Author Topic: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog  (Read 5247 times)

hearsay

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Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« on: May 04, 2015, 01:15:08 PM »
Back when we lived in Colorado, my wife purchased a '98 Subaru Forester.  Now pushing 265k mi, the car is beginning to show signs that it may need to be replaced in the next few years.  The Forester is almost the right size, but not quite.  The legroom is pretty tight in the back, and it will only get worse as our kids grow pesky longer legs.  Our dog is generally forced to sit in the cargo space in the back, which gets hot as hell down here in Southern NM in the summer.  Adding a cargo bag to the roof to accommodate camping gear on weekend trips has allowed us to get by the past few years.  If the windows could be opened in the back to cool the dog it would help immensely, but they do not.

When the car dies, what should we get?  Fuel efficiency is clearly huge to us, but rear legroom and dogspace are nearly as important these days.  I've briefly considered getting some abnoxiously huge quad cab Diesel truck, event though it's a clear clown car.  The only way this vehicle could work is if I was making my own biodiesel at home.  If there was another station wagon with slightly more legroom than the Forester with windows that open in the rear cargo space, I'd be even more excited.  Is there something else that we are not considering?

The cars I typically see touted around here don't take a 50 lb dog into account, and that mutt really seems to throw a wrench into the car purchasing machine. 

tarheeldan

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2015, 01:28:35 PM »
Have you looked at newer Foresters? The 2010 model has 38in rear legroom compared to the 33.4in in your model. Not sure about the dog thing. Thought about station wagons but most of those are luxury brands now.

MLKnits

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2015, 01:30:19 PM »
A smallish hatchback should still accommodate the dog. I'd suggest a weird but probably workable trick: get an adaptor for the plug in the back (they almost all have one now, or you could run a cord from the front) and run a fan for the dog. Or just open the regular backseat windows, unless you have kids of an age to think jumping out of moving cars could be fun. You can also freeze the dog's waterbowl (with water in it) ahead of the trip, which makes for a nice cool-down and won't spill all over.

How far are you driving, and how often, that legroom is really that big an issue? With two kids in the back, they can put their knees up on the seat in front (classic move), stretch out into the middle, throw a foot out the window--lots of options. It's good for them to not always be comfortable (and for the adults, too--the front passenger can give up some legroom from time to time to accommodate the taller kid, and put THEIR feet up on the dash).

mabinogi

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2015, 01:30:46 PM »
We are a family of 4 with a 50+ pound dog. We also enjoy camping, road trips, etc., and my husband is 6'4". Our car is a VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI. The windows do not open in the cargo area, but I think it fits your other requirements. Gas mileage is excellent: we routinely get 35-40 in town and 45-50 on the highway. I believe it has more leg room in the back than a Forester, but can't guarantee this. There is plenty of space in the cargo area for the dog and a good amount of luggage. (New TDI's are expensive, but I've been told that older ones are better anyhow.)

A solution for any vehicle of this approximate size, if you need more luggage space, is the addition of either a roof rack or a back rack. I know this has been discussed somewhere in a MMM blog post, but I can't find it now.


ketchup

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2015, 02:13:15 PM »
1991-1996 Buick Roadmaster Wagon.  Lots of legroom and a stupidly large amount of storage.  Also includes luggage rack on roof.  Accommodates 2-3 people and 4-6 50lb dogs, or 4-6 people and 2-3 50lb dogs, or 1 person and 7-8 50lb dogs.  Drives like a land yacht, fills up like a living room.  I love mine (our typical arrangement of dogs/people is the first one).

JLee

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2015, 02:20:51 PM »
Why so averse to a minivan? Honda Odysseys get ~25mpg highway and minivans are immensely practical.

A smallish hatchback should still accommodate the dog. I'd suggest a weird but probably workable trick: get an adaptor for the plug in the back (they almost all have one now, or you could run a cord from the front) and run a fan for the dog. Or just open the regular backseat windows, unless you have kids of an age to think jumping out of moving cars could be fun. You can also freeze the dog's waterbowl (with water in it) ahead of the trip, which makes for a nice cool-down and won't spill all over.

How far are you driving, and how often, that legroom is really that big an issue? With two kids in the back, they can put their knees up on the seat in front (classic move), stretch out into the middle, throw a foot out the window--lots of options. It's good for them to not always be comfortable (and for the adults, too--the front passenger can give up some legroom from time to time to accommodate the taller kid, and put THEIR feet up on the dash).

Feet out the window and/or on the dash makes me cringe at the thought of a collision.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2015, 02:22:30 PM by JLee »

Papa bear

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2015, 02:42:39 PM »
Agree on the minivan comment. Counting down the days until I can justify having one again...


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MayDay

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2015, 05:38:32 PM »
We road trip a lot (camping and all family is out of town). My kids are little yet, but I'm not going to make them be uncomfortable in trips when they become adult-sized.

Hanging feet out the window and putting feet on the dash is a horrible idea.

What's the life expectancy of the dog? That's the key question. If it's many years, just get a minivan.
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frugal_engineer

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2015, 07:03:15 PM »
1991-1996 Buick Roadmaster Wagon.  Lots of legroom and a stupidly large amount of storage.  Also includes luggage rack on roof.  Accommodates 2-3 people and 4-6 50lb dogs, or 4-6 people and 2-3 50lb dogs, or 1 person and 7-8 50lb dogs.  Drives like a land yacht, fills up like a living room.  I love mine (our typical arrangement of dogs/people is the first one).

+1 for roadmaster!  good luck finding a 20 year old vehicle in good condition though.  Unfortunately, they don't make real station wagons anymore, just cars with tall trunks.

ketchup

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2015, 08:31:42 PM »
1991-1996 Buick Roadmaster Wagon.  Lots of legroom and a stupidly large amount of storage.  Also includes luggage rack on roof.  Accommodates 2-3 people and 4-6 50lb dogs, or 4-6 people and 2-3 50lb dogs, or 1 person and 7-8 50lb dogs.  Drives like a land yacht, fills up like a living room.  I love mine (our typical arrangement of dogs/people is the first one).

+1 for roadmaster!  good luck finding a 20 year old vehicle in good condition though.  Unfortunately, they don't make real station wagons anymore, just cars with tall trunks.
Mine's a '92 and I found it in good shape at 158k miles for $700 last year!  It's a great car.

MLKnits

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2015, 06:34:16 AM »
Feet out the window and/or on the dash makes me cringe at the thought of a collision.

Ehh, being in a car at all is dangerous as hell. There's a risk/reward question. Goodness knows millions of people ski recreationally, which I think is downright taking one's life into one's hands. Putting your feet up on the dash is one of life's joys--to my mind it's well worth the risk.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2015, 07:02:21 AM »
If it helps, I'm 5'11" (I think, whatever 181cm is in the old money), and fit in the back seat of my dad's 2012 Forester just fine.

My suggestion is therefore to check out a later Forester.

Wait a minute, the Forester is an SUV.

Also yeah, feet on the dash is a dumb idea. If the airbag goes off, you're in deep shit.

Now, would you consider getting the windows tinted on the Forester? It might make life a little easier for your dog.

mrsggrowsveg

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2015, 08:18:52 AM »
My mom has a newer Ford Escape.  On road trips my husband, toddler and I all fit in the back seat very comfortably.  The gas mileage is often 30+ which is pretty good for a car that size.
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RelaxedGal

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #13 on: May 05, 2015, 08:45:53 AM »
I do not have personal experience, but our friends (husband, wife, 2 kids, medium-to-large dog) have a 2011? Toyota Prius and a 2012? Subaru Outback. The Subarus have definitely gotten larger through the years.

They're considering a 3rd kid, and if so will replace the Prius with a Minivan, but at the moment both cars are working for road trips/camping trips for all 5 of them.

JLee

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #14 on: May 05, 2015, 08:51:05 AM »
Feet out the window and/or on the dash makes me cringe at the thought of a collision.

Ehh, being in a car at all is dangerous as hell. There's a risk/reward question. Goodness knows millions of people ski recreationally, which I think is downright taking one's life into one's hands. Putting your feet up on the dash is one of life's joys--to my mind it's well worth the risk.

This wasn't a risk/reward question for joys of life - this was a "If you can't comfortably fit people in a small car, extend appendages out of the vehicle."

However, to each their own.

greenmimama

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #15 on: May 05, 2015, 09:28:07 AM »
We love our Odyssey, but have you looked into a Honda CRV? My parents have one and they can get 34MPG on the highway, pretty impressive, and seems like there would be room in the back for your dog.

We don't have a dog but my DH is a drummer, so for that reason we can't have a sedan, no recent sedan like 2000 or newer can fit his bass drum into the trunk or backseat. So we have to have a hatchback, he drives a vibe and it works great, Don't really know about the legroom in back, since our boys are still in carseats and I have never had to sit back there.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #16 on: May 05, 2015, 10:28:02 AM »
When evaluating a bigger vehicle, how many miles do you drive? Is a lower MPG figure going to make all that big a difference given your driving habits?

We put relatively few miles a year on our one vehicle, and almost all of the ones we do are on vacation, when we really do need a largeish vehicle (minivan).

Minivans rock. I like to call them TUVs (Truly Useful Vehicles).
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frugaliknowit

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #17 on: May 05, 2015, 10:32:36 AM »
If room is a priority, how about the Ford Flex? 

otter

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #18 on: May 05, 2015, 11:24:56 AM »
You're out of luck when it comes to wagons with rear quarter windows that vent - I can't think of anything newer than GM wagons from the mid 90s (the above-mentioned Roadmaster and its Vista Cruiser and Estate Wagon siblings, and A-body Century, Ciera and Celebrity wagons with 3rd-row seats.)

Minivans, however, usually have venting quarter glass, lots of room, and are generally awesome. There are plenty of choices that will get mileage about the same as your Forester.

For the dog, there is also the Mitt Romney option (kidding!)

hearsay

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2015, 02:54:22 PM »
Lots of great ideas here, thanks folks.  I'm sort of leaning toward a Pontiac Vibe type of solution.  Although the dog lifespan is only another ~4 yrs, that's still another 4 yrs that we should try to take care of the dog.  Tinting the windows is definitely on the radar, though I know its only slightly helpful.  Fans don't help dogs very much, they real only cool down via convection on their noses, paws, and belly; so a small aux fan in the back would only be a small help.  Still, perhaps a small fan, tinted windows, and a spillproof bowl (ice) is the most reasonable solution.  Our drives are often the annoying 2 mile variety (steep-ass hills with kids that don't always want to bike in bad weather on narrow streets.  We bike roughly 60% of our commuting miles),  but we also do 300 mile trips every other month, and then a pretty big western road trip in the summer.  Just barely enough for me to seriously take MPG into account over the general posh nature of a minivan.  When you take the average of 21mpg of a Honda Odyssey vs to the 29 mpg of the Pontiac Vibe into account, I'm going to lean toward the improved fuel efficiency and slight loss of comfort.

Those old Roadmasters sure look sweet.

mm1970

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2015, 03:22:20 PM »
Lots of great ideas here, thanks folks.  I'm sort of leaning toward a Pontiac Vibe type of solution.  Although the dog lifespan is only another ~4 yrs, that's still another 4 yrs that we should try to take care of the dog.  Tinting the windows is definitely on the radar, though I know its only slightly helpful.  Fans don't help dogs very much, they real only cool down via convection on their noses, paws, and belly; so a small aux fan in the back would only be a small help.  Still, perhaps a small fan, tinted windows, and a spillproof bowl (ice) is the most reasonable solution.  Our drives are often the annoying 2 mile variety (steep-ass hills with kids that don't always want to bike in bad weather on narrow streets.  We bike roughly 60% of our commuting miles),  but we also do 300 mile trips every other month, and then a pretty big western road trip in the summer.  Just barely enough for me to seriously take MPG into account over the general posh nature of a minivan.  When you take the average of 21mpg of a Honda Odyssey vs to the 29 mpg of the Pontiac Vibe into account, I'm going to lean toward the improved fuel efficiency and slight loss of comfort.

Those old Roadmasters sure look sweet.
I've got a Matrix, which is a Vibe.  We fit well.  But no dog.

Scandium

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #21 on: May 07, 2015, 03:30:45 PM »
Feet out the window and/or on the dash makes me cringe at the thought of a collision.

Ehh, being in a car at all is dangerous as hell. There's a risk/reward question. Goodness knows millions of people ski recreationally, which I think is downright taking one's life into one's hands. Putting your feet up on the dash is one of life's joys--to my mind it's well worth the risk.

Wait, isn't taking your life into your own hands a good thing? :S Do you mean something like "putting your life on the line"?
And you can ski fast, but it's not quite the same danger as flying 150 mph towards another piece of metal (2x75 mph). And like you said; skiing I'm taking my life into my own hands (and usually hyper-alert), I can control it. Driving you're often at the whims of others. 

begood

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #22 on: May 07, 2015, 06:03:44 PM »
I'll second the rec of the Honda CR-V. It has fantastic backseat room, flexible seating, and a nice tall cargo space in the back. It gets decent but not fantastic gas mileage. I had a 2002 that I sold a couple of years ago - I read somewhere that it was the most reliable vehicle on the road. Used is higher than some brands because of that - they're workhorses that run and run.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Help me avoid buying a minivan/SUV for family of 4 + dog
« Reply #23 on: May 13, 2015, 03:15:57 PM »
We recently moved replaced our Subaru Forester with a Prius.  We travel with 3 kids (no dog), and they think the Prius has sooo much more room than the Forester.  There is more leg room for the person stuck in the middle of the backseat, which would mean more room for the dog too.

My second choice was a CR-V.
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