insurance and repair costs? Face it, you’re resigned to that size if you want to haul everyone together.


We bought a 1996 Dodge 2500 van new and drove it 15 years and 130k miles. It was great on long trips and the mileage was not bad. We made many trips with 8 to 10 passengers After 15 years the A/C still worked but not great. The drive train had not been worked on. (except I did replace the U-joints) However, I think the last one they built was in 2004,

How often do you have all people in the car. Would renting the big van for trips work. Then you can keep the current configuration and save on gas, insurance and the purchase of a big car.

how about a Ford Excursion withj a diesel or a Suburbon w/3rde row seating also renting a large van is a good option

Big Marc - I was just going to suggest a Suburban, we had a 9-seater for 12 years, worked great for scouts, etc. However, getting into the 3rd row was a bit of a chore, and the mpgs weren’t very good (12 city/15 hwy, may be a bit better now).

i see what you mean maybe a full sieze van would be a better choice.

New Suburbans seat 8. IIRC, Ford no longer offers the Excursion. Used might be available, but the 9 seaters are at least a generation old. And they would have to be several years old to drop to the price of a new full sizable van.

@jtsanders - Nope, you can still get a bench seat on the LS, so says the Chevy site, so 9 total.

@texases, you are correct. For an extra $10,000 someone could have an LS Suburban instead of an LS 3500 Express van that seats 12.