Sedans vs Wagons: The Family Car Battle

There are loads of different body styles when it comes to cars, from coupes to crossovers, as well as pickup trucks and convertibles. With so many options to choose from, it is only natural that the question arose: which car is best for families? After all, just about any car will do for a single driver, but the moment you add extra passengers and start adding considerations such as room for groceries, long drives to vacation spots, and the occasional camping trip, things get a little complicated. The battle for superiority in the family car market has been waged for decades, and two of the oldest competitors are sedans and wagons. It’s true that there are only a few wagons left for sale in the USA, but this doesn’t mean the winner has been decided.

Why wagons?

There was a time when you couldn’t go five minutes without seeing one of these extended vehicles. They were all the rage thanks to their unparalleled levels of practicality and comfort, which are two of the most driving factors in a family car. They were also considered quite stylish for the time. Modern wagons have evolved to look more sophisticated, and it doesn’t hurt that many of them hail from luxury brand heritage. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon is such a vehicle, and while BMW has since discontinued the BMW F31, it is still a recent arrival to the used markets.

Even the smallest of wagons have an enormous amount of cargo space that no sedan can hope to match. And, in most cases, their wide wheelbases and overall size mean that there is loads of room for people, too. The back seat is spacious and comfortable, which makes them great for longer trips. Thus, the Volvo V60 Cross Country is aptly named. Similarly, wagons can often go where sedans can’t. This is because all-wheel drive is far more readily available and many wagons have a fair amount of ground clearance. 

Wagons are quite heavyset, which, combined with their sturdy construction, makes them inherently safe. Modern advances in driver-assistance features have only helped to make them even more desirable in this area. Of course, to move all that extra bulk, a stronger engine is usually required, which is why wagons boast some impressive horsepower outputs. This is especially true for performance-oriented models like the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo. 

Sedans staying strong

While the number of wagons on the market has dropped drastically, there are still plenty of sedans to choose from. This is despite the rise of the SUV crossover craze. The traditional three-box clearly still has a lot to offer, and the current state of the economy may have a lot to do with it. 

Sedans are a lot cheaper to produce than almost any other style of car, and since they are relatively small and lightweight in comparison to the competition, they enjoy some of the best fuel economy figures. Altogether, this makes them some of the cheapest cars to buy and own, which is no small thing. Family life can get expensive, so saving a buck where you can really matter. Buying a used car, like a 9th-gen Accord sedan, further helps to keep costs down.

In terms of driveability, the small size of sedans makes them really easy to maneuver, and if they have the hp and handling required, they can be some of the most enjoyable sports cars. In busy city life, where most families spent a great deal of their time, this can be a real blessing. Weaving through traffic when you’re late on a school run or stealing the last spot in a packed parking lot can be essential when trying to keep to a seemingly impossible schedule.

Of course, one can’t discount the fact that there is a lot more choice when it comes to buying a sedan since there are simply more of them. Almost every automaker still has a few models on sale, from highly affordable commuters to gas-guzzling luxury tourers, and even eco-friendly hybrids and EVs. Being able to express yourself through your vehicle is important, as nobody wants to be stuck with a car that feels out of character.

No clear-cut winner

A genuine argument can be made for either a sedan or a wagon, but which is the right choice for you will come down to the boxes each type of car ticks for you. If you need loads of space for a big or growing family, then a wagon seems like a good choice. However, if raising a bunch of kids has put a strain on your wallet, that may not be an option.

Meanwhile, if you take lots of long road trips or enjoy camping every weekend, an AWD wagon is the perfect family companion. But, if you spend more time scooting around town, a smaller, more manageable vehicle like a sedan makes better sense. There is a reason neither body style has been completely eradicated by seemingly more popular ones, such as the crossover SUV. For every type of consumer, there is a perfect fit in the automotive world, and some people still look at wagons or sedans and feel an instant connection.