5 Cars for Families of 6 Plus

A few months ago I had the chance to test drive the Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet. As I tooled down the PCH, wind in my hair, responsive ride at my command, I thought…. this is the life. This is my new car!

One problem. I can’t fit my whole family in my car! And call me crazy but… I’d rather only take one car. My lease is up on my minivan and much as I wish I was trading it in for the Cross Cabriolet… I can’t.

I hear from families of 5 all the time about what car works for them and their “large” family but I have to take it with a grain of salt. They don’t really know…

The fact of the matter is that car shopping was never really an issue for us until our fourth kid was born. Up until that point we could all squeeze into almost any old sedan no problemo. We could even make an economy rental car work if we were on vacation. Sure we had occasions when we had friends along and that third row seating was a great boon. That’s why we got a vehicle that technically seated 8. But it wasn’t truly essential to our daily survival and that optional third row was folded down a lot more often than it was open.

Kiddo #4 bumped us into another automotive zone. That no man’s (or every man’s?) land I like to think of as “Minivanworld”.

I was never a fan of minivans. Sure they have gotten much better over the years but I somehow doubt they’ll ever truly be a car enthusiasts vehicle. They are just too practical.

That said they are SO practical and comfortable that I can embrace them. I think of them as workout wear (I won’t go so far as to say sweatpants). As long as I have some time with a pair of hot heels (ie sportscar, convertible, european luxury car) from time to time, I think I can do this.

Other than minivans and a handful of CUV/SUV’s the pickings are slim for a family of 6. Particularly a family of six that includes both kids that are too “big” to be comfortable always riding in smallish optional third rows, and too “little” (ie: still in carseats) for the far back as well. What to drive?

Here are the cars we are considering, with some completely non technical pros and cons for each:

The Honda Odyssey . This would be round 2 for us with an Odyssey and I reviewed the latest model here. I’ve been relatively comfortable in our Odyssey as have our kids. However…  the more I see of friend’s new cars, the more I’m not entirely thrilled with the new styling. It makes the third row a little dark and closed in feeling – something that will cause endless “I’m not sitting back there, you sit back there” arguments for sure. But on the plus side, the tech/electronic features have been vastly improved and the ride is as good as it gets for a minivan.

The Nissan Quest. Though I prefer Honda’s performance, I really like the lightness and brightness of the Nissan interior more. With the dual moonroofs, nobody is going to get claustrophobic. Bonus points for the piped trim on the interior, a style nod to my beloved (and seats only 5) Range Rover dream car.

The GMC Acadia. Stylistically reminds me a lot of my old Acura MDX, but bigger. When the MDX got smaller at the same time our family got bigger, we knew we were done with it. I’ve heard a lot of positive buzz from Acadia owners and though I have yet to test drive it, my interest is piqued.

The Ford Flex. I drove this vehicle shortly after it first came out and loved it. First of all it wasn’t a minivan. Second of all, it was uniquely, and well, styled. No surprise this distinctive alternative to a minivan has had the moms buying them in bulk. Which is part of my problem. Everyone and their sister has a Ford Flex here in the burbs. Ford even made a Flex moms commercial. I fear that a shark has been jumped, when it comes to “cool”. It’s also a lot more expensive than a similarly equipped minivan. And yet, I like it better.

The Suburban. I love these. They are big, roomy, powerful, safe, comfortable. And our most expensive consideration.  With all the driving I do (presently at least 80 miles a day), I’d feel guilty about what I was doing to the environment. Still, I’d love to get a Suburban for occasional family road trips and all our whole-fam-in-the car local jaunts. I think I’d have to swap out with a Prius for the daily commuting to schools and activities that I do with individual kids, both for the sake of our budget and our carbon footprint.

How about you? Do you have a family of 6 or more? What do you drive?


  1. says

    I would say that having a family of 5 with 3 of those children in car seats presents a lot of the same issue. We have to use a third row of seating because we cannot fit 3 car seats across! I’ve heard a lot of great things about the GMC Acadia, and that was actually my first choice when shopping for a bigger car but my husband shot that down. My second choice was a Ford Expedition, until I shut the doors and they felt like they were from a tin can. Driving my Q7 is fine for the daily stuff, but I do have to say that 1) going to Costco, and 2) going anywhere with all of the kids that requires we bring a bunch of stuff is a total pain in the rear. It makes me desire a GMC Yukon XL Denali just like my mormon neighbor!

  2. Kmrankin says

    We love our Volvo XC90 – I love that the third row seats are integrated and fold flat when not needed. I have fit 5 booster/car seat in it with no difficulties…and it is fun to drive which is a must for a mom who spends so much time carting kids around.

  3. says

    From your list, I’d have to say the Nissan Quest and GMC Acadia would be my top two choices. I’ve driven the Nissan Quest and loved it. Heard great things about the safety features on the GMC so a test drive on that would be the deciding factor for me.

  4. Nicole says

    I have a family of 6 and we recently just traded in our GMC Acadia because as it reached 70,000 miles it began to fall apart. Its known for transmission problems. That car taught me a great lesson however, when I looked for my new car I made sure to find out the true cost of replacement parts. A set of tires for the Acadia set me back $1200 and a new headlight was $80. I am now super happy with my 2011 Toyota Sienna!

  5. Nicole says

    I have a family of 6 and we recently just traded in our GMC Acadia because as it reached 70,000 miles it began to fall apart. Its known for transmission problems. That car taught me a great lesson however, when I looked for my new car I made sure to find out the true cost of replacement parts. A set of tires for the Acadia set me back $1200 and a new headlight was $80. I am now super happy with my 2011 Toyota Sienna!

  6. Anonymous says

    I was stumbling and came across this post of yours! We too are a family of 6 trying to decide what vehicle to purchase this summer. My husband drives a Honda Civic Hybrid, and I have had my Honda Odyssey for 11 years!!! It has been a wonderful part of our family, but smells and looks awful at this point. Our oldest is 14 and our youngest is 7, plus we have two dogs and we like to camp.

    The odyssey is still on our list, as it has served us well with ZERO maintenance issues, aside from usual brakes and tires. The Suburban is also on our list, and I love it, but is quite pricier :(

    Thank you for the idea of checking out the Acadia and the Flex, I will put those on my list! Unfortunately I have nothing to offer you in return!

  7. says

    Thanks for this info. We are a family of four with a great big ol 80 pound dog named “Steve”…so if we drive cross country (annually) or go camping (soon…really!) we need ROOM. Have considered greener and more frugal (debt free yay!) option of just getting another delicious Honda CRV and buying a small (4x5ish) trailer to tow when traveling-camping-yardsale-ing! I guess when my 10 year old 160K mile Crv “Carl” dies we will have to decide. (Especially since we intend to pay cash, no loans…love me some Dave Ramsey!) Thanks for doing some research for us.

  8. says

    Ahh, that elusive space for three car seats and not being limited to our family in the car. Oh, and the strong dislike of all that is “mainstream parenting requirements”, meaning minivans. But I do thing I might be able manage the Mazda 5. It seats 6 in three rows, looks more like a miniSUV, but with the sliding doors. The price isn’t too bad either.

  9. Ross says

    It is a common misconception, but we have had our three kids in our small Mazda sedan for 3 years now, and it has been fine. I bit cramped, but on a graduate student budget the MPG are well worth the inconvenience. We are having number four next year and we will sorely miss 35 mpg when we downgrade to a massive gas hog :(.

  10. Nicole says

    We also had three kids (all in car seats) in a two door honda civic often until we had baby number four! Really miss that option for gas mileage! We have a rendezvous with the third row which leaves NO cargo space.

  11. Claudia says

    I personally love the Acadia
    My husband bought it for me on my birthday. When we only had 3 kids the Acadia was great. I loved everything about it. Now with our latest addition to the family , my husband decided that it would be much easier for me and the kids to switch to the Honda Odyssey. So I now drive an odyssey and I actually like it. I didn’t think I would but it’s very practical and all the features is a plus.
    But I won’t lie I would take my Acadia back any time. ♡

  12. Christine says

    When we had our fifth we left the world of minivans and considered SUVs. I did not like the space in the third row as we would use it all the time and I have some adult size children and we had two boosters. We opted for an eight passenger full-size van instead of the suburban for the following reasons. I love that I did not have to fold-down seats or have people climb over one another to get in and out. The cargo space was amazing and when caught in rainstorms I have even put a double stroller in fully upright and currently have a beach tent stuffed in there that I could not fall down quickly enough!! Since then we have had our sixth. Two boosters, a car seat and the big kids have never been an issue in this van. Was considering a 12 passenger but my oldest will be heading to college so we will not have that many occasions with all eight of us in the van. Thinking of having fold down 2 seat bench for play dates but so far it hasn’t been that much of an issue as my older children often have different schedules. Good luck!

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