What kind of car is best for families? Our poll results

December 8, 2016

Some of you remember the 1970s. Back then, America had one family car: the station wagon. For decades, it had served as the only respectable means for parents and kids to travel together.

Then, in the 1980s, someone got the bright idea to overhaul the customized vans once favored by the Symbionese Liberation Army, Foghat enthusiasts, and Cheech and/or Chong. Vans lost their bubble windows, their airbrushed vistas bursting with seagulls and unicorns, and went beige. Like, literally beige: wall-to-wall beige carpeting, beige upholstery, and in some cases, beige stereos. Beige vans in the 80s were as ubiquitous as beige computers in the 90s. It was terrible.

Then came the 1990s, the grungy decade that brought the Ford Explorer: a new, bigger, bolder family vehicle. SUVs became the must-have accessory for every soccer mom in town. More recently, we've seen the arrival of crossovers, which look like SUVs, but they're built like cars instead of trucks.  

So, which is it America? Which is the best way for families to get to the mountains or the mall with a minimum of fuss? We asked Twitter, and Twitter has responded:

The clear winner is the crossover (and by extension, the SUV). That's not much of a surprise, really: every major auto brand in the U.S offers at least one crossover model, and many have several in production. Crossovers have plenty of room for people, pets, and cargo; they're high off the ground and feel safe; they earn increasingly good fuel economy; and let's not forget, they're ruggedly handsome. In fact, there's not much to dislike about the crossover, other than the fact that everyone else on the block has one.

Minivans came in a distant second. If you've ever used one, you know that they're easier for loading and unloading, but of course, they carry a certain stigma of bougey, responsible, middle-aged, suburbanism. Anyone can own a crossover, and no one bats and eye, but pull up in a minivan, and people start making assumptions. 

Seventeen percent of our respondents are brave enough to rely on sedans or hatchbacks for their family-hauling needs. Clearly, those folks have some well-mannered kids who know how to stay on their proper sides of the invisible line.

And three percent prefer pickups as their family vehicles. A couple of decades ago, that would've seemed pretty odd, but have you ridden in a truck recently? They're massive--and massively tricked out. (Side note: as someone raised in pickups and whose family still relies heavily on them, I can say, I'd be tempted to pick a modern-day truck myself, if only I weren't 100 percent certain that I'd be loaning it out to friends every weekend.)

You'll notice that we didn't even include the poor station wagon. That's largely because they're nearly impossible to find. Every year, at every auto show, we're told they're coming, but like Bigfoot, we've yet to see the proof. 

Missed out on our poll? Share your thoughts about family rides in the comments below. 

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