Author Topic: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it  (Read 12814 times)

livrocentral

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Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« on: June 27, 2014, 08:52:09 AM »
Our 2001 Subaru wagon just got hauled away after it was totaled from severe hail damage. Once the insurance company pays up, we'll have about $5000 to spend on a replacement vehicle. Family size is 5: three kids and we figure we are likely to have a 4th by the end of next year (2015). We loved our 5-speed manual station wagon. It was fun to drive, had a great amount of space for overnight trips to grandma and grandpa's, and it was handy for picking up second-hand furniture and other bulky items on occasion. The downside was that it did not get very good fuel economy, probably about 25 MPG.

We really weren't ready to lose the wagon--I would have happily kept it until kid #4 came along and only then started considering a minivan. But it's time-consuming (not to mention gas-consuming, at least where we live) to shop for cars; I don't want to do it more than I have to. Since I already have to spend the time now, maybe it makes sense to bite the bullet and get a minivan. The way I see it, the van's big advantage is that it saves me time in the future on car-shopping, plus I can get extra passenger capacity for the same purchase price. (At least around here, a van is cheaper than a comparable Accord or even Corolla sedan.) The big disadvantage is fuel economy. We're talking low 20s compared to--well, mid-20s for a Subaru wagon, or low 30s if we got a fuel-efficient sedan instead. We only drive about 7,000 per year, so fuel economy might not be the determinative factor here.

Consumer Reports will only give me data back to 2004, so does anyone have good data on 1999-2003 models? I'm mainly focusing on Odysseys, Siennas, and the Caravan family. Location is southcentral Pennsylvania.

begood

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2014, 09:09:22 AM »
Of the ones you list, the Odyssey and the Sienna have better reliability ratings than the Caravan, I believe.

The possible addition of a 4th kid moves you out of most 5-passenger cars, for sure.

But maybe you don't need a 7-passenger van. Would a 6-passenger mini minivan do?

Have you looked at the Mazda5? It carries six passengers (quite comfortably, from what I hear), gets excellent gas mileage, and is very highly rated by Consumer Reports. They're also quite affordable, especially compared to the other minivans you listed.

Edited to Add: Having rented a Mazda5 before, I can tell you it's fun to drive, peppy. And it comes in manual. :)


« Last Edit: June 27, 2014, 09:18:37 AM by begood »

neo von retorch

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2014, 09:15:12 AM »
Whoa, you actually live near me. Now this example is Connecticut. Not exactly where you'd want to buy from, but...

http://www.cars.com/go/search/detail.jsp?listingId=606122704
2006 90k $5k 5-speed manual

http://www.fuelly.com/car/mazda/5/2006
24mpg isn't great

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/models/used/mazda/mazda5/overview.htm
Reasonable for 2006. Gets better with the newer ones.

http://www.cars.com/go/search/detail.jsp?listingId=605445347
Virgnia - 2006 100k $6500

MayDay

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2014, 09:32:07 AM »
I would describe the rear seat of the Mazda 5 as tortuous.

You can't get to it from the front if you have car seats in the middle row. So kids have to climb over through the front or over through the back and buckle themselves.  Once they are big enough to handle that, they will quickly becone very cramped back there. Also the rear cargo space sucks if you are using the rear seat. I doubt you could fit bags for six for a week long trip plus odds and ends, a cooler, etc.

I say just go for the minivan, obviously.

Forcus

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2014, 09:48:17 AM »
I like the Mazda 5's but they are pretty small compared to a minivan.

I see no issue with going after a minivan. If I had to have one I'd probably get a Dodge Caravan. They are pretty nice.

Other alternatives, we have a 5 speed Ford Escape (2009). It gets 26-30 and is dead simple / reliable. Since it is squarish, it has pretty good interior room as well.

I like the Equinox as well. Never driven one but 30 mpg+ for a tall wagon.

Bourbon

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2014, 10:11:09 AM »
Posting so I can find the thread later.  I was preparing to make a similar post, except I have a big truck for occasional use and so I can get three carseats(3rd child planned soon) across in the backrow.  Looking to possible trade it out for a minivan/mazda5 type vehicle or wagon. 

neo von retorch

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2014, 10:16:10 AM »
I didn't know that about the cramped back seat of the Mazda5. (I have zero kids and drive a CX-5).

I guess the question is - how often do you have all 5 people in the car at once, compared to just some of them?

(I'm also sure the Odyssey is a solid choice, though they do seem to be somewhat expensive even when they have 150,000 miles on them and an old 4-speed automatic...)

MayDay

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2014, 11:22:26 AM »
I think a Mazda five works great for 2 or 3 kids.  You have the flexibility to move kids around as they age, and can haul an extra kid or two with no problem.  But to have it consistently loaded with 4 kids plus 2 adults is not going to be comfortable.  Obviously it is doable, just depends how often you need to fit everyone in the car, whether you plan to take trips with it, etc.

The common advice is to just rent a minivan if you want to take a long trip and need the room.  Well, I looked into that and there were no Minoans available to rent at any price in my city.  I could have rented a giant SUV for 100$ a day.  So with four kids, yah, just buy a van.

The other complaint I have with Mazda fives is that their combined fuel economy is 24.  An odyssey, sienna, or grand caravan will get you a combined 22, 21, and 20. City is 18 or 19 compared to 21, so even less difference.  So you are losing a huge amount of space and flexibility for such a small improvement in fuel economy.  Now, I haven't researched it in depth, maybe Mazda fives tend to do better than their stated fuel economy, and maybe vans are the opposite. 

(Full disclosure, we shopped for vans and Mazda fives, couldn't make our minds up, so bought nothing, and were later gifted an old sienna, which I love with the passion of one thousand suns.)

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2014, 11:38:13 AM »
We just had to upsize to an 8-passenger minivan (kid #6 on the way).  Wanna buy our '01 Odyssey? :P

For your situation, I'd definitely recommend a full-size minivan over the Mazda.  As your kids get older, you'll need more room, and cargo space behind the rear seat is MUCH bigger on the Odyssey than the Mazda.  Plus, the cargo-hauling abilities with the seats down/removed are legendary.

Scandium

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2014, 11:45:39 AM »
We could save you even more money by talking you out of having more than "standard car size number" of kids.. The automotive industry has obviously decided that 3 kids is the optimum

Sblak

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2014, 11:55:33 AM »
I consider myself very Mustachian.  I save about 40% of my income.  I will be debt free with in a few months.  Currently I am only in debt because I saving heavily for retirement and holding off finishing my student loans, which are my only debt, because they are at 3% interest so I haven't paid them off entirely yet.  We cook all our own meals at home.  My wife and I are both fans of this site. 

The only thing I disagree with Mr. Mustache about is having kids.  I would not be satisfied with just 1.  I am married with 3 kids 7 and under.  I have a fourth due in a couple months.  After lots of soul searching on the issue last year, we bought a minivan.  We went with a used 2008 Odyssey with 45,000 miles.  We drive it about 6,000 miles a year.  I expect it to last at least 10 years.   I won't tell you what you need to do, but I will say why we went with an Odyssey.

1) I work full time and carpool to work.  I almost never drive.  My wife stays home with the kids full time.  She is the one driving the van most of the time.  The number one reason to get the Odyssey was that she wanted it.  Harmony in a marriage is always a good thing.  Whoever is driving the car should be happy with decision.  (Full disclosure: we could have afforded either so money wasn't the deciding factor.) 

2) Her friend has 4 kids under 7 as well and a Mazda 5, and the Mazda 5 is much smaller.  She looked at it, and sat in it, but didn't want the Mazda 5.  I am 6'5" and my wife is 6" tall.  Our kids will be tall kids.  A Mazda 5 is smaller and for us passenger/head room really matters.

3) Gas mileage on an Odyssey is pretty good, and close enough that the difference isn't a strong enough reason to buy the Mazda 5. 

4) The Odyssey has additional room for us to bring things in the very back, behind the last row of seats, when we travel together.  The Mazda 5 has no trunk space.  The Odyssey can fit my entire family and our tent, camping gear, and two bikes.  The extra space matters to us.  With 4 kids, the economics of flying as a family (6 seats on an airplane is expensive) doesn't make as much sense as driving.  We are visiting Colorado this summer.  We will be driving there.

5) After I spent some time driving the Odyssey with three kids in it, I also recognized the awesomeness of the options allowing us to remove the middle seat from the middle row, letting my older kids walk into the back without climbing over anything or going through the trunk, while I buckle my youngest daughter into the middle row into her car seat.  With another kid that will need help buckling in, the ability room to let the older kids into the back easily is priceless.  I would say that with 4 kids, you do need a full minivan. 

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2014, 12:20:01 PM »
If you're set on kid #4, I'd go the van route. In the age vehicle you're looking at, the best option is the Sienna. That vintage of Odysseys is notorious for transmission problems.

My 2000 Sienna is just starting to show rust, only has $135K on it, and is worth $2,500ish. I drive a little less per year and expect to get a good 3-4 more years out of it easily unless something major breaks, in which case I'd have to reevaluate.

You could easily spend LESS than $5K and invest the difference.

Spartana

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2014, 01:28:07 PM »
Have you thought of getting a small 4 cylinder SUV instead of a van?  I recently bought a new 2014 Dodge Journey (yes, a horrid Dodge!). It has a 4 cylinder eng and get between 20 - 27 mpg (also horrid but better then most 6 cylinder mini vans), has 3 rows of seats that all fold down, and a fair amount of space behind the third row seat. It's pretty much the size of a mid-sized SUV and larger then something like a Mazda 5 or most small SUV's. I got mine for $15K with some big dealer incentives.  Ths.e dealer I bought it from also had new Dodge Grand Caravans for around $16K - $17K and up. But all had V-6's with 15 - 25 mpg rating. And I have heard bad things about them - and Dodge in general - although I had a Dodge before (Dakota) and never had any problems even at close to 200,000 mile
« Last Edit: June 27, 2014, 01:34:37 PM by Spartana »

livrocentral

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2014, 10:25:16 AM »
Thanks to everyone for your comments!

We just had to upsize to an 8-passenger minivan (kid #6 on the way).  Wanna buy our '01 Odyssey? :P
Where are you located? We haven't found anything yet that we're sold on, so if you're nearby we should talk!

We could save you even more money by talking you out of having more than "standard car size number" of kids. The automotive industry has obviously decided that 3 kids is the optimum
Good point! Although with the size of some car's middle seats, you have to wonder if the industry is taking the "2.5 children" concept a little too literally.

Spartana

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2014, 12:35:48 PM »
Another suggestion besides the small 4 cylinder SUV is something like a small wagon like a Chevy HHR. I've seen them in your price range (cheaper then used SUVs and mini vans) and besides being retro looking they appear to seat 5 easily and have seats that fold down. Also Kia Rondos, Honda Elements and some others. Might not be enough room but you can add a roof rack and cargo box if needed.

Mrs. Frugalwoods

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2014, 12:47:37 PM »
We have a 1996 Honda Odyssey that has 201,000 miles on it and is still going strong. It's an absolutely awesome car.

Pros:
-Cargo & passenger space! Two removable captain's chairs plus a back-seat bench that folds flat. Both of these are easy enough to maneuver that I can do them by myself
-Incredibly reliable.

Cons:
-Not the greatest gas milage in the world.
-I'm not sure if the more recent Odysseys are made as well.
-Ours is so old it lacks modern safety features (probably not an issue in the model years you'd be looking at)

neo von retorch

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #16 on: July 02, 2014, 12:58:46 PM »
Just FYI - anything newer than a 2006 Odyssey has SOLID reliability according to Consumer Reports. 2004-2006 had some less than perfect ratings on Engine (major) and Transmission.

brewer12345

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #17 on: July 02, 2014, 01:41:02 PM »
Just FYI - anything newer than a 2006 Odyssey has SOLID reliability according to Consumer Reports. 2004-2006 had some less than perfect ratings on Engine (major) and Transmission.

We have a 2005 Odyssey we bought new.  It just flipped 91k miles.  Solid performer with a single exception: power steering problems.  There was a design flaw with the power steering module.  If you buy one of these, make sure this has been resolved.  We have not yet bothered, but the van has almost no power steering at low speeds, so we will be discussing this with the dealer this summer when it goes in for another recall.

We expect to have this van long enough that our 10 year old learns to drive in it when she turns 16.  Its not great in snow and ice, but part of the problem is tires that are about due for replacement, so I will fix that problem before winter.

CarDude

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #18 on: July 02, 2014, 02:50:24 PM »
Consumer Reports will only give me data back to 2004, so does anyone have good data on 1999-2003 models? I'm mainly focusing on Odysseys, Siennas, and the Caravan family. Location is southcentral Pennsylvania.

Stay away from the second gen ('99-'04) Odysseys; they had transmission problems. You're fine with any Sienna generation. Stay away from anything from Chrysler from both a reliability and safety perspective.

I definitely recommend a minivan if you plan on having 3 kids. It's possible to do 3 across in car seats in mid-sized or larger cars, but it's simply more convenient in a minivan or mid-sized or larger SUV, and the minivan will beat the SUV in mileage for a given weight every time unless hybrids are involved.

MayDay

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #19 on: July 02, 2014, 03:03:50 PM »
Fr all of you recmomending either wagons, hatchbacks, or vehicles with folding 3rd rows, I am curious:

Did you see the OP say that they plan on a 4th kid?

Have you ever tried to fit 4 kids in a car with a folding 3rd row? 

Because you all are cra.zy.  Crazy crazy crazy. 

Four kids means minivan unless you use it the way Goblin uses his van (ie once a week) and you never plan to go on a road trip.  And even then, a wagon or hatchback will.not.work.  So for the love of god, stop suggesting small to mid sized cars for a family that needs to fit 6 people in their car! 

CarDude

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #20 on: July 02, 2014, 03:14:14 PM »
Fr all of you recmomending either wagons, hatchbacks, or vehicles with folding 3rd rows, I am curious:

Did you see the OP say that they plan on a 4th kid?

Have you ever tried to fit 4 kids in a car with a folding 3rd row? 

Because you all are cra.zy.  Crazy crazy crazy. 

Four kids means minivan unless you use it the way Goblin uses his van (ie once a week) and you never plan to go on a road trip.  And even then, a wagon or hatchback will.not.work.  So for the love of god, stop suggesting small to mid sized cars for a family that needs to fit 6 people in their car!

Yeah, a 4th child automatically means minivan or SUV for practicality, and if it's an SUV, it's got to be at least a mid-sized one, since no small SUVs come with 3rd rows, and not too many mid-sized ones do. And between SUVs and minivans, the minivan will be more practical 9 out of 10 times.

okashira

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #21 on: July 02, 2014, 03:35:29 PM »
I would describe the rear seat of the Mazda 5 as tortuous.

You can't get to it from the front if you have car seats in the middle row. So kids have to climb over through the front or over through the back and buckle themselves.  Once they are big enough to handle that, they will quickly becone very cramped back there. Also the rear cargo space sucks if you are using the rear seat. I doubt you could fit bags for six for a week long trip plus odds and ends, a cooler, etc.

I say just go for the minivan, obviously.


Fr all of you recmomending either wagons, hatchbacks, or vehicles with folding 3rd rows, I am curious:

Did you see the OP say that they plan on a 4th kid?

Have you ever tried to fit 4 kids in a car with a folding 3rd row?

Because you all are cra.zy.  Crazy crazy crazy.

Four kids means minivan unless you use it the way Goblin uses his van (ie once a week) and you never plan to go on a road trip.  And even then, a wagon or hatchback will.not.work.  So for the love of god, stop suggesting small to mid sized cars for a family that needs to fit 6 people in their car! 


The complainypants is strong with this one.

Spartana

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #22 on: July 02, 2014, 06:07:41 PM »
Fr all of you recmomending either wagons, hatchbacks, or vehicles with folding 3rd rows, I am curious:

Did you see the OP say that they plan on a 4th kid?

Have you ever tried to fit 4 kids in a car with a folding 3rd row? 

Because you all are cra.zy.  Crazy crazy crazy. 

Four kids means minivan unless you use it the way Goblin uses his van (ie once a week) and you never plan to go on a road trip.  And even then, a wagon or hatchback will.not.work.  So for the love of god, stop suggesting small to mid sized cars for a family that needs to fit 6 people in their car!
I have a 4 cylinder Dodge Journey. Gets 20 to 27 mpg (crappy but better than a mini van). It has seating for 7 - big seats - and room in the back even with all 3 rows of seats up.  Cost my $15K new (2014) with all the bells and whistles (not mustachian but I have a 14 year old truck that has close to 200K miles). Older ones can be had for a lot less.

mlipps

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #23 on: July 02, 2014, 06:10:19 PM »
Sometimes you can get older copies of the annual Consumer Reports buying guide at the library.

MayDay

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #24 on: July 02, 2014, 06:48:30 PM »
Fr all of you recmomending either wagons, hatchbacks, or vehicles with folding 3rd rows, I am curious:

Did you see the OP say that they plan on a 4th kid?

Have you ever tried to fit 4 kids in a car with a folding 3rd row? 

Because you all are cra.zy.  Crazy crazy crazy. 

Four kids means minivan unless you use it the way Goblin uses his van (ie once a week) and you never plan to go on a road trip.  And even then, a wagon or hatchback will.not.work.  So for the love of god, stop suggesting small to mid sized cars for a family that needs to fit 6 people in their car!
I have a 4 cylinder Dodge Journey. Gets 20 to 27 mpg (crappy but better than a mini van). It has seating for 7 - big seats - and room in the back even with all 3 rows of seats up.  Cost my $15K new (2014) with all the bells and whistles (not mustachian but I have a 14 year old truck that has close to 200K miles). Older ones can be had for a lot less.

My SIL has one.  We put my younger and her kid in the middle seat (in car seats).  My sin had to then crawl through the back fucking hatch to get into his booster seat, and then either had to buckle himself or I had to contort myself through the hatch and over the back seat to buckle him.  Good luck with that on a road trip when you have luggage in the back row.  Plus the leg room was tiny so sure it worked when he was 5, but you are not going to getting a 14 year old back there.  Thus, I said it was fine if you rareLy use the car and never take long road trips.

Look, you can call it complaint-pants if you want.  I genuinely want to know of those who either suggested a small car or called me complainy-pants have actually fit four kids in any of these cars.  Because I have fit three in some of them, and I can tell you first hand that it fucking sucks.  To do it every once in awhile, sure.  Doable.  If you walk/bike 90% of the time and never take a longer trip that requires luggage?  By all means.  To do it daily, after you already spent for-fucking-ever just getting all four of the little heathens out the door, potties/in coats/nursed/dry diapers, to then spend the amount of time it takes to wrestle them into the perfect fitting puzzle of car seat and booster buckles, half the time in the pouring rain or freezing cold?  Well, congrats, you are a better mustacian than me.  You want a prize for having the tiniest possible car that you can safely wedge four kids in?  You got it.  Gold star for you.


Spartana

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #25 on: July 02, 2014, 06:53:41 PM »
Fr all of you recmomending either wagons, hatchbacks, or vehicles with folding 3rd rows, I am curious:

Did you see the OP say that they plan on a 4th kid?

Have you ever tried to fit 4 kids in a car with a folding 3rd row? 

Because you all are cra.zy.  Crazy crazy crazy. 

Four kids means minivan unless you use it the way Goblin uses his van (ie once a week) and you never plan to go on a road trip.  And even then, a wagon or hatchback will.not.work.  So for the love of god, stop suggesting small to mid sized cars for a family that needs to fit 6 people in their car!
I have a 4 cylinder Dodge Journey. Gets 20 to 27 mpg (crappy but better than a mini van). It has seating for 7 - big seats - and room in the back even with all 3 rows of seats up.  Cost my $15K new (2014) with all the bells and whistles (not mustachian but I have a 14 year old truck that has close to 200K miles). Older ones can be had for a lot less.

My SIL has one.  We put my younger and her kid in the middle seat (in car seats).  My sin had to then crawl through the back fucking hatch to get into his booster seat, and then either had to buckle himself or I had to contort myself through the hatch and over the back seat to buckle him.  Good luck with that on a road trip when you have luggage in the back row.  Plus the leg room was tiny so sure it worked when he was 5, but you are not going to getting a 14 year old back there.  Thus, I said it was fine if you rareLy use the car and never take long road trips.

Look, you can call it complaint-pants if you want.  I genuinely want to know of those who either suggested a small car or called me complainy-pants have actually fit four kids in any of these cars.  Because I have fit three in some of them, and I can tell you first hand that it fucking sucks.  To do it every once in awhile, sure.  Doable.  If you walk/bike 90% of the time and never take a longer trip that requires luggage?  By all means.  To do it daily, after you already spent for-fucking-ever just getting all four of the little heathens out the door, potties/in coats/nursed/dry diapers, to then spend the amount of time it takes to wrestle them into the perfect fitting puzzle of car seat and booster buckles, half the time in the pouring rain or freezing cold?  Well, congrats, you are a better mustacian than me.  You want a prize for having the tiniest possible car that you can safely wedge four kids in?  You got it.  Gold star for you.
Geeze - Unbunch the panties (or have a very stiff drink :-)!) before you blow a gasket. we are just offering suggestions to the OP based on our own experiences - and they did ask to be talked out of purchasing a mini van if possible - it's in the title.  If it doesn't work for you, that's cool, but it may work for the OP since their kids may be older, younger, bigger, smaller, whatever.  And considering they had a wagon before - and I assumed if it hadn't been totaled would have kept it - then our responses are appropriate.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2014, 06:57:15 PM by Spartana »

Goldielocks

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #26 on: July 02, 2014, 06:59:57 PM »
Okay -- I drove a Grand Caravan for 12+ years, until it died last year.

Cheapest vehicle I have ever owned, for maintenance, purchase price, insurance, but not for fuel.  Fuel (on weeks when it was used to drive kids to school less than 1 mile because Husband had an injury and could not walk) was 11 mpg.   Way too many stop signs!  You can only get good mileage with older models if you are not stopping / starting constantly, it is a heavy vehicle.  They are good mpg on highways though.  We purchased a model with the larger engine and cooling package for towing a *utility* trailer.  This meant we had much longer engine life than others, and not much more money for used.  Died after 14 yrs, 280,000 km when the computer failed and it was over $1000 to fix, even using parts from a wrecking yard.

We purchased pre MMM, of course. 

Top 10 reasons to have minivan with 7 seats
1) Drive lots of kids to expensive not at your house birthday parties  (not MMM!)
2) Construction vehicle -- the best ever - low loading, utility trailer capable, etc. etc.  fits 14 ft trim inside, etc.
3) Pick up family at airport (like once a year? not MMM reason.. Taxi anyone?)
4) Massive camping hauling vehicle., Massive ski vehicle.   (not MMM?)
5) Excellent long distance driver (16 hrs in a car with back problems- not and issue with those captain seats!)
6) Have more than 3 kids or kids have friends a lot.
7) Soccer practice and you haul everyone (not MMM, find a closer activity)
8) Lots of kid strollers and "stuff" to haul everywhere (not MMM)
9) Can pick up more things at Costco (not MMM)
10) May sit higher and see road better.

Big drawbacks over wagon -- accessing the roof rack is very hard!  Older models have third seats that are heavy so don't get moved or get damaged in storage.  Fuel ecomony sucks, so start liking the bike for short trips...  We almost bought the Subaru wagon as a replacement, FYI.

sulaco

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #27 on: July 04, 2014, 08:46:49 PM »
This is a timely thread. We just found out a fourth is on the way and I've accepted that a minivan is in our not to distant future.

We went from 1 to 3 in December and bought a Forester thinking that would be enough for 3. Day to  day it's fine. Once we're done with the gigantic twin stroller we'd have a lot more storage, but we riding know how well it would work as the kids got older, it was tight with three car seats. On extended trips, we're packed in tight (primarily because of baby stuff).

Fortunately, we have a good idea of what we need now; unfortunately, it would have been better if we would have just bit the minivan bullet to begin with (hindsight and all that). I think we're set on a Sienna or Odyssey, but haven't done to much research yet.

The bigger question for us is whether to keep the Forster (easily seats five, lots of storage, but only 20-23mpg), or the tC (seats four, limited storage with passengers, 27-29mpg).

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #28 on: July 05, 2014, 05:36:19 AM »

The bigger question for us is whether to keep the Forster (easily seats five, lots of storage, but only 20-23mpg), or the tC (seats four, limited storage with passengers, 27-29mpg).

Is the tC mainly used for commute purposes? If so, keep it, or trade that as well for even better fuel mileage. Or bike commute ;)

mm1970

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #29 on: July 05, 2014, 03:26:06 PM »
Fr all of you recmomending either wagons, hatchbacks, or vehicles with folding 3rd rows, I am curious:

Did you see the OP say that they plan on a 4th kid?

Have you ever tried to fit 4 kids in a car with a folding 3rd row? 

Because you all are cra.zy.  Crazy crazy crazy. 

Four kids means minivan unless you use it the way Goblin uses his van (ie once a week) and you never plan to go on a road trip.  And even then, a wagon or hatchback will.not.work.  So for the love of god, stop suggesting small to mid sized cars for a family that needs to fit 6 people in their car!
I like the Mazda5 though - it depends on the age of the kids.  Clearly, the second row is for kids in carseats, and the back row is for kids who can climb.  For long trips, you'd need a roof rack.

That said - my neighbor has 3 kids, she's got a Sienna. Many of my friends have Siennas.

My friend had twins last year.  While she was pregnant they decided to replace her husband's jeep (they also had a 3 year old).  I said "minivan!"  She said "hubby won't do it, it's his turn to pick the car, getting an Explorer".  I told her they wouldn't fit.  Yep, the only way they could get the 3 year old in the Explorer was to put him in through the trunk.

So they traded in her car for a minivan.  Sienna.

You probably don't *need* one, but it depends on how much driving you do, and how far you go.  If you travel a fair bit with the whole family, it's better to have one.  If it's rare, then you can take two cars or rent a minivan.

Jules13

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #30 on: July 05, 2014, 03:39:36 PM »
I haven't read all of the replies so sorry if repeating.  We have a 2006 Sienna and LOVE it.  We bought it used (looked and looked and looked and found a good deal), a few years ago and it has been awesome.  Super roomy, great for car trips and picking up extra kids at school (we only have 2 kids), but like to be able to pick up extras when needed.  A good friend has the Mazda 5 and though she loves it, it wouldn't have worked for us.  It's a LOT smaller, but that is what she wanted. It can fit 3 kids without car seats in the backseat, but only just.  The seats aren't nearly as comfy as the Sienna either.  They are hard/stiff.  I wouldn't want to ride a long way in it, though it's fine for around town.  Good luck.

livrocentral

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #31 on: July 05, 2014, 09:17:59 PM »
We fit now in a wagon, no problem--the minivan is for when we move up to 4 kids, but we're thinking of buying now just to save the time later, since a wagon wasn't going to save us much on gas anyway.

Unfortunately I have a deadline--my brother is back from an extended trip on Wednesday, and he'll need his car back. I have some non-negotiable car trips this coming so if I don't buy one before Wednesday, I'm going to need to rent, borrow, or steal.

At the moment, although I've searched through hundreds of posts on Craigslist in my region, I have two vans I have both seen and not ruled out. One is a 2005 Town & Country with 128k miles. Met the seller today--got a really good vibe, but the car needs some work. I'd want to take it to a mechanic early next week, see what it needs to pass PA inspection, and factor that into the price. I'll probably end up paying about $4500 (including any repairs) for that van.

The other is a 2004 Sienna. Beautiful car, only 100k miles. Really well taken care of. But it was at a dealership and although I disliked the dealer's tactics, I had to agree that it's a great car for a fair price: $7200.

Our plan was to only spend about $5000. But the Sienna feels like the better vehicle.

P.S. It's amazing what "convenience" features they've come up with now! Some of them just strike me as another thing to break, but the innovation is nonetheless impressive. And stow-n-go seating is awesome!

greaper007

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Re: Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #32 on: July 05, 2014, 11:17:12 PM »
I bought a 2000 Senna with 138,000 miles for $3,800 this fall.    So far it's been one of the best cars I've ever owned.   Tons of room for the kids and hauling stuff and I can do 25-26mpg on the highway, which is really pretty decent for a car this size.    I lucked out because I bought it from a mechanic who was selling it for his daughter.    In my experience, never buy a car from a mechanic unless it was driven by their spouse or child, they tend to just go through beat up cars every 6 months or so.  YMMV

If you do go with a first gen Sienna (I would, they're considerably less than subsequent generations and the newer vans don't offer that much more in terms of options but they are safer) be careful with oil changes.    I do mobil 1 every 5000 miles and plan to do the transmission fluid about every 10,000 for the next few changes (then go back to 30,000).   These engines are known sludgers and you don't want to push your luck.

alsoknownasDean

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Minivan recommendation, or talk me out of it
« Reply #33 on: July 06, 2014, 04:55:24 AM »
If you're looking to spend $5K or less, might be worth buying mainly on condition. Could you bargain on the Sienna? It is a ten year old car after all (11 considering the weird practice of a car being built/complied/sold in one year but being the next year's 'model'). Would the Sienna be worth the extra $2700 over the Town & Country?
« Last Edit: July 06, 2014, 05:00:53 AM by alsoknownasDean »