Prime Third-Row SUVs for Families: 5 Top Picks to Consider

Some of the best third-row SUVs offer the features you need to travel in comfort.


Article QuickTakes

What's the best third-row SUV for families? First, it's important to understand why having three rows instead of two can be a game-changer. Three-row seating typically increases passenger capacity to six or seven. Even if your family isn't big enough to warrant that passenger count, having a vehicle with that capability may come in handy if you have to transport your kids' friends to and from school or carpool to a team practice. And for those times when it's just your household, the extra row gives rear-seat passengers more room to stretch out on long trips.

Here are five family-friendly picks to consider if you're looking for a third-row SUV for your needs. We examined ride quality to arrive at our selections, and all our picks provide smooth handling to keep your family comfortable on commutes. We also prioritized spaciousness—all our choices have plenty of room for passengers and cargo. And finally, we chose vehicles with valuable family-focused amenities offering safety and convenience.

We've included a diverse mix of vehicles to help accommodate families with different needs and income levels. Our picks are in alphabetical order.


2021 Ford Expedition

With pricing that starts around $50,000, the Ford Expedition, which seats up to eight passengers, is the biggest vehicle on the list. It's a full-size SUV, whereas the others are mid-size.

The Expedition's massive dimensions translate into cavernous cargo space. It provides about 21 cu.-ft. of room behind the third row and roughly 64 cu.-ft. behind the second. So, if you have a large family that needs endless amounts of room for their belongings, this is the SUV to consider.

Also, the Expedition offers more pulling power than other SUVs on the market; it can tow up to 9,300 lbs when properly equipped. For this reason, it's a great choice for families who need to haul boats or recreational vehicles.

Like all our picks, the Expedition is a smooth customer on the road, keeping harshness out of the cabin. And with amenities like satellite radio and a Wi-Fi hotspot, it's built to keep your family entertained.


2022 Hyundai Palisade

The Palisade has a base price of around $33,000, and it offers a host of family-friendly safety and tech features. For example, there's Safe Exit Assist. This radar-based amenity keeps the rear doors locked if oncoming traffic makes it unsafe to exit the vehicle.

Also, the Palisade is available with a useful Sleep Mode System that can help ensure peaceful slumber for your kids. This feature allows the driver to mute only the rear speakers so they can listen to music through the Palisade's first-row speakers without disturbing those in the back.

This Hyundai's suspension is tuned to soak up bumps. And the Palisade is roomy in all three rows.


2021 Mazda CX-9

When a vehicle is fun to drive, it can make family trips more pleasant. With pricing that starts around $34,000, the Mazda CX-9—the bigger brother to the brand's capable CX-5 compact SUV—delivers in this area, providing sporty yet comfortable handling.

And because a pleasant-looking cabin can brighten your time behind the wheel, it's good that the CX-9 has one of the most upscale interiors in its class. And its cabin is spacious enough to meet the needs of an active family.

Of course, the CX-9 also provides the amenities a modern family needs. For example, this SUV is available with in-car Wi-Fi that can keep your entire family connected. And the CX-9's remote start system allows you to start the SUV's engine via an app. This technology gives you a chance to heat or cool the cabin's temperature to your liking before climbing aboard.


2021 Toyota Highlander

With a lineup that includes favorites like the Sienna minivan, it's clear Toyota knows a thing or two about building high-quality family transportation. Starting at roughly $35,000, the brand's Highlander SUV offers thoughtful amenities that make life easier for families on the road.

For example, if you've ever made yourself hoarse trying to communicate with kids in the third row while driving, you'll likely love the Highlander's unique Driver Easy Speak intercom system. This optional feature amplifies the driver's voice via the SUV's speakers, making it easier for you to lay down the law to those in the back if there are shenanigans in progress.

And for safer travels, there's the Highlander's digital rearview mirror. This optional amenity uses a camera mounted inside the rear window to give you a wide, expansive view of what's behind the vehicle—even if there are items in the cargo area obscuring your vision.

Last but not least, the Highlander delivers refined handling and a roomy cabin.


2021 Volvo XC90

Starting around $50,000, the XC90 comes with features designed for busy families. For example, it provides an amenity that allows you to open or close the tailgate by waving your foot underneath—perfect for those times when your hands are full with groceries or a toddler.

And to save you money on that long road trip to grandma's house for Thanksgiving, a plug-in hybrid version—the XC90 Recharge—is available. According to EPA estimates, the XC90 Recharge can travel on just electric power for up to 18 miles; after that, it gets 27 mpg combined city/highway using just the gas engine.

Additionally, like all the picks on our list, the XC90 provides comfortable handling and spacious accommodations.

Bottom Line

Finding the best third-row SUV for your family doesn't have to be a chore. The choices listed above offer essential amenities for all types of modern families.

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Warren Clarke
A car purchase is a big decision. And once you've made the purchase, you'll be faced with countless other choices that will affect your ownership experience one way or another. Throughout my career in the automotive industry, I've written everything from vehicle reviews to articles covering topics such as car insurance and leasing. My mission is to help you make the best decisions regarding your vehicle.