The Family Vehicle
by Karla ° Monday, September 17, 2007

We need a new car. More specifically, a bigger car.

Currently, we drive a 2000 Pontiac Sunfire GT. The GT stands for Ginormously Tiny.

After cramming it with two adults, luggage, a baby and a dog that is basically the size of a human, it feels about as big as a Go Cart. And with Nate still in the rear-facing position, the front passenger seat (where I usually sit) has to be pulled up very close the front dash to give the proper amount of spacing between Nate’s car seat and the front seat. This means that all five feet and four inches of my body must be folded in half to fit in the car. Between that and bending over backwards all day to keep Nate entertained, I am now ready to make my Cirque du Soleil debut.

We went to look at cars last weekend with the mindset that a minivan or an SUV was in our near future.

Neither of us was excited about the idea of a minivan. Let’s face it, they aren’t sexy. They just sort of become a necessity because they have space, which is what we need because we have to travel to visit family.

SUV’s are also more spacious than what we drive, and from some of the comparisons we did, many of them are actually better on gas than the minivans, but we aren’t convinced they have enough space. The (compact) SUV’s that we looked at are still 5 passenger vehicles and unless we’re missing something, the only extra space you gain is in trunk height. Which may or may not be enough space for us, depending on how well everything we pack, plus the kitchen sink, fits back there.

We also need a car that will grow with us if we add another kid into the mix.

If you don’t sharing, what would you recommend for a family vehicle?


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Well, while I realize minivans aren't sexy, it's what we bought (against my better judgement) when our family began to grow. More specifically, we have the Honda Odessey. It seats 7 with more than enough room in the back for all of your child/dog/grown-up necessities. The 3rd row folds down for even more room if needed too. The second row seats slide from side to side for your preference and I believe the newer models have made room for them to fold down into the floor as well. Another feature on the newer model that I'm missing on my older version are the automatic windows on the sliding doors. My kids would love those. You can get a pretty pimped out interior in them too! Ours has leather with butt warmers! :)
Anyhoo, it's my recommendation. We've had ours now for almost 5 years (close to 100,000 miles). It's been on countless road trips across the state and across the country for that matter and is still ready for more.
Posted by Blogger Finelly :  September 17, 2007

We just bought a minivan because of budget we went the Dodge Grand Caravan (with Stow N Go) and you are right there is little space in the compact SUV - my sister has one and my paretns have one and it is the same size as our grand prix car (and it no longer fit the three kids with car seats). We have had the Van since June of this year and so far (knock on wood) it has been great. Lots of room for the three car seats. We have the 2007 so we got one before the new model that just came out. If money had not been an issue we would have went with the Odessey or the Toyota but we LOVE the stow and Go in our Dodge. Love It. The storage has come in handy with two trips to the London area (10 trip for us) we did this summer.
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  September 17, 2007

We bought a Kia Sedona, also a minivan, on the recommendation of a friend. We love it. It has many of the features you would find on a more expensive minivan, like the Odessey, but for cheaper. I believe they run cheaper because the previous models received bad reviews, and KIA is a much smaller, less known company. But we did a lot of research; the 2007s get great reviews and are top of the line for safety. It has 3rd row fold in the floor seating, indispensible, and power roll down windows in the sliding doors, which is nice for kisses goodbye and waves from loving relatives.
Posted by Anonymous Vicki :  September 17, 2007

I can't afford it, but a friend recently bought a Mercedes station wagon, and the thing rocks.
Posted by Blogger Gina :  September 17, 2007

We had a minivan for years, but it was sucking up too much gas, so when Marcel went back to school and our finances got tighter, we downsized to a Chev Impala (car). Although I thought it would be a big change to give up that much space, it really hasn't been that bad. The trunk is so big, it actually feels like we have MORE space than we did with the van. Other than a little more fighting in the back seat because the girls have to sit together, we quite like it. One added bonus of the Impala is that it has three seatbelts in the front seat, so we can always bring an extra person if we have to (like when the girls have a friend over).
Posted by Blogger Heather :  September 17, 2007

This has been our dilemma since before baby #2 arrived and we still have yet to make a decision. My honey wants a Pilot but they look just like a mini without the godly features including sliding doors (getting a carseat carrier in and out of regular doors is so overrated). The Highlander is nice and you have the Toyota value. I would love for an Odyssey but he wants something to take camping just in case we have to four-wheel to get there. So, here we are driving my Outback STILL!

If money were no issue, I WOULD BE buying a Volvo XC90 hybrid = safe, space, environment!
Posted by Blogger Katie :  September 17, 2007

I recommend a Mazda CX-9
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  September 17, 2007

We have a van. It's definitely got enough room, perhaps too much at times! It's especially helpful that you can take out (or fold down in newer ones) the seats and have a big ol' open space in the back. We don't even use our middle seats unless we have to, and I can all but walk around in it. I don't think mine uses too much gas, honestly. SUV's use more, from what I've seen. I have a friend who just got rid of her Ford Expedition (HUGE, with three rows of seating) and got a van. She loves it. It's definitely easier to maneuver around in (and great for doing the Sunday paper!). I wasn't overly excited about driving one, either, as I hate that I'm an old broad w/three kids, but it's not really that bad. Make it personalized by putting crazy stickers all over it, or do like me and ghetto-fy into tons of stuff and dent it up and lose your hubcaps! Nobody looks at me like some old soccer mom!
Posted by Blogger Christi :  September 17, 2007

I normally drive a Ford Focus so I am completely understanding of the "Ginormously Tiny" feeling.

My MIL on the other hand drives a Mercury Mariner and I **LOVE** it. If we could afford a new car (which we can not given job changes and such in the last few years) it would be right up there on the list of vehicles. It's not a full size SUV but still offers what I consider to be a spacious interior and seems to have lots of carseat space.

The only other smaller SUV I've been in recently that I really liked was the Nissan XTerra, which was also spacious (and I really like Nissans) but it definitely felt more pricey for about the same size.

Hopefully you'll find something that works well for you soon! Good luck!
Posted by Blogger Brandy :  September 17, 2007

Try a Mazda 5. It's like a mini-wagon. It also looks cool!
Posted by Blogger Jill :  September 17, 2007

We have a new Odyssey and LOVE it! I hate that there is such a stigma about minivans. They have come a LONG way and I dont see them as uncool anymore. Im in my mid 20's with soon to be 3 kids and I feel just fine driving it around town. It has it all, plus space and great gas mileage....what more could you want? In the past we have had SUV's...small, midsize and large. None of them could compare. The small-is SMALL. We recently had a rental Jeep liberty. We could barely fit 2 car seats in there, muchless 1 rear facing (which is important to do until they outgrow the seat RF). The midsize-may as well have a car b/c there isnt much extra space and the larger ones are nice in theory. Try getting into that last row....or try putting anything into the trunk with the 3rd row down. We couldnt even fit our stroller! Unless you get one of those monster ones I dont see the point in them.

Good luck with your search and make sure you look at everything. We all have different needs :)
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  September 17, 2007

We NEVER wanted a van because they arent sexy, but we had 3 kids in 4 years and we HAD TO HAVE the space. I LOVE IT.. i will probably never drive anything else.

we have a town and country with stow and go. i also had a toyota sienna that rocked.
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  September 17, 2007

madza 5 all the way roomie and sexy
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  September 17, 2007

I thought minivans were totally lame too, but now I am in love. I think I love my minivan more than any other vehicle I have owned.
Posted by Blogger Christy :  September 17, 2007

I recommend a Volvo or Volkswagen station wagon with my whole heart. Way better gas mileage, better for the environment, better engineering, and still hold a ton of crap. Believe me on that. I've had three small kids in the back, or a baby and two dogs and a husband and a parrot and a bunch of luggage, or the entire contents of my college apartment... (I am referring to my beloved Jetta wagon).
Posted by Blogger Eva :  September 17, 2007

Ah, a soapbox of mine. Let me forewarn I might ramble here.. Ok, let me just interject that the back of a van CAN be sexy.. wink.. if you know what I mean.. Anywho.. I stand on the rooftops to say NEVER buy a Chrysler vehicle (sorry, that's includes Dodge, too, as they are off the same line). They explode the very next mile past the warranty. Don't laugh, ours did (both the Dodge and Chrysler we had). At 30,001 miles our Cirrus (Syphilis) literally started to reject us part part by part and it could never be put back together again, despite our heroic efforts. I nicknamed it after a STD because it was a continual pain in the arse with persisting symptoms of discontent despite any and all help we gave the stupid thing. I could sport a LONG LONG laundry list of things that were wrong with it, but the cherry on the top of this cake was that if I wanted air conditioning as a passenger, I'd have to ride with my bare feet in a bucket of ice water on the floorboard. Not because we couldn't afford to get it fixed right, but because the bozos at Chrysler couldn't keep it fixed (no, I'm sorry, but our trunk latch did NOT break because of the AIR in our trunk, as we were told). One night in a fit of furor after the car sucked another hunk of our nest egg away in a matter of weeks, I made a full page magazine slick about Chrysler.. a parody on a real Chrysler ad. (I would have sent it around the internet but I was afraid I'd be sued or something...) Bottom line my friends, DON'T EVER BUY A CHRYSLER!! As fate would have it, I was actually driving home tonight behind a Chrysler van and painted on the back window it said not to buy it, it was a lemon! Ha! Ok, besides that, I feel your pain. Since we are now a 2-kid family, my husband's Miata and my compact are not cutting muster, and I'm killing my back hiking the stoller up into the oddly shaped trunk and wedging it between the wheel wells as to not snap the wheels of the stoller off. My brother has had an Odessey for years and years and loves it (family of 7). Honda's also known for longevity (along with Toyota). For safety's sake, Volvo is great. Their wagon isn't too matronly looking, and it has decent rear storage. Oh, and if you can, try to stay away from Lexus and Mercedes. I currently drive a MB sedan and the maintenance and premium gas on it is CRAZY expensive (but I do have almost 300k miles, and it's still kicking, AND it saved our lives in a car accident where had we been in our old Chrysler, I would probably be typing this out with my teeth right now). When we replace my car I'm thinking of the Odessey or a Suburu, for it's good ratings for inclement weather (we get a lot of ice in the winter).

I can't wait to see you guys in your new van!
Posted by Blogger Christi :  September 17, 2007

we LOVE our toyota sinna
Posted by Anonymous uumomma :  September 17, 2007

To carry a family with 3 children or less, I would recommend the Honda Pilot. Three carseats (including an infant carrier, a toddler seat and a booster) will all fit nicely in the second row side by side leaving the back with the third row folded down open for the dog. We use to travel this way all the time with our 3 girls and yellow lab. When you have company it actually seats 8 with the third row up. Now we have the Kia Sedona b/c we've had our 4th kid leaving someone always in the third row and its too difficult to get back to that seat during carpool at their schools. So for 4 or more children I would recommend minivan.

We drive a Hyundai Tucson (big enough for two kiddos and a large dog in the back with AMPLE storage room...actually we often put the dog in the "trunk" gotta see it to understand...BTW KIA is Hyundai)...we also have a Dodge Durango (I traded my Dodge Grand Caravan in for it when we had our third baby) which I drive and I love it, but it is certainly not something you would use for commuting...trips yes, back and forth to work no.
Posted by Blogger Kris :  September 18, 2007

Funny you mention this, my husband and I were having this arguement lastnight.

Jeff says that Caravans are a great vehicle and the most popular van in Canada. Here where we live, they are the cheepest van you can purchase. HE also says the new Hyundai vans are really good, as well as Hondas.

I personally love the look of the Honda vans, but on the other hand, I reaaaaaaaaaallly love those new Hyundai Vericuise. Have you seen those? They are killer!

I would think a van is more typical, especially if you guys are planning to have more kiddies.. I know thats what we will probably end up with next year, even though I really want a vericruise.

Good luck with your decision.
Posted by Blogger Melanie :  September 18, 2007

We had a Dodge Caravan because we wanted more space. But I hated driving it - it was so big and long and high, and we actually almost never took advantage of the extra space. So then we traded it in for a Saturn VUE. I absolutely love it - perfect size for me to drive, plenty of room for 2 kids and the trunk space is good. We're very glad we downsized from a minivan to a SUV.

I couldn't bring myself to drive a minivan. Actually I used to drive one in university, a hand me down from my parents, and it was really handy for beer store runs and filling with friends on nights out. But now there's kids around, I had to have an SUV. Too cool for the van. Right.

We bought a used Volvo XC90, 7 seats - very handy when people come to visit, or for when we take the dog somewhere with us. It's not perfect, Volvo's aren't as reliable as they used to be, but I do enjoy driving it.

Third vote here for the Mazda 5. Affordable at $21.6K, NOT a van (despite the sliding door) - I think they are called all-utility-vehicles or something along that line, can fit 6-7 people and so much better on fuel consumption than an SUV or a van.
We are currently managing with our '99 VW Golf 4-door with 2 kids but no dog and for extra space, we had a roof rack installed and have borrowed a Thule Roof box for long trips (all the rage in the mountainous West). We loved it so much we are considering buying one but at $500-1200, they are an investment and rarely sold used. They give you SO much more space for playpens, strollers (a single Chariot fits up there, our double does not), luggage, life jackets etc. Not sure if you'd want Samson to ride that way though...
Posted by Blogger Mama T :  September 18, 2007

Love my Mazda wagon, so easy to get a stroller in and out of and enough space for car seat. When you are car shopping take your stroller and car seat, take them with you on the test drive, it will give you a better idea of how much space there really is...
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  September 18, 2007

We have a GMC Envoy XL Denali...NOT big enough for 2 kids & 2 tall adults (don't think that last parts an issue for you). Looking at getting a minivan but cringe of the thought as well. We NEED the room & LOVE the idea of the sliding side doors so 2 cars can fit in our 2 car garage (I know quite fancy!) I hate that w/ a minvan I'll just scream look at me I'm a mom...of course driving a SUV w/ 2 car seats in the back kind of screams that too...
Good Luck!
Posted by Anonymous L :  September 18, 2007

Like several others her, I LOVE our Honda Odyssey! Honda makes a quality vehicle that you can feel safe in, comfortable, and a bit like you're spoiling your children if you go for the leather upgrade (seats clean up nicely even if there has been a carseat in place for a really long time with all sorts of food and drink remnants under it) which also includes the dvd player---excellent for travel!! I like that I don't have to climb in it to get the kids in and out, which is what you have to do with an SUV. Also, we always take it to a Honda dealer to get its maintenance done and we've been extremely pleased with their customer service. Plus, if you do the major "checkups" with Honda, your next oil change is always free. Not too shabby!
Posted by Blogger Colleen :  September 18, 2007

We also have an Odyssey (my husband's car) and a Pilot. We love both. Yes, it's not cool to drive a minivan. But, when you have two kids, the sliding doors are cool; when you take long trips, the built in DVD is cool; and when you have 2 kids with various sippy cups the 10,000 cupholders are also cool; also a 2 year old can easily climb into the Odyssey-very cool. I love my Pilot. My only complaint is that the rear door/carrying area is a lift up, so you can't just unlock the window portion and put groceries in the back (like on my Explorer) and there's no handle, so if you are height challenged, you'll want to try it out. Both have more than enough room for anything and were super handy when we moved. Both get relatively good gas mileage. I'd be interested in a Hybrid SUV or mini if one was reasonably priced. Good luck.
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  September 18, 2007

The Honda Odyssey is supposedly the safest minivan out there. The Honda Civic is rated as the safest car. Since we want a car, and not a gas guzzling beast, we are planning on getting a Toyota Prius or a Honda Civic in the near future.
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  September 18, 2007

Looks like a lot of is one more.

We just traded in our small 2 door very gas efficient Honda Civic for a big old Honda Odyssey. We test drove SUVs but you get more space for the money w/ the minivan. The Odyssey handles great and there is so much room.

I've done the SUV thing, and a Ford Focus too. You need a minivan- we're on our 3rd Ford (now called Freestar.) Oh, yeah, they're dumping that in favor of a new one in 2008 called the Flex. That thing looks really cool, but I don't think you can wait that long.

Basically, what everyone is saying about van vs SUV is right on the money. The SUV just doesn't have the interior height nor the cavernous room behind the second row of seats.
Posted by Blogger Jim :  September 18, 2007

My favorite car ever was a Chrysler Pacifica that we leased. It's a crossover. Not a minivan, not really an SUV. In response to the Dodge/Chrysler comment above, we still have the very first truck (an 88 Dodge Ram) that my husband bought new, when he was 18. Cars last when you change the oil and maintain them properly. We've never had a blow up, blow out or trans drop in 20 years of Chrysler ownership. I now drive a GMC YukonXL (bought it off my father). It gets crappy mileage, but has a lot of bells and whistles. You do tend to feel a bit conspicuous though. I am thinking of trading in now that it is just me and the children, for something a little smaller.

I recommend the GMC Acadia. It has seating for 7 or 8 depending on the seating you get. The 3rd row seat is spacious enough for my 6 foot tall nephew to sit back there with no problem. It's one of those crossover vehicles. We shopped many SUVs, minivans and crossovers before deciding on this one. I absolutely love this car.
Posted by Blogger Hedda :  September 19, 2007

Wow, this feedback is totally fabulous.

There are a lot of things here we didn't event think about.

Thank you so much for all your advice.
Posted by Blogger karla :  September 19, 2007

Hey Karla - I realize I'm a little late in replying to this post (being a working Mommy is keeping me busy! lol). Anyway, we just bought a new vehicle at the end of August because I was in denial that a 2 door car was practical! Anyway, with another baby on the way & Rachel already in the bigger carseat, we decided it was time to bite the bullet (I haven't had car payments for years).

I know a lot of people think & say that mini vans are great but when you don't really want one, DON'T BUY ONE! We ended up buying a 2008 Ford Escape and it's awesome! It's not too big, it's decent on gas and it is soooo much easier to get a kid in and out of than a 2 door car (I had a 99 Sunfire GT so trust me, I GET IT). I just couldn't do the mini van and I am sooo glad we didn't. Now we're "cool" with the SUV and it didn't break the bank, either :)

Good luck with your search!


My vote is totally for a stationwagon and preferably a VW!

Set a good, environmentally responsible example for Nate! Plus, you can get one of those gate thingy's to separate the elephant-sized Samson from the kid(s).

Whiel it took me a long time to accept I needed a minivan cause of our travels. I broke down and bought one a year and a half ago and I love it. Its a ford (not he most expensive but its new) and the rear seat folds down into the floor to give you plenty of extra travel storage space or folds back up to give you extra people room. It was a difficult switch at first but after several 12 hour drives with two toddlers I am glad we made the change to minivan.
Posted by Blogger Heather :  September 22, 2007

I should add we had a small Jeep SUV before the minivan adn the van gets much better gas milage. It get 25+ MPG but the SUV only got 18. The van also holds 26 gallons of gas at one time so I dont have to stop much for gas while traveling.
Posted by Blogger Heather :  September 22, 2007


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