Minivans and SUVs: 6 Key Differences

Two of the most popular types of vehicles nowadays are minivans and SUVs. The reasons are easy to appreciate, particularly when it comes to their roominess and ease of driving and handling.

It’s also easy to find parts (this site has parts for Dodge and Chrysler minivans and SUVs, for example) just in case something goes wrong.

That’s why it can be a little hard to decide between a minivan and an SUV, especially for families who often travel with a lot of cargo.

To make things a little easier, below is a list of the main differences between the two types of vehicles. Hopefully, this can help you decide which ones are more suited to your needs.

The Rear Doors

One of the easiest ways to distinguish a minivan from an SUV is the door configuration. If the rear doors slide open, it’s a minivan. If the rear doors swing open, it’s an SUV.

This might not be a huge consideration for many buyers, but it actually makes a huge difference.

For one, sliding doors give you a little more space for getting in and out of the vehicle. It’s also easier to park in narrower, tighter spaces since you don’t have to worry about the door bumping into walls or pillars.

The Interior and Cargo Space

Both minivans and SUVs boast roomy interiors and high cargo capacities. However, minivans are usually roomier than SUVs.

In fact, luxury minivans have about 5 to 7 inches of extra legroom.

What’s more, even low-end minivans can comfortably seat up to seven or eight passengers. There are some SUVs that can offer the same capacity but they are few and far between.

In terms of cargo, minivans also have more room to spare.

This is because the rear seats “sink” into the floor, allowing you to load more cargo. SUVs have foldable rear seats to offer more space, but it’s not as generous as what you can get from minivans.

The Driver’s View

Minivans and SUVs are both higher than sedans, which means the driver will have a better view of the road.

However, if you want to drive seeing the front corners of the vehicle, getting an SUV is the way to go.

Minivans also have hoods that slope lower, which makes the front a little more difficult to see without making seat adjustments.

The Height

As mentioned in the previous point, minivans and SUVs are both higher than sedans.

However, SUVs typically have higher ground clearance than minivans. As such, SUVs are easier to drive on rougher terrains.

On the other hand, minivans have a lower step height.

This makes it a better choice for those with young children. Persons with disabilities or mobility challenges will also find it easier to enter and exit a minivan.

The Powertrain and Mileage

When it comes to sheer power, SUVs are the definitely the winner over minivans.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a V8 minivan but it’s a common powertrain for SUVs. There are also hybrids and turbocharged engines available in case you want something beefier.

In terms of towing capacity, SUVs are also the runaway winner.

Larger SUVs can tow as much as 9,000 pounds, while minivans can also pull about 3,500 to 4,000 pounds. This is a definite game-changer for those who often need to haul heavy equipment.

Do note, however, that the powertrain of the vehicle will affect its fuel economy.

Usually, hybrids will give your more kilometres per litre. There are also some technologies that help some engines increase their efficiency.

Minivans are often more fuel-efficient than SUVs, which are usually seen as gas guzzlers. Nevertheless, there are also SUV models that have decent fuel economy—especially when driving in the city.

The Off-Road Performance

The height advantage of SUVs makes them better for off-road driving.

Meanwhile, another advantage of SUVs is that they often have either a four-wheel or an all-wheel drive system. This gives you much better handling not just on rough terrain but also in harsh weather conditions.

It’s difficult to find an all-wheel drive minivan. Most of the time, minivans only have front-wheel drive systems even for the top-tier models.

Thus, if you often drive on rough terrain or go on adventures in the wild outdoors, you’re better off getting an SUV than a minivan.

In the end, the choice between a minivan or an SUV depends on a lot of factors. You need to check your budget, your needs, your lifestyle, as well as your driving habits.

You also need to think about the people who will often be riding with you. Minivans are great if you have a big family. SUVs, on the other hand, are perfect for those who often drive on dirt roads and/or two heavy loads.

Good luck on your search for your ideal minivan or SUV!