review of people movers for large families

Following on from last week’s post on my dream car  I thought we’d talk people movers for large families. Because let me tell you once I meet another large family mum the conversation usually flows on to what do you drive? Because there aren’t too many choices when you get over 4 or 5 little ones.


Now I asked this question on Facebook and I got lots of answers from readers who drive SUVs. I’ll have to do that as a separate post as there are now so many 7 seaters on the market. Because we’ve always had so many in carseats we’ve loved the space of a people mover but I’ll definitely pull together a list of the SUVs that suit larger families.

the bus

And I’d love to hear from you in the comment about your what you drive and why and what’s the car you dream about. So let’s start with the VW multivan. This is what I drive and unfortunately we don’t all fit in there. It’s great for the school run and weekdays but on weekends we are taking 2 cars if we all go out together.



seats 7, very roomy inside, European safety, lots of power, diesel, good boot space, great for big kids and adults to travel comfortably, well priced (about $54k driveaway for the entry level Comfortline), very reliable and goes the distance, was called a Transporter before Multivan if you are buying 2nd hand.

love the colour


height can be an issue in some carparks (I look for 2.1m clearance), 7 seats but the 2nd row would be great as a bench seat making it an 8 seater, we bought the table as an extra and have never used it. EVER! , we have door problems and not sure if it’s just us or a wider problem but we now have a case manager just because of our door problems.



this is on my wish list as it’s now a 9 seater (woo hoo, fits all my kids and grandma), you can find out more here


9 seater (newer models) which suits large families nicely, spacious inside, european safety and quality, reliable, well priced for a european 9 seater (about $55k driveaway new)


height can be an issue, longer body than the VW Multivan for parking, not as big boot space (but there is room inside the van for bags etc)


I like the iMax and you can find out more here


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very well priced for this sized van, 8 seater and good sized seats in the back, roomy inside especially for the older kids and lots of carseats, very popular people mover, you can walk around inside, great boot space, you can add an extra seat in the front drivers seat row for about $2k if you need an extra seat, some of my readers also love the Trajet which was the people mover before the iMax and can be picked up second hand.


doesn’t have the european safety and heaviness in the body and doors (if you’ve ever opened a VW or Mercedes van then you know what I’m talking about), there are smaller vans on the market if you only have little children (with little legs)



well priced (the new 2015 Grand Carnival entry model will set you back about $46k driveaway in NSW), 8 seats, drives like a car as not as big as other vans, easy to park, no height restrictions to worry about, the 2015 Carnival looks amazing with a new shape, we made a fun video of the Carnival way back in 2012 here just after I had emerson and I think we’re too big a family for the Carnival now.

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not as spacious inside compared to the bigger people movers, although it’s an 8 seater some of the seats are smaller in the back, check you can fit all of your car seats in and still fold down the seat to get into the back, doesn’t have the heaviness in the doors and body compared to a european van, older models (from memory up to 2006 have known engine problems before they switched to new engine so be careful buying 2nd hand)


a quick scan/my unofficial survery of car line at school tells me this is the most popular people mover at our school. You can find out more here. 

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built to last and they just keep going and going (we see some older ones at school), 8 seater, very reliable, nice body shape, easy to drive and park and no height issues compared to the bigger vans, easy for parts and servicing and mechanics always seem to recommend them, easy to pick up second hand and a good resale value.


Price (about $52-74k driveaway in NSW ), there are bigger 8 seaters


you might remember I got to drive the Valente for a week back here. Loved it. 


european safety and heaviness in the doors and body, luxurious, reliable, roomy inside, great boot space, 8 seater and good full sized seats, great for lots of kids, car seats and long legs, great resale price


Price (starting at about $55k driveaway in NSW for a Valente entry level model), servicing and parts outside of warranty are something to consider and if you’ve owned a european car/van before then you’ll already know this, can be hard to find second hand.


This is a new one to me but I like it and you can find out more here. 


12 seater, european build (think heavy safe doors and body) and safety features, quality, great for really big families and travelling, reliable, great resale value

,mercedes sprinter inside

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Price (starting at $90k driveaway for a new one), height and size of van for shopping centres/carparks/parking, parts and servicing outside of warranty will be more expensive than some other people movers


I have to confess I don’t know much about these so love to hear what you think


roomy inside, 7 seats, reliable, luxury features, not as big as some of the other people movers, easy to pick up 2nd hand


Price (starting from $57k new), servicing and parts


oops I have to confess that I left this one off the list! Find out more here.


7 or 8 seater, not as big as some people movers so easy to drive/park, newer model has really changed and is larger, luxury features inside


Price, not as big inside as other people movers which can be an issue with carseats


CONGRATULATIONS! If you drive a HIACE then you really are a large family!


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Big enough to fit the largest of families (OK maybe not the Duggars but plenty of room for everyone with 12 seats or 14 seats in the super long wheelbase), great for parties and playdates as extra seats, reliable and they go and go and go, easy to pick up second hand, easy to service/parts etc, well priced


parking at shopping centres (you’ll need bus parking) and height considerations in carparks, OK parking full stop!


The Japanese do some nice people movers that aren’t available from dealers and you might have seen a Nissan Elgrand around and there seem to be a few in Sydney. You can buy locally from an importer and if you look on carsales or gumtree you can find them. You’d want to make sure you were near somewhere to service it and have the parts available and also insurance. Love to hear from any of my readers who drive one and what they think.


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Some of my readers have mentioned vans that you can buy second hand but can’t buy new. These include

Mazda MPV (seats 7)

Hyundai Trajet (seats 7)

Mitsubishi Starwagon (comes as 7 or 8 seater)

Mitsubishi Grandis (seats 7)


how many carseats do you have/need to fit in and how many anchor points

how big is the boot for your pram (especially if you have twins, 2 or more little ones)


where will be you driving (just locally, inner city, country etc)

how often do you go on family holidays and is it big enough

reliability, parts and servicing

resale and reputation

easy to drive, park and get kids in and out

safety, safety and safety

petrol and the cost of it (usually costs me about $90 to fill up the tank with diesel but it lasts a week)

how many airbags are fitted throughout the car

So what do you drive? What do you love and what do you wish you were driving your family around in? Have I left your people mover off the list? I know there are so many SUVs but I’ll have to save that for another time.

p.s I’m no automotive expert. Just a mum of 6 who does the research before we buy a car. You should always do your own research, take all of your carseats and check that the car you are purchasing is right for your family. What’s right for me and my family might not work for yours so ask around, do your research, read reviews at car websites and the NRMA reviews and also test drive a few cars. We had test driven a few different cars before buying our current van. 


  1. Nissan Elgrand – price wise they are great, We brought a 1999 model about 6yrs ago (we have also recently traded it in). It had more features available then anything else of the same age. You can buy Diesel or petrol (although diesel was stopped in 2001) . They are available as a 7 or 8 seater.
    Very roomy inside (we have had 5 in seats and an additional friend as well as 2 grown ups in the car with room in the boot still available). We drove ours from Tassie to WA and has never missed a beat (was only traded as where we live we wanted more of a 4×4)

    Only thing to be aware of – they need to be complianced when brought into Australia. There was a period where they were not signing the paperwork off to their full seating capacity and there for you really can’t use them as a people mover. This was rectified and they are back to signing them off again (had to do with competition in the market). Also make sure you get it completely checked over for any rust (they come from japan so are susceptible to under body rust), BUT parts for the engines etc are freely available in Australia (repco dealers have a cross match list)

    honestly they are a great car, definitely worth the money that you pay for them, safety wise there are a few youtube clips and that is what sold us

    • good to know Cheryl and thanks for sharing! I know there were a few nissan elgrands on the northern beaches and once a toyota I’d never seen before!


  2. We have a Hiace commuter ‘bus’ for the 11 of us and I love it.
    I love that I can walk, standing up straight, down the centre Isle. Every seat is individual recline and I can put a car seat on any seat I want.
    I love the room, I love that my huge pram fits, I love that I can use it to pick up just about anything from horse feed to carpet to a huge Costco shop to our monthly grocery shop.
    It’s actually easier to drive and park than any of our 4wds too.
    I can fit it in any car space and it’s not a very wide van but it doesn’t fit in any underground car parks anywhere so we usually have to park somewhere outside and walk if we are going to s shopping centre. (It does fit in the undercover Costco parking though)
    However you can only have 12 seats in it and drive it with a regular licence. If you have the 14 seats you need a different class of drivers licence.
    Also when the registration comes around it needs a different inspection (heavy vehicle) not just a normal pink slip.
    Apart from that I love it!! I’m glad we went straight from a 4wd to the Hiace (even though we still get everyone in the troop carrier with a seat to spare ) . The kids prefer ‘Bessy bus’ over the 4wd’s too.
    Cassandra xx

    • oh I love hearing that you love it and also thanks for sharing that important info on the licence! of course! thank you

      we’re not big enough for the hiace but we have a few at school. My kids started calling our van the bus as soon as we got it but bessy bus is cute!


  3. Chrysler Grand Voyager are comfortable but truly have “life” limit of about 220,000 km’s after which everything starts to go wrong, little and big things and are expensive to replace. Think cable for the electric window – $450 etc. Also heavy on fuel.

  4. Kylie Herman says:

    We tòo have a hiace bus. With 7 kids it was a necessity. Ours is a 12 seater. There is plenty of boot space and it drives like a car. Ours is diesel and is more fuel efficient than our previous ford wagon. It has vinyl floors which is easy to clean and great with the kids.
    The car seat thing is an issue. Legally you can only have car seats in the aisle seats (has car seat attachments that fit onto the back of the seat that you buy seperately) unless your bus has anchor points in the floor (ours doesn’t) or you install a crab bar across the back. You are not technically allowed to park in a bus zone unless you have 14 seats or charge your patrons for the service. It does fit into a normal car space but leaves little space on either side and is longer than a normal vehicle so parallel reverse parking requires a longer space than usual. It is 2.3m high so does not fit in most undercover carparks especially not hospital ones but does fit our local shopping centre rooftop parking and IKEA. It is a commercial vehicle so not too many bells and whistles like no cruise control. Ultimately I would like a reversing camera in ours but generally its great to only take one car.

  5. We have a Mazda MPV which I love. All the joys of a “big car” but as easy to park as my old Mazda station wagon. I also love that you can take the back seats out as that way we can fit bikes or the rabbit hutch and the dog in!
    Unfortunately ours is a bit tired and the seatbelts sometimes lock up (and of course because they are seatbelts no mechanic will go near them!) The doors are not always easy to open/close either and now that ours is getting older parts can be tricky to get.

    The Honda Odyssey would be my first choice but unfortunately just too pricey for us.

  6. If you’re interested in safety check out the ANACAP or NCAP websites for crash tests and ratings. They have details of how a car performs in a crash, information about how cars perform in real world crashes, and this was especially useful.
    Looking forward to the SUVs xo

  7. We only needed a 7 seater (4 kids) and ended up settling on a Honda Odyssey after having a 7 seater Chrysler Grand Voyager for 6 years. The Grand Voyager was great (very roomy inside, even in the boot. The 7 seater has a walk way down the middle, while the 8 seater doesn’t), though the servicing was an issue. Parts are costly and even when we went to the Chrysler dealership for servicing there was always some little thing that they couldn’t get right. Parking was easy (I’m a fan of parallel parking!), but it was a fuel guzzler. It’s a very heavy car, so windy country roads were not its forte.

    I love, love, love the Honda Odyssey. It is roomy inside (again, we chose the 7 seater with the walkway down the middle. The 8 seater has easy access to the rear seats though) and is very, very comfortable. Fuel economy is good for a people mover. The kids love the electric sunroof – I could take it or leave it. The leather seats are easy to clean and the middle row comes with foot rests. The third row also folds down into the floor, which is great for the drive in! We bought a current demo model for $54k driveaway.

    I think there are some good options when it comes to people movers. We looked at SUV’s as well, but I found that many of them didn’t have full sized seats in the third row; any seats beyond the standard five were half sized (so an adult sits with their knees around their ears) or were more akin to sitting on an ironing board than in a proper (and comfortable!) chair.

  8. We bought a new 14 seater Hiace when we had our 8th baby. I find it quite good to drive and I frequently park it in regular shopping centre carparks etc. It only takes up about as much room as a large 4WD but is a little harder to manoeuvre with a long wheel base (I prefer a ‘drive thorough’ park so I don’t have to reverse out). Being technically classed as a bus you can also use bus zones if necessary. Height is an issue for many undercover carparks. Plenty of room for children plus musical equipment and sports kits. Drives well and is comfortable for long drives too. Seven years later and it’s going fine.

  9. great post…..we have 8 children and drive a mercedes vito with 9 seats….we don`t fit in all together, but our three older children at the age of nearly 18, 16 and 14 aren`t with us all the time, so it`s the best car for our family. We have twins and the pram fitted into the boot, but I had to collapse it completely and take of the seats each time… so we bought a baby jogger buggy now and it`s great and fits into the boot perfectly.
    We have five car seats in it and the car is really spacy and I like driving it. Just much more than the VW Multivan we had before.
    When we go out all together we have to use our second small car. And when we go on holidays, our eldest goes by plane or train…that`s a possible option and she liked it last year.
    all the best for your lovely family,

  10. suzanne horning says:

    We have had a few large vans through the years for our family of 11 and my favorite is my current Nissan NV. It seats 12 and has all the bells and whistles that my previous vans have lacked. One day I will have a smaller car but I am in no rush.

  11. We drive a 2014 Toyota Tarago Ultima for our family of 5.. We love it! The kids love the built in DVD player, moon roof & the space..! I love the boot space, electric sliding doors & it’s an absolute dream to drive! I still can’t understand why the only colour choice for that particular model (top of the range) is cream carpet & cream leather upholstery but thankfully the floor mat is a fully fitted one!

  12. Erin Rourke says:

    I’m due to have my 6th baby and now on the search for a new 8 seater car.
    previously had a 2006 Kia Grand Carnival that i loved the interior and space with 5 carseats in it.
    I’m currently looking at the Nissan Elgrand. i love the chunky look and love the black leather seats in some of them.
    if anyone has anymore info on these cars please post your comments :)

  13. I bought a 2005 multivan 3 years ago. Nothing but problems. Have had serious issues with the doors and the engine light has been tripped by camshaft? (Think that is its name.) Was told it would be at least $7000 to fix because they have to take the engine out etc.
    I am getting rid of it. I thought that this car would last us for years. Am very disappointed.
    Mechanic said to trade it in.

    • Jo Fletcher says:

      I am having same issue with my 2005 multivan.
      3 mechanics have said to get rid of it. Will be lucky to get much for trade in because of issues. Was hoping to use it for many years.

  14. We drive a 2005 Hiace and at 193000/10 years (we’ve had it for 7 of those) it is dying and forever having issues costing $$. We’re really disappointed. It’s horrendous for parking in Sydney where tiered is the norm and with facing replacing it we won’t be getting another Hiace. We have 6 children and not planning more at the moment (never say never…) and looking at the imax currently, with or without the extra 9th seat.

  15. I’ve always really liked the Mercedes Valente. This is a great article and it breaks down some of the pros and cons of people movers for big families. Well worth a read and shared on my social pages. Thanks!

  16. Vaughan minto says:

    7 year warranty on Carnival and 5 star ANCAP rating from 2016 onwards.
    My biggest concern with the European vans is their well known reliability outside of their very short warranty.

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