Author Topic: Kids & Cars - What to do?  (Read 3361 times)

mrigney

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Kids & Cars - What to do?
« on: October 19, 2016, 08:09:33 AM »
I know there are MMM articles about cars, and I've read them. But wanted to get a conversation going and see what other people have done. We have two kids (5 & 2.5). Just found out we're going to have a 3rd (so it'll be 6, 3, and newborn more or less). Current car situation:

Car 1
1996 Nissan Maxima - Daily commuter for me with 206k  miles on it. At this point, runs great and hoping I can drive it for another 10 years (have had it for 15). Obviously own this free and clear, yearly tax is about $30, insurance is ~$15/month (gotta love GEICO). I work on an Army installation, and while biking to work is theoretically possible, it's not particularly feasible and moving closer isn't really possible. So, this is my compromise...a car that costs me almost nothing besides oil changes. 1-2 days/week, I drive Car 2 to/from work when my wife doesn't need it.

Car 2
2010 Toyota Prius - Also own this one free and clear. Insurance runs about $36/month, taxes are about $120/year. My wife drives this car during the week when she needs it (school function, playdates with other parents, grocery shopping, ballet lessons, etc). This is where our two carseats "live." Estimated value on this is ~$8.5k.

So here's the question. Given we will be needing/using 3 carseats or 2 carseats/1 booster seat, what would you do for a a vehicle? What have you done? I'm not sure (haven't tested yet since we just found out we're expecting) if the Prius can handle 3 carseats across the back. If so, I'd imagine it'd be a pretty tight fit. I'll outline what I see as our options

Option 1 - Stand pat. Keep the Prius, keep the Maxima. Roll with it. I certainly like this idea:-)

Option 2 - Keep the Maxima, sell the Prius. Take the $8.5k and buy something with more room (say a 2004-2007 Odyssey/Siena with 130k miles). I suppose you could also buy an SUV (e.g. a quick craigslist search for my area shows some 2005-2008 Mazda CX-9, GMC Acadias, etc). SUVs just seem so...big...and cumbersome. We once had a Mazda CX-9 and liked, but that was pre-kids and pre-mustache days. Not sure I can bring myself to do that.

Option 3 - Sell the Maxima, keep the Prius. Take the $1.5k from the Maxima and put it towards a new vehicle (once again, a minivan or similar). I would probably take out a small loan at for this. (Maybe $3-4k). Given I can get 1.5% financing at my credit union for a car, I'd rather do that then pull money out of investments if we go this route. In this case, I'd obviously take the Prius as my daily driver.

So my questions...do you think we can roll with option 1 with 3 carseats? Anybody have experience with this? If it's doable, I'd obviously prefer this route. Of option 2 and 3, which sounds like the best plan (economically) long term? Obviously Option 2 would be net neutral now, but it leaves me commuting in a 20+ year old car with 206k+ miles. Option 3 involves an outlay of several thousand dollars (say $7k in addition to what I get for selling the Maxima), but leaves me commuting in a 6 year old Prius with 76k instead of a 20+ year old Maxima with 206k. All opinions welcome. Looking for both the Mustachian/economics answer and the practicality answer.



Khaetra

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2016, 08:17:18 AM »
Can either fit three across in the back?  I'm not sure what the laws are, but will the 6YO need a seat of any kind?  If you could get away with it, I'd keep both but use the Maxima as the kid vehicle with a seat on each side and the 6YO in the middle for the time being.  If not, I'd look for something a bit roomier that will allow your family to grow into it (plus if you have more kids you'll be set).

acroy

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2016, 08:22:30 AM »
Congratulations!
I'd say roll with Option 1. The big kid will graduate from the seat soon. It'll be good experience to be crammed in the middle between 2 sibs ;)
Enjoy!

Pigeon

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2016, 08:23:12 AM »
If I had three kids, I would bite the bullet and have one car with third row seating.  Yes, those vehicles are big and cumbersome, but three carseats are big and cumbersome, and you will be in situations where you need to haul around a friend or two.  We survived with two sedans, but we only had two kids and even then, while it was doable, having more seating so we could participate in carpools, etc., would have been nice.

There's probably no rush at this point as you could survive with three carseats in the back of the Nissan for a bit while the kids are small.

Bourbon

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2016, 08:49:48 AM »
We have 3 kids(5/3/1),  currently in the big vehicles(Minivan andTruck) and thinking about moving to something smaller.  So no real experience with your situation yet, but posting to follow.

3 across is possible in smaller cars, but might require you to look at specific carseats. When I got the idea as we were adding kids, I started to get the Radian carseats instead of more Britax/Graco as they aged up.

Resources I've used -
http://www.thecarcrashdetective.com/3-across-car-seat-guide-html/
http://www.car-seat.org/tags.php?tag=3+across

I did have a rental Nissan Altima(I think) and a Jetta at some point and managed to get all 3 in the back and survive just fine, but it was only for a few days at a time.

mskyle

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2016, 08:56:32 AM »
I say stand pat for now. If three-across starts to bug you, then move to option two or three.

KCM5

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2016, 09:01:57 AM »
We have 3 kids(5/3/1),  currently in the big vehicles(Minivan andTruck) and thinking about moving to something smaller.  So no real experience with your situation yet, but posting to follow.

3 across is possible in smaller cars, but might require you to look at specific carseats. When I got the idea as we were adding kids, I started to get the Radian carseats instead of more Britax/Graco as they aged up.

Resources I've used -
http://www.thecarcrashdetective.com/3-across-car-seat-guide-html/
http://www.car-seat.org/tags.php?tag=3+across

I did have a rental Nissan Altima(I think) and a Jetta at some point and managed to get all 3 in the back and survive just fine, but it was only for a few days at a time.

Those are good resources for 3 across.

I'd take stock of what you currently have and figure out a way to make 3 across work in the Prius. This may cost you $500 in car seats (hopefully less), but it's cheaper that buying another car. And I would only have the 3 car seats for the Prius. I'm assuming there's no reason that you both would have to be able to cart all 3 kids at the same time. If for some reason you'll be carting the kids instead of your wife, you take the Prius.

And if you find its just too tight/annoying, after a few months of trying, then get a minivan. There are good reasons to own a minivan, and if you are the kind of family that likes to go on road trips/camping, you may just want to bite the bullet and by one. You can also increase storage by buying/building a cargo box, so that's an option to consider, too. We have a 2010 Prius too, and while it works fantastic for 99% of our use (regular driving trips and around time) we have this really long camping road trip planned with 4 passengers and I'm already not looking forward to figuring out how to pack the thing. 

historienne

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2016, 10:45:32 AM »
You can definitely do three across in a Prius, although maybe not with your current carseats.  I have friends who have three carseats (one rear-facing, the other two are FF) in theirs.  Not sure about brands.

MayDay

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2016, 10:58:37 AM »
If the only places you drive are around town, a sedan is fine.

It'll be hell for road trips.

Depending on where you live you can rent a van for vacations (Orlando FL - lots of cheap van rentals. Many small towns: no minivan rental available at any price).

Personally I have two kids and watched a third for awhile. I found buckling 3 into the back of a civic to be a special form of hell. A booster seat actually makes it worse because you've got to reach between the seats to buckle (and it's really easy to accidentally unbuckle the carseat).  That said it's definitely possible.

A lot comes down to back seat width. My 2003 civic is extremely tight. My dad's 2012 accord has tons of room. I imagine a Prius is narrower than the accord, but I don't know how much narrower.


mm1970

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2016, 11:41:57 AM »
First, I would try option #1.  And you have plenty of time to test it out.

Try shoe-horning another carseat in there.

We were able to do it in our Matrix, but not in our Civic.  (We carpooled, which is why we needed 3 seats.)
But for our car, it ended up being a bucket seat for the baby (and then eventually a convertible), rear facing, in the center.
And two backless boosters on either side. 
It was a tight fit, but do-able.  I needed a seatbelt extender for one of the kids.

In your case, I'd just try it.  Install the seats and see if it works.  Make the 6 year old and 3 year old get in and out with the baby seat in there.  Do it for a month or so.
If it doesn't work, try with narrower seats, aka the Diono Radian.  They aren't as easy to install, but they fit well.

If that doesn't work, go straight for the minivan.  My friends' experiences for  "regular" (small) SUVs is that their backseats are no better (and sometimes worse) than regular cars for seating 3 carseats across.  My friend couldn't work it for her RAV4.  They even gave up on the Explorer - had to get kid #3 in through the back / trunk area.

mm1970

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2016, 11:42:27 AM »
Congratulations!
I'd say roll with Option 1. The big kid will graduate from the seat soon. It'll be good experience to be crammed in the middle between 2 sibs ;)
Enjoy!
Not until age 9.  At least in California.

LadyStache in Baja

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2016, 12:35:57 PM »
We get three across in the back of our Mercury Grand Marquis.  While we were on vacation we used my mom's minivan, and to be honest, it was a pain in the ass having to get in the van to buckle people in and out.  With our car, we can just reach in and get everyone in.  If you're concerned about them not fitting 3 across, you could get the baby a Diono car seat.  They're very slim.  $300 bucks I think, but it lasts all the way until they don't need even a booster seat.  So worth it.

I did like the button on the minivan that opens the side doors. :)

But really, stick with what you have.  You can always go bigger later, but it feels kinda badass to just make do with what you have, don't you think?

mrigney

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Re: Kids & Cars - What to do?
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2016, 01:14:14 PM »
Thanks for all the feedback.

My inclination is to go with Option 1. We're mustachians here after all, right? I'd much prefer to keep my two perfectly good cars and do nothing. That's the mustachian way. We're in a place where our auto costs are low to extremely low (about as low as you can get with a 2 vehicle family). Both cars get good to great gas mileage, low insurance, etc, etc. Plus, I'd love to stay on track to FIRE in 5-7 years by not spending money on a car. I suspect we'll either 1) roll with a 3rd carseat in the back between now and the due date and see how that works and unless it's just an absolute nightmare, roll with what we have. Thanks for the input!