Last updated on August 20th, 2023 at 10:42 am
Minivans offer a great deal of versatility and have a decent hauling capacity. However the interior of a pickup bed is designed for easy cleanout, whereas a minivan full of sawdust may make you pretty unpopular with the rest of the family.
Planning ahead will help reduce mess and stress.
Can You Haul a 4×8 Sheet Of Plywood In A Minivan?
Yes, you can fit a sheet of 4×8 plywood in some minivans but not all. In others, it’s technically possible but may make for a long day. If your minivan has stow and go seating, such as the Dodge Grand Caravan or the Chrysler Pacifica/Voyager, it’s actually pretty simple to make room for the plywood; just fold the seats down and you’re ready to load.
In a Toyota Sienna, a Honda Odyssey, or a Kia Sedona you will have to manually remove at least the middle row of seats, move your plywood, clean the van and put the seats back.
You may also have to angle the plywood to fit, which can lead to sliding and tear up trim and carpet.
Honda Odyssea cargo area image. The seats will need to be removed to fit a sheet of plywood.
How Much Plywood Can You Haul In A Minivan?
Experts recommend carrying no more than 1500 pounds in your minivan once you have the seats out or folded away. This is where things can get tricky.
A 3/4 sheet of pine plywood will be about 60 pounds. A 3/4 sheet of oak or maple plywood will run almost 70 pounds, and a 3/4 sheet of particle board or MDF will run almost 100 pounds.
Plywood is incredibly strong and quite useful, but it’s awkward and heavy to move.
Clearance in and around a minivan can be quite tight; even if the back door is all the way up, managing that much weight in the loading and unloading can lead to more than a few head-bumps.
Additionally, plywood may leave sawdust in your minivan, which will have to be addressed before it can haul children and their gear again.
If you are working alone and wind up loading 21 sheets of plywood in your minivan, you will technically be underweight.
However, you will probably also
- be tired and have a sore head
- still need to unload the van
- need to reinstall seats
- have a van to vacuum out
This is not to say that you shouldn’t haul lumber in your minivan, but you will want to take precautions.
How Should You Haul Plywood In A Minivan?
Once you’ve addressed the seat configuration challenges, you will need to protect the van. Sliding lumber can do a lot of damage; while we all hope to not have to hit the brakes when loaded up, preparation can actually be quite simple.
1) Measure the space. If the plywood will fit between the wheel wells, put down a length of 2 x 4 behind the front seats to protect against a slide into the seat movement mechanism.
You don’t want to damage the track or tear up the electronics if the plywood moves quickly. A length of 2 x 4, standing tall, should provide a backstop.
2) Protect against abrasion. Put down an old piece of carpet, nap down, on the floor where the plywood will lay. Nap to nap, carpet seldom slides and the old carpet will protect the van carpet from too much sawdust.
3) Load the plywood. Try to put the roughest side down to reduce the risk of the load sliding or shifting.
4) Cover the stack with an old flannel sheet. The sheet will hopefully serve as a magnet for sawdust and cut down on your vacuuming time.
When you get home, reverse the process. Carefully remove the flannel sheet, taking care not to shake it out until it’s out of the van.
Unload the plywood, then pull the rug towards you from the front seats back, trapping as much dust as possible.
Hopefully, you will only have dust in the crevice along the walls.
Toyota Sienna with open hatch. Seats will need to be removed and also measure the space to ensure a sheet of plywood will fit.
Carrying other wood in your minivan
Not only is a minivan useful in carrying a sheet of plywood, but it can be used to carry other boards and pieces of wood.
For example, I recently received an email from Bob, a reader who used a 2001 Dodge Caravan to carry 2”x 6” deck boards that were 16 feet long!
“If you’re building a large deck, long boards allow you to avoid/minimize butt end connections/seams”. My Dodge had middle row captain chairs, which remained in place. I did have to pull the rear bench seat. There was no center console or gear shift between the two front bucket seats. So, from the back end of the cargo area to the front of the dash assembly (where it met the floor) was 12 feet long. Four feet of board hung out the back, which is the maximum length allowed where I live (you have to attach a red cloth to the end of the boards for visibility). I recall that I carried about ten 16’ deck boards at a time. I don’t remember if a wider board (like 2”x8”) would fit in the slot that ran the length of the van.”
Compare this to hauling the same boards in a pickup truck:
“Most trucks have just 8 to 10 feet of length in the bed with the tailgate down. So, they couldn’t legally carry a 16’ board since too much would stick out.”
Yes, in certain cases, a minivan can be a better choice when carrying wood than a pickup truck!
Protect Your Clan
If anyone in your family has dust allergies, you may be tempted to put down plastic. While this will contain dust well, it may make the entire load slippery.
If you have to put down plywood from wheel well to wheel well and need to use plastic, make sure you have a wheel well height brace at back and front to avoid a slippery tilt that tears up the inside of your back door or hits the track under the front seats.
It’s a good idea to carry microfiber towels so you can wipe down your plywood before you put it in the van. If you’re only carrying a sheet or two, this quick wipe down should keep the dust in the van to a minimum.
Once you’ve unloaded your plywood, open up any folded away seats. Check the bottom of the seat wells and review the cushion folds to make sure that no dust has settled.
Vacuuming should not take two sessions if you check the folded seats before you finish the reset of your vehicle.