Author Topic: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?  (Read 12705 times)

Rosamond

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MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« on: May 17, 2013, 11:30:05 AM »
Hi all, I'm a new reader here and have been going through the archives for the past couple weeks, and I now have a question.  My husband and I are anticipating a 3rd kid in the relatively near future (current kids are age 2 and 4), and we currently have a 2008 Subaru Outback (bought used, paid cash) which absolutely will not fit 3 car seats, so we are going to need at least one new car, maybe two--the question is, what car should it be? 

Other background info: we also have two biggish dogs (60-65 lbs), and we are looking for a vehicle that will transport our whole family comfortably.  On a typical weekday, the car will transport me and the kids to/from work and school, but nearly every weekend and some weeknights (esp. when the weather is nice) we use the car to take the kids and dogs out to a park.  We live in the city to maintain <5 mile commute to work and school, but consequently have to drive to places where the kids and dogs can run free (nothing but small playgrounds in walking distance, and I'm not insane enough to try biking through the streets with 2-3 kids and 2 big dogs to the larger parks in the city--not going to happen).  We also make fairly regular road trips of 4-9 hours each way to visit our families and other such things, so we would like some extra room for a couple suitcases, a stroller, and a cooler, although I have been intrigued by the idea of an exterior box on the tow hitch I've seen on this site, so maybe that cuts down on the interior room we really need.  We also happen to live in a city which gets a fair bit of snow and ice, and is extremely hilly, so we appreciate having AWD. 

Here's the kicker--our other car is a 2009 Buick Enclave (bought used in 2011, paid cash).  That SHOULD be a car that fits all our needs, except we weren't thinking ahead when we bought it, and it has two chairs instead of a bench in the second row, meaning that with a third kid, a car seat would have to go in the center of the third row, making it impossible to fold down the third row in a way that we could comfortably fit the dogs for any distance.  We have appreciated having one wagon and one "big car" so that we have one car that comfortably holds all of us, and one that is more fuel efficient that CAN hold all of us if necessary--although honestly the 08 Outback has kind of sucked for this since the interior room is really cramped for a car of its size, esp. with the car seats, so my 6'1" husband is miserable riding in it and the fuel efficiency we have been getting is only about 3 mpg better than the Enclave. 

So, that's the background.  We will have to replace the Outback.  I'm not eager to replace the Enclave since we are basically happy with it, it can fit everyone in a pinch (with the dogs on the floor and the kids complaining about the dogs squishing their legs), and we paid cash for it just a couple years ago and would take a loss on selling it now.  But if we keep it that means we will probably need two "big cars" and that feels wasteful and sort of makes me feel sick.  So I would consider replacing both cars if it really seemed to make good financial and logistical sense.  If we were starting from scratch, I think I would choose an Enclave/Traverse/Acadia/Explorer/Flex with a second row bench, and a Toyota Venza/2011+ Outback (bigger than the 08 model)/or ...??? (it is hard to find a vehicle that fits 7 and gets decent mpg).  We prefer to get cars that are 2-5 years old and keep them 10+ years--that was our plan with our current cars, and it would've worked fine with 2 kids, but not with 3.  I know MMM has actually referred to the Enclave as a clown car, and I get that on some level, but with 7 regular passengers I don't think it's significantly worse than a van, which is often suggested.  For instance, a used 2011 Honda Odyssey costs about $25k and gets about 18/27 mpg, while I can find a used 2011 Enclave for about $26k, with 17/24 mpg and AWD--keeping in mind that we do mostly city driving, so the first number is more meaningful to us.  Enclave's lower end twin, the Chevy Traverse, is even cheaper at about $21k.  The Enclave and its twins have been rated the safest car on the road by informedforlife.org, which means something to me.  I have read a lot of material here discounting those sort of safety ratings, but I am not really convinced.  We will only purchase cars with very good safety ratings--I don't mind paying a bit extra for that since I consider it a form of insurance against death or serious bodily injury from the most dangerous activity we do (driving).  We also eat healthy and exercise, etc.--I do not believe it has to be either/or, I will take all the "health" insurance I can get, within reason.   

Ok, sorry for the long story--what would you do?  Sell just the Outback and get a _______?  Or sell both the Enclave and the Outback and get _____?  We will pay cash for any car we get, don't want to spend much more than $25k.  FWIW, we are effectively debt free, have a sizeable emergency fund, own a home with no mortgage, and make enough $ to max out all retirement accounts, 529s, and contribute significant funds to taxable savings accounts each year.

jpo

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2013, 11:58:35 AM »
This whole situation seems like it could be solved with a decent used minivan. I would sell the Enclave so you've got options: a "commuter" vehicle and a "people hauler" vehicle.

Rosamond

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2013, 01:08:07 PM »
Thanks, JPO.  But if we sell the Enclave, we'll need two new cars, since the 08 Outback won't hold 3 kids (I've spent a lot of time on the web looking for anyone who's managed it, and it appears undoable).  So you suggest a minivan as the hauler to replace the Enclave, presumably--any ideas for the "commuter" that would hold 1-2 adults, 3 kids in car seats, 2 dogs, preferably have AWD, and get significantly better mpg than the Enclave/minivan?  Because if the second vehicle doesn't get significantly better mpgs, then I'm not sure why I wouldn't just keep the Enclave and get another big hauler--if I'm not saving gas, then it seems like I'm just avoiding having two big cars because it looks bad, not because the alternative is really much better.

If we replace both cars, I have thought about replacing the Outback with a sedan/hatchback that will fit the 3 kids but not the dogs, in which case the options are greater for getting a higher mpg vehicle.  My reluctance with that is that my husband and I both often work long and/or odd hours, including weekends, nights, etc., and it's not always plannable ahead of time--so it feels like there's a good chance that one of us would get stuck fairly frequently with a car that doesn't do the job we want ("sorry kids/dogs, no hiking trip today, dad's got the big car and he's stuck at work").  Not the end of the world, clearly, but an aggravation I'd be happy to avoid if possible.     

TLV

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2013, 02:08:11 PM »
Have you looked into narrower carseats (e.g. Sunshine Kids brand), or perhaps a "safety vest" (like this one) for the older kid?

I am really surprised that you can't fit 3 across in an outback. We have a scion xA,which is much smaller overall (though surprisingly with an inch more rear hiproom), and can fit two carseats plus an adult in the back seat just fine (3 average carseats probably wouldn't fit, but 2 and a safety vest or narrow booster seat would).

jpo

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2013, 02:09:32 PM »
Thanks, JPO.  But if we sell the Enclave, we'll need two new cars, since the 08 Outback won't hold 3 kids (I've spent a lot of time on the web looking for anyone who's managed it, and it appears undoable).  So you suggest a minivan as the hauler to replace the Enclave, presumably--any ideas for the "commuter" that would hold 1-2 adults, 3 kids in car seats, 2 dogs, preferably have AWD, and get significantly better mpg than the Enclave/minivan?  Because if the second vehicle doesn't get significantly better mpgs, then I'm not sure why I wouldn't just keep the Enclave and get another big hauler--if I'm not saving gas, then it seems like I'm just avoiding having two big cars because it looks bad, not because the alternative is really much better.

If we replace both cars, I have thought about replacing the Outback with a sedan/hatchback that will fit the 3 kids but not the dogs, in which case the options are greater for getting a higher mpg vehicle.  My reluctance with that is that my husband and I both often work long and/or odd hours, including weekends, nights, etc., and it's not always plannable ahead of time--so it feels like there's a good chance that one of us would get stuck fairly frequently with a car that doesn't do the job we want ("sorry kids/dogs, no hiking trip today, dad's got the big car and he's stuck at work").  Not the end of the world, clearly, but an aggravation I'd be happy to avoid if possible.   
The idea behind the "commuter" is that it only holds a couple people, fuel efficiently, because that's what it's used for a majority of the time.

So, if your husband is going to work by himself, he always takes the commuter.

chatsc

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2013, 02:22:45 PM »
we have a 07 mitsubishi outlander, which is average on gas.  it has massive trunk room and easily fits 3 sunshine radian carseats across.  we had a 120 lb dog and she was fine in the back, with all our stuff. 

i dont know about these safety vests people are talking about.  we live in Ontario and kids have to in a full carseat until they are 4 years old, minimum.  Usually to hit the weight, most kids are closer to 5 years old,  then they have to be in a booster seat until they are 8 (which is just as wide as a carseat).

good luck. 

we are thinking of the 13 Pathfinder in a few years (when it comes into our price range). it seems pretty family friendly. 

Koshka

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2013, 02:31:12 PM »
We also have large dogs and 3 kids (but they are older and one of them is out of the house now) and fairly often need to haul around 5 people.

One of our cars won't handle all of that.  It is a hatchback and will seat 4.  Also, in a pinch, the back seat can be put down and one dog crate can be put in to take one dog to the vet in an emergency.  We feel comfortable with that for handling most driving situations and we could even handle one dog with 2 people in the car if we had too.

Our other car is a Ford Explorer with the bench seat in the second row.  So we can fit 5 people in there and put the back down and have 2 dogs or we can have 7 people with no dogs. 

In our situation, I would be trying to get one vehicle that could carry everyone and both dogs at once but wouldn't think it a priority to get two vehicles that could do all that.  So I would sell one of your vehicles but not the other.

TLV

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2013, 02:36:45 PM »
i dont know about these safety vests people are talking about.  we live in Ontario and kids have to in a full carseat until they are 4 years old, minimum.  Usually to hit the weight, most kids are closer to 5 years old,  then they have to be in a booster seat until they are 8 (which is just as wide as a carseat).


Legality can certainly vary with your location. Check your local laws.

Where I am (Washington State), the requirement is a "child restraint system" that "meets the Federal Motor Vehical Safety Standards," and the vest I linked to meets those standards according to the manufacturer's website.


Edit: A brief internet search confirms what chatsc said about Canada. If you live in Canada, the vests are only legal if your child has "special needs" (with autism listed as an example).
« Last Edit: May 17, 2013, 02:49:47 PM by TLV »

Dynasty

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2013, 02:46:39 PM »


Other background info: we also have two biggish dogs (60-65 lbs), and we are looking for a vehicle that will transport our whole family comfortably.  On a typical weekday, the car will transport me and the kids to/from work and school, but nearly every weekend and some weeknights (esp. when the weather is nice) we use the car to take the kids and dogs out to a park.  We live in the city to maintain <5 mile commute to work and school, but consequently have to drive to places where the kids and dogs can run free (nothing but small playgrounds in walking distance,

Ok, sorry for the long story--what would you do? 

Just out of curiosity, why would you want to have such large dogs and live in the city to have to drive them places so they can get exercise?

Sweet Betsy

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2013, 03:00:27 PM »
My sister has an 8 passenger Toyota Sienna and she can fit three car seats on the 2nd row.  The 3rd row folds down,  so there should be plenty of room for the dogs when the whole family is out and about.  We've had our Sienna for 10 years (150,000 miles) and the only non maintenance issue we've had with it is a new radiator.   We fully expect at least another 100,000 miles out of it.  Gas mileage for our 2004 Sienna is 27 mpg highway.  We put studded snow tires (check to see if legal in your area) on the van during the winter and it drives like a dream in the snow...safe as can be.


Keep whatever other car you want to keep (sounds like the Enclave) and get a minivan of some sort to cart everyone around in for the long hauls. 

Rosamond

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2013, 03:38:29 PM »
TLV, as far as I can tell, three definitely won't fit in the 08 Outback.  Not only is the interior space in that car functionally awful for how big of a car it is (we once rented a Hyundai Sonata that felt far roomier), but there is a giant hump in the middle of the back seat that affects car seat installation.  I have searched extensively on car-seat.org in their "three across" thread and elsewhere, and nobody seems to have done it with any car seat configuration.  There is currently about 6" of space between our two car seats in the Outback--it is pitiful.  We do have pretty big seats (our kids are tall), so that could be improved somewhat, but not enough to fit a third seat or even a skinny child in.

JPO, my husband and I have slightly staggered work schedules so that I drop the kids off in the morning, and he can usually pick them up in the afternoon.  We will both need to be able to fit all 3 kids on a daily basis. 

chatsc, it looks like the Pathfinder does get pretty nice mileage for a bigger car--I will check into that to see if newish used models have similar mpgs and good safety ratings.

Koshka, I think you are right in saying it's sensible not to insist on two cars that hold everyone including dogs.  It's a want, not a need, for sure.  But if we only sell one, it has to be the Outback (since it won't fit 3 kids), leaving us with the current Enclave (nice, paid for, 17/24 mpg) and something similar (Traverse/Explorer/minivan etc.) that comfortably hauls everyone, probably in a similar mpg range.  Although I don't like the thought of having two big cars, that's sort of what I'm inclined to do unless it makes a lot of financial/logistical sense to do otherwise.  But that actually leaves me with two cars that fit everyone plus dogs, although not comfortably in the current Enclave. 

If for the moment I assume I don't need two cars that will fit everyone + dogs, then we'd be looking at selling both cars--sticking with something like a Enclave/Traverse/Explorer etc. with a second row bench for the hauler, and looking at what smaller vehicles (pref. with AWD) get great safety ratings, will work with 3 car seats, and get the best mpg.   My biggest remaining hang-up with that plan is the idea of selling the Enclave we just bought in '11.  I can't remember exactly what we paid, but say it was around $25k, I don't think we could trade it today for much more than $20k, and that loss stings.  We could get another, less nice hauler (like the Traverse) for about the trade-in value of the Enclave, so it could be a wash on price, but I guess I'm not excited to trade "down" (yes, yes, I know, that is definitely antimustachian but (1) I'm new here and (2) I really don't splurge on much in life--the Enclave was a splurge that we planned to keep for a long time).  Then we'd have to replace the Outback as well--since I'm not sure what we'd be replacing it with, I'm not sure of the $$ details, but let's say we can get about $10k on trade (I think that's realistic) and replace it with a nice newish used sedan/hatchback that fits 3 carseats for about $18k and hopefully does better on gas than our Outback.  Hmmm....     

Rosamond

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2013, 03:47:09 PM »


Other background info: we also have two biggish dogs (60-65 lbs), and we are looking for a vehicle that will transport our whole family comfortably.  On a typical weekday, the car will transport me and the kids to/from work and school, but nearly every weekend and some weeknights (esp. when the weather is nice) we use the car to take the kids and dogs out to a park.  We live in the city to maintain <5 mile commute to work and school, but consequently have to drive to places where the kids and dogs can run free (nothing but small playgrounds in walking distance,

Ok, sorry for the long story--what would you do? 

Just out of curiosity, why would you want to have such large dogs and live in the city to have to drive them places so they can get exercise?

Well, we'd actually rather live in the country and have lots of room for the kids and dogs and a menagerie of other animals to run around.  But then we'd have long commutes because our jobs are necessarily in the city.  So, we live in the city for now.  We could sell our current paid off house and move to a different house in the city which is walkable to the big parks, but that's a big transaction cost just to avoid driving a few miles on the weekends.  And last, of course, you are probably thinking we could get rid of our dogs.  That is not in the plans, since they are a part of our family, bring a lot of richness and joy to our lives' and to the kids' lives, and incidentally also function as a decent security system, which is a non-negligible benefit while living in our city house. 

Rosamond

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2013, 03:50:43 PM »
My sister has an 8 passenger Toyota Sienna and she can fit three car seats on the 2nd row.  The 3rd row folds down,  so there should be plenty of room for the dogs when the whole family is out and about.  We've had our Sienna for 10 years (150,000 miles) and the only non maintenance issue we've had with it is a new radiator.   We fully expect at least another 100,000 miles out of it.  Gas mileage for our 2004 Sienna is 27 mpg highway.  We put studded snow tires (check to see if legal in your area) on the van during the winter and it drives like a dream in the snow...safe as can be.


Keep whatever other car you want to keep (sounds like the Enclave) and get a minivan of some sort to cart everyone around in for the long hauls.
  I will have to look into this studded snow tire concept more.  I have always heard/thought that AWD/4WD was preferable for snow and ice, but if snow tires will do the job, then that would open up our options considerably....

sdp

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2013, 04:10:43 PM »
My brother just bought a 2003 chrysler minivan with just about 100K miles on it, mostly highway roadtrippin miles.  he paid 3500 bucks for it.  he has a 2yr old, a 12yr old and a 15yr old and two golden retrievers, they all fit fine.  he was looking at some toyotas and honda minivans for twice that amount....... same year same mileage, go figure.

orcas50

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2013, 06:29:47 PM »
I have an '03 Outback, and it is possible to fit 3 across: 1 Sunshine Kids (Radian) and two boosters. It is tight, but doable. I only used this configuration once a week or about 2 years, for carpooling purposes (I have 2 kids and drove a neighbor's to school), and I agree that it wouldn't be ideal for every day, you really have to wrestle a bit with the seat belts and boosters to make it work.

Honestly, it seems like replacing the Subaru with a older mini-van might be best for you. You seem to really want to keep the Enclave. I also know people with 3 kids who drive Honda Pilots (not Mustachian, but is any SUV Mustachian?)
« Last Edit: May 17, 2013, 11:50:39 PM by Susan »

milla

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Re: MMM car/vehicle for 3 little kids and 2 big dogs?
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2013, 10:07:05 PM »
I live in snow and ice land half the year and 4WD and AWD make no difference. Snow tires do. AWD helps if you live in the mountains, which some of my family members do... but we just have a plain ole' Camry and we visit them in the dead of winter without any problems.