Safe Vehicles for Carpoolers and Soccer Parents

A Ford van empties at school

The back-to-school season and fall sports have begun, and if you’re the parent of a child who plays any of the many fall sports, you know how important your vehicle will become when bringing athletes to their practices and, more important, games. Carpooling will become an essential part of your everyday commute, and you’ll want a vehicle that can hold as many teammates—and all their equipment—in the safest way possible. Well, we’ve compiled a list for you that takes all of that into account. We looked at the number of seats, the amount of cargo space available and the safety rating of all the minivans and SUVs on the market, and we found the best options for getting your athletes (and their friends) to games and back.

Every vehicle on this list has seating for at least 7 and a terrific safety rating. Seven of the 10 vehicles on this list have a perfect NHTSA 5-star safety rating, while the other three (the Dodge Journey, Lincoln Navigator and Toyota 4Runner) are just below the threshold of perfection and make up for it in other relevant ways.

2014 Kia Sedona

10. The Kia Sedona is one of two minivans on our list, but don’t let that automatically deter you. Minivans can still compete in this market dominated by SUVs and crossovers. The Sedona comes with huge cargo space—a total of 141.5 cubic feet. Even with all seats up, it maintains a 32.2-cubic-foot space to pack away your things. Its 3 rows total a respectable 7 seats, which is plenty of seating for all your child’s teammates. And the Sedona boasts the NHTSA’s 5-star safety rating.

2014 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

9. Those with a big family and an even bigger budget should look to the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. With seating for 7 and a starting price of $63,000, the GL-Class is everything a luxury SUV should be. Offering a smooth ride, sharp handling and available massaging front seats, the GL-Class will keep you bathed in luxury even when the kids get unruly on your next trip to Sands Point. Don’t want the base-model V6? Pony up another $55,000 and you can experience all that Mercedes has to offer with the GL63 AMG and its 5.5-liter, 550-hp 8-cylinder engine. Whether you’re looking for classy Stuttgart luxury or all-out madness from Affalterbach, there is a GL-Class out there for you.

2015 Lincoln Navigator

8. The Lincoln Navigator is one tough family car. Sure, it’s wrapped in chrome and leather, but the Navigator is so much more than a luxury car. Based on the Ford F-150 platform, the Navigator is a capable SUV that just happens to be in the luxury game. Packing the same 3.5-liter EcoBoost 6-cylinder engine found in the F-150, the Navigator delivers 380 hp and boasts a 9,000-pound towing capacity (with the optional towing package). Not only that, the Navigator also packs 103.3 cubic feet of cargo space on the inside, meaning you’ll never have a problem getting you, your family and your gear wherever you’re going. If you’re an active family with a lot of toys, consider putting the Navigator on your short list.

2015 Dodge Journey

7. The Dodge Journey has the lowest price tag on this list, with even its most expensive trim going for just over $30,000. Despite its low price, it still comes with everything you could want in a carpooling vehicle. The Journey boasts some 37 cubic feet of cargo space behind its 7 seats. And that can be converted to a nice 67.6 cubic feet if you need it. The Journey is one of the vehicles that falls just shy of the NHTSA’s 5-star safety rating, but it still includes a large array of safety features.

2015 Ford Explorer

6. The 3 previous selections were getting a bit pricey, so let’s move into a more moderately priced option for an SUV: the Ford Explorer. The Explorer is a bit shorter (well, more like slightly less huge) than some of the other SUVs on this list. But it still comes with 21 cubic feet of cargo space with its 7 seats in place. This can become 80.7 cubic feet of cargo space once the seats are folded—plenty of room for your lax, hockey, field hockey, football or soccer gear. A 5-star safety rating is included.

2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV

5. Looking for a hauler that will get stares for all the right reasons? The Cadillac Escalade ESV is your ride. Redesigned for 2015, the Escalade ESV is the one of the crown jewels in GM’s lineup. Boasting perforated leather seating for 8, a 6.2-liter V8 pushing out 420 hp, a fold-into-the-floor third-row seat and 120.5 cubic feet of cargo space, the Escalade ESV really is where luxury meets utility. Whether it’s taking the kids to soccer practice at the local prep school or hauling your Chris-Craft to Osterville, the Escalade ESV will be perfectly at home. Just try to ignore the onlookers admiring all your chrome.

2014 Toyota 4Runner

4. The Toyota 4Runner may have a reputation as a pure off-road beast, but that doesn’t limit its family abilities. The exceedingly capable 4Runner can not only climb a mountain effortlessly, it can also climb a mountain with 7 people inside effortlessly. For the active family, it doesn’t get much better than the 4Runner. Sure, you can load up a Navigator with all your favorite goodies and toys, but all that chrome makes going on trails a bit worrisome. The 4Runner, on the other hand, is built for trails and handles almost all the obstacles you can throw in front of it with aplomb. Fill the 7 seats with family, friends, dogs or whatever else you can imagine, and the 4Runner’s awesome 4.0-liter 6-cylinder will be sure to take you to an awesome weekend away where no one else can bother you. Well, where no one else can reach you.

2014 Nissan Rogue

3. The Nissan Rogue is the undisputed king of doing it all. Not only can it seat 7, but it also delivers 33 mpg on the highway while affording you 39.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the third-row seat down (and 70 cubic feet with the second row down). Add to that the available all-wheel-drive system, and it becomes clear that the Rogue can haul family, friends, pets and cargo all year long while keeping the damage to your wallet at the pump minimal.

2015 GMC Yukon

2. If you’re looking for a tough family car that can get you (and everything) almost anywhere, look no further than the GMC Yukon. With a starting price of $46,335, the Yukon is by no means inexpensive, but it does afford much of the same utility as its brother Escalade for much less. All new for 2015, the Yukon offers seating for 9 and a plethora of interior gadgets. Got antsy kids (or spouses) who just can’t survive without their iDevices? No problem: The Yukon has 5 USB ports for keeping those charged, your family occupied and you sane. Step up to the 4-wheel-drive version, and you’ll be able to get you, your family, your friends and whatever else you want to bring along to your destination there in comfort and style. Need even more space? Consider the even larger GMC Yukon XL.

2014 Honda Odyssey

1. The Honda Odyssey is the quintessential carpool vehicle. With its 8 seats in place, it packs in 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold down that third row of seats, and you’ll get 93.1 cubic feet for your children’s equipment. And if by any chance you need more space, the Odyssey is capable of an astonishing 148.5 cubic feet of cargo space, though having only 2 seats won’t be ideal for carpooling. The Odyssey proves the minivan can still compete in this SUV-saturated market. The Odyssey blends comfort, space, technology and safety into a vehicle perfect for transporting whatever cargo or people you have.

What vehicle would you choose as a family hauler?

-jharrington and zwaller

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Used Kia Sedona
Used Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
Used Lincoln Navigator
Used Dodge Journey
Used Ford Explorer
Used Cadillac Escalade ESV
Used Toyota 4Runner
Used Nissan Rogue
Used GMC Yukon
Used Honda Odyssey

1 Comment

  1. Safest with seating for 7? How in the world does the Volvo XC-90 get left off this list?

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