SUV or minivan – what’s the best choice, consumers often ask. The answer is the same as the choice between any two types of vehicles: it depends on your individual needs and wants. Usually, when consumers are looking at an SUV or minivan selection, it’s because they have certain requirements for carrying passengers and/or cargo. But that’s not always true. Sometimes people just want the versatility and flexibility of an SUV, or the ease of driving and space of a minivan. Fortunately, there are many choices for consumers in today’s market. Here are some tips to help you decide.

When Size Matters

Minivans generally fall into the same size category. There are usually three rows, with 2-3-2, 2-2-3, or 2-3-3 seating configurations. Seats are positioned higher than in a car, giving passengers more upright room and leg room. Flexible cargo room is attained by fold-flat, partially-fold, fold-under or removable seats.

SUVs come in compact, midsize and full-size models. The larger the SUV, the more cargo and passenger-carrying capability the vehicle has. If you need to transport 6 to 8 passengers, you need a full-size model. If you only regularly carry four or fewer passengers, you can go with compact or midsize versions.

Size also matters when it comes to towing capacity. If you tow a boat or small trailer, you’ll need an SUV properly equipped and able to handle an appropriate load. The smaller the SUV, the less weight it will be able to tow.

Check Out Seat Flexibility

Make sure the seats are configurable to your liking, and able to meet your everyday needs. Some minivans have seats that fold flat and accommodate a 4×8 foot sheet of plywood, while others can hardly fit a large dog crate.  Ditto some SUVs, which may be fully configurable (fold-flat, fold-under, removable seats or partially fold seats) for maximum storage space.

It’s also important to check out the third-row seating in SUVs that offer this. Many third-row seats are best suited to small children, and are very uncomfortable. Unless you hardly ever put anyone back there, it may be worthwhile investigating other SUV models with more comfortable and accommodating seats way in back.

Make Sure It’s Easy to Drive

Choices here are car-like or truck-based SUVs, while minivans are all car-like – that’s one of their chief attractions. When you choose a car-like SUV, you’ll find it’s easier to handle, especially in city driving, and it’s comfortable over the long-haul highway rides. A truck-based SUV is generally preferable for those seeking to go off-road, or tow and/or carry heavier loads.

Don’t just guess. Take your consideration models out for a test drive.

Off-Road or Not

All SUVs are not equal when it comes to off-road capability. Even the car-like models can generally do some light off-roading, but for true 4×4 adventures, you need a four-wheel drive SUV.

Best bet for all-around driving is all-wheel drive. This drive configuration ensures proper traction in all-weather conditions, especially rain, snow, and ice.

Fuel Economy is Important Too

Gas prices fluctuate wildly, and what may be inexpensive per gallon today could easily be cost prohibitive tomorrow. Factor in the fuel efficiency of your SUV or minivan under consideration.

Bottom line: do your homework, check safety ratings, go for a test drive, and negotiate your best price, whether you ultimately decide on an SUV or minivan.

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