Need a few more seating spaces but have some challenging budget constraints? Pick your vehicle carefully, and you won't have pay much more at all.
For under $30k there are many vehicle choices with a third row, but you even have a number of choices for less than $25k—or even, in a couple of cases, less than $20k.
Remember, in any case, when you're cross-shopping vehicles with third rows, pay attention to how easily you can fold the seats, how much reach is required to fold them, and how flat they fold, of course in addition to how well passengers fit back there and how easily they can wedge themselves in. And if it's for the little ones, make sure there are enough LATCH connectors, in the proper places, for your child seats and that they properly fit.
No longer does the requirement for three rows mean you're stuck getting either a van or minivan of some type or a trucky Suburban. While there's not likely to be a three-row pickup or sports car any time soon—and no sedan has emerged yet with three rows (we're still wondering about the three-row Tesla Model S prototype), you sure have a lot of choices, including crossover utility vehicles and other cars that bridge the gap between vans and wagons.
While most of the vehicles on this list aren't eye candy, they take care of the practical needs of a growing family—or a parent who has to do occasional carpool or soccer-team duty—on a budget. And as an added bonus, several of them have economical four-cylinder powertrains.
In addition to the following, the 2010 Dodge Journey and Mitsubishi Outlander were close behind. Both of them can be had for less than $25k in five-passenger form but top the limit when you add the third row. On the other hand, with most vehicles on the market quite heavily discounted nowadays, you're likely to find final prices well under MSRP on any of these models.
For reference, we've listed MSRPs for each of the models, including destination charges, along with Overall Ratings and Bottom Line summaries from our companion site The Car Connection.
2010 Dodge Grand Caravan
Dodge Grand Caravan
TCC's Overall Rating: 8.2
TCC's Bottom Line: The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan puts its money on its flexible interior and entertaining features, but its performance is matched and styling bettered by newer competition.
Price: $23,995 (SE)
Even the base SE model of the 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan comes with Stow 'n' Go seats, combining a fold-flat second row with a third row that folds completely flat into the floor. While the Grand Caravan was redesigned for 2008—with its exterior and interior details becoming a little chunkier and boxier, Dodge's minivan hasn't become any more fashionable or sporty over the years. But it's still one of the top choices for those who want to keep the kids happy on a tight budget. And, if you have a little more to spend, there are options on the Grand that aren't always offered on minivans, like backseat TV, second-row heated seats, and a socially conducive Swivel 'n' Go system.