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Minivan/Van Buying Guide

Minivans and vans are highly versatile transport vehicles that can carry either cargo or passengers. With their huge interior volume, they are capable of accommodating up to three or even four rows of passenger seating. Most full-size vans are also capable of carrying a weight load on par with that of a full-size pickup truck.

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About Minivans and Vans

The name 'van' is a shortened version of 'caravan,' which means covered vehicle. Cargo and passenger vans have existed since the early days of the automobile. With their strong engines and boxy cargo compartments, vans were initially intended as commercial vehicles for transporting goods and making deliveries.

Vans became more popular with everyday drivers during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The VW Bus was one model that helped make the compact van widely popular with drivers. As compact vans enjoyed increasing popularity in the US during the 1960s, many other automakers were inspired by the success of the VW Bus. Several U.S. automakers entered the compact van market, releasing vehicles like the Dodge A100. One of the first commercially produced full-sized vans released by the U.S. auto industry was the Ford Econoline, which came out in 1961.

While there have been many different models and sizes of vans available over the decades, minivans really only came into being in 1983. In 1984, Chrysler introduced both the Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager. Like full size vans, minivans employ a two-box design with one compartment for the engine and another for passengers and cargos; however minivans are typically shorter in height and length than full-size versions.

Minivans continued to flood into the North American market throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. Models such as the Chevrolet Astro, the Ford Aerostar, and the GMC Safari were introduced by American automakers. Japanese automaker Mazda released the popular MPV in 1989, and Toyota released the highly successful Previa the following year.

By 2000, minivans were a fixture on the automotive landscape. Built low to the ground on a passenger car chassis, they were easy to drive and took up a minimal amount of space, despite their ample interiors. While four-cylinder engines initially powered most minivans, today many models are equipped with V-6s. Full-size vans are also still popular today, although the market share has dwindled some as concerns over fuel economy have driven sales of the minivan instead.

Minivan and Van Variations

Most minivans have front-wheel drive. Full-size vans, on the other hand, tend to be rear-wheel drive. However, there are some models available that have four-wheel drive.

Minivans and vans are also available in different configurations. Some vans are designed to haul cargo while others are designated as passenger vans. However, one of the most attractive aspects of minivans and vans in any category is their usefulness. Many vans and minivans can be used for either passengers or cargo.

Popular Minivan and Van Car Brands

Minivans dominate a significant portion of the current van market. Some of the more popular models of minivans and vans currently being sold include the Kia Sedona, the Honda Odyssey, the Nissan Quest, and the Dodge Caravan. Today the Dodge Sprinter and the Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana largely dominate the market for full-size vans.

Who Drives Minivans and Vans?

Minivans and vans provide convenience, flexibility and ample room for passengers or cargo. Because they are compact and easy to drive, such vans are ideal for busy parents on the go. Their sliding side doors make them perfect for dropping off and picking up kids from school or the soccer field. Minivans have ample cargo room, which also makes them great for picking up several bags of groceries.

With their added power and immense capacity for transporting passengers or cargo, full-size vans are less practical for everyday use. Vans like the Chevrolet Express and the Ford E-Series are better suited for transporting goods or people than they are for a daily commute to work or a trip to the store. However, vans of this type are perfect for anyone who works in the transportation industry. The interior space of the biggest full-size vans on the market can be configured to accommodate up to four rows of passenger seating. They also have enough cargo space to carry 270 cubic feet of cargo or more.

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