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The Family Van: the Definitive Symbol of Suburban Life

by timmyradloff

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The family van became a part of the American automotive culture in the mid 1980s led by the introduction of the Dodge Caravan. Through the years, the family van became the definitive symbol for suburban life. And why wouldn’t it be? A family van can fit at least seven passengers. That’s more than enough space to fit the average American family.

For more than 15 years, the family van became the main people-moving vehicle. But there was a time when the family van fell out of favor. However, that didn’t deter carmakers from creating fresh designs, improving powertrains, and adding more innovative features to the vehicle. The popularity of the family van has prodded even those carmakers not known for family-type vehicles to create their own line of family van models.

Each family van looks different from the other, is priced differently, and offers a different set of features, but all of them share a few common characteristics. For one thing, their powertrains consist of V6 engines and four-speed to five speed-speed transmissions. For another, the rear can be accessed through a sliding door on one or both sides of the vehicle or through a rear door or tailgate.

All family vans are at least seven-seaters. The basic seating arrangement is two rows of bucket seats, seating one passenger each and a bench seat on the third row that can seat three passengers. Some family van models, like the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey can accommodate an eighth passenger via a three-person second row.

Family vans offer cargo flexibility as well. The backseats can be easily folded or removed completely. Older generation family used vans didn’t have this luxury. The advent of lightweight materials, bucket seats and new fastening technology has simplified this family van feature across the board.

Today, carmakers are upping the ante for the family van in terms of its interior space. Recent model family vans now have a third row bench seat that split or tumble into a hole in the cargo floor, creating a flat rear compartment. Nissan’s Quest minivan, which is one of the more popular selling used vans in the market, boasts of a third row bench seat that can be folded into one piece with just one hand.

Family vans, whether new or used, are definitely the perfect vehicle for the family. After all, they won’t be called as such if they weren’t. Visit your local used SUV and van dealer and drive one home today. To learn about fuel economy in family vans, visit

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