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Embrace the minivan! Why they may be the best choice for your family

Family-Stickers-for-CarsAs the quintessential symbol of un-hip adulthood (think ‘90s soccer mom), a minivan can feel like a capitulation. As Kelli at Minivans Are Hot writes:

“This is part of the stigma of driving a minivan. People don’t want to drive them because when sticky, Nutella laden fingers slide down the sides and dot the windows, it becomes apparent that we’re farther away from the carefree days of our youth than we want to acknowledge.”

This stigma is a shame: as I mentioned yesterday, minivans are just a great solution for families with more than two kids. Not only can you skip the three-across dilemma, but they also don’t require a lot of maintenance, they have good fuel economy, and they handle more like cars than an SUV or crossover.

I see this phenomenon all the time among my friends: they painstakingly try to get 3 car seats across the back of a sedan, or they go out from dealership to dealership to find the perfect SUV or Crossover that will carry their children and their stuff. All will be well if their car can pass as a normal car, but god forbid it has that van shape.

ThinkGeek-StarWarsFamilyCarDecals0.jpgIt’s kinda weird to see this prejudice among my friends, who are progressive, unpretentious, and proud parents. I have always had minivans since when we first had Audrey thirteen years ago, since we had two very large dogs too, and that was the only way to get everyone around. But Sheri also still can’t wait to get back to getting a normal car and not a minivan.

So what’s the big deal?

Part of the problem is the look: minivans are bulky and have an inelegant shape. Also, for people who typically buy high-end and luxury cars (Lexus, Range Rover, Audi, Mercedes, etc.), it’s disappointing to find that none of those brands make a minivan. So people don’t want to give up their cute little BMWs that they got when they were single or newly married (DINKs – Dual Income No Kids).

Also, I think that parents feel like minivans symbolize becoming “real adults,” and that’s scary for some people. They might also feel that they are turning into their parents, which can be scary too!

A few notes about crossovers and SUVs:

  1. The third rows are designed as an afterthought, and many times aren’t comfortable (like in an Audi Q7). They are not meant for everyday use, but rather in a pinch.
  2. When the third row is up, it makes the trunk nearly unusable (like in a Honda Pilot). When that third row is up, you can hardly fit a stroller, much less all the stuff you need for a family vacation. So if you are shopping for a SUV, take your stroller with you, put up the third row, and make sure your stroller will fit in the trunk before you buy.
  3. Captain’s seats/third row accessibility: This one is a really big deal. There are very few SUV/crossovers that have second row captain’s seats. They advantage of captain’s seats is a child can walk to the back row without having to adjust the seat in the second row. This is especially an issue when you have car seats installed in the second row and you can put down the second row seat to access the third row.

Here are a few buying tips, based on my experience:

  • For minivans: We have driven the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna. I drive a Sienna because it’s 4WD, but I used to have a Odyssey Touring Edition with black leather seats, and if I closed my eyes it would pass for an SUV. We’ve looked at other brands, but those two consistently win.
  • SUVs we’ve considered but rejected due to the issue stated above: Dodge Durango, Chevy Traverse, Volvo XC90, Land Rover.
  • You can also get a very big full-size SUV like a GMC Yukon or a Cadillac Escalde, but they are really huge and extremely expensive. I’d just bite the bullet and get a minivan.

And if driving a minivan makes you feel like you’re turning into your mom or dad, embrace these wise words from Matt Brown at Oppositelock:

“Nobody who cares what other people think about them would ever buy a minivan; it is a vehicle purchased solely by people who do not care. If not giving a s*** is cool, then minivans are rock star cool. It is so uncool that it transcends coolness, going so far to the side of uncool that it comes full circle to absolute coolness.”


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