Okay, so the tale so far: I often need to haul sheets of plywood / foam insulation / large tires / other stuff. And I’m beating my poor Jeep Wrangler to death driving it 40 miles a day to work and back, those giant 35″ tires cost around $300 *apiece* installed and there’s five of’em on that Jeep (I do 5-tire rotation because otherwise the 4-wheel-drive locker system won’t work right if I have to use the spare on the trail). And I often take long trips that don’t need the capabilities of the Jeep that I’d prefer to do in a more comfortable and more economical manner. My Jeep actually is fairly comfortable for a Jeep, thanks to the soft long-travel suspension, but it still is quite loud and due to the aerodynamics of a barn guzzles gas anytime I go faster than 55mph. (As in, going through West Texas at the 80mph speed limit, I was lucky to get 13mpg).
So, looking at pickup trucks: The modern V6 pickup trucks from Chrysler and GM are not penalty boxes. With close to 300 horsepower and a torque curve as flat as Manhattan, they can haul plywood just fine. But they still have ridiculously bad aerodynamics, with huge (unnecessary) grills and way high off the ground. They’re rated at 16/22mpg (for the RAM) and 17/22mpg (for the Chevrolet), or roughly the same as my Jeep originally was. And an extended cab model won’t haul a 4×8 sheet of plywood without having the tailgate down, and is several feet longer than the minivan. Driving those in Bay area traffic would be pretty cumbersome and the bed would be unused 99% of the time.
So looking at the Chrysler minivan: it’s roughly the same length as my old Chevrolet S-10 pickup, and about 6 inches wider. A bit cumbersome in Bay area traffic but doable. Flopping the seats down will hold a few sheets of plywood, drywall, or foamboard without a problem. Or a book case. Or a dresser, albeit a tall one would need to be wedged in. Or any other furniture I might want to move, as long as it fit in the roughly 8x4x4 cargo area. Not a refrigerator, I could fit it on its side, but refrigerators aren’t happy about that, the oil tends to run out of their compressors into the coils and causes problems, but I can run down the street and rent a U-Haul for that. When not hauling things, pull the seats back up out of the floor wells and it will haul half the office to an outing, unlike the unused bed of the pickup truck.
For long distance travel its far superior aerodynamics mean 25+mpg on the highway. Due to not having giant tires and a huge solid axle and leaf springs, it rides much better than a pickup truck. The tires are significantly cheaper, roughly $80 apiece for decent-quality tires rather than $200 apiece. It’s cheaper, period, being roughly $5,000 cheaper for a very luxurious setup compared to the pickup truck.
What I give up compared to the truck: Towing capacity (max towing capacity is 3500 pounds). But who needs to tow when you have so much cargo space? High clearance / offroad ability. But I have the Jeep for that. Might feel a bit suburban soccer mom. But I have the Jeep with its giant mud-terrain tires if I get overly confused about my gender.
All in all, given the realities of living in a city and what I want to do with it (haul bikes and camping gear to local area parks, commute, shop, haul various stuff, make *long* trips on pavement, haul half the office to eat, etc.), the minivan seems more practical. And Chrysler’s running one of their 0% financing deals right now… hmm…