10 Best Cars For Football Tailgating

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Tailgating NFL fans who are already shelling out for tickets and parking shouldn't skimp on the vehicle that's holding their drinks, grill and Sunday morning spread.

This season, NFL fans are paying an average of $78 for tickets to the game and $27 for parking.

That's kind of a steep price to pack five buddies into a midsize sedan, struggle to get the grill out of the trunk and then have only enough cargo space left over for a few burgers and dogs and maybe a six-pack of cans. A real, proud tailgater should place far more value on both the tailgate and storage space.

The folks at Cars.com certainly think so. They went through their site's listings and found 10 vehicles with not only enough space to get everybody to the game, but enough room and amenities left over to fit a kitchen's worth of food and a living room's worth of snacks and other distractions. If your football friends spend their winters wishing they were back at the house watching their flatscreens instead of nursing beers and brats by your utilitarianmobile, the following rides may be just the upgrade you looking for:

10. 2013 Dodge Caravan
MSRP: $19,995

When tailgating competes with warm mornings home, DirecTV's ( DTV) NFL Sunday Ticket, the scoring-plays-only Red Zone Channel and fantasy football leagues, it takes a lot more than seven-layer dip to drag everyone out to the stadium. The folks at Chrysler seemed to realize how hard it is to dislodge football fans from the living room and brought it to them instead.

Their latest take on the classic minivan includes more than 83 cubic feet of cargo space with the third-row seats down, a flip-back option for that third row that turns it into a lot-facing couch, a Blu-ray/DVD system with second- and third-row screens for pre-game entertainment, and USB and auxiliary ports for hooking up audio and computers. Best of all, the Caravan's Available Web option not only allows folks with Sunday Ticket to stream other games through laptops, tablets and smartphones, but makes the minivan a mobile hotspot with a 150-foot radius for all your friends following their fantasy team more closely than the teams they're paying to see.

9. 2012 GMC Acadia
MSRP: $32,835

The Acadia doesn't have in-cabin screens or Wi-Fi access, but it does have space and lots of it. There's room for seven to eight passengers, fold-flat third-row seats that give it 68.9 cubic feet behind the second row and, yes, satellite radio for checking other scores. It's minivan size with a crossover look that doesn't scream "youth soccer coach taking a Sunday off."

8. 2012 Honda (HMC) Fit
MSRP: $15,325

OK, who brought the subcompact to the tailgate party? Usually this would be an unexcusable faux pas, but the Fit's modular seating, under-seat storage, 57.3 cubic feet of cargo room with the seats down and 10 cupholders were built for game day. Granted, you'll need to downsize the full grill and smoker to a campstove set-up, but with all the money you'll save on gas you can fill the cooler with a spread that will leave your neighbors in the midsizes salivating.

7. 2012 Honda Ridgeline
MSRP: $29,350

You can't go wrong tailgating from a pickup truck, but few come with key perks as game-ready as the Ridgeline's. The truck's 1,500 pounds of payload capacity is great for hauling grills, chairs, coolers and anything else, but the 8.5 cubic-foot trunk under the pickup bed is basically a 225-quart cooler. Dump in some ice, drop in the cans and bottles of your choosing and pull up a seat. There's no use moving when you're already where the party's at.

6. 2012 Nissan (NSANY) Xterra
MSRP: $25,210

Crank up the Britney and Timberlake, grab yourself a rhinestone-covered flip phone or a pair of sweatpants with "Juicy" written across the seat and open a box of gourmet cupcakes: It's a 2000s nostalgia party. The Xterra is one of the last throwbacks to the decade when SUVs ruled the roads and their drivers loved car seating plans resembling those of attack helicopters. The Xterra's modest 65.7 cubic feet with the second row folded flat is part of the reason that era is over, but its "Easy Clean" cargo floor and second-row seatbacks are worth revisiting if you need to hose out spills or splattered condiments after every trip to the stadium.

5. 2012 Ram 1500
MSRP: $22,120

Ever wonder what's going on in the space between your pickup's cargo bed and its rear wheel fenders? Not much, which is why Ram fitted them with RamBox locking compartments with drain plugs that are advertised as mini trunks or toolboxes but are clearly meant to be coolers. Don't believe us? Ask Ram, which not only made RamBoxes waterproof and drainable, but says "both sides fit up to 240 cans of your favorite beverage in a 5'7 bed or 280 cans in a 6'4 bed configuration." Combine that with 74.7 cubic feet cargo capacity and 1,700 pounds of payload capacity and you've got yourself a party machine.

4. 2012 Subaru Outback
MSRP: $23,495

No, the Outback doesn't automatically lock up and cut off power to the ignition when you try to take it to a football game instead of a lacrosse practice or soccer match. Contrary to its upmarket suburban reputation, the Outback is ideal for a morning of tailgating. Its standard removable cargo tray keeps messes confined and is easy to hose down once you've dropped off your crew and headed home. Its 71.3 cubic feet of cargo also means there's plenty of room for dips, salsas, sauces and plenty of other tailgate-ready items worth making a mess with.

3. 2012 Toyota (TM) 4Runner
MSRP: $31,340

Another holdover from the SUV era, the 4Runner's sales have slumped steadily from more than 114,000 in 2004 to less than 45,000 last year. How do you try to reverse the slide if you're Toyota? By playing to your key tailgating demographic. The 4Runner's stadium-friendly options include a power outlet in the cargo space for hooking up a television or other electronic devices, nearly 90 square feet of cargo room and an optional sliding cargo deck. That last feature basically takes out the need for a folding table by providing counter space strong enough to hold 400 pounds of food and beverages. Go ahead, spring for the six-foot sub. The 4Runner has you covered and is just happy you haven't left it for a crossover.

2. 2013 Toyota Sienna
MSRP: $26,435

If you haven't gotten the message minivans are basically the equivalent of bringing an apartment to the stadium parking lot, let the Sienna's 87 cubic feet of cargo with the third row down convince you. The Sienna can pack in up to seven friends, while a sliding second row makes it easy for them to get out once you've found a prime corner grilling spot. An optional 16.4-inch video screen with split-screen viewing allows a DVD to play on one side while you're streaming an NFL game on the other, making the Sienna a great pregame headquarters for both chowing down and checking fantasy stats.

1. 2012 Honda Odyssey
MSRP: $28,575

The Sienna and Odyssey have been slugging it out for families' affections for years, but the key difference for tailgaters is the Odyssey's slight space advantage. The Odyssey can carry up to eight fans with enough room behind them for a small grill. More importantly, it can carry five fans, collapse the third row and have 93.1 cubic feet for more storage. Those same fans get all the same perks, too, as the Honda's optional 16.2-inch split screen entertainment system still offers them something to stare at before kickoff.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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