Full-size vans for people with lots of kids?

Joined
Jan 23, 2022
Messages
59
I have 4 kids, so I can't really do a jeep or a pickup truck anymore. Right now, my vehicle choice is basically minivan, minivan, or minivan. I like my minivan, but they aren't great for rough roads, and you can't tow much of anything, and if you start loading down with a roof carrier or whatever, you start to hit the limits of the vehicle. Once the kids get to all be teenagers they are going to be pretty cramped in there too. And on top of that, the minivan market is shrinking.

Ok, this is where everyone will say "what about a full-size SUV, like a Suburban?" Well the problem we have with the Suburban or Excursions is that they don't actually have any more space inside than our Chrysler minivan with Stow-N-Go seats. We test-drove them, and when we looked at where we would store stuff, we would literally have to put a carrier on them, just to carry what we currently carry in the minivan with no external carrier. And I currently get 4x8 sheets in my minivan just by folding down the seats, but with an Excursion I couldn't even do that. So a full-size SUV is moving up in cost, down in gas mileage, and actually going back in capability while being a lot more expensive to run. So I'm clinging to my Grand Caravan for the time being.

I live in the PNW and I see quite a lot of Mercedes vans with knobby tires, roof racks and ladders, etc. People use them to take their mountain bikes and kayaks all over the place, basically as a lite RV. From what I can tell the options are Mercedes, Ford Transit, Nissan NV, or maybe something else I'm missing. I think this would make more sense than a full-size SUV, but it seems like a niche market.

How do you go about shopping for a full-size van like this? I think they are targeted to fleets and less to individuals. I think a van with real 4WD would be pretty cool, but mostly would be looking for something economical and easy to maintain using available parts. Buying a mercedes anything seems scary to me in terms of finding parts. If I bought a van like this, I would be looking to keep it for 20 years probably.

Does anyone have experience with the mega-vans and have any advice?
 
Joined
Apr 18, 2013
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If you buy the Mercedes and it has the powerful V6 diesel it will be expensive to keep running. Get a transit Ford or the Dodge Ram with a gas motor. The 4 Cyl Mercedes is under powered but less expensive to maintain. Check out the camping Forums because they are used for Class B camper vans.
 
Joined
Jun 16, 2005
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Location
Danville, Indiana
I have 4 kids, so I can't really do a jeep or a pickup truck anymore. Right now, my vehicle choice is basically minivan, minivan, or minivan. I like my minivan, but they aren't great for rough roads, and you can't tow much of anything, and if you start loading down with a roof carrier or whatever, you start to hit the limits of the vehicle. Once the kids get to all be teenagers they are going to be pretty cramped in there too. And on top of that, the minivan market is shrinking.

Ok, this is where everyone will say "what about a full-size SUV, like a Suburban?" Well the problem we have with the Suburban or Excursions is that they don't actually have any more space inside than our Chrysler minivan with Stow-N-Go seats. We test-drove them, and when we looked at where we would store stuff, we would literally have to put a carrier on them, just to carry what we currently carry in the minivan with no external carrier. And I currently get 4x8 sheets in my minivan just by folding down the seats, but with an Excursion I couldn't even do that. So a full-size SUV is moving up in cost, down in gas mileage, and actually going back in capability while being a lot more expensive to run. So I'm clinging to my Grand Caravan for the time being.

I live in the PNW and I see quite a lot of Mercedes vans with knobby tires, roof racks and ladders, etc. People use them to take their mountain bikes and kayaks all over the place, basically as a lite RV. From what I can tell the options are Mercedes, Ford Transit, Nissan NV, or maybe something else I'm missing. I think this would make more sense than a full-size SUV, but it seems like a niche market.

How do you go about shopping for a full-size van like this? I think they are targeted to fleets and less to individuals. I think a van with real 4WD would be pretty cool, but mostly would be looking for something economical and easy to maintain using available parts. Buying a mercedes anything seems scary to me in terms of finding parts. If I bought a van like this, I would be looking to keep it for 20 years probably.

Does anyone have experience with the mega-vans and have any advice?
I had a 2015 Ford Transit 15 passenger van with a mid height roof and an Ecoboost. It was FAST, drove more like a car than a large van, and achieved decent gas mileage. The interior layout was excellent, with two individual seats where I could put kids who either needed to be isolated or wanted some space. My wife loved it because she could easily walk standing straight up back there to "take care" of anyone needing some special individualized attention. We put 160k miles on it before trading it in on a Jeep for her. It was a great van and it served us well. We have 9 kids and it easily swallowed us, our kids, and anything we took with us.
 
Joined
Dec 24, 2011
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12,279
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North Carolina
I would do a Sprinter V6 Diesel 4x4 and delete + tune once out of warranty.

You can option them really nicely and they are very customizable. Better than any Tahoe/Suburban IMO.
 
Joined
Jul 24, 2011
Messages
1,735
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Missouri
My brother in law has 8 kids. They have a 15 passenger Ford Transit. Has been trouble free for them over the last few years. As a Ford tech himself I know he’d prefer an econoline to work on because all the euro style vans are a PITA to work on chassis wise. His has been trouble free though.

If you go Transit prepare to buy decent tires or lots of cheap ones. The dealership runs General HD’s on their rentals they seem to be a good compromise of mid price decent life. The best commercial van/bus tire I’ve seen is the Firestone HT2 have had excellent results from those. My B.I.L has chosen to replace a set of Iron Man, Ling Long or Maxxis every year instead.
 

LavaRand

Thread starter
Joined
Jan 23, 2022
Messages
59
When you said lots I was expecting 6+. I was at a church that had families of 12, 10, and 9. They used Chevy express vans.

4 kids is still too much to fit in a pickup or Subaru-type SUV though. I get your point though...if I buy a big van, I might as well have a couple more kids.
 
Joined
Nov 9, 2008
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20,005
Location
NH
A friend has a Transit and I think he complained about changing rotors? I think that has been his only complaint, seems to tow his camper ok.

Another friend had an E150 (E250?) for a while but apparently snow was its arch nemesis. [Not the sort to invest in snow tires.] It was parked if it snowed, they'd just wait until it thawed out, as it'd just get stuck w/o provocation. [I think they wound up with a 'burb.] 6 kids I think?
 
Joined
Jul 24, 2011
Messages
1,735
Location
Missouri
A friend has a Transit and I think he complained about changing rotors? I think that has been his only complaint, seems to tow his camper ok.

Another friend had an E150 (E250?) for a while but apparently snow was its arch nemesis. [Not the sort to invest in snow tires.] It was parked if it snowed, they'd just wait until it thawed out, as it'd just get stuck w/o provocation. [I think they wound up with a 'burb.] 6 kids I think?
Gotta pull axle shafts to remove rear rotors if I’m remembering properly
 
Joined
Jan 2, 2004
Messages
9,598
Location
California
You’re gonna hit the limits of a Sienna/Odyssey/Pacifica pretty quickly and the Suburban/Expedition EL has even smaller limits as well and will drink gas like an alcoholic.

I’d look at a Ford Transit Ecoboost 3.5. The Mercedes Sprinter is a strong choice but needs meticulous maintenance and you have German bits to worry about. The Chevy Express is on an proven but antiquated platform - it still offers a V8. Mopar doesn’t offer a passenger Ram Promaster in passenger config - and only one engine, the Pentastar. Both the Transit and Express can be worked on by most mechanics and DIY and don’t need special fluids.

In any case, get the best tires you can afford(Michelin Defender LTX/Agilis CrossClimate, Firestone Transforce HT/CV/AT2 or General Grabber HTS60) and be prepared to get a CDL with passenger endorsement if you buy a 15 passenger version - which are legally considered a bus.
 
Joined
Apr 9, 2008
Messages
15,792
Location
Central NY
If you're looking new, I don't believe the Nissan NV is available any more - and the last few years of NV were cargo only.


Gotta pull axle shafts to remove rear rotors if I’m remembering properly

That's true, but it's a full floating axle. So you're not pulling the cover, taking out c-clips and all that jazz. Just take out the bolts that hold the axle shaft to the hub and replace (according to Ford).
 
Joined
Jan 19, 2017
Messages
1,135
Location
Texas,USA
I have 4 kids, so I can't really do a jeep or a pickup truck anymore. Right now, my vehicle choice is basically minivan, minivan, or minivan. I like my minivan, but they aren't great for rough roads, and you can't tow much of anything, and if you start loading down with a roof carrier or whatever, you start to hit the limits of the vehicle. Once the kids get to all be teenagers they are going to be pretty cramped in there too. And on top of that, the minivan market is shrinking.

Ok, this is where everyone will say "what about a full-size SUV, like a Suburban?" Well the problem we have with the Suburban or Excursions is that they don't actually have any more space inside than our Chrysler minivan with Stow-N-Go seats. We test-drove them, and when we looked at where we would store stuff, we would literally have to put a carrier on them, just to carry what we currently carry in the minivan with no external carrier. And I currently get 4x8 sheets in my minivan just by folding down the seats, but with an Excursion I couldn't even do that. So a full-size SUV is moving up in cost, down in gas mileage, and actually going back in capability while being a lot more expensive to run. So I'm clinging to my Grand Caravan for the time being.

I live in the PNW and I see quite a lot of Mercedes vans with knobby tires, roof racks and ladders, etc. People use them to take their mountain bikes and kayaks all over the place, basically as a lite RV. From what I can tell the options are Mercedes, Ford Transit, Nissan NV, or maybe something else I'm missing. I think this would make more sense than a full-size SUV, but it seems like a niche market.

How do you go about shopping for a full-size van like this? I think they are targeted to fleets and less to individuals. I think a van with real 4WD would be pretty cool, but mostly would be looking for something economical and easy to maintain using available parts. Buying a mercedes anything seems scary to me in terms of finding parts. If I bought a van like this, I would be looking to keep it for 20 years probably.

Does anyone have experience with the mega-vans and have any advice?
Soooo… economical yet spacious and powerful with a sturdy suspension. Plus towing capacity and fuel economy? And maybe 4WD? Probably going to need to make a few concessions or stick with the minivan
 
Joined
Mar 20, 2008
Messages
13,909
Location
USA
If you can get a SWB 7-passenger Transit 150, that would be perfect for you :)

The Metris is something between a minivan and a full-size van, but the seats don't fold! However, you can probably get the folding seats from Mexico or Europe :unsure:
 
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