Ah, the station wagon: one of the building blocks of American family life. You might be familiar with modern varieties like the 2022 Subaru Outback or Volvo Cross Country, but this beloved vehicle has a long and rich history. Most adults born in the mid-to-late-1900s probably have plenty of great memories in one of these vehicles—whether in their family car or a friend’s parents’ car. The first ones came out in 1910 and were actually used around train depots because of their excellent storage capacity.
A station wagon is a special breed of vehicle. With its low roof and slanted angles, it has the sportiness of a sedan or coupe. Then, thanks to ample seating and a long body, it’s just as ready for the carpool or family road trip as an SUV or van. It’s like a large SUV disguised as a small car: easy to get in and out of tight spaces, but big enough to cart all of the groceries home—and then some.
In recent decades, station wagons have been overshadowed by the increasingly popular SUV. Perhaps it’s all part of the “bigger is better” mentality in America. But, bigger is not necessarily always better. While manufacturers might be scaling back on the production of wagons, let’s hope this car isn’t going anywhere. On that note, here are some things to love about station wagons.
It’s the Anti-Minivan
Every kid knows that experience of having mom pull up to the school pick-up lane, open up those automatic doors, and beckon you into the minivan. Oh no. You covered your head in shame, crawling into the bulky, awkward vehicle. Even the drivers of minivans can share some of these sentiments.
That’s why the station wagon is so great. It’s sleek and sophisticated. It doesn’t look like it was built solely for travel to soccer practice and the wholesale grocery store. When you need a car that’s great for family life but also looks good in just about any setting, the station wagon is the way to go.
There’s just some satisfying nostalgia about being in a station wagon. Everyone has those precious memories of piling into one—and passing a variety of things from snacks to headphones through its long body for backseat passengers to access. Something about the low roof made you all feel close together. “Get in the wagon!” was a phrase yelled countless times a day, when it was time to go to school or leave for the family road trip. There’s something wholesome about the station wagon—something distinctly Americana.
That Rare Rear-Facing Seat
Remember those fun rear-facing seats? You don’t find them much anymore, but if you do, it’ll be in a station wagon. Growing up, you’d battle with the other kids over who got these seats. This was the cherished place to be in the car. You could make funny faces at the vehicles behind you or eat the candy you snuck in the car that your parents didn’t know about. Those rear-facing seats were just magical.
A Low Trunk
Sure, SUVs have large trunks, but what good is a large trunk if it’s so high that you need a small crane to get things into it? Station wagons also have large trunks, but conveniently low trunks. This means a shorter lift to get heavy boxes or overloaded grocery bags from the ground into the cargo area. This is also a nice feature for elderly dogs who can’t make a high jump in and out of the back door for those trips to the beach or park.
Station wagons have a nice low center of gravity, which means they handle really well. Sharp turns and sudden movements can leave you feeling unsettled in a tall SUV, but not so in a low and stable station wagon. If you prefer to be closer to the ground, the station wagon is the way to go.
Save Money at the Pump
A station wagon can have as much seating and storage space as an SUV, but it will get much better fuel economy. While some SUVs are only reaching numbers in the high teens or low 20s, station wagons typically see mileage in the high 20s and low 30s. For example, the 2022 Subaru Outback can reach as much as 33 MPG on the highway. And, let’s not forget about all of the new hybrid and electric options—like the Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD California Route 1 or the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid. These mean massive savings on fuel.
Station wagons have generously sized windows that make them a joy to be in—as the driver or the passenger in any seat. And, of course, that massive rear back window was especially fun when riding in those rear-facing seats back in the day. All in all, these big windows improve visibility for a driver and make this a great car for sightseeing.
Luxury Brands Are on Board
You might not see this as much with your big SUVs, but station wagons have attracted luxury brands. Cadillac makes a station wagon. Audi makes a station wagon. Mercedes and Porsche both make wagons. Class-meets-value brands like Subaru have their own entries, as well.
These are brands that know quality—and they also know that the station wagon body is timeless and sophisticated. If you love a luxury brand and a station wagon, you can easily get what you’re looking for.
Great Prices on Used Models
There are some excellent prices currently on used station wagons, so if you’re shopping for a pre-loved vehicle, don’t overlook this classic car. Some older models circa 2010 from VW or Cadillac are selling in the 10K range, making this a really affordable option.
They Can Be Fast
Though the station wagon has a reputation as a family car, speed lovers can enjoy these vehicles, too. The Porsche Panamera, for example, boasts a twin-turbocharged 4.0-L V-8 with 550 horsepower. It can reach 60 in 3.2 seconds and hit top speeds of 192 mph. Then there’s the Audi RS2 Avant, which can reach 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and boasts a 3,500-lb curb weight. The Brabus Mercedes-AMG E63 850 6.0 can reach top speeds of 217 miles per hour.
Even low-priced station wagons like the 2022 Subaru Outback can generate figures like 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. This is not your grandma’s car. Once you’ve dropped the kids at school, you can have a lot of fun in some station wagons.
Stand Out from the Crowd
There’s no knowing what direction the car industry will take the station wagon in right now. What we do know is that SUVs and sedans seem to be everywhere you look. If you like to stand out from the crowd and let people know you appreciate quality, retro vehicles, park a nice station wagon in your driveway
If you don’t follow trends, have a soft spot for all things vintage, and like a versatile vehicle, don’t overlook a station wagon. It might not have that in-your-face impact of an SUV, but this car is more for the strong and silent type—the type that doesn’t need to make a big outward show of their prowess. The station wagon reveals its beauty to those who pay close attention. So long as there is a market for timeless and stylish cars, there will be a market for the station wagon.