Minivan vs. SUV

My husband & I need to purchase a new to us vehicle. We will be replacing my 94 Ford Explorer with 82 cu.ft. (including seat space) of storage space behind the drivers seats.
Currently we have 3 dogs that are 50lbs each, we are hopeful for 1 or 2 kids (though none right now) & have family in VA, MT, KS, AZ. We live in SC, so this vehicle would mostly be used for holiday (think Christmas presents for 8+ people, plus dogs, plus clothes) road trips, as well as for my daily driver to/from work.
Storage space is important to us, & we’ve spent a substantial amount of time looking up cargo capacity.
We are currently most interested in the Honda Pilot, which has 3 rows of seats & has 87 cu.ft. or a Honda Odyssey which has 140 cu.ft (I think a fair amount of that is height, & I don’t know how practical that would be).
Are there any thoughts or recommendations regarding an SUV vs. A Minivan?

I seriously doubt anyone can make that choice for you as vehicle preference is a personal thing. All I know is that for a family with kids the Honda Odyssey is the most practical thing there is.


Lol ty! We don’t expect any one to make the decision for us, we see lots of pros_cons for both, we keep circling back to feeling equally about both. I was curious if anyone had any insights or advice that might help us sway (like you saying the Odyssey is practical with kids)!

We have a minivan and transported five plus lots of Christmas swag from Central Maryland to Virginia Beach many times. We could not have done that as comfortably in a SUV. That extra height is all usable. We stacked luggage for 5 and presents for 7 behind the third seat, piling it to the ceiling. As your children grow, the minivan will always provide three comfortable rows of seating. That will not always be the case for the Pilot.

A minivan has the most space for the money. If I had 2 large dogs and two kids it would be a no brainer.

If I planned to spend lots of money and not worry about gas mileage, a Chevy Suburban would be my choice. But it’s an expensive beast to keep running.

A friend’s son has a Dodge Grand Caravan (also have 2 dogs) and it’s cavernous inside.

Based on your circumstances, you are prime candidates for a minivan. Make sure you get one that has a rooftop carrier, and if you can get one with the towing package, get it. If you start having children, you’ll need all the cargo space you can get.

Personally, I’d rather have an SUV than a minivan, but I have different needs than you do. I’ve never liked how expensive maintenance and repairs are on a minivan, which are labor intensive due to how minivans are designed, but your concerns don’t seem to revolve around the cost of maintenance.

If you buy a minivan and have 2 kids, you’ll probably keep it until those kids are fully grown. When you travel with kids you will eventually travel with their friends too. That means not 2 but 4 kids, and their stuff, and the dogs, and you of course. A minivan can do that better than anything else. And it’s much easier to load a minivan because the side doors are huge and the headroom is much better. When you start loading a baby or two, and all the stuff that goes along with them, your back will tell you every day that you should own a minivan.


The minivans get much better gas mileage and have better safety records than large SUVs.

The convenience and pleasure in using the sliding side doors reminds us often that we appreciate our minivans. Flexible arrangement of seats is also a big plus.

We have both a minivan and an SUV. The minivan is a 2017 Toyota Sienna and THE SUV is a 2003 Toyota 4Runner.
Pluses on the 4Runner:

  1. High seating position-- commanding view of the road.
  2. Shorter than minivan–more maneuverable and easier to park.
  3. Better visibility to the rear
  4. Lower gas mileage than Sienna
  5. Harder to enter and exit
    Pluses for Sienna:
  6. Carries 3 more passengers than 4Runner
  7. Easy entry with sliding doors
  8. Smoother ride than 4Runner
  9. Better gas mileage
    Minuses for Sienna
  10. Lower seating position although still.higher than most vehicles
  11. Less manueverable than 4Runner
  12. Not as good in snow.
    We bought the 4Runner because my wife did a lot of recruiting trips in her job. In bad weather, she would drive the 4Runner and get mileage reimbursement rather than use s vehicle owned by the university. Her parents were in an assisted care facility 50 miles away and the 4Runner could get us through. Also, even when the university called off classes because of bad weather, and as a professional, my wife didn’t have to be there, her staff had to be there or lose a day’s pay. My wife didn’t think that was fair, so she would be there for her staff and even drove a couple of them to work and back so that they wouldn’t lose s day’s pay.
    I have the minivan because I transport myself and my fellow musicians with their instruments to gigs. Like me, these musicians are senior citizens and it’s easier for them to get in and out.This evening, our band played a 4th of July concert. I had myself and my horn, a fellow horn player with her horn and her husband who is handicapped, and an 85 year old musician and his bass clarinet. All four of us with our instruments had plenty of space in the Sienna.
    Also, I do minor maintenance and repairs for the small church I attend and often carry tools and building supplies.
    We do have a 30 pound dog. I am not sure which vehicle he prefers.
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Friends have an Odyssey minivan that easily transports their family with two teens, three very large dogs, and a week’s luggage and dog supplies. It also is the husband’s daily vehicle for his work as a chef transporting supplies for a catering business.

With the seats removed, I have hauled a set s 4 timpani in the minivan. Another time, I moved a harpsichord for a friend from her house to the performance site and then back to her house. Tasks like this can’t be done with an SUV.


Add me to the list of minivan voters. We have a 2005 Honda Odyssey and 2 boys (4 and 6), and the third row can be a blessing when they are picking on each other. We’ve brought my entire set of in-law’s on trips before (so total of 8 people), and we all fit comfortably into the minivan. As mentioned above, the entire space in the back is usable. The 4 of us went camping for a week in June, and we were easily able to fit all of our gear when we put the 3rd row down. Also food for thought, I went from a Chrysler Town & Country minivan to the Odyssey, and the Odyssey hands down drives and maneuvers better than the T&C did. Turning is much tighter with the Odyssey too (it honestly doesn’t feel as much like driving a lumbering behemoth…gas mileage has been consistently better too)

Edit: If you do purchase an Odyssey, remember to budget the timing belt changes every 90-95k miles. The Odyssey is an interference engine so if the belt snaps while driving it usually does catastrophic damage to the engine. Typically when a timing belt is done, it’s recommended to do the water pump and idler pulley at the same time as the labor is repeated if you do the jobs separately (plus you don’t want to have the water pump freeze and take out the timing belt you just changed destroying your engine :wink: )

A minivan with fold and store seating, your dogs will thank you. We have an 06 Toyota Sienna still going strong with no issues. The third row seating in most SUVs is difficult to access.

Ed B.

Thank you, everyone! You have given us a lot to think about. Hearing your testimonials, I’m more sold than I was on a Minivan!
We appreciate the insights!


The one with the most food in it, of course!

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