SUVs vs Minivans: Which one is right for your family?

Transitioning into parenthood requires many lifestyle changes. Change is inevitable from altering daily routines, prioritizing the needs of mini tyrants, and even giving up a beloved sportscar. As a result, vehicle choice is a hot topic for growing families. 

Read on for some tips to help you navigate buying a larger vehicle and answer questions about how insurance differs for a minivan vs SUV.

Cost Comparison

Let’s break down the costs of owning an SUV compared to a minivan. We’ll look at sticker price, insurance, and fuel efficiency.

Dealership Costs

Cost comparison right off the lot is obvious. Minivans are cheaper than SUVs. SUVs that offer comparable passenger seating as minivans are considerably more expensive. There are multiple factors in this cost comparison.

Large SUVs use more expensive steel, have larger engines, and generally use more expensive drivetrains (all-wheel drive, 4X4). On the other hand, minivans can get by with cheaper materials because they are not designed for towing or terrain challenges. 

Sure, the average family is not in the SUV market for their off-roading capabilities, but people are still willing to pay higher prices for popularity alone. SUVs are cooler; it’s just a fact, according to surveys. 

Insurance Cost

It is more expensive to insure an SUV. In addition, because SUVs are more costly to repair and replace than minivans, insurance providers rate them a higher cost and risk.

Gas Mileage

Thanks to newer technologies and research & development (yes, the more advanced research and development, the higher the vehicle price tag), SUVs have come a long way with fuel efficiency. However, heavier chassis and beefier engines mean SUVs generally require more fuel than minivans. 

The burgeoning electric SUV market may change this, but currently, there are few options with the towing and hauling capabilities of their fuel-chugging counterparts. But if hauling is not your interest in an SUV, electric might be a good choice. Remember, the R&D price tag on electric vehicles still substantially increases prices.

Kid-Friendly Considerations

Let’s face it; You’re probably not looking into the SUV vs. minivan debate if you don’t have kids. (It’s true that minivans have a cult following among the aging population, thanks to the ease of entering and exiting the vehicle and the interior luggage space.) Here are some top conveniences to consider.

Car Seat Compatibility

Car seat configuration options often become the deciding factor for young families looking to update their vehicle. Smaller SUVs and crossovers can be frustrating if you have more than two car seats.

Vans offer captain’s chairs, bench seats, and easy access to third-row seating. In addition, most minivans include LATCH anchors for three car seats and plenty of seatbelts and tether anchors for forward-facing car seats or boosters.

Convenience Features

Once again, when comparing convenience, minivans win here too. Most minivans come standard with power sliding doors. You may not appreciate this until you’re parked in an Aldi parking lot on a windy day on a 30-degree slope. Power sliding doors save the day.

Both vehicles boast automatic tailgates, thankfully. In addition, most minivans now offer power windows on sliding doors. Child locks for doors and windows are standard, an important safety feature.

Interior Space and Use

Minivans have more usable interior and trunk space than comparable SUVs. In addition, designers optimize minivan features for modern families, resulting in more USB ports and individual screens than SUVs offer.

Because minivans aren’t built to tow, their slimmer chassis offer room to store unused seats. This on-the-go flexibility is critical for juggling passenger seating in a carpool with equipment hauling for sports or music.

Safety Ratings

In previous decades, the number of fatal crashes involving SUVs significantly outnumbered minivans due to rollover incidents. Now, with the advanced safety features, most notably electronic stability control, rollover risk is a thing of the past. As a result, luxury SUVs boast the lowest death rates these days, making them well worth the cost of luxury car insurance.

Safety Features

Thankfully, when it comes to safety features, minivans and SUVs both prioritize safety in multiple impact scenarios. 

Most SUVs and minivans offer packages that include blind-spot monitoring, lane departure, and electronic brake assist. Assistive technologies have changed the safety game to the extent that cars can now achieve zero-death ratings. 

Preventive technology features can take the attention off the well-built frames and effective airbags that previously hogged the safety spotlight. But impact testing should still be considered on the topic of safety. Mid- and full-sized SUVs are now some of the safest vehicles in collisions. Small SUVs and crossovers usually rate at the same level as sedans.

Minivans have improved their impact ratings. Notably, two minivans made the zero-death list. And those two minivans are considerably cheaper than the luxury SUVs that share the list. 

Driving in Bad Weather

Possibly the most convincing reason for families choosing an SUV is their handling in bad weather. SUVs are all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, offering better handling in unfavorable road conditions. Only a couple of minivans offer an all-wheel drive model. Drivetrain and the height the driver sits at make SUVs feel safer and more capable in inclement weather. 

Utilities and Hauling

Families looking into larger vehicles should also consider their recreational needs. If you want to camp with a trailer, you’ll want a capable vehicle. Anyone who has towed a camper with a barely adequate vehicle knows the stress of barely making the trip. You do not want to start your family vacation with a white-knuckle drive. 

However, luggage space is also a vital factor in the success of a family road trip. If you are a tenting family, you’ll need every square inch of luggage space to make campsite necessities fit.

Interior Space

Once again, minivans have a clear edge in interior space, on average boasting an extra 15 inches. When considering seating and luggage, note that midsize SUVs can only offer a third row at the expense of luggage capacity. 

To achieve comparable seating and luggage in an SUV, a family has to look at full-sized and extended-length options with a steep price hike. 

Towing Capabilities

This one is a no-brainer: A full-size SUV uses a truck chassis, which means it hauls like a truck. Minivans, not designed for towing, can usually handle only 3,000 pounds. It’s essential to work with professionals to install the proper towing package and discuss safe towing. Not all minivans can take the added strain of towing. 

SUVs are built to tow, but size does matter, and a proper towing package is still necessary. Midsize SUVs can struggle with larger campers or boat trailers. Most crossovers are glorified sedans, not meant for towing, though some luxury crossovers can tow over 7,000 pounds.

The ‘Cool’ Factor

The bottom line: Minivans make the most sense on paper for the average family. However, many families choose an SUV with no intention of hauling or off-roading. In the popularity contest, SUVs win every time. Minivans will always bear the brunt of jokes compared with SUVs.

Picking your family car has as much to do with how you want to feel in your vehicle as it does with how practical it is. There’s a reason the sportscar market thrives, even though the trunk can barely fit a suitcase. Unfortunately, there is a stigma accompanying minivan ownership.

Most minivan owners shake their heads and blush a little bit when they admit that moving to a minivan was the best decision their family ever made. The clear family-friendlier option is a minivan, and yet there is no denying SUVs are more admired. 

Whichever vehicle your family chooses, we can all be thankful for the increased safety features offered by manufacturers. We should all look forward to the day when zero-death vehicles are the norm. After all, the family car transports our most valuable treasures.

Maria Hanson writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, She is passionate about empowering drivers to find their best insurance options.