Author Topic: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation  (Read 2992 times)

Skinflint

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3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« on: January 17, 2018, 02:37:35 PM »
We are expecting a third child this summer, so I need to start thinking about retiring my frugal old sedan for something with 3 rows.  Anyone have any recommendations?  I'd like something relatively new since my wife will be driving the little ones around and doesn't want to deal with a bunch of maintenance.  4WD is not necessary but would probably be nice to have since we do live around some pretty treacherous terrain which gets lots of snow/ice in the winter (MMM convinced me this is unnecessary, but I know it would make my wife feel better).

I was thinking a used Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna would be the obvious choice, but those are almost too big for me (I'd still like to park this thing in town without it being a big deal).  Also, the MPG on those models isn't great.  I was surprised to see that the Toyota Highlander actually has a smaller wheelbase and better mileage than the Sienna or Odyssey (and it seems there are even some hybrid Highlanders out there).  So, maybe I'm better off looking at a mid-size SUV, as ridiculous as that sounds.   

After you all punch me in the face, please let me know what you think.  Thanks in advance.

englishteacheralex

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2018, 11:16:31 PM »
We love our Mazda 5 but we are in unusual circumstance that make it an ideal minivan. Here's a review of it that I wrote in my journal:

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Mazda 5, six months in

We bought a 2008 Mazda 5 on the 4th of July. It had 65k miles on it, and we paid $4600. Had a couple of rust spots on the roof, but otherwise fine. It's a stick shift. Mr. ETA believes that when you buy a car as old as the cars we drive, it's best to buy a stick shift because replacing a clutch is a relatively cheap repair, while replacing an automatic transmission is not worth the cost of the repair. Something like that. I don't know much about cars. I learned to drive on a stick shift back in high school, and I don't much care whether I drive that or an automatic.

In case you don't know, a Mazda 5 is a minivan with sliding doors and seating for 6, but it looks like an econo-hatchback. Mainland folks hated them (Mazda discontinued the model in 2015, I think) because they are much smaller than the far more popular Sienna or Odyssey. But in Honolulu, we thought the Mazda 5 would be just the ticket for a family of four trying to get in and out of a tiny tandem parking spot a couple of times a day in our condo's parking lot.

We also liked the idea of being able to take everyone around in the Mazda 5 if we had two or fewer guests staying with us. It worked a treat when my brother came for a long weekend, and this week with the in-laws it has been perfect. And when it's just us as a family of four, it's AWESOME. Sliding doors plus all that cargo space in the back. We love it.

True: there is very little cargo space when the back seats are in use. We put both car seats in the back so that MIL and I can ride in the middle two captain's seats, and FIL and Mr. ETA are in the front. With some creativity we are still able to fit our snap-n-go stroller in the car along with groceries, beach gear, and a large backpack. But there's a lot of Tetris-ing around of belongings in order to accomplish this. It's fairly cramped once all is said and done.

On Oahu, it's difficult to take a road trip that takes longer than 1.5 hours, and most of our trips take around half an hour or less. Much less, generally. It takes us about 15 minutes to get anywhere in town. So being squished but mostly comfortable is fine for such short distances.

If I were on the mainland, I might still be into the Mazda 5, despite the cramped quarters. I'd definitely get one of those cargo boxes that you strap on the roof, though.

MPG on the car seems fine, although I haven't done a scientific study of it. We fill up the 15.9 gallon tank about twice/month. 

We were able to use the Mazda 5 to pick up and transport the new dishwasher we just purchased at Lowe's last week. Plenty of space. The Mazda 5 also fit the toddler bed I bought off craigslist for DS last summer--didn't even have to disassemble it.

If we were going to have a third kid I think the Mazda 5 would be just fine.

So far, zero repair bills (I'm probably jinxing this by writing about it). I point this out because so many people are terrified of used cars that are older than 3 years. Now, we are definitely in odd circumstances, because we only put about 10k miles/year on a car due to living on an island. We also don't have to deal with all the road salt that destroys cars where I grew up in upstate New York. So I don't want to be too smug about how everyone ought to buy cars the way we do.

I highly recommend the Mazda 5. If our 2003 Matrix craps out, I think we'd just buy another Mazda 5. Nah, we'd buy another Matrix. They don't make those anymore, either. I like having a car with better MPG for when we take longer trips.
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englishteacheralex

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2018, 11:19:04 PM »
One nice thing about the Mazda 5 is that you can fold down the two back seats separately, so even if you had a third carseat you could still fold down one of the back seats for extra cargo space.

We live on an island, so we don't drive super long distances very often. We also don't have any pets. It's a great car for our circumstance. YMMV.
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yuka

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2018, 11:31:18 PM »
Don't discount the value of having doors that slide back rather than folding forward, both for how much opening you get into the back, and for how easy it is in parking spaces. Additionally, that extra height is extra height that every bag or child has to be lifted.

Also, I think my parents' minivans turn tighter than my wife's full-size sedan (Impala). I understand that the most important thing is how it compares to the handling of your current ride, but what I'm trying to say is that a minivan is still quite a few steps down the food chain from the enormous vehicles that they design roadway geometry around (enormous American firetrucks, typically,) so you'll have some wiggle room either way.

In any case, I think you're likely to have the minuscule difference in fuel efficiency dwarfed by a difference in purchase price, throwing the baby out with the bath water. At the end of the day, those vehicles are all thirsty because they're enormous bodies with even more enormous engines.]

I'll look at 2014 cars:
To try the numbers, I looked for a list of 'efficient' 3-row SUVs (with 4WD), and found the Toyota Highlander hybrid (27/28, 3.6 gal/100mi, goes back to 2014),Mitubishi Outlander (24/29,3.8gal/100mi, reviewers dislike the third row and this is a 4 cylinder model), Nissan Pathfinder hybrid (same numbers as Mitsubishi)
Toyota SUV (27/28, 3.6 gal/100 mi): 360 gal per 10kMi                          (baseline)     (added cost at $2/$3/$4)
Mitsubishi/Nissan SUV (24/29, 3.8 gal/100mi): 380 gal per 10kMi           (+20 gal)      ( $40/60/80)
Toyota Sienna AWD (16/23, 5.3gal/100mi): 530 gal per 10kMi               (+170 gal)     ($340/510/680)
Honda minivan: 19/28, 4.5 gal/100mi 450 gal per 10 kMi                       (+90 gal)        ($180/270/360)

Obviously, double those numbers if you drive the family car 20kMi per year. This assumes you drive at the same efficiency and profile of driving types as the EPA does, but it's a start. And what I'm trying to show is that the gas difference may not be the difference you think, compared to finding a good deal on whichever vehicle you choose. I used 2014 because that's so new I don't think anyone could be too worried about maintenance.

I don't know about insurance considerations, but it's possible that one class is cheaper than the other. Finally, remember that those SUVs are HYBRIDS. For normal SUVs, you should assume SUVs are comparable to, or worse than, the worst minivans in terms of efficiency.

At the end of the day, I'd say that minivans are more functional, and a pretty solid choice, and sticking it to the big companies because car-makers love when you buy those high-margin SUVs. But if widening the field allows you to find a used car that you're happy with for a good price, that's the real way to come out ahead in car buying (doubly so in the excellent buyers market that seems to pervade the entire country right now.)


yuka

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2018, 11:34:44 PM »
I'd like to amend my post to say that the Mazda 5 is another excellent idea that should probably be way more common than it is. Yay englishteacheralex!

Skinflint

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2018, 02:28:34 PM »
Thanks, everyone.  This is the type of advice I am looking for.  Going to spend some time researching these models - I knew there had to be some decently frugal options out there.

ETBen

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2018, 09:02:36 PM »
I have a pathfinder. Third row is a nice size. Both rows fold and slide better than other SUVs I looked at. That said, if my kids were younger, I would choose the minivan route. It will be easier to get seats in and out.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2018, 02:46:13 PM »
We upgraded to a 2009 Toyota Sienna several years ago when #3 was coming along. Hard to believe we've had it for about seven years now. We've been very happy with it and it's now holding five kids in reasonable comfort. There's a lot of little things about a minivan that come in handy when you've got kids in the back. This is basically what they're designed for while an SUV is typically designed for both adults and kids.

Parking isn't really an issue, I think it's easier to park than my small pickup truck (Mazda B3000 - aka a Ford Ranger). Gas mileage has averaged around 21 mpg for mixed city/highway driving. We only put about 6,000 miles a year on it as there's no daycare/school/work to drive it to everyday since we homeschool. It's got quite a bit of power which is nice if you need to accelerate quickly to pass someone or get up to speed if merging on to a busy street. Handling is good as well and since it's relatively low to the ground (compared to an SUV) it's easy to get in and out of (2-year old can do so on his own) and there's never a feeling like it might tip over if you take a corner sharply.

Dual sliding doors is great. We can easily load the youngest into their car seats while the older kids can get into the back row and strap themselves in. Standing just inside the passenger side door I can easily reach over to fasten anyone in that needs to be checked.

We looked at a Honda Odyssey at the same time as we bought our Sienna and they're very comparable in terms of features and price. We found a good deal on a Sienna that had about 75,000 miles on it but was only two years old (obviously used for a business purpose and must have been almost all highway miles) so that's why we picked it over the Odyssey.
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acroy

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2018, 02:53:45 PM »
Mazda 5 is awesome if
1) you can make it work
2) you can find one in good condition

We had a 2008 base Nissan Quest and really enjoyed it. Dead solid reliable, drove great, lots of room, good sightlines, 40% cheaper than the Honda/Toyota versions.

Minivans will get decent mpg's if you keep your foot out of it. We managed about 20 city and up to 27 on road trips.

good luck!
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Papa bear

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2018, 03:45:30 PM »
Chrysler minivans for the sole purpose that both 2nd and 3rd row are stow n go. 

They fit a full 4x8 sheet in there and can be extremely customizable with all seats folding into the floor options.

This is a deal breaker for me for any minivan. I understand that I am an outlier and most people don't use the function as I do, but I have a need to carry people and or things and need to change that on a regular basis, sometimes on the same trip. 


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Slow&Steady

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2018, 02:30:21 PM »
Just to throw this out there but with the right car seats you can fit 3 kids in a sedan.

That being said we got a minivan this fall and based our decision solely on the price vs mileage vs options that we felt got us the biggest bang for the buck.  We ended up with a Dodge.

Spiffy

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2018, 01:46:55 PM »
A few years ago we replaced my beloved 20 year old Volvo wagon with a Dodge Grand Caravan Minivan. I was so sad to let my old car go, but have to say that now I love the minivan. It drives pretty much like the wagon, gets the same gas milage, but it is huge on the inside. I put two kids in the "way back" and one in the middle row. We have the one with stow and go captains chairs in the second row and bench in the way back. I keep one seat stowed away in the floor all the time, so the area for getting in and out is huge. Kids can drop back backs and musical instruments there and still easily get to their seat. And it is great for when you have to be somewhere for a while, like base ball practice. Kids can sit in the floor and play games/cards/with toys. It feels like a living room. You can keep both doors open to catch a breeze. With all the seats down you can put so much stuff in there. I once fit in TWO giant upholstered rocking chairs. It is really very comfortable and pleasant. And it is great for road trips. There is plenty of room in the cargo area for luggage and coolers. We took a three week road trip from Texas to Maine/Canada right after we got it and it was great. So go buy a good used minivan and thank me later!
PS- I looked at Honda minivans first, but felt like it was trying to be a car and wasn't as roomy. The Dodge screams "Yep, I'm a dorky minivan" And that is why I love it.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 01:49:53 PM by Spiffy »

Bird In Hand

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2018, 02:46:41 PM »
Our three kids are a handful, and we are thankful for our '12 Odyssey's three rows every time we drive.

In more than 50k miles we've averaged a little over 25 MPG in mixed driving.  On long highway trips we can get ~32 MPG with a light foot.

Winter driving is fine with snow tires, not good at all with all-season tires.

IMO the practicality of the minivan is head and shoulders above most SUV's.

If you can get a good price on a used Odyssey/Sienna/etc., I doubt you'll regret getting one.  It's hard to find a great price though because the depreciation is low.  You'll certainly find much better prices on used Chrysler/Dodge minivans; whether you'll come out ahead in the long term isn't so certain.
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dycker1978

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2018, 02:51:13 PM »
Wow has this blog taken a turn towards soft.  You can fit three car seats in a sedan, but now I see people recommending things like a pathfinder... Arg.

I think that three care seats fit fairly well in a prius, you can find that fourm somewhere here.

Bird In Hand

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2018, 03:30:44 PM »
Wow has this blog taken a turn towards soft.  You can fit three car seats in a sedan, but now I see people recommending things like a pathfinder... Arg.

I think that three care seats fit fairly well in a prius, you can find that fourm somewhere here.

Oh boy, here come the MMM Vehicle Police.

We had three car seats across the back seat of our compact sedan (Mazda 3) for a couple years -- it was misery.  Unless you've put up with three (often) bickering young children sitting directly behind you day in and day out, you lack the required perspective to make an informed judgement about this.  Maybe you're a masochist who tolerates this sort of thing better than I do.  More power to you -- feel free to not buy a minivan/SUV/whatever.

Personally, I would be (and was) willing to pay a hefty premium to achieve relative serenity when driving somewhere with my family.  That the minivan is insanely practical for hauling large stuff, and allowed us to join a carpool (saving tons of $$ on gas and time, btw) -- these were just icing on the sweet minivan cake for us.  YMMV.
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Slow&Steady

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2018, 08:58:39 AM »
Wow has this blog taken a turn towards soft.  You can fit three car seats in a sedan, but now I see people recommending things like a pathfinder... Arg.

I think that three care seats fit fairly well in a prius, you can find that fourm somewhere here.

I believe if you look above I did mention that you could fit 3 car seats in a sedan, but that doesn't mean you will want to. 
For me the purpose of MMM is frugality so that you can do/spend on things that you prioritize in life.  We all prioritize differently, that doesn't mean that your way or anybody else's way is wrong, just that they have different priorities. 

I will tell you for certain that with the right car seats you can fit 3 in a Prius.  I did it with my 06 and it worked great BUT only because they were cousins and not siblings that were really excited to hang out with each other for the DAY (not every day for years) by the end of the day we heard several comments about "stop touching me" and "that is mine" and even some "don't look at me".  I can not imagine dealing with that every time you had to get into a car.

Petuniajo

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2018, 10:41:55 AM »
I have found 3 car seats in a backseat to not be nearly as problematic as when they move into boosters with seatbelts. With 3 boosters in a row, the seat belt receptors are pretty much impossible to get at. I purchased a 2012 Sienna a year and a half ago and haven't looked back. I love that van so damn much. And I only have two kids (but we drive the neighbor kid every day, hence three seats). Face punch away, but I swear when I die I want to be cremated with that minivan. It is awesome for roadtrips (we drive across the country to visit family each summer), awesome for hauling stuff when needed, and fits everyone we need it to fit comfortably.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2018, 11:00:29 AM »
I have found 3 car seats in a backseat to not be nearly as problematic as when they move into boosters with seatbelts. With 3 boosters in a row, the seat belt receptors are pretty much impossible to get at. I purchased a 2012 Sienna a year and a half ago and haven't looked back. I love that van so damn much. And I only have two kids (but we drive the neighbor kid every day, hence three seats). Face punch away, but I swear when I die I want to be cremated with that minivan. It is awesome for roadtrips (we drive across the country to visit family each summer), awesome for hauling stuff when needed, and fits everyone we need it to fit comfortably.

We have two car seats and a booster seat wedged into the back row of our Sienna. We had to get a seat belt extender (I think it might have actually been free from Toyota - either ordered at the dealership or online) in order for my oldest to be able to buckle into his booster seat as there was just no way to get his hand down the narrow gap between the two seats. It's about 6"-12" long I think and it works perfectly.
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scantee

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #18 on: January 25, 2018, 11:15:42 AM »
The Mazda CX-9 is a third row SUV that gets comparatively good gas mileage: 22 in the city, 28 on the highway. I test drove one recently and was impressed with how it handled. It was agile, handling much more similarly to a my old VW wagon than any of the other third row vehicles I drove, which handled more like minivans.

Petuniajo

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #19 on: January 25, 2018, 11:38:54 AM »
I have found 3 car seats in a backseat to not be nearly as problematic as when they move into boosters with seatbelts. With 3 boosters in a row, the seat belt receptors are pretty much impossible to get at. I purchased a 2012 Sienna a year and a half ago and haven't looked back. I love that van so damn much. And I only have two kids (but we drive the neighbor kid every day, hence three seats). Face punch away, but I swear when I die I want to be cremated with that minivan. It is awesome for roadtrips (we drive across the country to visit family each summer), awesome for hauling stuff when needed, and fits everyone we need it to fit comfortably.

We have two car seats and a booster seat wedged into the back row of our Sienna. We had to get a seat belt extender (I think it might have actually been free from Toyota - either ordered at the dealership or online) in order for my oldest to be able to buckle into his booster seat as there was just no way to get his hand down the narrow gap between the two seats. It's about 6"-12" long I think and it works perfectly.

I had researched this option, but recall that the consensus seemed to be that these are designed for large adults and not safe for use with booster seats. Something about changing the geometry, so that the buckle is too high up on the kids and no longer hitting them in the right (safe) spots. If this has changed though, I'd love to know! We also have a Honda Civic my husband drives and can only fit two kids in the back, but it would be EXTREMELY convenient if we could fit all three.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #20 on: January 25, 2018, 01:25:47 PM »
I have found 3 car seats in a backseat to not be nearly as problematic as when they move into boosters with seatbelts. With 3 boosters in a row, the seat belt receptors are pretty much impossible to get at. I purchased a 2012 Sienna a year and a half ago and haven't looked back. I love that van so damn much. And I only have two kids (but we drive the neighbor kid every day, hence three seats). Face punch away, but I swear when I die I want to be cremated with that minivan. It is awesome for roadtrips (we drive across the country to visit family each summer), awesome for hauling stuff when needed, and fits everyone we need it to fit comfortably.

We have two car seats and a booster seat wedged into the back row of our Sienna. We had to get a seat belt extender (I think it might have actually been free from Toyota - either ordered at the dealership or online) in order for my oldest to be able to buckle into his booster seat as there was just no way to get his hand down the narrow gap between the two seats. It's about 6"-12" long I think and it works perfectly.

I had researched this option, but recall that the consensus seemed to be that these are designed for large adults and not safe for use with booster seats. Something about changing the geometry, so that the buckle is too high up on the kids and no longer hitting them in the right (safe) spots. If this has changed though, I'd love to know! We also have a Honda Civic my husband drives and can only fit two kids in the back, but it would be EXTREMELY convenient if we could fit all three.

The buckle still sits basically down at his side when seated so I don't think it changes anything. I believe they offer different lengths and we just got the shortest one. It's been a couple of years though so I can't really remember. I just know that when baby #5 came along and we had to cram three seats in the back, this was the only option that didn't involve buying brand new and narrower car seats or upgrading to a full-size van.
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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2018, 08:00:51 PM »
Wow has this blog taken a turn towards soft.  You can fit three car seats in a sedan, but now I see people recommending things like a pathfinder... Arg.

I think that three care seats fit fairly well in a prius, you can find that fourm somewhere here.

Scourge of the Pathfinder, here. Iíve done the Prius life too. With kids. Now I drive this so I can take along their friends on our various adventures, all the gear for our scouts trips, and occasionally we play pirates in there too... Arg! 

startingsmall

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2018, 02:32:30 PM »
Another vote for a Mazda5. I drive a not-so-Mustachian 2014 and love it.

Penelope Vandergast

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #23 on: January 31, 2018, 07:26:17 PM »
The Kia Rondo sometimes comes with 3 rows of seats. They don't sell them in the U.S.anymore but you can find used for a good price. Or buy a new one in Canada. It parks easily in the city and you can fit a ton of stuff in it.

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2018, 10:32:23 AM »
Honda Odyssey for the win! When my 3 were young and in car seats we put all 3 in the middle. Now at 11, (almost) 8 and (almost) 6 it's much less practical to ask then to pile together and creates discomfort and fights when we do. Imagine every car trip is like sitting in the middle seat in a plane.

My in laws have a Honda pilot and while it has 3 rows it is nowhere as easy to get into or as comfortable in the 3rd row.

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EmFrugal

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2018, 11:20:52 AM »
We sold our Honda Accord when our third was on the way and went for the Odyssey. We have a 2012 (which was purchased two years ago now) and have not looked back.

The Accord worked great for two kids but it was awful with three in a row. I don't know how the previous poster could fit three safe car seats in a row and not go insane at the same time. Because even trying the slim-fit Diono Radian's in the Accord with an infant seat felt so unsafe. Plus the logistics of getting an infant, 2 and 4 year old out of three seats in a row or a regular basis would have driven me insane! There is something to be said about parents' sanity, right? I think MMM would even agree there, especially if you're trying to make a frugal choice. I mean, it's not like you're asking about an Escalade.

The Odyssey was an obvious choice for us because we were already familiar with Honda. Plus I really liked the electronic sliding doors, the ability to Captain's chair 2 kids and put the oldest in the third row, and choosing a vehicle with a lower profile. Being closer to the ground makes it easy for the older kids to climb in and out.

It sounds like for you it may come down to whether or not you need the 4-wheel drive. We are in an urban area that regularly salts the road and removes snow, so it's a non-issue. Plus I don't drive when the roads are treacherous. But if you have to drive with kids in those conditions and your snow removal situation isn't great, then 4-wheel drive may be the deciding factor. Just really consider if it's a necessity for safety reasons or a bonus nice-to-have.





tnevy4

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Re: 3rd Row SUV/Minivan Recommendation
« Reply #26 on: February 09, 2018, 12:43:33 AM »
Ford Transit connect. It's better than a 3 row SUV with more carlike handling than other mini vans and the payload is pretty hefty.