Should I Buy A Minivan Or An SUV?

American families need vehicles that can comfortably fit occupants and their belongings. Cross-over SUVs have become increasingly popular in recent years as they typically offer better gas mileage, a more comfortable ride, and better handling while still offering ample cargo space and ride height found in their truck-based SUV counterparts. Minivans also offer these qualities but lack the ride height and all-wheel drive option available in SUVs.

Deciding whether to buy a minivan or SUV can be a challenging dilemma. If you do not require the added ride height, towing capacity and off-road capability of an SUV, it is worthwhile to compare these vehicle types, evaluate your needs and decide which type is right for your family.

There is one minivan that offers an all-wheel drive option for 2011, the Toyota Sienna.

If you compare a new crossover SUV such as the 2011 Ford Explorer to the Sienna, you will find that the Explorer has about the same mileage as the all-wheel drive Sienna, which has estimated fuel economy of 16-mpg city/22 mpg highway. A 3.5-liter 290-horsepower V-6 engine powers the Explorer while a 3.5-liter 266-horsepower V-6 engine powers the Sienna. The Explorer has a 5,000 pound maximum towing capacity while the Sienna has a 3,500 pound maximum towing capacity.

Prices are comparable. A 2011 Ford Explorer Base with all-wheel drive has a base retail price of $30,190 while the 2011 Toyota Sienna LE with all-wheel drive has a base retail price of $31,330. Prices for these models can escalate to near forty thousand dollars with added options.

Minivans work great for kids. They offer more cargo space and typically a more ample and versatile seating configuration. For comparison, the 2011 Explorer has 80.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats folded down, 43.8 cubic feet of storage capacity behind the second-row seats and 21 cubic feet or cargo space behind the third-row of seats. The 2011 Sienna has 39.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row of seats but can expand to up to 117.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats down.

The Explorer offers seating for up to seven-passengers, while the Sienna offer seating for eight-passengers. The third-row of seats tend to be larger and more comfortable in a minivan than an SUV.

Kids can walk to their seat in a minivan and have room to play. Minivans, with their lower step in height and electronic sliding doors, are easier to get into and out of and to get to your seat. There is plenty of room for strollers, bicycles, toys, sports equipment and other gear. Minivans, with their largo cargo areas and seating areas allow for more room for growth, as kids get bigger. And as styling in minivans improves, they won’t be afraid to travel in one as a teenager.

As for safety, minivans tend to be a bit safer. Both are available with ABS, air bags, rear view cameras, and other safety equipment, however, SUVs, with their higher ride heights, are involved in rollover accidents in greater number.

Deciding whether to buy a minivan or an SUV is a personal and family decision. Minivans are a great options for families but lack the ride height, off-road capability and towing capacity of some SUVs. Mid-size or large SUVs offer greater towing capability than minivans. If you own or plan to own a boat or live in an area that receives ample snowfall, keep these factors in mind in your vehicle purchasing decision.

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