You say you need a bunch of space, for hauling the kids, dogs, your old band, and whatever else life throws at you. But, you also need to do it on a film student’s budget. Minivans are the obvious answer to this predicament, with fuel efficient engines and extreme cargo carrying abilities. But you have more options than that. Here are the top six vehicles that have the cubic feet and MPG to come out ahead.

I Need Space!

Some people just need cargo room, but don’t want the old Ford Excursion’s miserable 12 MPG. For serious space and acceptable gas mileage (20+ MPG), go with one of these picks:

The Ford Expedition EL barely qualifies here by getting an adequate 20 MPG, but it more than delivers the acreage at an incredible 130 cubic feet. That much space can handle full sheets of particle board, as well as the mud, tape, and tools to finish the job. Leave the seats up and you can haul eight people to the worksite, or the soccer game. While it’s still an old-school body-on-frame design, the Expedition is a modern ride with enough comfort to act as a large family’s hauler.

The Chevrolet Suburban, while not as large as its Ford rival at “just” 121 cu/ft, makes up for it in money savings by eeking out an additional 3 MPG over the Ford. In real-world terms, that means the Suburban gives up about a dorm room sized refrigerator in order to save you around $150 in gas per year. Worth it? Up to you. The ‘burban has a slightly more upscale interior than the Expedition, and a higher towing capacity (although not at 23 MPG). If the large and in charge versions aren’t your style, the regular sized Expedition and Tahoe may be more your size.

I Need Mileage!

If your storage needs aren’t as dire, maybe your rescue specializes in Boston Terriers over Great Danes, then you can get by with less cargo room. Get one of these rides for great mileage and decent cargo hauling:

The standard Prius earns exceptional gas mileage, but some reviewers find it somewhat small. Slotting between the Corolla and the Camry, it’s not compact or mid-size. The Prius V, upgrades the hybrid’s looks and cargo carrying ability in one neat change by converting the aerodynamically designed hatchback into a traditional wagon. It works on both counts. The V adds 13 cubic feet of cargo area, getting to 34 cu/ft behind the seats, and an impressive SUV-like 67 cu/ft with the rear seats down. The Prius V shows us how crossovers really are just tall wagons.

Want stealthy gas mileage and space? Then you want the Ford Escape Hybrid. The standard Escape has never been accused of bragging, and the current Escape Hybrid continues that tradition of low key excellence. Talking cargo room, the Escape has 34 cu/ft of space in the hatch, but put the seats down, and this compact SUV rewards you with 68 cu/ft for all your kayaks, lacrosse equipment, or (let’s be honest) grocery bags. All that space won’t cost you either, as the gas-powered Escape earns 30 MPG highway, while the hybrid can best 34.

I Need Both Space and Mileage!

The above examples offer some interesting parallels, with the Escape getting 50% better fuel economy than its larger Ford SUV, but with half the cargo room. The Suburban/Prius comparison is even more interesting, with the V earning 100% better fuel economy, by giving up 50% of the ‘burban’s cargo room. But what if you’re not a fan of math, and just want space and mileage? Minivans are still around because they just plain work. If you need 25+ MPG and seating for seven, you can’t go wrong with anything in this segment.

The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the clear winner here, at an unbelievable 84 MPG-E and 140 cu/ft with the seats down. While it puts both the Expedition and Prius to shame, it’s also so rare that you can’t even find it new on dealer lots. Fortunately, there’s still the Honda Odyssey. The Odyssey has delivered quality people moving at an affordable price since the mid-’90s. The modern version is no different, except it looks way better, and delivers value with its 38 cu/ft cargo area, and 148 cu/ft with the seats folded into the floor. Unlike the large SUVs, mileage remains respectable, at 28 MPG.

Your favorite uncle have a thing against Honda from his experience 35 years ago? Then take a look at the Toyota Sienna. The Sienna seems to have an edge, with a slightly larger cargo area of 39 cu/ft, and 150 cu/ft with the rear seats down. That slight increase in space is probably unnoticeable to most drivers, as is the trivial decrease in gas mileage, to 27 MPG highway. Basically, Odyssey vs Sienna is like those terrible “Left Twix, Right Twix” commercials. You can’t go wrong, because they are basically the same good thing.

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