If passenger and cargo space are your top priorities, it’s tough to beat a van. Whether you’re trying to be environmentally-friendly or just want to save money, it’s a good idea to consider how much fuel your new van will use. Fuel economy often takes a back seat to utility in larger vans, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a van that’s both spacious and fuel-efficient. Using these tips, you can find a van that doesn’t break the bank when it’s time to fill up the tank.
Van Fuel Usage
Finding out how much you might spend on gas each year is as simple as going to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website at www.fueleconomy.gov. This site provides fuel economy and annual fuel cost estimates for every van on the market. The fuel economy numbers are broken down by different types of driving (city, highway and combined), so you can pick the model that best suits your driving habits. Keep in mind that annual fuel costs are based on the current price of gas and can vary.
According to the EPA, minivans will cost anywhere from $2,050 to $2,550 per year to fuel. The Mazda Mazda5 has the lowest annual fuel cost at $2,050, while minivans like the Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna will cost about $2,350 a year to fuel. The Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and Volkswagen Routan cost slightly more annually to fuel at about $2,500.
Minivans that take E85 fuel cost significantly more each year to fill up. For example, the Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and Volkswagen Routan cost $2,500 per year to fuel with gas, and nearly $1,000 more with E85 at about $3,450 per year.
Fuel-Efficient Van Designs
Historically, vans did not offer exterior designs geared toward aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. That trend is changing, though. Vans are getting slightly smaller, lighter and more aerodynamic, which makes them more fuel-efficient without sacrificing much utility. Multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) like the Mazda5 are smaller in size than traditional minivans. They also have nimble handling and good gas mileage. The Mazda5 seats six and uses less fuel than most vans.
Improvements in design that lead to better fuel economy aren’t just for the smallest vans. The Ford Transit Connect is a smaller and maneuverable cargo/passenger van that bridges the gap between passenger vans and minivans, offering midsize proportions and a great deal of versatility. The Transit Connect also earns higher city fuel economy estimates than most minivans out there. Thanks to its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the Transit Connect gets 22/27 mpg city/highway.
Full-size vans, like the Ford E-Series and Chevrolet Express, offer a great deal of versatility with multiple wheelbase lengths and seating for up to 15 people. However, their cavernous dimensions and truck-like towing and hauling capability take a toll on fuel economy.
The largest Chevrolet Express, the Express 3500, gets a mere 11/17 mpg city/highway. If you don’t need a heavy-duty van, opting for the eight-seat Express 1500 will improve those numbers, but only slightly. The Express 1500 gets 13/17 mpg city/highway and has an annual fuel cost of $3,550. That’s $1,500 more than that of the Mazda5. Opting for a Ford passenger van won’t save you much, either. The eight-seat Ford E-150 gets just 13/16 mpg city/highway.
While these passenger vans do offer unparalleled cargo space and seating capacities, you’ll save a lot of money on gas if you can make do with a smaller van.
Fuel Economy: Vans vs. SUVs
If you’re trying to decide between a van and an SUV, comparing fuel economy may help you narrow down your choices. Today’s smaller vans offer excellent gas mileage. Although the Mazda5 currently tops the list with the lowest base price and best gas mileage, rival minivans often trump SUVs with more interior space and better fuel economy.
For example, the Honda Odyssey comes with the same 3.5-liter V6 engine as its SUV sibling, the Honda Pilot. However, the Odyssey gets slightly better highway fuel economy and offers 61.5 more cubic feet for cargo with the rear seats folded. With the Odyssey’s additional space, good fuel economy and slightly lower base price, it pays to consider a van for your next new vehicle.
Vans with Great Fuel Economy
Annual Fuel Cost
Ford Transit Connect
Dodge Grand Caravan