Are you in the minivan camp?

For months there has been an ongoing debate in our house about our next car: SUV or Minivan. As our family grows, I wanted to make the leap to the flexibility of having a third row. One, to give the kids some breathing room in the car. Two, to give me the space I need to carry a stroller and hit Costco at the same time. We needed to decide on buying a minivan or an SUV. The choice was not an easy one. I asked for advice on my facebook page and got a great response.

We have spent the last couple months test driving cars to decide what will work for our family. We drove the following: Ford Explorer Sport, Ford Flex, Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna.

Minivan versus SUV

Are you in the minivan camp?

I have to admit I’ve been the big hold out when it comes to driving a minivan. Someone could certainly quote me on saying, “NEVER” on more than one occasion. Then I drove one and I realized there were a lot of benefits of driving a minivan for a soon to be family of 5.


  • Ease of the automatic doors
  • 7-8 passenger capacity
  • Grows with our family
  • Storage room
  • Good gas mileage
  • More room in our garage since the doors don’t swing open


  • It’s a minivan
  • Large size
  • Honda Odyssey doesn’t offer All Wheel Drive

Are you in the SUV camp?


Pros (Ford Explorer Sport)

  • It’s not a minivan
  • Super comfortable to drive
  • Felt very safe driving in a rainstorm
  • Cool interior and exterior design


  • Height made it difficult for my four year old to get in
  • Heavy doors were a safety concern
  • Lower gas mileage
  • 5 passenger option since we needed the middle row to be captain’s chairs
  • Less storage than the minivan

Both the Ford and the Honda had awesome back up cameras. The Toyota Sienna camera was super small in comparison. I really like this safety feature since my kids are often running around outside, and their toys/bikes/shovels/etc. tend to migrate to the driveway.

The only bummer about the Honda Odyssey is it isn’t offered with All Wheel Drive. Living in New England it would be a great option and I’m surprised they still don’t offer it.

As someone committed to living a sustainable lifestyle, some people are surprised I already drive a small SUV (Ford Escape). We love the car and plan to keep it as our second car. We walk into town often to do our shopping and neither my husband or myself use a car to commute to work. Since our cars don’t get too much use, I’m ok with driving an SUV that uses more gas than an average car. Thankfully there are so many new eco-friendly engine options for cars, including the Eco-Boost engine on the Ford models.

Ford Explorer Sport

So, have we decided? We are nearly certain it will be the Honda Odyssey for us. I think with a new baby, this will just make life a little easier. This will be our third Honda and we are just used to the brand. I would love for the Ford Explorer to be the upgrade to our Escape when the time comes that she needs to be replaced. It is an awesome car and I was sad to turn it in after I drove it for a few days. My friends were surprised when I said a Ford was “cool.” Times have changed and it really has been modernized with the technology details inside and the great driving comfort it offers.

Ford Explorer Sport Interior

I loved being able to Sync my iphone with the Ford Explorer as soon as I got in.

Which camp are you in? Camp Minivan or Camp SUV?

Disclosure: I was provided Ford vehicles to test drive. This in no way influenced my opinions shared here.

10 replies
  1. Lori Davis says:

    I’m team SUV. I have a Nissan Xterra which is a standard shift which saves on gas over an automatic anyway. It gets about the same gas mileage as out Toyota Camry. Of course, I only have 1 child still at home so space isn’t as big an issue.

    • Emily Roach says:

      Thanks Lori! I miss my standard shift…my first and second cars were both shift and I loved driving them.

  2. Emily says:

    Since I would rather walk than have to drive a mini van, I guess that makes me Team SUV. Don’t feel pressured by the SUV lovers of the world, do what’s right for your family!

    • Emily Roach says:

      Emily~ too funny! I guess I will soon be in both camps as we will keep our Escape SUV and just add the minivan to the family.

  3. Joanna says:

    I was Team Minivan even before I had kids, so I’m not a good impartial commenter (!), BUT: our Sienna has been wonderful for the last four years and three kids. The fact that I can fold down a captain’s chair long-term and basically roam about the back two rows buckling in the kids is AMAZING. (Also, there’s plenty of room for a Baby Bjorn potty when that weird kind-of-potty-trained stage pops up and you have a road trip planned.) The only thing I’d do differently would be getting one with the backup camera (wasn’t standard on this model when we bought in ’09) and AWD. This winter especially I would’ve ponied up the substantial money for that upgrade–but we also have a driveway that slopes upward, which makes slippery snow more of a hassle with 2WD.

  4. Lori Popkewitz Alper says:

    Never say ‘never’! I’ve had a minivan for almost 9 years and I have to admit that it’s been incredibly convenient. As I look for a new car, which has been a brutal process, I’m wavering just as you did. There are SO many pros in favor of a minivan, but I think I’m done. The real issue for me now is finding an SUV that can hold all of us and all our stuff. I’m stuck! You’ll love the Odyssey.

  5. Madeleine @ NZ Ecochick says:

    It’s so funny to read this post we’re looking at buying a new car too since we now have 2 children and my little car is just well too little. We’re looking at the Honda Odyssey as well. We’re going to take some for a test drive this weekend and then decide which one we’ll buy. I like that the Odyssey is a big car but a small minivan. I was anti mini vans too but real life dictates that we just need more room. I like the look of these cars as they look like big station wagons rather than the huge minivans. Well see how I feel after driving one tomorrow I definitely want one with the backing camera. Good luck M xx

  6. Jeff Helfrich says:

    Liz said the same thing you did. “I will never drive a mini-van.” When push came to shove after test driving mini vans and SUVs, she reached the conclusion that practical was more important than “cool” with two kids (and their friends) to haul around in car seats. The gas mileage also was not really any worse with the mini-van. You will never regret choosing team mini-van. You can always get a convertible once the little ones are grown up!

  7. nlpnt says:

    Are you still shopping? Did you look at a Mazda 5?

    -Smaller and sportier than a “normal” minivan.
    -Available with a manual transmission (great anti-distracted-driving feature when tempted to do something to two screaming toddlers, even better when tossing them the keys in a decade and change).
    -Both of those add up to better gas mileage.
    -Despite that, available as a three-row.

    – As mentioned above, it’s smaller. About the same size as the original mid-’80s Chrysler minivans. The rest of the segment must’ve gotten bigger for a reason.
    -Mazdas do know how to rust.

    • Emily Roach says:

      Great recap of pros and cons. I have a friend with a Mazda 5 and she loves it. We are very happy with our Honda Odyssey and would recommend it to a family that needs more space.

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