advice, cars, decisions, motherhood, parenting

A minivan! an SUV! a hybird? oh my!

Blame on it on the Herbie series, but as a kid I personified my cars. I believed them to be as alive as any flower, bird, or bee and I regarded them fondly. Whenever we had to sell a car, I always felt something catch in my throat as I watched them leave, like a dear friend who never comes by again– because you told them to go.

While I am now fully aware that cars are simply metal objects, I can’t lie and say I didn’t feel a lump in my throat when we said goodbye last week to K’s old Toyota. It drove us around several states, saw us through difficult times, and wonderful times, and while it did not truly observe any of this, it was a constant in our lives. We knew we needed to sell it soon as it was getting up in years and with two kids we needed a car with more room. Still, when we got an unexpected offer on the car, while we were fully logically ready to let it go [and did] the childhood lump in my throat somehow returned as we drove away leaving it behind.

Now that we are a one-car family in a city that requires vehicles to access the world outside ones home, we are looking into our options [and my! the subspecies of cars are staggering]. We’ve limited it down to two types in particular at the moment: The SUV and the Minivan.

Minivan. Collective Sigh. There is no child who daydreams about the day she will own her very own minivan. [Okay well, truth be told, Waleed is positively giddy at the prospect of a minivan, but I mean a child older than two]. A minivan is by definition not cool. It’s huge and lumbering and so relentlessly practical. Marketing execs can call it a swagger wagon all they want, but its a boring bland vehicle with negative connotations. I drove a minivan in the past and found it large, boxy and uncomfortable. I was terrified to park it, terrified to make a left turn, I simply didn’t feel comfortable in any way. Yesterday however I test drove the Honda Odyssey and though I did cringe a bit as I stepped into the spaceship car, I was surprised by the ease of driving it. It almost felt like a car. Not fully. But close. And with reverse back up cameras the biggest fear I have of getting into a huge beast like a minivan was effectively erased.

 SUV. I expected to walk out of the dealership calling up K and telling him to banish any dreams he may have harbored about a minivan [though do people fantasize about about minivans?] but after the test-drive of both a minivan and an SUV I found the drives comparable with the minivan slightly more comfortable. [Though I’ve heard the Toyota Highlander is more car-like in drive so might need to test-drive the new model] An SUV certainly has the cool factor, great drive [and the sales guy said: the people will part the traffic seas for you in an SUV not the other way around].

We’re also flirting with the idea of getting a regular car, perhaps a hybrid, as its not like we need an eight seater with two children, but kids do collect a surprising amount of stuff and on the trips we take to visit family it would be nice to not have to imitate a clown car as we stuff everything and everyone inside.

As we are a one-car house the decision will likely be made sooner rather than later, but I was curious if anyone reading has any experience on the matter? SUV or Minivan? Any particular car brand? Thoughts, perspective, and advice much appreciated!

20 thoughts on “A minivan! an SUV! a hybird? oh my!”

  1. We just got a Toyota Highlander 2 mos ago and it's a really great car. It blends the ease of driving a regular car with the conveniences of a mini-van. For example, the second row can be used as a bench, or you can remove the middle seat and you end up with two captains chairs a la the mini van. Tons of cup holders, and lots of technology for music, etc. We have the one with 3 rows for guests and stuff, but the trunk is really roomy when third row folded. Compared to our previous car, the car has a lot of room inside. Very comfortable for all passengers. We compared this to Honda Pilot (which was akin to driving a hummer, no joke) and Honda CRV (too small for our needs), and Mazda CX9 (very blah), and other higher end cars as well.

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  2. Our family has had all of the above (small SUV, minivan, and hybrid) within the past 10 years. If you are going to be taking long trips in a car and/or transporting others’ kids who use car seats or boosters, the minivan is a really good choice. We bought a no frills, used minivan just before our second child was born, when we were regularly making treks from the midwest to the northeast several times a year (more than 750 miles one-way). The comfort, convenience (easy to install and uninstall kids; seats; easy to toss in tons of stuff for long trips) and comparatively reasonable gas mileage trumped the loss of cool / stigma of the minivan, particularly as we moved into the playdate ages. I do not expect to buy another minivan to replace ours once it’s done, but if I had to do it over, I’d still make the same choice and buy a minivan. (Although I might have opted for a more expensive van that had some bells and whistles – e.g. automatic doors, remote start engine, seat warmers, and extra outlets for long trips.) Good luck deciding!

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  3. Hd, the highlander is my first choice and I like to hear that you find it comparable to a minivan and yes the pilot felt like a hummer!!!!! Exactly! Thanks for the perspective!

    Kris, we don't plan on too many long trips, do you think you would get it again if you only took about 2 such trips a year?

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  4. I, too, personify my cars (My previous loyal steed was Tyrone–prince among ancient Toyota pickups!) and while I don't adore Beorn the Suburu station wagon the way I do Tyrone's descendent, Mrs. Smith, (a Toyota Echo 2-door sedan) Beorn has done well by us so far–a couple of cross-country trips with baby/dog/gear, and lots & lots of trips to the store 🙂

    Good luck. Hope the new one finds its way into your heart, too.

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  5. Tough to say if you subtract the extensive interstate travel. In terms of day to day pluses of a van – sliding doors are very convenient (every time one enters the car with a kid) and high ceilings and cavernous spaces are great for emergency potty stops and adding a coat/changing of clothes with a toddler. There was about a year when we frequently transported another child, and the minivan's third row with LATCH anchors made this really easy to do. Probably would do it again, but a close call.

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  6. I would say minivan or SUV, probably whichever had higher safety ratings …. couldn't one of these be a hybrid? I would be worried about a sedan if I had only one car and wanted to take a trip or had visitors or even needed to transport something larger than car size item (small furniture, rug, large boxes, even a mega pack of paper towels if both kids are in the car). It could be problematic. On the other hand, for long trips, you could rent a car…

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  7. We recently bought a Toyota Sienna and I like it. We absolutely needed a 7-8 seater because we have a third child on the way and my in-laws are with us. I think it's a lot easier to get back into the third row especially for the kids with a minivan.

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  8. I actually did dream about a mini-van – it meant I finally had the family I always hoped for! I have an AWD Sienna – AWD is required for safe travel in the hilly, snowy east. It has 200K miles, has been very little trouble and I do not want to trade it in. I travel cross country and can stop and nap or tend to kids without having to get out of the car. It has run flat tires so no worry avout a flat on the side of the highway. We kept an emergency potty, a snow shovel, traveled with the dog… Hubby has a SUV – when we travel we always take the van. Thtat being said – parking in the city is not something I do well…

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  9. I never wanted to drive a van, but I did it for my hubby. Extensive research and test driving and debating….ended up with a loaded Toyota Sienna. Don't tell my hubby but I totally love it….and I still hate that it's a van! I can load other moms/kids, camping gear, food, whatever! The sliding doors make such a huge difference in easily getting the kiddo out.

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  10. Susan I have found a kindred spirit! Barney is sorely missed but hopefully those that follow will give it their best though they can never be what once was!

    Thanks Kris, that gives me a lot of perspective, I also wonder if we have a minivan if we'd perhaps travel more because it would be easier than it currently is in a sedan. Appreciate the input!

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  11. Julia, we are SO excited about the prospect of not having to rent a small truck each time we buy something too large to fit in a Honda Accord! 🙂 Thanks for the perspective and things to consider. We wanted a hybrid SUV BUT they are WAY out of our price range. One day perhaps 🙂

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  12. Thanks Anon1- I've heard that its easier to get them out of the backseat in a minivan so I appreciate you seconding that idea.

    Anon2– your comment has been on my mind since you've left it. How beautiful and profound. A minivan does for me also represent what I always wanted, a family. Wow- thanks for the lovely perspective, I shared it with my husband, an important reminder indeed. Thanks also for your take on the different vehiclies we're considering.

    Mystic, which minivan did you have? Did you like it?

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  13. Jenicini, LOL I think I'll end up like you, I will love it and I will hate it! 🙂 Thanks for the perspective. I had driven a Sienna before and it was REALLY hard for me to manuever– did you find that at first? Did you get used to it over time?

    Rachel, thanks for the input!

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  14. The automatic sliding doors are great for rainy days, I open them the kids hop in we ALL STAY DRY. The DVD player is great on long trips, and the adjustable seat that remembers your settings is great for a short person like me 4'8″ married to a taller 6' man drives like a car the proximity sensors are fantastic!

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  15. Rachel, everyone tells me that! Thanks for sharing— at this point we're not getting a minivan but maybe at some point we'll have to based on the comments i've gotten,t hanks for sharing your perspective

    Anon, thanks, no, not the new one, it was a year old model.

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  16. We just bought a micro-mini van, the Mazda 5. It handles more like a car, but has 6 seats (the back two of which I keep folded down most of the time right now). For our in town out and about stuff, it's great, and it's got more 'get up and go' than most of the other vans we tried (although the Honda Oddessy was our close second) if it has just been cheaper. Good luck!

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