Minivan Alternatives – Chevy Traverse vs. Honda Odyssey

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I am at that crossroads that people with big families come to – minivan or SUV?

I want a “real person” vehicle to drive.

The kids are getting older. 90 percent of the time, it's just me or me and one other person in the vehicle.

However, I don't really want to give up passenger space and cargo space.

There are those times when I am a people mover – driving not only my kids, but their friends too.

And what about family vacations?

The other day, I mentioned several models that seat at least seven passengers.

The problem with most of them is that you really sacrifice cargo space.

Any way you dice it up, a minivan will fit more stuff.

Honda Odyssey vs Chevy Traverse

Honda Odyssey

I love the Odyssey. I've had two after all.

At it's premium Touring level, the Odyssey brings a lot of bells and whistles to the table. A  navigation system, a rear entertainment system, touch inputs, back up camera, lane assist, bluetooth integration, and many other high end features all come standard.

Step it up a notch and the Touring Elite adds blind spot assist, a better rear entertainment system, and an integrated vacuum (pretty cool). Step it down a notch and the EX-L still has a lot to offer. You can even add a navigation system to it if the rear entertainment system is not something that you need.

The Odyssey only comes with front wheel drive including traction control. All wheel drive is not an option.

You can compare the Honda Odyssey models here.

Yesterday I test drove a new Honda Odyssey. But as great as it is, it felt like a minivan. That is what it is.

Chevy Traverse

I also decided to take a Chevy Traverse out for a spin.

The Traverse belongs to a class of vehicle that is now known as a crossover type, meaning that it's a wagon-like SUV. And the cargo space is great with the back seats folded down. Lots of versatility for smaller families.

Shopping for a Traverse is not quite as simple as Honda's offerings. Chevrolet offers various trim levels – the 1LT being the most basic, all the way up to the LTZ which has all the bells and whistles. You also can choose from 2 wheel drive or all wheel drive. And even if you get the LTZ, there are still many add-ons that will add to your price. Things like the navigation and rear entertainment system are not standard.

A bonus with the Traverse (and all GM vehicles) is the availability of OnStar. A trial period for this service is included, but once completed there is a subscription fee. I haven't tried it, but it sounds quite helpful. You can choose from the Safe and Sound package (think emergencies) or the Directions and Connections package which will help you find your way.

After test driving, I was impressed with the ride. And the range of upscale options that are available are pretty good. Navigation, rear entertainment system, back up camera, lane assist, blind spot assist, forward collision alert, and dual sun roof/fixed glass panels.

Surprisingly the dimensions of the Traverse are very similar to the Odyssey, in fact – the 2014 Traverse is a little longer and a little taller, but slightly narrower than the Odyssey. But the Traverse feels more like a car to drive and not a minivan.

My biggest reservation is cargo space. Perhaps a Thule roof top carrier or something similar will make up the difference, especially if you are carrying soft duffels. But if you have large suitcases and a large family – well, I just don't know.

You can learn more about the Chevrolet Traverse models here.

Which One Would You Choose?

Help me out here. Just for a minute, assume that you are well out of the stroller phase of life. Given that, if you had to pick one, which one would you go with – minivan or SUV? The Honda Odyssey or the Chevy Traverse?

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  1. I love our Traverse. But not much storage with 3rd row up. Was looking at the Honda Van but my Traverse drives so nice. Many luxuries. We are a family of 6 and don’t know what to do. Want more leg room but is the van really that much more?

    1. Hi Debra,
      I hear you on this. We have 6 in our family, too. Of all the cars/vans/crossovers that I looked at, I found that the third seat in the Traverse (or Buick Enclave) to be the roomiest – second to the grandaddy Chevy Suburban (oh how I want one – if only I wouldn’t have to park it).
      As far as the Honda Odyssey goes, the room in the third seat of my model which I believe was a 2009, was similar. However, the biggest advantage was the increase in storage space.
      I now have an Enclave (which, space wise, is similar to the Traverse) and we have to travel light when we go on long trips. A rooftop carrier like a Thule might be a good option.
      Good luck with your decision!

  2. I have an 8 year old. No way would I choose the Chevy Traverse. All of the reviews I have read have the Oddyssey way ahead of the Traverse and I agree with them. Much more leg room. Plus, I love the fact I can plug in a mini fridge in the back for travel.

    1. Hi Kevin,
      When my kids were that age our Odyssey served us very well.

      Now that they are teens, I am often the only one in the car.

      But there are still those family vacations and other occasions when more space is welcome. Living in the Northeast, I did long for all wheel drive on the Odyssey.

      Ultimately we went with the Traverse, which I do like – but there were trade offs.

      It sounds like you picked the right vehicle for you. Enjoy!

  3. HELP PLEASE! We have been testing driving a Traverse for the past 3 days and love it. We have a newborn, 2 year old, 4 year old and 16 year old. So, total of 6 people. The kids were so happy too. But, we just aren’t sure if the Traverse is right for our family. What is your opinion? Which one is more family friendly? We are so confused!! Thank you in advance for any help you can provide. 🙂

    1. Hi Adrienne,

      I feel for you – it is a tough decision.

      A minivan is really the perfect vehicle for large families – plenty of space and versatility. However, many do not offer all wheel drive – so that is something to consider. And the feeling that I get is that they are not as “hip” of a thing to drive.

      A Traverse type vehicle seems more popular these days but your space is definitely more limited than what you get in a minivan. You will probably need to stick the car seats in the center row because that is more accessible for you. So that would mean your 16 year old will be in the smaller third row if you and your significant other are sitting in the front (which will also be the case in a minivan).

      But in a minivan, when someone is sitting in the third row, you still have a good amount of cargo space. In a crossover, the cargo room is very small with the third row up.

      I imagine that you will have a stroller or two, or perhaps a double stroller to tote around.

      Perhaps a large SUV like the Suburban or a minivan may be a better choice from a cargo room standpoint.

      Of course, it all comes down to personal choice and I cannot say what is right for you and your family.

      Good luck with your decision, would love to hear what you end up with.

  4. I’m in the situation. My kids are adults and we got them through all their college moves with a minivan. However, we still take camping trips and other trips and the kids are still moving and with one married hope for grandchildren soon. You just can’t beat a minivan! I really want another minivan, but feel like it is expected of me to get an SUV and I was looking at the traverse as well. I just can’t find any vehicle that has as good a visibility as a minivan. And I can’t find any SUVs that ride as smooth as a minivan. I have friends that get in my current van that is 9 years old and comment on how smooth it is. If I do what I want to do, I will get another minivan at 54 years of age. Can’t wait to be able to get in and buckle up my grandkids.

    1. Hi Mary,

      You are right – nothing beats a minivan for space. And the visibility and turning radius on my Honda Odyssey was amazing – it really felt like a much smaller vehicle to drive.

      However, you don’t see as many on the road these days (at least not around here). It does seem that many people are opting for the SUV crossover vehicles (like the Traverse) instead.

      I had a hard time making the choice but I do like my Chevy Traverse and am happy with the decision. We do have to pack lighter when we travel – but for the most part it is roomy enough for our needs. Although we are moving a kid to college in the fall ….

      Enjoy your new minivan – and don’t conform! Get the right vehicle for you. 🙂

  5. We are in the same boat! What did you choose and why?

    Honesly, I am leaning towards the traverse! But still debating!

    1. Hi Janelle,
      We did end up going with the Traverse – and it is perfect for us. Now that the kids are older, we rarely have everyone in the car at once (often it is just me running errands around town). But the Traverse is big enough to accommodate everyone if we have to.

      It is still tricky if we go on a long trip with lots of cargo. We don’t have a rooftop carrier, but that would be a good solution if necessary.

      Overall, I am quite happy not to be driving a minivan anymore. I like the all wheel drive, and even though the Chevy is still sort of a wagon, it somehow feels a little more “grown up”.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. I am literally at the Chevy dealership now. Considering the Traverse and saying good bye to my Odyssey. I’m at a crossroads after driving it. Loved the feel. I didn’t care for the backseat floor with the glides. Seems like another space for garbage to get stuck. The biggest disappointment is the cargo space. I still have 2 in car seats and a teen part time. And we take road trips. Im just so confused.

    3. Hi Melissa,
      I hear your frustration. My kids were older when I switched – so we do not have much trouble with food getting into the glides. The cargo space is a bigger issue. With two in car seats and one in the back you could put half of the backseat down to get more space. But for long trips you might need a car top carrier. I don’t know where you live but if you get snow – the all wheel drive on the Traverse is nice. There is also the vanity thing. When my kids were little everyone was driving minivans but it seems like the crossovers are more popular now. I would say go with what meets your needs best. Good luck with your decision – and let us know what you got!! Whatever you decide – enjoy it!

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