Reader Question: Three-Row Recommendations?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Mitchell asks: I’m looking for an affordable three row vehicle. Used or new. I have a 2014 Lexus ES350 with 37,000 miles in good condition. Do you have any recommendations, or do you already have a three row vehicles review that I haven’t found yet?

My reply: First question in reply to yours is – how viable do you need the third row to be? There are lots of vehicles that advertise three row seating – and they do technically have three rows – but the third row is often extremely cramped as well as difficult to access and usable only by small kids or as a place to stow groceries and other cargo.

Even if you only need a vestigial third row – because you have small kids – keep in mind, they’ll grow.

So, the first order of business is to establish leg and headroom parameters and accessibility – for now and three or four years from now.

Minivans are a safe bet with regard to third row usability and accessibility; my pick of the bunch would be the Toyota Sienna – chiefly because it has an excellent record for long haul reliability. They are also a bit less pricey than the otherwise excellent Honda Odyssey – and you should be able to find a very nice late model (3-5 years old) example for $20,000 or less.

Crossovers would be next. They are generally more space efficient than truck-based SUVs of comparable overall size, especially in the the third row. I personally like the Honda Pilot, as well as the new Subaru Ascender and the also-new VW Atlas. But these latter two are brand-new models and will cost a great deal more than a used minivan.

The Toyota Highlander has been around awhile and is also a very sound choice; the fact that it’s been around awhile means there should be reasonably priced used ones available.

You might also want to have a look at the Ford Transit Connect – which is a genuinely mini van. But it can be ordered with three usable rows and good access to those rows.

The main thing – aside from the cost – is to make sure the vehicle you end up with meets your specific needs and specifically, those of the people you will be carrying regularly as passengers. When you go for a test drive, bring the whole crew – and make sure everyone fits and likes it!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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