Vehicle for Family of 6 Camping Trips

ssalvat

New member
Hi All,

I'm new to the forum, hopefully I'm putting this in the right place. I've been looking for a vehicle that can take me, my wife, and 4 kids ages 4-10 on dispersed camping trips in Colorado (and maybe surrounding states once we're feeling a bit more brave). We just got back from camping in the Collegiate Peaks area using our AWD Toyota Sienna, which got us there and back, but clearly was not the right vehicle for the job. I was thinking of a full size truck but even trucks that fit 6 people most likely wouldn't fit 3 booster seats in one row (and even if they did I don't know that they'd fit the rest of the crap we took). So, now I'm thinking one of the big 8 passenger SUVs might be the way to go. I'm not looking to go full on 4 wheeling, just need something to get us up and down the rough forest service roads.

I'd want a legit body on frame 4x4, none of that crossover silliness. It would need to have at least some trunk space (we'd still put a bunch in a rooftop carrier too). My first thought was a Toyota Sequoia, I've had several Toyotas and I like their reliability. That said, I don't have a ton of money to be throwing around, and Toyotas tend to be more expensive than other brands (unfortunately that eliminates the Landcruiser, which would otherwise be the correct answer). So, I'm wondering what other options are out there.

I'm looking at two possible scenarios: either buy a 3rd car with just cash (maybe $5,000) or sell my current daily driver and use the proceeds plus cash to buy a new daily driver (maybe $10,000 to make the math easy). I barely drive at all now, and even before the pandemic I worked from home, so I'm not too concerned about putting too many miles, too much gas, or too much maintenance into a large SUV "daily driver." Based on this price range I think I'm looking at early to mid 2000s SUVs. In addition to the Sequoia I was wondering about the Nissan Armada and Ford Expedition. I think a Yukon/Tahoe is going to be too short, not enough trunk space. A Suburban or Excursion seems too big, but I could potentially be persuaded otherwise. I'm sure there's more out there, I'd love to hear any suggestions.

Thanks in advance for the help!

Scott
 

ssalvat

New member
I actually thought about that but wasn't sure if it would have enough ground clearance. Having a 4x4 would also be nice just in the Colorado winters, my current daily driver is a front wheel drive hatchback.
 

Recommended books for Overlanding

calicamper

Expedition Leader
I have a 2019 Expedition Platinum with heavy tow pack. The heavy HD rear end gets locking diff, and low range 4x4 9300lbs max tow capacity.

3rd row is a real seat adults can sit in, 2nd row bench easily fits three rear facing with tip and slid seat. Center seat flips down for pass through/bucket seat configuration.

I have 4 total to haul the standard length is easy to drive can make tight turns almost as good as my Subaru.
All my friends with 3+ kids have moved to the extra long Suburban/Yukon or Expedition.

I get similar mileage as my buddies Sienna only I have 400hp, a real spare tire, 9300lb towing etc.
You will definitely be towing a trailer on trips as they get older!

We use a 4x6 to haul our bikes and camping gear.
 

Attachments

dreadlocks

Well-known member
Ive gone all over colorado in a old high top chevy campervan and vw westfalia (both RWD).. most people get 99.9% of places in Colorado via Subaru, they need AWD to pull em off ruts they high centered on.. you just need a little clearance for forest roads and some nice heavy duty truck tires on it.. you could upgrade your mini-van if your so inclined, my dad does forest roads all the time in his FWD Grand Caravan w/All Terrains and a mild lift on it.

You got an AWD van for colorado winters.. use that, 4x4 is not that great for commuting compared to AWD.. at highway speeds you cant be in 4x4 mode, so you'll be RWD anyhow til you get stuck... a RWD van w/enough clearance to get through a couple feet of snow w/All Terrains and a little weight over the rear axle will do just fine here in Colorado winters IMO..
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
Ive gone all over colorado in a old high top chevy campervan and vw westfalia (both RWD).. most people get 99.9% of places in Colorado via Subaru, they need AWD to pull em off ruts they high centered on.. you just need a little clearance for forest roads and some nice heavy duty truck tires on it.. you could upgrade your mini-van if your so inclined, my dad does forest roads all the time in his FWD Grand Caravan w/All Terrains and a mild lift on it.

You got an AWD van for colorado winters.. use that, 4x4 is not that great for commuting compared to AWD.. at highway speeds you cant be in 4x4 mode, so you'll be RWD anyhow til you get stuck... a RWD van w/enough clearance to get through a couple feet of snow w/All Terrains and a little weight over the rear axle will do just fine here in Colorado winters IMO..
My dad ditched the Sienna due to tires and no spare tire. If he’s just starting out with 4 young kids just getting realistic and getting a Extra long Suburban/Yukon or Expedition gives him the station wagon he needs lol. Soon he’ll need to bring stuff with him, eventually bikes and other gear a trailer will be in his future also.

My Expedition returns 20-23mpg on trips and 16-18mpg in town. That’s actually very slightly better than what Sienna owning friends are seeing.
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
Yeah with his number of people a mini-van's not gonna cut it.. its just mom and dad in the minivan so they turned the whole back into a bed.. they got tons of storage where seats used to fold into the floor.. I was just using that as an example that tires are far more important at determining where you can/cant go in Colorado than 4x4/AWD

I agree he needs something with towing ability, its more comfortable to drive when your vehicle is not packed to the brim and everyone can stretch out.. I'd still favor a full sized van over a full sized SUV because its a better and more comfortable people hauler, with swiveling captain chairs, nice high top and a rear bench that folds down into a bed he gains the ability to throw a couple of his clan into the van overnight which reduces other gear needed.
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
Yeah with his number of people a mini-van's not gonna cut it.. its just mom and dad in the minivan so they turned the whole back into a bed.. they got tons of storage where seats used to fold into the floor.. I was just using that as an example that tires are far more important at determining where you can/cant go in Colorado than 4x4/AWD

I agree he needs something with towing ability, its more comfortable to drive when your vehicle is not packed to the brim and everyone can stretch out.. I'd still favor a full sized van over a full sized SUV because its a better and more comfortable people hauler, with swiveling captain chairs, nice high top and a rear bench that folds down into a bed he gains the ability to throw a couple of his clan into the van overnight which reduces other gear needed.
As a dad that grew up with a E250 conversion van as a kid then driving it. The modern full sized SUVs crush all the vans in safety, comfort, and driving performance. They are all built for people hauling vs the big vans are repurposed from stuff hauling to people hauling by bolting seats in. Trust me its zero comparison. Its like comparing a BMW sedan to a BMW tractor.

Go full sized station wagon / suv you get all the car stuff plus, room, power and off road capability with full spare tire and towing 👍 There is a reason they are so popular
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
early 2000's is modern? aww thank you.. I'm about to turn 40 and needed that :p

The vintage he's looking at and with his budget, those full size SUV's gonna not be a BMW with that big ass engine that dont output any power but loves to eat fuel.. mebe if he doubled his budget and stepped into the last decade..

If you got a bunch of kiddos in the back, the ability to move about the vehicle.. go into the back and hang out, hand out food/drinks without pulling over in invaluable IMO.. My oldest son been riding up front of my SUV Wagon lately so my Wife can ride in the back with the toddler.. its just easier on everyone that way.
 

nwoods

Expedition Leader
I owned a 2006 Armada for about 12 years, and did things like the Mojave Trail in it a few times, and many other dirt road type trips. I would not recommend it. Its fairly capable, and has an amazing engine/transmission drivetrain, and the 4x4 system works great, but the overall build quality of the vehicle is pretty dissappointing. Fantastic design, interior is spacious and flexible beyond belief, but cheap plastic used literally everywhere really hold this vehicle back.

I would recommend a Toyota Sequoia and be done with it. Alternatively, a used Ford Excursion.





 
Last edited:

calicamper

Expedition Leader
My 07 Sequoia basically had the same seating as the Sienna. Don’t get 2nd row captains chairs!!!

Have any Used Sequoia frame inspected and dealer vin checked! I’ve come across two Sequoia buyers recently who discovered they couldn’t legally register their new truck because it had no frame left “salt region vehicle”

My dad has my old 07 its a California car zero rust looks brand new on the under Side👍
 

Todd n Natalie

Observer
E-series with Sienna seats.

FORD-VAN-SEAT-BASE-WITH-2-SEATS-COMFORTABLE-1.jpg

Lots of space for kiddos. If you want to enjoy your trip, keep the kiddos happy.

I had a 2009 Suburban, with 2 kids and a dog it would get packed up pretty easy with half the 3rd row removed. If you want room for 4 kids plus luggage etc, I wouldn't bother with a Tahoe, Yukon, Expedition or Sequoia. Once those 3rd row seat are up, there is nothing left for cargo. (I also had a Yukon Denali and a Tahoe so, little experience with full size SUV's)

If you want to stick with an SUV, go Suburban, Expedition, Excursion etc....

If you want to go shorter, I'd consider towing a trailer.
 

ssalvat

New member
Thanks for the responses everyone, and looking forward to hearing more, so please keep them coming.

The AWD minivan is a dedicated kid hauler, I need to keep it in the best shape possible, so even if it could function as a light duty off road vehicle I don't want it to.

The full size van idea is intriguing, I drove one for team sports in college so I have some idea what it would be like, but going this route would pretty much eliminate option B (i.e. trade in my current daily driver and put the proceeds towards purchasing a new one).

Interesting comments on the Armada. I was a little wary of them already, apparently mid 2000s Armadas are known for brake issues, and I know 2005 - 2010 Frontiers/Pathfinders have huge issues with coolant leaking into the transmission (not sure if this affects Titans/Armadas as much and don't really want to find out).

And yes, I know pulling a trailer is in my future, whether I like it or not.

I will say, even with a roof box, the minivan was very cramped. It doesn't look like the Sequoia or Expedition would have more room than the Sienna, at best probably around the same. The regular Yukon/Tahoe looks to be even less. That would seem to leave the Excursion, Suburban, and Yukon/Tahoe XL as the only options that would actually increase cargo space while providing 4x4 and towing capacity. Does that seem right?

Thanks again for all your help!
 

Recommended books for Overlanding

Dreaming of Jupiter
by Ted Simon
From $16.41
Americas Overland - The Driving Handbook
by Donald Greene
From $20
Sailing Alone Around the World: a Personal Account of the...
by Joshua Slocum
From $26
Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around ...
by Elspeth Beard
From $19.95
Motorcycle Messengers 2: Tales from the Road by Writers w...
by Jeremy Kroeker, Ted Simon, Lois Pryce, Billy Ward,...
From $9.99

Todd n Natalie

Observer
It doesn't look like the Sequoia or Expedition would have more room than the Sienna, at best probably around the same. The regular Yukon/Tahoe looks to be even less. That would seem to leave the Excursion, Suburban, and Yukon/Tahoe XL as the only options that would actually increase cargo space while providing 4x4 and towing capacity. Does that seem right?
Yep! With the 3rd rows up in the Sequoia or Expedition, I'm guessing there would be more cargo space in your Sienna behind the 3rd row.
 

nwoods

Expedition Leader
FWIW, the brake issues on the Armada are in the first gen 2004-2005. Mine was a 2006 Gen 1.5, which eliminated the brake issues and a number of other minor issues that plagued the first run. Also, the coolant issues in the V6 Frontiers is not relevant to the V8 Armada/Titans. Honesty, the drivetrain in the Armada is one of the best I've ever driven. Mechanically, our Armada did very well in the decade+ that we owned it. But the interior completely fell apart, the paint fell off, many exterior trim items fell off, and light bulbs throughout the interior and exterior of the vehicle started failing like the last 45 seconds of microwave popcorn going off, and the amount of squeaks and creaks sometimes would drown out conversation. It was a $50,000 vehicle when new. First vehicle in the US to have a power lift gate. It had fold flat seats, it had 11 cup holders, and storage everywhere. It could tow more than Ford F-150. It could fit a full size sheet of plywood in the rear. In some ways, it was amazing, but in other ways...no. I sold it for less than $6k, and was happy to get that much.
 
Top