It might be easy to miss for the casual observer, but there’s an arms race going on in the world of minivans. The few manufacturers left that are still producing these pragmatic family haulers are testing each other to see who can pack the most features in a van with a price tag of less than $50,000. We’re at the point where the out-the-door price of a really nice minivan can very nearly cross that magic number, as Doug demonstrated with a 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite. Many people are scoffing at the idea of paying that much for a minivan. How could such an inherently uncool vehicle possibly be worth that much money?
Well, I’m here to tell you that a $50,000 minivan isn’t that crazy of an idea. Sure, a $50,000 car is an expensive car; that’s well above the average transaction price for a new vehicle. But think of it this way: The nicest minivan you can buy is less than half the price of the nicest full-size luxury SUV you can buy. And the minivan is going to be more space-efficient, more fuel-efficient and, overall, more family-friendly than a decked-out SUV that’s both the size and cost of a small house.
The only reason the cream of the minivan crop isn’t more expensive than it is is that there are exactly zero luxury brands that make minivans. If the Honda Odyssey were reskinned as an Acura, that would automatically boost the price into big luxury SUV territory. The same would be true of a Lexus version of the Toyota Sienna. We Americans are snobs when it comes to what badges are on our cars, and the manufacturers know this. We simply won’t pay Audi money for a Volkswagen, because we need that luxury brand badge to impress the other moms at soccer practice.
Oh, but a $100,000 Ford SUV? No problem! And I’m all for that; I think it’s absolutely worth it. If you also think it’s worth it and you can afford it and you want it, then by all means, buy it. But if you can accept that a Lincoln Navigator Black Label is worthy of its lofty price tag, then surely you can understand that a 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite — equipped with a vacuum, advanced back-seat monitoring and a button just for yelling at your kids, all for only $50,000 — is a great deal.
Sure, a Chrysler Pacifica can’t pull out stumps as well as a Cadillac Escalade, but how many Escalades do you see on construction sites? The only things I ever see luxury SUVs tow are recreational vehicles like boats and ATVs, which minivans are quite capable of hauling when equipped with a tow package.
This all comes down to the fact that most people, particularly parents who think they need a luxury SUV, would actually be better off with a minivan. It might be hard to believe, but you don’t need 450 horsepower, you don’t need all of that ground clearance, and no, you don’t even need 4-wheel drive. I’m starting to get sick of saying this, but it bears repeating: There is simply no better family vehicle than a minivan. I think everyone knows that deep down, but a Sedona just doesn’t look as good in the Costco parking lot as a Yukon Denali, does it?
At the end of the day, isn’t a fully decked-out Navigator or Escalade just a $100,000 minivan without sliding doors? It wasn’t that long ago when a truck with a CD player and air conditioning was considered really nice — and now, in the era of the $100,000 pickup truck, a really nice minivan for $50,000 sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Find a minivan for sale