Minivans, or small passenger vans, have been on the market since the early 1980’s. They’re smaller than full sized vans, but large enough to accommodate families. In fact, they provide more space, storage, and cabin access than SUVs, making them ideal for families on the go. Here is what you should know when buying your first minivan.

Do You Need a Minivan?

If you routinely drive a lot of people around; need to store extra luggage such as strollers, large bags, sporting goods, etc.; or your current vehicle doesn’t meet your needs, a minivan may be a good investment. Are your passengers currently feeling crammed in? Do you often have to borrow a larger car to move gear, sporting equipment, or furniture? Then buying a minivan can solve your dilemmas.

Minivans also offer many pros, including:

  • Sliding Doors: Today’s models let you open doors automatically with the press of a key fob. On some models, kick-to-open doors and tailgates are available. Sliding doors provide ample room for entry and exit and overall accessibility.
  • Space: There’s plenty of room for groceries, sporting goods, and people, while you can transport many types of building materials and tools as well. You don’t need to strap things to the roof or leave them exposed on a truck bed.
  • Versatility: Minivans often have configurable seating to accommodate various cargo needs. If you’re not taking the kids along, and have a new toilet or couch to bring home, the vehicle can easily accommodate your needs.

Minivans also vary in style; some have a less defined profile while others are sleeker. Insuring one can be less as well, although it’s not a hard rule your premium will be lower. Automobile coverage varies with each model and its characteristics, safety features, etc. Minivans also tend to have better fuel economy than SUVs. And while they have lower MSRP’s than three-row SUVs, you can save on a used minivan from Hawthorne Auto Square that’s been inspected to ensure it’s ready to drive.

Key Considerations for Your First Minivan


A minivan can have 15 inches or more space per seat than an SUV. Eight-passenger seating is standard, with wide second rows and third rows suited for younger occupants. In most vans, you can remove the second-row seat, make way for an aisle, slide two seats together, or slide a middle seat forward.


You’ll often get a V6 engine with the vehicle, which can get you to near 300 horsepower. Fuel economy generally isn’t very high, but the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid achieves up to 32 miles per gallon (mpg) on electric power, and 27 mpg overall, according to Consumer Reports in 2021. The Toyota Sienna hybrid, at 245 horsepower, achieved 36 mpg in tests. However, most minivans clock in the mid 20’s as far as fuel economy.


Automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitoring are just some of the safety features included with minivans. Cameras and monitors with 360-degree views are becoming more common as well. You might even get in-cabin cameras to monitor infants or young children. Intercom systems let you communicate with passengers without turning around and/or being distracted from the road.


Most minivans are relatively easy to drive. While a passenger van may not handle like a sports car, most are responsive and feel quite safe. Lane safety technologies and a higher position relative to the road contribute to good handling, visibility, and safety attributes.


You can relocate, remove, or fold seats (some models even have power-folding second- and third-row seats). When they’re folded flush with the floor, you can load big items. Depending on the model, second-row seats may be removable, fold up against the seats in front of them, or slide and fold forward. Oftentimes there are deep wells behind the third row, so it’s possible to have full passenger capacity and 30 cubic feet of storage.


Some minivans can tow up to 3,600 pounds and 3,000 pounds isn’t uncommon. While this isn’t enough for a travel trailer or boat, light towing is possible. You can hook on a mid-sized 5×10 foot box trailer with plenty of storage.


Infotainment features and options vary with make and model, but most newer minivans have an 8- or 10-inch touchscreen display. Power and USB ports are usually standard as are Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Rear-seat entertainment systems with overhead or seatback-mounted displays, HDMI input, and wireless headphones are often available. Some vehicles come with Wi-Fi connectivity.

Take a Test Drive

When test driving your potential first minivan, it’s important to note how the vehicle feels on the road. Evaluate its response and check out all the infotainment and safety features. Also, get a feel for the minivan itself. Does it provide enough room, comfort, and cargo space? Are the seats easy to move? And while vehicle history reports will tell you about repairs and maintenance, look around to make sure it’s in good condition as advertised.

New or Used

If a minivan is practical for your needs, investing in a used one can mean spending less for more. At Hawthorne Auto Square, our pre-owned minivans are thoroughly inspected to ensure your first minivan is ready to drive. We carry popular models such as the Dodge Grand Caravan, which is widely known for its firm handling and steering, as well as the Nissan Quest, Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna.

Shop at Hawthorne Auto Square

Our Los Angeles buy here, pay here used car dealership has a large inventory of used minivans for sale and offers stress-free financing with low monthly payments. You don’t need perfect credit for quick approval. Each vehicle comes with a 6-month warranty. Visit our store or call 866-707-7664 to learn more or schedule an appointment.