Suburban vs Odyssey – Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan

Suburban Vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan**This post contains affiliate links; using my links helps to support my blogging and my family at no extra cost to you.**

After posting a picture of the new (very used) van we got a few weeks ago, I have received a few DMs from people wanting to know the reasons I went back to a van after having a Suburban.  It was suggested that I do a post on it, so here it is ?

I had a 2003 Honda Odyssey from 2007-2014, and I loved it.  It took me from 1 kid to 4 kids and didn’t disappoint. 

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan-planforawesome

Then I met Tyler, and between the two of us, we had 7 kids.  Which meant we needed NINE seats.  Which may not sound that bad until you realize what your options are. 

We realized we either needed a HUGE van…like, the kind that daycares and prisons use…or we needed to find a 9-seater Suburban.  We even tossed around the idea of a limo for a while.  Not joking.  I finally shot it down for parking reasons.

We went and test drove a couple of the huge vans, and I just couldn’t do it.  As amazing as they are for their spaciousness, I just couldn’t commit to that being my everyday vehicle.

So we quickly decided on a Suburban.  Finding 9 seats was incredibly difficult.  Most Suburbans have a permanent middle console in the front.  But some of them have that magical center console that flips up to create a middle seat.  It isn’t comfy.  I’ve sat in that seat for hours at a time, so I can attest to the squishiness of it.  But it does the job.  We were in a bit of a time crunch to find a 9-seater, so we pretty much bought the first one we found that was within our price range, which was “as cheap as possible.”  It was a 2004.

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan

We recently sold the Suburban and went back to a Honda Odyssey.  It’s a 2005, which has significant upgrades from the 2003 I had before, so it is AMAZING to me!

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan-planforawesome!

So just so you know, this post is comparing the exact vehicles I had.  The years, the features, etc.  I am sure fully loaded 2018 Suburbans have a lot more than our 2004 did, just as a fully loaded 2018 Odyssey has more than our 2005 does.

This post is for someone like us, buying used vehicles for well under $10,000.  If you want a comparison of new vs new, there are plenty of websites that offer those types of comparisons.


Number of Seats

This was a no-brainer for us.  We needed 9 seats, so a minivan was not an option.

Some minivans only have 7 seats.

Some minivans have the 8th seat option.

All Suburbans have 8 seats, while some have 9.

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan-planforawesome!

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan-planforawesome!

Convenience of the Extra Seat

With a Suburban the 8th seat is always there.  With a van it is removable.  Which has its pros and cons.  It’s nice to be able to remove it and have the extra space, but it’s a pain to be taking it in and out, as well as storing it in your garage while it’s not being used.

With the Suburban, you always have a minimum of 8 seats, and if you have the one with the optional 9th seat and you ever need the 9th, you simply lift the console up and you have a 9th seat.

Access to the Back Row

To access the back row in a minivan, if you don’t have the 8th seat in, there is always a path.  In the Odyssey, you can move the seats to be side-by-side, and access the back row from the side that doesn’t have a seat at all, or you can position the two middle seats with a space inbetween that allows access to the back inbetween the two middle seats.

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan

If you have the optional 8th seat in, you have to pull a lever on one of the side seats to pop the seat up and forward to allow access to the back.

In the Suburban, you have to put one of the side seats down in order to access the back row.  Ever.

My preference is the van.  Even with the 8th seat.  And here’s why.  With the Suburban, the seat folds down to the floor, creating a new “floor” you step on to access the back row.  It is annoying and cramped, and forces you to duck because the floor of the car just got raised by quite a bit.  It also creates an incredibly dirty surface, which becomes the back of that seat.  So it’s not technically a floor, but it is dirty like one.

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan

However, with a NEWER Suburban, you are able to fold the seat forward and step on the back of the seat, OR the floor, so that has improved.

With the van, the seat doesn’t fold onto the floor.  It scoots forward, which means when you are climbing to the back row, you are still stepping on the real floor of the car.  I like that better.

I WILL say…the space between the van’s seat and the edge of the car door is pretty small.  So the van space to get to the back is squishier in width, where the Suburban’s crawl space is squishier in height.

The HEIGHT of the Vehicle

A Suburban is a higher ride, which means, it is a higher step to get into the vehicle.  Not as high as a truck, but it’s higher than a van.  I am 5’2”, so I definitely noticed a difference when I was getting in the Suburban, as well as buckling my youngest in his car seat at the time.  It was definitely more annoying, being the short person that I am.  I was glad I didn’t have an infant seat I was getting in and out of the car.  It would have totally been manageable, but I was glad I had held on to my van til I was at least out of the infant seat stage.

The FEEL of the Drive

A Suburban feels like a truck.  It sounds like a truck.  It is a truck.  It does feel a little different than driving my husband’s Dodge Ram.  But it feels more like a Dodge Ram than a sedan.  You get the idea.  It feels like a truck.

A minivan feels closer to a car than a truck.  Sure, it’s bigger than a sedan.  But it sits close to the ground, and is a lot smaller of a vehicle than a Suburban.

Sliding Doors

THIS IS HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was SO hard to go from a minivan with automatic SLIDING doors, to a Suburban with normal doors.  I have been paranoid for 4 years straight, of my kids opening a door and whacking the car next to us.  It is SO NICE to not have to worry about that again.

LOVE sliding doors.  There is no comparison.  There are no cons.  Well, I guess there is one con.  It’s one more thing that can break.  And the door motors aren’t cheap.  But still. Worth it.  LOVE the sliding doors.  Did I mention how much I love the sliding doors?

Extras, Cool Compartments, Bells & Whistles

I’m sure this has a lot to do with which model you get.  I don’t even know if that’s the right word.  What I mean is, the basic model vs the middle of the road model, vs the premium fully loaded model.  All I can say is, my vans have had a lot of cool features and the Suburban was just meh.

That may have to do with the fact that we really did buy the first Suburban that we could find with 9 seats that was under $10k.  We couldn’t be picky.  We had to settle for cloth seats rather than leather, no DVD player (we had an aftermarket one installed for $500), no cool features whatsoever.  Except the 9th seat.  That WAS the cool feature.

So I’m not saying all Suburbans are lame and don’t have cool stuff.  But ours didn’t.  And I think it is safe to say that minivans are just phenomenal at utilizing every square inch possible, and they have thought of so many extras that make life easier.

There are so many pockets and cupholders and compartments that it just makes my heart so happy.  It was a mother to clean…

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan-planforawesome

But it was so fun to “move into” the van and have so many options of where to put things like a first-aid kit, wipes, gum, hand sanitizer, Kleenex, etc.  The Suburban just didn’t have stuff like that.  The back row had cupholders and compartments, but didn’t have pockets on the seats in front of them.  The middle row had pockets on the seats in front of them, but no cupholders or compartments.  Lame.  (there was a little fold-out thing with two cupholders in the middle row middle seat, but we could never afford to give that space up just to have two cupholders.  We needed a butt to go there.  Cool idea, but not very practical if the reason you have a Suburban is for the number of seats.  I think it got used one time in 4 years.  If we could spare the seat, we always left the side seat down, for access to the back row, and had someone sitting in the middle seat anyway).

This being said, we got used to it.  Our boosters have pull-out cupholders, so we would use those for the middle row people, and I also bought a couple of these suction cup shower caddies to stick on the windows on road trips.They just provided an extra space to put stuff when we were road tripping.  But I didn’t have those up all the time.

The Odyssey has cupholders ON THE SLIDING DOORS!

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan

Our 2005 Odyssey even has a compartment IN THE FLOOR, people!  IN THE FLOOR!  You lift a handle and there is a Lazy Susan compartment thing.  That’s efficiency!

Our van has sunshades that pull up on the windows on the sliding doors.  Just built-in fun features that you just don’t get in a Suburban.

Trunk Space

The Suburban has a high cargo floor, but it goes for days!  So it’s higher to lift things into, but it goes really far back.  You can get even more space out of it if you fold the back seats down.

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan-planforawesome

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan-planforawesome

A minivan sits lower to begin with, and then the trunk dips down, so putting things into the trunk is a cinch, even if you are short.  The trunk space is very tall, but doesn’t go back super far.   One upgraded feature between my 2003 and 2005 Odyssey is that with the 2003 you had to put the entire back row down to get more trunk space.  With the 2005, it has a split back bench, so you can put either one seat down, or two seats down, to get SOME more trunk space, but while keeping one or two seats functional.  I love this feature!
Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan-planforawesome

Even the TRUNK is optimized!  It has hooks and compartments that have already proven to be useful.  I hang our backpack with emergency sweatshirts in it, and also my reusable grocery bags on the hooks.

There is a HEAVY DUTY PLASTIC CARGO LINER that is a MUST-HAVE!!!!!  I had it in my 2003 and we have it in our 2005.  It is SO EASY to wipe clean.  It has saved my bacon on multiple occasions.  Tipped over eggs, mud from the wheels of a wagon after a day at the baseball field, spilled soup in the trunk on our way to a church function…these are just a few examples.  Get the liner!!  But make sure you get the correct one that will fit the shape of your trunk!

This one is for a 2005-2010 Odyssey.

This one is for a 2011-2014 Odyssey.

This is for a 2018 Odyssey.

Towing Capabilities

Suburbans can tow more, hands-down.  But that’s all I know.  We can’t afford any toys that we would need to tow, so this is a non-issue for us.

Gas mileage

My 2003 Odyssey actually got pretty crappy gas mileage.  It got 14mpg around town and 18mpg on roadtrips.  I was disappointed.  Online it says they should get 18mpg city and 25 freeway.

The Suburban got REALLY crappy gas mileage.  We’re talking 12-14mpg.  It was HORRIBLE.

Suburban vs Odyssey - Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan

This 2005 Odyssey – I have no idea!  I’ll have to update this post when I know!  Online it says 20-28mpg, but since I got nowhere close to what they promised with the 2003, I am skeptical of that expectation.

What Did I Miss?

What other features are you wondering about?  Did I miss anything?

For those who have had both, what are your thoughts?  If you have anything to add, comment below!  My goal is to have this post be as helpful as possible and I am sure I missed some things and have different perspectives than others, so please share!!!

6 thoughts on “Suburban vs Odyssey – Why I Went From Minivan to SUV to Minivan”

  1. Melanie! Hey this is Dez we are planning on looking at a 2007 Odyssey in hopes to buy!! 🤞🏻 We are leaving tomorrow to go look at it. I hope it turns out to be great van for us for many years. Loved your post even reading it again two years later. Hope your van is not giving you any more issues.

  2. Hannah Trussell

    Thank you so much for this post!! Definitely talked me off of the ledge. I was considering a suburban or Tahoe, thinking it would be tons more space. Nope! Not worth Giving up the gas mileage and sliding doors! You are SO correct on both of those counts.

  3. Carol Northcott

    The thing I really noticed a difference in, between my Chevy Tahoe (not as long as a Suburban) and my minivan (mine is a Toyota Sienna) is that the Tahoe felt more “tippy” when driving. I had 4 wheel drive which is taller than the 2 wheel drive, but most SUVs have that smaller wheel base to height ratio that causes that feeling. I love my minivan (all-wheel drive, since we live where it snows in winter) and plan to have it for the rest of my life. It is so versatile for carrying passengers and/or cargo. It has a smooth and quiet ride and even though it does not hold 9 people (which, as an empty nester, I don’t need) it does accommodate 7, if necessary or 6 quite comfortably. The gas mileage is about 21 mpg on average – more when I drive, less if my husband drives. We live in the country, so most of our driving is not stop and go like in the city.

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