Having kids inevitably means ferrying them to and from soccer/band/glee club practice. To help, our writers suggest the best sports team haulers  

Putting the Team in Team Parent 

A formative part of growing is participating in team activities. Band, sports, Mathletics (sic?) all provide enrichment, education, and the opportunity to build lifelong friendships. Ferrying gaggles of kids to and fro to the above activities is a formative part of parenting. The more kids, friends, and equipment involved, the bigger the vehicle you need with enough passenger and cargo space to comfortably accommodate something like half a girls’ field hockey team.

For this edition of our Critics’ Choice series, we’ve tasked our writers with finding the best sport team haulers among new and used vehicles. So, whether you are road-tripping with a trio of tuba players or this year’s state champion javelin throwers, we’ve got the ride for you.

Chris Kaiser‘s Top Picks

2019 Honda Odyssey
1975 Volkswagen Microbus
2021 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Conversion

2019 Honda Odyssey - carsforsale.com
2019 Honda Odyssey - carsforsale.com

I’ve split my suggestions into three dimensions: affordability, memorability, and fancifulness. First, affordability. I have to admit right here that I’ve come very close to actively discouraging my children in their extracurricular pursuits lest facilitating those pursuits necessitate me buying a larger vehicle. But fostering the next generation and frugality need not be mutually exclusive, as demonstrated by this 2019 Honda Odyssey. Priced at less than $20,000, the Odyssey provides a lot of value for your dollar. There’s a rear seat DVD player, leather upholstery, and seating for up to eight. Those rear seats include Honda’s Magic Seats in the second row that not only shift fore and aft but right and left as well. The Odyssey is roomy even by minivan standards with up to 155.8 cu.-ft. of cargo capacity. And for those traveling in chilly regions, there’s a heated steering wheel and remote start. A decently powerful V6 rounds out the Odyssey as one of the best deals around for people hauling, young athletes or otherwise.

1975 Volkswagen Bus - carsforsale.com
1975 Volkswagen Bus - carsforsale.com

My second consideration is less practical but even more important, the making of memories. These kinds of trips are already ripe for creating lasting meaning, and choosing the right vehicle can make the journey all the more special. That’s why I’ve offering up the possibility of a 1975 Volkswagen Microbus. This impeccably restored example features seating for up to eight and those lovely roof windows and a retractable roof for the airiest of cabins. This Microbus has not one but two roof racks and a side ladder to access them. The two-tone white and green paint job has this 70s VW looking sharper than your grandad in his period matching polyester leisure suit. The Microbus’ 1.5L flat-four is certainly underpowered for the job, but without a doubt all that extra time on the road will be ridden in style.

2021 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter - carsforsale.com
2021 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter - carsforsale.com

My final suggestion is unrepentantly fanciful. This 2021 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter conversion van will have your kid’s lacrosse/polo team riding in the height of luxury. High-end appointments include a premium audio system and ambient lighting, a toilet, fridge, and microwave (juice provided by twin solar roof panels). The seats come leather wrapped and the second and third rows fully recline for post-game napping. There’s even a fourth row of opposing bench seats (feel free to pile all those full of polo mallets/lacrosse sticks). This ultra-luxury van does cost upwards of $260,000, but a few bake sales and a Go-Fund-Me page later and you should have that pretty well covered, right?

Jesse McGraw’s Top Picks

2024 Ram 2500 Mega Cab
2023 Chevrolet Express LS 3500 3dr Extended Passenger Van
2020 Dodge Journey 

2020 Dodge Journey - carsforsale.com
2020 Dodge Journey - carsforsale.com

I remember all the gear and passengers that came along with sports when I was a kid. You’ve got helmets, pads, sticks, bags, coolers, and a carload of kids on top of that. I tried my best to find three great choices for every kind of sports family. The first option is an affordable runabout with some clever space saving additions, the Dodge Journey.

This defunct three-row SUV can be found for really great prices on the used market, and it has everything a sports family could need. The 2.4L four-cylinder isn’t going to wow anyone, but it’s more about the functionality of the space. First off, you can seat up to seven people inside and still have some room for a couple sports bags behind that third row. If you only need seating for five, then you that third row can flip down for some added cargo room for more sports equipment and the all-important folding chairs.

The Journey also features some specialized cubbies in the floor of the second row that were marketed as a makeshift cooler space, so you’ve got cool beverages on the road and at the event without needing to take up valuable space. Dodge also set up some of these SUVs for towing, so you’d have access to a hitch for a luggage rack to save space or even a small trailer if you need to bring the whole team’s gear.

2023 Chevrolet Express - carsforsale.com
2023 Chevrolet Express - carsforsale.com

Speaking of bringing the whole team along, the Chevrolet Express Extended Passenger Van might be the ideal find for those devout parent-coaches out there. It can carry 15 passengers to that tournament the next state over. These long team haulers are powered by either a 4.3L V6 for “light duty” team road trips or a 6.6L V8 if you need to hitch a small trailer too for all that added gear.

There isn’t anything super glamorous about the Chevrolet Express inside, but it’s one of those experiences that really can bring a team together. All the chanting, camaraderie, and celebrating a win on the way back home (or sulking together after a big loss). You even get some substantial real-estate on the sides of this giant van to proudly display team or sponsor logos.

2024 RAM 2500 - carsforsale.com
2024 RAM 2500 - carsforsale.com

Not every sports family focuses on the whole team though. Some just need a great option for their kid and their kid’s gear. That’s why I’m suggesting the 2024 RAM 2500 Mega Cab. Before you tell me that’s overkill, I’m thinking outside of just your average hockey, football, or baseball for sports. There are some kids out there participating in motorsports like motocross, karting, and even bandolero racing. That means they need their parents to haul their tools, spare parts, tires, and the racing vehicle around the country to various race events.

The RAM 2500 Mega Cab gives its passengers some added room to stretch out on those long road trips and it comes with some substantial grunt to bring along all the motorsports gear. You could even toss some of these kid-friendly motorsports vehicles in the 6.4-foot bed if you wanted to and forget the trailer. If you end up towing a trailer though, you’ll be at ease knowing that the 6.7L six-cylinder turbodiesel can achieve a max towing capacity of over 14,000 pounds.

Jesse Batson’s Top Picks

2021 Chevy Traverse
2021 Honda Odyssey
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz - carsforsale.com
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz - carsforsale.com

Cheer competitions, baseball tournaments, and soccer clubs. Anyone with a child in youth sports knows the trials and tribulations of traveling to and from the meets, games, and matches. I’m confident I’ve found three vehicles that can help. Each one mostly fits the needs of any busy sports family. Better yet, all of them are listed for under $30,000. New is always an option, but I’m hoping to save a little money with a used model.

Size is the first consideration. Eight people can fit in the 2021 Honda Odyssey minivan. The 2021 Chevy Traverse, a full-size three-row crossover, also seats eight people, and it’s not too big or cumbersome to maneuver. Anyone who’s sat in a cramped third row for a long car drive knows how agonizing that can be, but that’s not the case here. There’s enough room to be comfortable. The 2021 Odyssey dedicates 38.1 inches to the third row. In the Traverse, the third row is 33.48 inches.

Sometimes the entire family isn’t along for the ride, though. A sibling or two may stay home with the grandparents. Or maybe you’re simply a family of four. If that’s the case, consider the five-passenger 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup I found. It offers 41.4 inches of legroom up front and 36.5 inches in the rear.

2021 Chevrolet Traverse - carsforsale.com
2021 Chevrolet Traverse - carsforsale.com

Cargo space is equally important. The 2022 Chevy Traverse typically has 23 cu. ft. for gear, luggage, and various other items. With the back seats folded down in a 60/40 split, cargo space in the 2021 Traverse expands to 57.8 cu. ft. If the situation ever arises, the second row can be folded, increasing cargo to a maximum of 98.2 cu. ft. The Odyssey has very accommodating movable, folding, and removable seats. Cargo figures range from 32.8 cu. ft. to 158 cu. ft. Meanwhile, the Hyundai Santa Cruz has a 48-inch truck bed that should hold most sporting equipment, even a longer hockey stick if it’s turned diagonally.

It’s not just about space, though. Comfort is a big factor when traveling hundreds of miles each weekend. The 2021 Chevy Traverse LT Leather trim has it in the form of an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, tri-zone climate control, and, of course, a leather interior. Convenience is included with a power tailgate, onboard Wi-Fi, an eight-inch touchscreen, and integration for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The 2021 Honda Odyssey EX-L cabin is loaded with Apple and Android integration, a sunroof, a sound-reducing windshield, heated front seats with memory settings, various USB charging ports, and tri-zone climate control. There’s an eight-inch touchscreen to control some of those functions, too. Then there’s the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz SEL, with a 10.25-inch screen, Apple and Android connectivity, heated front seats, and a power-adjustable front driver’s seat.

2021 Honda Odyssey - carsforsale.com
2021 Honda Odyssey - carsforsale.com

Capability is another requirement since spring sports equals unpredictable weather. That’s why I appreciate the optional all-wheel drive (AWD) on all trim levels of the Traverse. The 2021 Odyssey is front-wheel drive (FWD) only, but the 2021 Santa Cruz I selected is also AWD.

There’s enough power in all of them. The Traverse can get up to speed quickly enough with a 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine. The 2021 Odyssey uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 280 horsepower while the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz has an inline-four 2.5-liter engine that makes 191 horsepower. Efficiency numbers are respectable enough, too. The Traverse gets a combined 21 miles per gallon (mpg), the Odyssey gets 22 mpg, and the Santa Cruz gets a combined 23 mpg.

Lastly, let’s talk safety features. If the weather is a concern, then driver assists are important. Thankfully, the 2021 Traverse LT Leather has fog lights, high-intensity headlights, heated outside mirrors, and blind-spot monitoring. Higher trim levels offer additional safety. The 2021 Odyssey EX-L is even more equipped with forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and a rear cross-traffic alert. For the 2022 Santa Cruz SEL, Hyundai included forward collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, blind-spot intervention, and a rear cross-traffic alert.

I’d like a little more driver assists in a couple of these choices and I’d prefer the Odyssey be an AWD vehicle, but there’s still a lot offered in all three of these vehicles. Even though they don’t check every box on my list, each of these cars check most of the boxes of any traveling sports family.

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Chris Kaiser

With two decades of writing experience and five years of creating advertising materials for car dealerships across the U.S., Chris Kaiser explores and documents the car world’s latest innovations, unique subcultures, and era-defining classics. Armed with a Master's Degree in English from the University of South Dakota, Chris left an academic career to return to writing full-time. He is passionate about covering all aspects of the continuing evolution of personal transportation, but he specializes in automotive history, industry news, and car buying advice.

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