Mommy SOS | Family Vehicles (aka Minivan vs SUV)


If you’re new and just stopping in… welcome!  We’re so glad you’ve found Scottsdale Moms Blog!

Today we’re back with another Mommy SOS topic.  If you missed our other Mommy SOS posts be sure to check them out.  We’ve covered some great topics – from pediatricians to strollers.  The posts are all full of great wisdom from all of YOU!

Now for our next topic…Family Vehicles.

Recently it seems as if there’s been a lot of chatter (at least among my friends) of what car is the best family vehicle.  When making this decision there are so many things to consider.

American vs Foreign made



How many passengers do you (or will you) need to transport?

Rear AC?  (**And by this I mean will my children melt in the backseat when it’s 110+ outside?)

The list is quite lengthy and I haven’t even gotten to all of the optional upgrades – Navigation System? DVD Player?

And in most cases it seems to come down to the BIG question…Minivan or SUV?

I haven’t specifically found our “dream” car (no….I’m not talking a 1965 Shelby Cobra type dream car) yet, but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Now I know some of you are a bit comment squeamish…But – here’s your opportunity to shine! I want to know what family vehicles you’ve had, would recommend, have your eye on, etc.  Spill it….


  1. Oooh, I can’t wait to read the comments here! I’ve loved our Toyota RAV4 for two kids – small enough to drive like a car but with trunk space like an SUV. As we contemplate baby #3 (who is still as yet 100% hypothetical, I promise), though, this topic is of keen interest to me. I’m leaning toward minivan personally, but really have not weighed all the options.

    Comment away, ladies!! Please!! 🙂

  2. Oops! I forgot to include what vehicle we drive (sorry about that).

    We’ve had a Toyota Highlander for the past 3 years and have been very happy with it. It’s been a great vehicle for our little family of 4 but it will be way too tight if and when we have baby #3.

    I’ve always had mixed feelings about minivans. Practical – yes. Do they get the “coolest vehicle on the block award”? – No.

    Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

  3. Hey Steph!
    So having now raised 4 kids to teenage years, I can tell you my preference has always been a Suburban or Yukon XL. I did switch to a minivan for 1 year, and did not like it as much. I still drive a Yukon XL to cart around all their stuff! It is a great choice! big I know , but very practical. The other SUV I had for awhile was the Infiniti big SUV, I have to say it is the smartest design for Moms on the inside, but it is a bit pricey. Hope this helps

  4. When we had Shay, I had a cute and sporty Kia Sorento. I thought we would have this vehicle for at least a little while as it could fit two car seats easily. Well, as life goes, we needed a vehicle to fit 3 car seats a year later. Honestly, when the twins arrived, I was so busy caring for little ones that I sent my hubby out to get the most practical, economical vehicle that would fit our family…I didn’t even care about the color ;). He came home with a Nissan Qwest minivan. It has worked great for our family (the only feature I wish it had are those auto-sliding doors). I swore I would NEVER be a mini-van mom, but it doesn’t bug me one bit now. Never say never i guess LOL! If God adds anymore to our family, I think we could fit one more car-seat.

  5. So far we have two kids and have had a corolla, a sienna, and a camry. Yep, we like Toyota’s. With car seats I loved having the minivan. We are discussing baby #3 and will purchase another minivan when the time comes. My husband has a ford explorer and I really do like the space but 3 car seats will be tough and it’s still not as convienant to get kids out of. I’m a huge fan if sliding doors in busy parking lots!

  6. Early this year I bought a Ford Flex. I had been looking at them since they were introduced in late 2008 and was so excited when I finally got to buy my very own. Since I had done a ton of research on them (including renting one while on vacation so I could drive it for a few days) I knew EXACTLY what I wanted and was able to get an amazing deal on mine from a dealership in Chicago after an extensive internet search (they beat the price I could get from anyone here in the valley by $3000 even after shipping costs). I get about 21mpg in town and 25-27mpg highway (cause I know everyone wants to know that).

    The Ford Flex is awesome because it isn’t a minivan and isn’t an SUV, it’s a true crossover, more of a wagon than anything else. It has awesome features (I have a 2010 Limited Edition, leather seats, heated seats (important because I don’t live in the valley full time), Ford Sync, navigation, AWD, push button second row fold down seat, push button rear hatch, rear ac, etc.). Mine is two toned (white top, cinnamon body) which gives it a unique look and people always ask about it when I’m out and about. The Flex seats 7 in the configuration that I purchased, two in front, three in the middle, and two in the “way back”, all of the seats (except the driver’s seat) fold flat so it has amazing cargo room when needed (you can put a sheet of plywood and 8′ boards in it when needed) but a 6 seat option with captain’s chairs in the middle row is available.

    I don’t have a DVD system (although my front seat nav screen will play DVDs when the vehicle is not moving), but I specifically didn’t want a DVD system. Time in the car is time to chat with my kids. To find out about their lives and to talk to them about our expectations, I don’t want that interrupted by DVD systems they would always want on (this isn’t a huge issue right now as my kids are little, but I expect to have this vehicle for quite a few years).

    My kids are both still in car seats and I have a lot of options as to where to put them, the big one rides in the “way back” and the little one rides in the second row, that way I can truly still get 5 other people into the car (if they are both in the second row it’s a little squishy for whoever sits next to them and it’s difficult to get to the third row.

    I love love love love love my Flex, and I love to talk about it, so if anyone has any questions about it I’m glad to answer what I can (I have a Nissan Quest minivan and a Subaru STi as well and previously owned only foreign cars).

    • Kelli, this is such good info – I also have only owned foreign cars previously but have nothing against buying domestic. I also will be skipping the DVD for the exact reasons you mention. Thanks for the tip – will look into the Flex! 🙂

  7. We have the Nissan Armada (its the same as the Infinity one Susan mentioned, just less expensive :)). Honestly, I love it and would never think to buy any other car. BUT, as cars don’t last forever, we find ourselves starting to mull over what will we do in the next year or two when the inevitable time comes to get a new “family” car.

    I like the practical idea of the minivan – like you mentioned Steph, but just don’t like the look and feel of them! Maybe it’s because the car my parents gave me when I turned 16 was a 1985 Suburban (yeah baby) but the big SUV is just comfort to me.

    Now remember, I currently have 4 kids in car seats. The Armada actually does a great job of fitting all four of them. The model we have has three independent seats in the middle row so we have the middle one down and it creates an aisle – just like a minivan. There is still storage space (my city select fits great!) behind the third row and when we travel long distance, we move one kid up and have our oldest climb over to get to her seat in the back so it still fits all the luggage just fine.

    So, my husband has already decided that my new car – when the time comes – will just be a newer version of the one we have. But, I’m keeping my options open. When loading 4 kids + groceries in the car, something just sounds nice about sliding doors…

  8. Three words that will change your life….automatic sliding doors. Seriously the best invention.ever!

    I, like Erin, NEVER thought I would drive a minivan. I think they are ugly (I can say that because I do own one:), but as with a lot of things that come with being a mom, looks oftentimes slide out the door and convenience takes priority. I had a highlander before and loved it, but it died and was time to get a new car. We knew that in the future we wanted to have a third child so we figured we better get that 5 person family car now, rather than a year or two later. I got a Honda Odyssey and LOVE it (we are a total Toyota family and would have gotten a Sienna, but our second child is named Sienna and I just couldn’t do that:) I cannot even explain how nice it is to have those auto doors. All I have to do is push a button, Allie can climb in the car, climb into her seat and buckle herself in. Then I just push a button to close the door. I love it that she can do all of this while I’m getting Sienna in or loading the car or whatever. I don’t have to go back and forth to open and shut doors. This is also AWESOME in parking lots. We’ve all been there trying to get our baby buckled in the carseat while making sure that our car door doesn’t hit the car next to us that has parked a little too close, it’s just a pain.

    We looked at a TON of cars…we couldn’t afford and didn’t want to pay for gas for a huge SUV and a lot of the smaller SUVs that have third row seats don’t have the LATCH system for a car seat in the third row so we knew that wouldn’t work if we had three kids in carseats (I know you can just use the seatbelt, but I feel more comfortable with LATCH). So we settled on the minivan and I don’t regret it at all.

    Mine does have a DVD player (which is great but we only use for long trips because of the reasons above as well) and navigation, but with portable DVD players and cell phones that have navigation, I really don’t think they are a necessity. Rear air IS for sure!

  9. I’ve got a Lexus suv with the optional 3rd row. Absolutely love the car but one of the main reasons I plan to stick with it is the Lexus service. They are one of the few with a S.Scottsdale, they have loaner cars, they move the carseat for me, service is super fast AND they are very honest about what services are needed. I’ve been talked out of a service package rather than into one on more than one occasion.

  10. I have the Honda CR-V, which I absolutely love. However, I only have 2 kids. I personally like the size of the smaller SUVs, but I know they’re not practical if you have more than 2 kids. It’s got great trunk space, and the back seat will fold completely flat if you need to transport something really large. It has been relatively maintenance-free since I got it in 2006. Since I’m short, I like that it’s not too high for me to lift the kids into as well. I am also in the never-want-to-own-a-minivan club, but all this talk of automatic sliding doors may win me over.

  11. We have a Honda Odyssey and LOVE it! I drove a Suburban with 3 little ones in car seats and it was such a pain for me to have to step up/climb in to buckle them in. I hated having to worry about the door hitting the cars next to me in parking lots while I was buckling kids or when they started being able to open the door themselves. It was a 2002, so I know there are some better options today. 🙂

    When that died, we decided on a minvan for several reasons. 1) Sliding doors…never have to worry about hitting other cars! 2) SO easy to reach all of the seats to buckle car seats. 3) Comfortable for any other passengers we are driving. 4) I can reconfigure the seats to fit any need. I can fold part or all of the back bench into the floor, we can fold down a middle seat, etc. And it only takes a second! 5) Turns on a dime to fit into any parking spot…think Scottsdale Quarter 🙂 6) The sunken trunk (when seats are not folded into it) holds a bunch of stuff easily. I could plop my whole stroller into it upright without folding it up. 7) Storage under the floor in the middle of the van…love this for storing stuff I want to have but don’t need access to all of the time (first aid kit, extra blankets, park toys, extra clothes, spare jackets, etc). Keeps it accessible but out of the way. 8) Rear air is on its own controls, so I can have the air turned up higher for the kids and lower for me.

    DVD player…not this time around. The suburban had one installed and it was nice to have on long trips. The kids new we only used it on special trips, so they never asked otherwise. This time, we opted for the base model minivan and purchased a strap-on dual screen dvd player. Works fine for long trips.

    This is a picky thing to notice, but I don’t love the sound system in our van. Since it’s the base model, it just has speakers in the front and rear of the van, but not the middle. When we are all riding together, the sound is uneven, so the ones on the middle always need it turned up and then the kid in the back can’t hear anything we say from the front seat. We are a singing crew, so this makes it a little hard! 🙂

  12. Honda CRV, all the way! And whenever the day comes for us to have a third, I’m opting for the Honda Pilot. Nothing against mini-vans. Just not what I want, although I DO know they’re very family friendly!

  13. love this! we are currently looking for a larger vehicle! both hubby and i are rocking 2 door cars right now and our little one will quickly need the larger carseat which will be impossible to fit. we’ve been looking at the gmc terrain or nissan xterra…any thoughts or comments on those?

  14. Sarah- I loved my Sienna. When we bought it we only had 1 car seat but used it a lot for our church youth group. I had an 8 passenger with automatic sliding doors. So easy to fit 6 teenagers all in the back. When our second baby came along the automatic sliding door was a huge help. We traded the van in for the camry this summer but only because we needed to get rid of the car payment but we are already saving money for the next sienna. My oldest daughter asks me at least once a week when we are getting the van. She is not a fan of the camry at all!

  15. With our first we had a Mazda 3. When we bought it we thought it would be perfect for up to 2 kids then we’d think about something else. But once we had to fit a carseat in it we hated it. We loved that it had the LATCH system, but it just didn’t fit even an infant carseat well. Then we were given an older Dodge Grand Caravan that had been our friends and had gone through their family of 6. It needed some work, but once trying to get Parker in and out of the van we were sold. I LOVED having a minivan from day 1. Even with 1 child. Parker was still rear-facing when we had Piper and both of their carseats fit perfectly in the 2nd row. Super easy to get them in and out and we could reach them easily from the front seat if they needed us. Now that #3 is on its way we are so excited about still having plenty of room in our vehicles (we also have an older Plymouth Voyager) We plan on putting the older 2 in the 3rd row and having the baby in the 2nd row. The Plymouth only has 1 sliding door, and we definitely prefer the 2 sliding doors on the Dodge. Are they great looking vehicles? No. Are they top of the line? No. But they are functional and they are practical and super comfortable. We’ve tried getting the kids in and out of SUV’s and I really don’t like it at all. It is so exhausting to have to climb up into an SUV and then have to load or unload kids. Plus they are huge to begin with and Trying to open a door and try to get an infant carseat in and out in a parking lot is awful. The other type of car we have had lots of experience with has been my MIL’s PT cruiser. It is a coupe and it fits the 2 kids carseats perfectly, but now being pregnant it is exhausting trying to fold down the front seats and climb into the car to get the kids loaded. I LOVE the Minivan 🙂


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