To my mind, if you have four people, 2 canoes, and gear with you the majority of the time you are using the vehicle, a minivan makes sense. If, however, like most people 99% of trips are with one or two occupants, and only the other 1% is the canoe trip, I'd get a much smaller car.
I know I go on about this, but every car I have owned has been more than up to the task of getting me to the put in. I had an Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra, which is a small sedan with a four cylinder, and I took it from Manitoba to Utah with 2 canoes and all the gear for four people. One of those canoes was a tripper xl at 20', and the gear included coolers and water jugs. for the last leg, we had all four in the car with all their gear and we drove over the mountains. Yes, it was a bit tight and we had to be a bit clever in how things were arranged. However, the rest of the year I probably saved a few thousand dollars on gas, not to mention depreciation/capital cost on a more luxurious vehicle. I've had three canoes on a dodge omni, and currently drive a focus hatchback. On the focus, if I have to carry more than two I use a little trailer. In the old days having an eight horse team pulling your covered wagon was pretty big. I have something like 140 horses pulling my little focus, so it really is more than enough.
If I'm willing to portage it, my car can carry or pull it. I've actually been considering downsizing further, because typically when four or more people are going, two vehicles are needed for a shuttle. I'm thinking my next car will likely be something like a civic sedan, though I do like the prius c and scion iQ.
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