Many large families have trouble fitting everyone into the car. Some families use two cars to go on long family trips, while others avoid trips altogether and transport only part of the family to extracurricular activities. One way to solve this space problem is to get a van. They often seat at least eight people, whereas the largest cars only seat about five. Many are also equipped with storage in the floor, extra cup holders, personal heating and cooling vents in the back seats and even entertainment systems. While many of these vehicles are expensive, the money may be worth the comfort and convenience that a large van can provide.
2009 Dodge Sprinter Wagon
This van, made famous by the reality television show "Jon and Kate Plus 8," seats 12 when filled to capacity. It is supposed to be one of the safest large vans with the least chance of rolling; price starts at around $42,000. Running on six cylinders, the Sprinter also has driver and passenger side airbags, anti-lock brakes and gives off very few emissions. The exterior comes in over a dozen colors from slate gray to bright yellow, and the interior comes in a choice of vinyl or fabric upholstery in a uniform gray. This three-door van also has rear air conditioning, cruise control, a power-sliding sun roof and an illuminated locking glove box, along with tons of storage. This van also sports a 13 speaker sound system hooked into a six-disc remote CD player with MP3 capabilities and optional wireless Internet connectivity.
2010 Ford Flex
This minivan looks less like the typical large family vehicle and more like an extended hard-top Jeep. Its square lines and boxy design make this van more trendy than its streamlined cousins and may be more attractive to those who want to transport their family in style. This brand-new van starts at around $28,000 and seats seven people when filled to capacity. With three rows of bench seating, the Flex is referred to by the Ford company as a three-row SUV rather than a minivan. This van runs on six cylinders and has a ton of cargo storage both in the back and throughout the noise-free cabin, though some say the storage space cuts into the space in the third row. It steers easily and gives a smooth ride, although it has a wide turning radius. Some dislike the loose-feeling brakes. Overall, this van would make a good addition to a big, though not overlarge, family.
GM Conversion Vans
Some say that conversion vans are "the best kept secret" in the automobile world. With many customization options, these vans start at around $40,000 in 2010 and leave the rest of the pricing in your hands, depending on what extras you want to add to your van. In addition to special paint finishes, you have several choices in the entertainment area; for instance, you can add flip-down television screens or an integrated video game system. Plus, since these vans have a bumped-up ceiling and efficient innards, storage and seating space are never at a premium. The smallest of these vans seats seven people comfortably, though the size choice is also up to you. Conversion vans are also supposed to get better gas mileage than their oversized cousins and come with a 3-year, 36,000-mile warranty upon sale.
- Taillight of a VW van image by Dimitar Atanasov from Fotolia.com