What's the Best Affordable 7 Passenger SUV for Carpooling?

With 3 kids, and almost always a friend in tow, we need a bigger car. And when it comes to carpooling, we most definitely need a 7 passenger SUV! So what's the best car for toting around the kids and the gear?

Here are my top 5 picks for affordable SUVs:

1. Dodge Caravan

When I left my corporate job and became a stay-at-home mom, I swore I would maintain some sense of my old self and never drive a minivan. That said, if I was to pick a car based on simple practicality, it would be this car. I've even gone so far as to drive one home from the dealer and test how it fits in my garage.

This car is straight-up pragmatic. It's inexpensive, easy-in-easy-out for kids, and you don’t have to be a circus contortionist to flip seats and buckle up kids. . Plus it has a ton of cargo space (gear, groceries, luggage) and all the creature comforts I need - heated seats, power windows, locks and tailgate, and a decent car stereo. This car is a no brainer for a carpooling mom.

2. Dodge Journey

If you cannot bring yourself to own a mini van, this is your car. It has many of the same features of a minivan but it's a suv with 3rd row seating. Plus it has storage in the floor. This car is smart and a great price.

3. Nissan Rogue

This car is stylish and fun. The 3rd row of this car may be may be small, but it’s a great option for an urban carpooling family. This 7 passenger SUV has many of the features you want for comfort and convenience. And all at a fair price for a vehicle with 3 rows.

4. Toyota Sienna

An import in the minivan category, this 7 passenger SUV will give you all the features you need as family and carpooling parent. It’s often voted as one of the best family vehicles. It has all the same features as many of the minivans on the market, and also has 3-zone cooling/heating, which means all 3 rows will stay comfortable during the ride.

5. Hyundai Santa Fe

Both inside and out, this car looks like a more expensive SUV. The interior controls are top-of-the-line for this class of vehicle. The passenger space is ample for all 3 rows so it will be comfortable both for teens and kids. The cargo space is a bit tight behind the 3rd seat, so if you consistently need room for 7 passengers and gear, this may not be your car. If 5 passengers is more typical, the 3rd row folds down easily to provide more space to haul gear.

All said and done, I like a smaller SUV. We live in the city, so I feel more comfortable in something I can maneuver on tight streets and around snow banks in the winter. I like a sporty car too so I would probably opt for the Nissan Rogue. I love the style and the storage in this option.