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Large SUV vs. Minivan: What’s the Difference and Which is Best?

You’ve made the big leap and decided on your next travel destination. Lots of exciting adventures await you, but before you can plan your itinerary, you need to take care of some logistics!

What kind of vehicle will you rent? There are several possibilities, and many travelers opt for an SUV, van, or something in between. So, minivan vs. SUV - what’s the difference? Is a minivan better than an SUV?

In the van versus SUV debate, there’s something important to keep in mind. It’s not as simple as vehicle A compared to vehicle B. There are actually several categories that encompass the range of automobiles available.

Standard SUVs, larger SUVs, luxury SUVs, and minivans are all possibilities to consider. So if you’re wondering about renting a minivan vs an SUV for your next road trip, don’t worry. This article is here to clear up all of your questions.

minivan vs suv

What is an SUV?

If we’re just looking at the standard definition, an SUV is a sports utility vehicle. While there are no universally agreed upon criteria, most people think of a car like the Toyota RAV4 or the Kia Sportage as typical models. They are regular passenger vehicles that have elements of off-road automobiles, like four-wheel drive and a raised body. Minivan SUV Crossovers are also considered a type of SUV.

Some people say trucks can also fall under this classification. However, we would say that when comparing an SUV vs a truck, these are definitely two very different types of vehicles. The same thing happens with vans vs SUVs. We’ll get into vans and minivans later. It’s understandable that the categories of vehicles and classifications can be a bit confusing as there is overlap.

Popular SUV models are the Suzuki Jimny 4x4, Dacia Duster 4x4, and the Suzuki Vitara 4x4. These fit what we define as SUVs, and they are perfect for navigating the country’s streets, highways, and trails. A standard SUV usually seats four to five passengers comfortably, with space in the trunk for suitcases and luggage.

What's considered a standard SUV

What are some larger SUV models?

While standard SUVs are great, what if your family vacation or group of friends includes more than just a few people? You’re going to want the SUV that has the most room, which means you’ll need to opt for a bigger model.

Large SUVs like the Nissan X-Trail 4x4 7-seater or the Kia Sorento 4x4 7-seater have plenty of space for multiple riders in the back seat. It’s important to have plenty of legrooms for those days spent taking day trips to the Golden Circle or Snaefellsnes peninsula.

 full size SUV

What about luxury SUVs?

Yet another option that falls under this varied category is luxury SUVs like the BMW X1 4x4. For those looking to travel in comfort and style, a luxury SUV rental could be right up your alley.

This model is technically considered a subcompact SUV, so it doesn’t have quite the same capacity as the larger models. It still has a spacious interior and those extra little touches that give it a refined feeling.

Luxury SUV

The Pros & Cons of SUVs

To decide which comes out on top in the SUV vs. minivan debate, the pros and cons of each will need to be weighed up. The following are the pros and cons of an SUV:


  • If you’re someone still debating between a minivan or SUV for a family of 6, the SUV has already won. The space, whether seating or cargo, in an SUV is simply unrivaled.

  • Despite their size, they are known for their maneuverability.

  • You can go places a standard vehicle cannot go (even more so if you’ve opted for one of the 4x4 models).


  • The saying “bigger is better” doesn’t count when it comes to a minivan vs a full-size SUV rental. If you struggle to maneuver big vehicles into tight parking spots, do consider choosing the right option.

  • You’ve also lucked out in the minivan vs SUV gas mileage debate. An SUV uses more gas to drive and with the current state of constantly increased fuel prices, many find an SUV downright uneconomical.

What is a Minivan?

Vans and minivans are large, multi-passenger vehicles, often with multiple rows of seats in the back. If you’re curious about the difference between a van vs a minivan, let’s start with similarities. Both are box-shaped high-capacity automobiles, and despite the name, vans and minivans are roughly the same sizes. Minivans are a little bit smaller than vans, but the size difference is not significant.

Vans can be used to transport either people or goods. Minivans, also known as passenger vans, were made specifically with people in mind. There is always seating for passengers, and these vehicles have carried many a family or travel group to their destination. Kids love riding in minivans, as it can feel like a field trip or another type of adventure. So hopefully that clears up the difference concerning minivan vs. van.

 minivan vs SUV difference

One of the most popular minivans to rent is the Renault Traffic 9-seater or a similar vehicle. These types of minis are perfect for larger groups and families that don’t quite fit into the 7-seater large SUVs. It also gets great gas mileage.

The Pros & Cons of Minivans

To help further clarify the difference between an SUV and a minivan, find some of the most common pros and cons of minivans below


  • Minivans are generally more versatile. They can be used as a family vehicle, a transport vehicle such as a shuttle, or moving things from point a to b. So, whilst an SUV’s space definitely has comfort in mind, the minivan might actually take the title in the minivan vs SUV cargo space competition.

  • Many see the sliding doors of a minivan as a win, since opening the doors doesn’t take up so much space, and it’s incredibly easy and convenient to use.


  • You will find fewer 4x4 options in the minivan category than with the SUVs.

  • The size of a minivan is still an issue in the more densely populated areas and if you are not used to handling such a big vehicle. Compared to an SUV, it also doesn’t offer the same maneuverability that makes handling the size a bit easier.

 full size SUV or minivan rental

SUV vs. Minivan; the Basic Differences

With the above information, we think it’s pretty clear that minivans and SUVs are quite different categories of cars you can rent. SUVs have a smaller capacity but can go more places. They’re more versatile in terms of planning your itinerary, but you are limited to four to five passengers with standard or luxury SUVs. This number goes up to seven riders with a large SUV.

Minivans, on the other hand, carry more people but unfortunately can’t drive on those unpaved and rough, F-Roads. If you’re looking to traverse these types of roads, then opt for a 4x4 SUV rental.

Are SUVs safer than minivans?

Are SUVs safer than minivans? Many tourists planning a trip to Iceland ask us this question. When traveling in areas with unpredictable weather and constantly changing road conditions, it’s natural to want to drive the safest vehicle possible. So, are SUVs safer than minivans, or is the opposite true?

A recent study indicated that children and adult passengers are less likely to be injured in a crash when riding in a minivan. We can draw the conclusion from this research that minivans appear to be safer.

It might have something to do with the shape and construction of both types of vehicles. SUVs have a classic body-on-frame style or a car-type construction used in crossovers. Safety experts theorize that the minivan’s structure absorbs energy better than SUVs, thus protecting the passengers inside.

Having more interior room in a minivan is also a factor. In the event of a crash, those who are inside can move around more without hitting each other or parts of the vehicle. And due to the propensity to rollovers, SUVs are up to 30% more likely to cause injury. The high center of gravity could also cause accidents to happen.

Minivan vehicle safety

So, it looks like the minivan vs. SUV safety contest is won by the minivan according to safety research. SUVs are slightly more dangerous than minivans. But don’t let all of these numbers and statistics scare you.

What we're talking about are extreme cases where people weren’t smart, cautious drivers. You already know the basic rules of obeying the speed limit and paying attention while driving. Driving safety is paramount, and with common sense, you’ll be just fine.

Minivan vs. SUV Cargo Space

We have already touched on some general points when it comes to space availability in a minivan vs. an SUV. The latter are definitely more comfortable. However, the minivan definitely blows it out of the water when it comes to cargo space.

Even if you compare the cargo space of a large SUV vs. a minivan, the minivan will still come out on top. And yes, this even applies after folding the third row in an SUV vs. a minivan.

When comparing the third-row seating space of a small minivan to an SUV, the small minivan provides at least 30 cubic feet of space. Whereas the SUV can only offer up to 20 cubic feet.

standard SUV seating capacity

Settling the Minivan vs. SUV Gas Mileage Debate

This is also something we’ve already touched on in our article, but it will really blow your mind when it comes down to the facts. When we say that an SUV uses more gas than a minivan, it’s not in the same sense as diesel is more expensive than petrol… by a couple of cents.

No, the difference between gas mileage when it comes to a minivan vs. an SUV is significant. An SUV gets between 8 – 10 kilometers on a liter, whilst a minivan gets between 10 – 13 kilometers on a liter! This number really stacks up when you start adding the kilometers of a long-distance road trip. And the size doesn’t matter, whether a midsize van vs a smaller or larger minivan, the minivan will always leave the SUV in its gas mileage dust.

Is an SUV better than a minivan?

This question is a little tricky to answer. It’s like trying to decide if pizza is better than ice cream. Everyone has their preference. When it comes to choosing a vehicle, the answer will be different because situations and circumstances are different.

Someone who's traveling with their partner and dog will prefer the look and feel of SUV's. But if we added a bunch of friends and their children into the mix, it would be an entirely different story. Those who travel as a part of a group or small tour, will find a minivan to be perfectly suitable.

Regardless of the type of vehicle you rent, the important this is that everyone has space and is comfy. Feeling cramped is not a great feeling on a road trip.

 minivan vs SUV difference

Minivan vs. SUV: What's the difference?

We hope this post has given you some useful information when deciding between a minivan or SUV for your trip. These are definitely two very different classes of vehicles, each with its own advantages and drawbacks. It’s important to note the differences and think about how they apply to your particular situation.

The essential thing is that everyone in the car is comfortable and happy while enjoying road trip games. Regardless of whether they choose an SUV or minivan.

So, once you know what type of vehicle fits your needs best, be sure to shop around the various makes and models. And remember about the differences between American and European cars too! To find your perfect match.



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