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Third-Row SUV vs. Minivan

If you have a big family, there will come a time when you need to make a car-buying decision that affects whether or not the family can fit in one car.

Some people opt for the minivan while others opt for the SUV with a third-row seat. The following are a comparison of the two.


Gas Mileage

Minivans get slightly better gas mileage than third row SUVs. On average, minivans can get at least 20 mpg while the larger SUVs only average in the teens. Some newer SUVs are using newer technologies to give them better gas mileage, so it's important to look into both makes and models of the minivans and SUVs to be sure.

Most minivans have a larger gas tank than SUVs too. While this can be the reason minivans get better mileage, it can also relate to higher expenses at the gas pump.


Most third-row seats in SUVs do not come standard. Instead, they are considered an upgrade to the original design, which can end up being more pricey. Vans are meant to hold 6+ people without an upgrade.


For the size, minivans are cheaper than third-row SUVs. A new minivan is going to cost you around $25,000. A new SUV with a third row seat that can actually fit people in it is going to cost you at least $35,000, and those are the base models.

Cargo Space

When an SUV has a third row, you give up your cargo space. There are a few on the market today that contain full size cargo space, but they are very expensive. If you have to carry multiple things with you at all times, such as strollers or sports equipment, you will need to purchase either a minivan or an SUV with a full-size cargo space.


Getting to the third row in a van is much easier than an SUV because of the captain’s chairs. These create rows that people can easily walk through without having to move anything. With SUVs that have third rows, you usually have to move a seat down in the second row in order to get to the back. Only one SUV has captain's chairs in it like minivans, and that is the Chevrolet Traverse.

Access to the third row doesn't depend solely on the people who need to sit back there, it's also a concern for parents who need to put children into car seats in the third row or help an older child buckle themselves.


Though minivans have come a long way over the years, there is still a stigma behind them that can make you feel old. An SUV is more trendy, and if style is what you're going for, an SUV may be your choice.

Third-Row Comfort

Most third rows in SUVs cannot comfortably seat an adult. There is barely any head or leg room, and it can be very uncomfortable. If your third row is only going to be designated to those small children, you will be fine until those children become teens. Then, you'll need to purchase a new car.

The legroom in the third row of a minivan is much more spacious, and adults and teens can easily fit back there with no lack of comfort.

Before you can decide which is the best car for you, you need to weigh the pros and cons of both options to ensure you are making the right and most practical choice.

Gary Price lives in Phoenix and works at a car repair shop.  In his free time he enjoys writing tips and facts about different brands of cars.  Gary enjoys joyriding in his Nissan Truck.

Photo credit: mzacha

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