With three kids, ages 5 and under in car seats, and a fourth in the works, we found ourselves in search of a new vehicle. The thing is when it comes to fitting four car seats and still having a bit of cargo room, a six seater isn’t going to cut it, heck a seven seater is pushing it. If you have 3+ car seats or even four, you really have two options in the auto world, a minivan or a full-sized SUV, unless you want to move up to a passenger van, but for most, 10+ seats is overkill. After much research, I narrowed your choices in 2014, and any year from 2005 on really, down to three choices.
The 2014 Honda Pilot
As a resident of Alaska, finding an 8-seat vehicle that could fit 3+ car seats with AWD or 4WD mattered to me. This is an area where the minivan market falls on its face, in fact, the only AWD van on the market these days is the Toyota Sienna (also on my list). The Pilot, however, offers more clearance than a minivan with comparable seating and gas mileage. Yeah, it’s the truth. The 2014 Honda Pilot is a fuel-sipper at 18 city, 24 highway when you consider other full-sized SUVs often offer 15-18 combined mpg. 2014 models run between 29 and 40K, however, you can snag an earlier model, such as a 2007, for under 10K. While the Pilot does not having sliding doors (When will they make an SUV that has those!), all three of the second row seats fold forward, meaning with 4 car seats, you could place three in the third row, one in the second row and still easily keep one to two seats folded out of the way for easy access-something many SUVs and crossovers with third row seating do not offer. Honda also has a long track record of reliability, with the Pilot getting superb marks as well.
The skinny: If you want not-a-minivan that seats 8, gets good gas mileage, and can fit 3+ car seats, the Honda Pilot isn’t just your best bet, it’s the only one unless you want to shell out 50K+ on a hybrid Escalade.
The 2014 Toyota Sienna
If you need AWD and don’t mind a minivan, the Toyota is as stated your only option. Unfortunately, the 8 seat version of this van does not offer AWD either, but as a minivan, 7 seats will accommodate 3+ car seats with good accessibility. That eighth seat in the SUV world is really just to ensure you can get to the third row. The Sienna is generally viewed as a more affordable version of my next suggestion, the 2014 Honda Odyssey, but with slightly less fuel efficency. You’ll see 18 city 25 highway as far as fuel economy in the Sienna, while enjoying a comfortable ride. 2014 models run 26 to 40K and rank average in reliability. While the Odyssey offers more luxury features and a higher reliability ranking, used Sienna’s tend to cost less, so they can be a great economical choice for families.
The skinny: If you need an affordable option without the bells and whistles, choose the Toyota Sienna.
The 2014 Honda Odyssey
The Honda Odyssey has ranked number one in the minivan market for several years running for a reason. This luxurious ride accommodates 8 with ease while offering a comfortable 19 city and 28 highway fuel economy. Sadly, Honda does not offer an AWD or 4WD option, but honestly, if you aren’t frequently dealing with very poor road conditions (like if you don’t live somewhere like Alaska) you’ll probably be just fine with a FWD vehicle, possibly opting for snow and ice tires in the winter. The Odyssey does sport a slightly larger price tag than the Sienna retailing from 27 to 41K, though used models tend to retain their value longer, so you may find prices stay high even in later models.
The skinny: If you want a luxury minivan with impressive reliability, go with the Honda Odyssey.
Honestly, these three are the only solid choices for families needing seating for 8 or room for 3+ car seats. Why? Well, while other options such as the Dodge Grand Caravan or Chrysler Town and Country look awfully nice, they aren’t rocking the charts in the reliability world. As a parent, safety, seating and price aren’t my only concern. I care that my car isn’t going to cost me a fortune in repairs or need replaced in two years.
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