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Biggest SUV’s: Top 10 Cargo Space Models under $55,000

2018 Chevrolet Traverse

If Schoolhouse Rock has taught me anything, it is that “Everybody needs some elbow room.” As the song goes, the expansion from east to west is our Manifest Destiny, moving people in the roomiest of covered wagons along the Oregon Trail (try and avoid dysentery). Today, not much has changed in America’s want for more elbow room and quest for more stuff that we will inevitably need to haul. We still move families cross-continental, à la large, family-sized SUVs, for family vacations or trips to see relatives. The trails have been paved over, sure, but we still need to get ma, pa, the kids, and all the cargo to Wisconsin to spend a long weekend at the Dells, all while packed up to full cargo capacity (“are we there yet?”). To help you get there cramp free, here is a list of 10 cargo space leaders, the biggest 2017 SUVs with the most cargo space and even some elbow room to spare.

Top 10 Cargo Space Models under $55,000

Ford Expedition EL

  • 130.8 ft³ total cargo area
  • 42.6 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 8
  • MSRP: Starting at $49,835

2017 Ford Expedition

An extended wheelbase on the 2017 Ford Expedition EL makes this traditional SUV ‘king o’ cargo.‘ Measuring in at 130.8 cubic feet of total cargo area and 42.6 cubic feet of cargo space at full passenger capacity, the Expedition EL leads its class in cargo space. In fact, unless you are driving a cargo van, you aren’t going to get that much room anywhere else.

For passengers, the Expedition is roomy in both second- and third-rows, leading its segment in passenger room as well (168.3 cubic feet). All that space allows for elbow room and a lot less complaints that “Johnny won’t stop touching me.” It has a powerful turbocharged V6 with excellent towing capabilities. The only downside to the extra size is that it’s more difficult to park and has gets lower gas mileage (still fuel efficient for what it offers, however). Some feel the interior is dated, but as most parents will attest to, your kids aren’t going to treat it like you will.

The base Expedition isn’t anything to browse over, either. Without the extended wheelbase of the XL, the base trim still offers an impressive amount of cargo room behind the front seats, totaling 108.3 cubic feet starting at an MSRP a couple thousand less. With passengers in the second row and the third row folded down, it offers 55 cubic feet, and at full passenger capacity, the base Expedition trim offers 18.6 cubic feet.

2017 Ford Expedition EL Cargo

GMC Yukon XL

  • 121.7 ft³ total cargo area
  • 39.3 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 7-9
  • MSRP: Starting at $51,230

2017 GMC Yukon XL

The GMC Yukon XL trim offers more room than a baseline Yukon, offers great driver assist features, and houses a classy cabin.  With 121.7 cubic feet of total cargo space and 39.3 cubic feet at full capacity, there is a ton of room for both passengers and a lot of gear. It can tow up to 8,500 lbs with a powerful and efficient engine lineup. The most impressive engine in the lineup is the 420 horsepower, 6.2 L V8, belonging to the GMC Yukon Denali XL. Even with that much power, it gets 15 mpg and 22 mpg. The luxury-esque trim falls in line with the Cadillac Escalade ESV with a pricetag about $8,000 less. It is a bit bulky to drive and can be difficult in tight spaces, which again, isn’t too uncommon for its class.

When comparing the Yukon XL to the competition, it gets class-leading gas mileage at the cost of a slightly higher price tag. It can also be configured to seat 9, which is an advantage if you have one more person along for the ride.

The smaller wheelbase Yukon model offers plenty of space as well. Coming in at $48,500, the Yukon base comes in with 94.7 cubic feet of cargo room.

 2017 GMC Yukon Cargo Area

Chevrolet Suburban

  • 121.7 ft³ total cargo area
  • 39.3 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 8
  • MSRP: Starting at $49,915

Chevrolet Suburban

Since 1935, the Chevrolet Suburban has been moving American families cross country. The Suburban is America’s longest running nameplate and recognized for its size and durability. It currently offers one engine, a powerful 5.3 L V8 engine that produces 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, capable of towing up to 8,300 lbs when equipped with towing package. For long road trips, its offerings include DVD and Blu-ray player options, power tailgate for easy load/unload, Chevy MyLink connectivity, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, up to 14 charge points (USB ports, power outlets, wireless phone charging), and Wi-Fi.

With all rear seats folded down, cargo volume maxes out at 121.7 cubic feet. With the third row down, the total amount of space is 76.7 cubic feet, and at full passenger capacity, 39.3 cubic feet. If you have pets or kids, the Suburban offers plenty at a competitive price point. It doesn’t hurt to take into consideration that you can haul a pet bear in the cargo area, so price your vehicle’s interior accordingly.

2017 Chevrolet Suburban Cargo

Toyota Sequoia

  • 120.1 ft³ total cargo area
  • 18.9 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 7-8
  • MSRP: Starting at $45,560

Toyota Sequoia

The Toyota Sequoia might as well be synonymous with “reliability.” It is one of the most reliable vehicles on the road. It is also a LARGE SUV for the price, starting about $5,000 less than the similarly sized Expedition and Suburban and over $6,000 less than the Yukon. It has 120.1 cubic feet of max cargo space and 18.9 cubic feet of cargo space when at full passenger capacity. Three adults can fit comfortably in the third row with ample room for everyone’s stuff in back.

Its 5.7 L V8 engine is more than capable, producing 381 horsepower and maximum towing capacity of 7,400 lbs. It does, however, struggle in MPG, only getting 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. The 2018 gets a new TRD Sport model, but is otherwise unchanged except for some exterior styling updates. The interior lacks the style of some other SUVs in its segment, but again, for the price (and trusting the coordination of a small child drinking milk in the backseat), it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

It offers plenty of clever storage options inside and a roof rack for kayaks, surfboards, skis, etc. The intuitive Entune app suite integrates tunes and navigation, and an optional Blu-ray player with HD 9-inch display with wireless headphones and extra headphone jacks can entertain everyone in the back seats.

Toyota Sequoia Cargo

Chevrolet Traverse

  • 116.3 ft³ total cargo area
  • 24.4 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 7-8
  • MSRP: Starting at $28,700

2018 Chevrolet Traverse

The Chevrolet Traverse offers far more cargo capacity than similarly priced vehicles. It also handles extremely well for its size, which puts it into a unique place in the market. The 3.6 L V6 is powerful enough to get the Traverse around and opting for AWD gives it an advantage in weather and getting out of mud during your annual outdoor escapade. Just don’t count on it winning many street races. It’s capable, and although it looks sporty and handles nicely, it’s not a racecar.

Fuel economy estimates put it at 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. While not terrible in comparison, it falls to the end of the pack for similarly priced SUVs and crossovers.

Depending on configuration, the Traverse can seat up to 8 passengers. The 3rd row is a bit more compressed than previously mentioned vehicles on the list, but the cabin is spacious and surprisingly high quality for the price tag. For the money, the Traverse is a not a bad way to move up to 8 people with a week’s worth of luggage. At full passenger capacity, the Traverse has a 24.4 cubic foot cargo hold. Fold down the third row and you’ve got 70.3 cubic feet of cargo room. If you need to help your friend move, fold down both rear rows and you’ve got 116.3 cubic feet of space – enough for a couple dozen storage tubs.

2018 Chevrolet Traverse Cargo

Buick Enclave

  • 115.2 ft³ total cargo area
  • 23.3 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 7
  • MSRP: Starting at $39,065

2017 Buick Enclave

Sharing the GM Lambda platform with the Chevrolet Traverse, the Enclave is similar in total cargo space and passenger room. It offers 115.2 cubic feet of total cargo room, 68.9 cubic feet with the back row folded down only, and 23.3 cubic feet with a full house. Still well below the starting price of many other vehicles of its size and luxury status, the Enclave offers a classy cabin and standard features that include a 6.5 inch touchscreen, WiFi, rearview camera, automatic HID Xenon headlights, and heated mirrors.

From a performance standpoint, you are looking at the same engine as the Traverse. It does handle well, however, and can move the Enclave around town just fine.

The sophisticated interior, three rows of comfortable seating, and all the tech for entry level luxury SUV of its size, the price is right.

Buick Enclave Cargo

Nissan Armada

  • 95.1 ft³ total cargo area
  • 16.6 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 7
  • MSRP: Starting at $44,900

2017 Nissan Armada

The Nissan Armada is new for 2017, after taking off the 2016 model year for a redesign. It offers a powerful V8 engine with great performance and handling for a vehicle of its size. But like most V8s, it is at the expense of fuel efficiency. The Armada gets 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway, just slightly outdoing the Toyota Sequoia. The interior, while smaller than other full-size SUVs previously mentioned on our list, still offers 95.1 cubic feet of total cargo space and 16.6 cubic feet of cargo room when at full passenger capacity. When hauling people and gear, you can do both comfortable.

The interior is also very similar to that of the Infiniti QX80, with high-quality materials and great cabin design. The third row is slightly more compressed than others on the list, but still comfortable for adults taking short trips, and again, offers more than enough room for children and room in back for gear.

 2017 Nissan Armada Cargo

Chevrolet Tahoe

  • 94.7 ft³ total cargo area
  • 15.3 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 7-8
  • MSRP: Starting at $47,215

2017 Chevrolet Tahoe

Chevrolet’s traditional SUV is large and in charge. The 5.3 L V8 direct injection engine that powers it is shared with the Chevrolet Silverado, as is the 6-speed transmission and body-on-frame design. The engine pushes 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft torque and is more than enough umph to haul up to 8 people, a full cargo hold, and a small yacht in tow.

By today’s standards, the 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway isn’t particularly impressive but not terrible when comparing it to the other vehicles on this list. When all rear seats are folded down, the Tahoe offers an impressive 94.7 cubic feet of total cargo area. With the third row folded down, it offers 51.7 cubic feet of room, and at full passenger capacity, it has 15.3 cubic feet of room for gear or a whole lot of shopping bags (and offers a hands-free liftgate for when your hands are full).

 Chevrolet Tahoe Liftgate

Acura MDX & Acura MDX Hybrid

  • 90.9 ft³ total cargo area
  • 15.8 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 6-7
  • MSRP: $44,050

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

Sporty and spacious for a midsize SUV targeted at a medium sized family, the Acura MDX and Acura MDX Hybrid make the top 10 list. For a price tag that starts at $44,050, families with smaller children will love all three rows, while some average-sized adults won’t mind sitting in the far back seat with the second row slid forward on short trips.

As for cargo room, the MDX offers 90.9 cubic feet with all rear seats folded down, 43.4 cubic feet with the third row down, and 15.8 cubic feet when at full passenger capacity. The versatile cargo area is open and flat, allowing for hauling larger cargo that can easily be loaded thanks to an optional hands-free liftgate. While some might think the interior lacks the class of other luxury midsize SUVs, it has plenty of jazz at a price that falls thousands less of the competition. It also has an additional storage compartment recessed into the floor of the cargo area to safely store more cargo.

If overall value is the name of your game, either model is a safe bet, but the Acura MDX Hybrid edges out the non-hybrid coming in at $51,960.

 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid Cargo Area

Dodge Durango

  • 84.5 ft³ total cargo area
  • 17.2 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 5-7
  • MSRP: Starting at $30,690

2017 Dodge Durango

Cargo capacity in the 2017 Dodge Durango tops out at 84.5 cubic feet total, 47.7 cubic feet with the third row folded down, and 17.2 with all rows occupied. Those are some impressive numbers for a midsize SUV.

Legroom and comfort in the optional third row proves the Durango offers all around comfort, a quiet drive, and great handling paired with a V6 or more powerful V8 option.

The interior features quality, soft touch materials. An intuitive 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use and comes standard, with an 8.4-inch display optional. The 3.6 L V6 base engine gets 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. It pushes 293 horsepower and is more than enough zip to get you around. The 360 horsepower V8 gets 14 mpg city and 22 highway and is a viable option if fuel efficiency isn’t your top priority and you need more power. The Durango handles extremely well and is easy to maneuver in tight spaces, particularly when compared with some SUVs in its segment.

2017 Dodge Durango Cargo Area

Not on a budget?

Here are a couple sizeable SUV’s that didn’t make the MSRP cut.

Lincoln Navigator L

  • 128.2ft³ total cargo area
  • 42.6 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 8
  • MSRP: Starting at $63,515

Cadillac Escalade ESV

  • 120.9 ft³ total cargo area
  • 39.3 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 7
  • MSRP: Starting at $76,395

2017 Cadillac Escalade

Infiniti QX80

  • 95.1 ft³ total cargo area
  • 16.6 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 7
  • MSRP: Starting at $63,850

Mercedes-Benz GLS

  • 93.8 ft³ total cargo area
  • 16 ft³ cargo area at full passenger capacity
  • Seats 7
  • MSRP: Starting at $68,700

The Marketplace

The market offers a large array of roomy models to choose from. These 2017 cargo space leaders offer great cargo capacities, but also great space for passengers. Third-row seating has become more of the norm, as many new car buyers are looking for both cargo and seating. So before you decide a minivan is the only way to move your family cross country, consider these affordable people movers as options.

2017 Dodge Durango CargoTime for you to size up these SUVs: which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Dustin "Dusty" Rhodes

A fan of nice round numbers and working on tiny European cars, Dusty is the proud owner of a '58 Lloyd 600, a '50 FIAT 500, and is currently on the hunt for a Vespa 400. And, despite all that repair work, he still finds time to write about cars. 

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