April 12, 2010

The Minivan Dilemma

Several facts in evidence before we begin:

1. Before we bought our house a couple years ago, we paid off our cars. The significance? We have no car payments.
2. My wife - who is lovely - is stubborn.
3. My credibility with money must always be questioned. Beth's should not be.

My car is becoming quirky. In the car-owning world quirky is a nice way of saying unreliable. Like all Volkswagens, it's plagued with electronic problems. In my Jetta, these have manifested themselves in my stereo. For whatever reason, the stereo often stops working and can only be restarted after going over a particularly bad bump. Or kicking the crap out of the center console. If you ever see a guy driving a Jetta around town swerving radically, that's me. I'm not drunk, I'm just trying to get my stereo working again. The other issue? The Volkswagen was kind of a Hitler thing and, while I don't really begrudge anyone else driving a VW, that fact bugs me just a teesy bit.

So there's that.

There's also the fact that my wife drives a smaller-style SUV. It's prefect for two kids but it presupposes the fact that your children will be antisocial and never have friends. For, if they did, there would never be anywhere for them to ride. Our car's full at four. If anyone else wants to hitch a ride, they're getting strapped to the roof.

Now, I realize this is un-hip and un-cool to just about the greatest degree possible but I want a minivan. I want to ditch my unreliable third-reichmobile, swap cars with Beth and buy her a minivan.

Christ, I can't believe I typed that. I should be forced to give up my guitars, my Led Zeppelin and Coldplay albums, my membership card in the Cool Guys Club and, quite possibly, my penis.

Beth disagrees.

Many of her points are valid. Minivans aren't awesome or trendy or hip. They're not cheap either. And the fact that we don't have any car payments as it is just makes the prospect seem that much worse. But I'd argue that the end justifies the means. Even if the end means that my seventeen year old self would laugh mercilessly at my 37 year-old self.

So, I'm not asking you to pick sides, but, really...who's right?

(Okay, yeah, I am asking you to pick sides.)

Posted by Chris at April 12, 2010 6:39 AM

Well, we're sort of in the same boat as you. Since I work from home, my husband drives the new car to work and the old unreliable Honda sits in the driveway in case I need to go somewhere in an emergency. But the old unreliable car is old (1998) and unreliable (parts everywhere going bad) so I'd rather have something newer. And since my stepson came to live with us, we are a family of 5, which really has to squeeze into the new car - a Kia Sorento. I'd like a minivan, but my husband doesn't want 2 car payments at the same time. So? I have to wait til the Kia is paid off. Boo.

Posted by: Traci at April 12, 2010 7:09 AM

I have no opinion but i have a VW Passat and I have no electrical problems. Just wanted to say that.

Don't buy Beth a car she doesn't want. I'll say that.

Posted by: jodifur at April 12, 2010 7:36 AM

The stereo thing sound like a loose wire to me. Do you have any mechanically-inclined friends you could barter the usual to (a case of beer to be shared between you once the stereo is fixed, say) to have it checked out? At least to avoid further annoyance until you get a new vehicle?

I think I'm with Beth on this one. You could always do what my friends who have kids and *no* car do, and just *rent* a minivan for when you need to transport a soccer team.

Also, as you've maybe noticed in your Jetta, the blind spots on minivans (or maybe minivan drivers?) *suck*. Maybe they feel safer in them, but they're a menace to everyone else. My 17-year-old self wouldn't be laughing so much as diving out of the way.

Posted by: Kat at April 12, 2010 7:41 AM

My dad once bought my mom a van for her birthday, without asking her. All I can tell you, is never, ever (ever) do that.

Posted by: Heather at April 12, 2010 7:52 AM

We have 3 kids so I have owned the following:

1. a minivan
2. two suburbans
3. a Toyota Sequoia (a good year for one btw!)

We liked being able to seat 7 - so yes, friends, extended family etc could all pile in.

The minivan was the LEAST cool of all....

Posted by: Debbie at April 12, 2010 7:57 AM

Wait -- you mean being married doesn't automatically come with life long car payments?? Gahhh, my husband is SUCH a liar!

Seriously, I wouldn't know life without a car payment. Wait, I think I had 2 months without any car payments one year and then my husband decided we needed a new car...I've had 3 at one time because of a work vehicle.

I am in agreement with others above 1) the stereo could be just a loose wire and 2) don't buy your wife a car she doesn't want. and 3) don't base your car purchase on what "might happen in the future" ie, rides for other kids. Just because you're car is full at 4 doesn't mean you or Beth will be in that car with the extra child, or that Mia will be in the car with Beth and Owen and his friend.

I had a minivan - it was ok, not my first choice. It was the only vehicle though that we ran into the ground (108,000 in our house is truly a miracle.) We only had one kid and I don't think it was ever full.

Posted by: NancyJ at April 12, 2010 8:16 AM

I'm with Beth. Wait a couple year before you actually have other kids to drive around and save for the minivan now, so that later you don't have car payments.

Posted by: Heather @Critter Chronicles at April 12, 2010 8:17 AM

We finally caved and bought a minivan 3 years ago and I hate it (it is my car, my husband drives a truck to work - he is a carpenter). It is handy when taking friends with the kids but I would say 90% of the time I ma in it alone (driving to and from work). But we did have many years where we didn't drive because our car was too small to carry everyone so we have made up some rides. I still vote no minivan. It is like driving in a tunnel, hard to see out of and really hard to see behind when backing up.

Posted by: beth anne at April 12, 2010 8:19 AM

When we decided to have a third child, we realized that a minivan was probably in our future. 3 car seats do not fit safely across the backseat of our Explorer. So, we bought a Honda Odyssey last August and welcomed baby#3 in November. While it is not cool, I LOVE the convenience factor. I didn't want to deal with strapping kids into car seats in a 3rd row SUV.
Since our kids are little, I never thought about the friend factor. I think you have two options: SUV with 3rd row or minivan. We happened to get a great deal on a used minivan and cost was definitely a factor for us. I like the larger SUVs but most are out of our price range and are not good on gas.
I would prefer a cooler ride but for the time being, I like the minivan for the convenience/ versatility and I like Honda for reliability. But the Dodge and Chrysler models have some fun features and I wish I had looked at those models more. I wish you luck with the decision-making process!

Posted by: Jane in Pa at April 12, 2010 8:24 AM

I say wait until the kids are old enough to have lots of activities with friends and you have to share the driving with the other parents. THIS way you can save for the car to either 1) lower the payment or 2) pay outright. No car payments are awesome and not something to take lightly and just give away so you can have a working stereo! I'd vote with Beth and go to the mechanic and just get a new stereo for the car.

Posted by: daisy at April 12, 2010 8:26 AM

P.S.: I just had to add that I do not find a minivan any worse than an SUV in terms of blindspots. I think that has more to do with the driver than the vehicle.

Posted by: Jane in Pa at April 12, 2010 8:28 AM

1. DO NOT buy Beth a vehicle that she does not want.
2. Do save some money and buy a used vehicle. Dealerships and places like Carmax have lots of great cars and SUV's.
3. Do go out and test drive a few. We've been looking for a while trying to decide what to do. To consider: Kia Rondo (can seat 7 and maybe 8), Saturn Outlook, Ford Freestyle. The Saturn is my top pick, it gets the same gas mileage as my 4 cylinder Saturn wagon!

Posted by: Christy at April 12, 2010 8:34 AM

Chris - my husband and I are in sorta the same boat... we will NEVER own a minivan. However, a 7 or 8 passenger SUV is what we are looking for. I own a newer Nissan Altima, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my car, but I recently had a baby which means I have 2 small ones in carseats as well as a 14 year old stepdaughter who is with us 6 months out of the year. She's about 5'8"... and squeezes in the backseat with 2 carseats.. poor girl.
We've researched and are still researching but I have my eye on the GMC Acadia.

Posted by: Leanne at April 12, 2010 8:34 AM

I cannot comment on the minivan part of this story but I can comment on owning a VW in Washington, DC. Get rid of the car as fast as you possibly can. I know right now it is a minor electrical thing but it will get worse and really you don't want to be on the GW Parkway scared the engine is about to blow up because of a faulty sensor. Even better is when you pull off on a scenic view parking area to get a tow and the partners at your firm pass you laughing.

The other part is that I have noticed that the cost of getting a VW repaired in the metro area is insanely expensive. I used to take my car to Woodbridge (yes, really and I lived in the District) because the repairs were 500 to 1000 dollars less.

So I don't care what you get rid of it for, but I think getting rid of it while you still can is the best idea because once it starts having problems the trade in is zilch and I couldn't handle trying to sell it to a person who would know where I live.

Posted by: goodsnake at April 12, 2010 8:34 AM

Meet in the middle. Check out the Mazda 5.

Sure, car payments suck, but I am all for spacing out the purchase of new cars. Might as well buy one now and get a good 3 years into the loan before you also have to buy another. If cars have a lifespan of approximately 10 years, give or take, and you have two of them, you should space car purchases by about 5 years so you never get slammed with two payments at a time. And if you're an aggressive payer, like we tend to be, you can have it paid off in 3 years and then generally have two of every five years car payment free.

Anyhow, I'm just saying, I really pride myself on my financial responsibility/planning abilities, and if the smaller SUV might need to be replaced within the next 5 years, I would spring to replace the VW now. (But not necessarily with a minivan. Driving friends around with the kids is approximately 5 years down the road, when Mia and her pals won't need car seats/boosters anymore. Deal with the space issue on the NEXT new car cycle.)

Sorry so long. Just my $0.02.

Posted by: Sabrina at April 12, 2010 8:35 AM

In the end, everyone I know who has given in and gotten a minivan, has loved it and wished they'd done it sooner.

Posted by: k8 at April 12, 2010 8:57 AM

I'd wait until the kids are older too. For now, there's no need to spend money on something that you don't need. And of course, since Beth doesn't want the van, and you are the one to have to drive it, I'd say she wins.

Posted by: donna at April 12, 2010 8:59 AM

Not being able to cart other peoples kids around is a feature of your current situation, not a bug.

Posted by: COD at April 12, 2010 9:04 AM

I drive a minivan, and I am all kinds of cool.

OK, I am a giant dork. But I would like you to think that I'm awesome.

Posted by: Julie at April 12, 2010 9:21 AM

HELL NO to a mini van. Of course, my husband is on the same side as ne so I guess there is no issue there!

I want a Honda Element. Those things are cool and to clean out the interior you can just open both doors and hose that thing out! Our friends own one and they swear by it. Tons of space and removable seats and yet not quite a mini van. You may be accused of driving a giant toaster but NOT A MINI van.

Any way we drive a Rav and even with four of us (two adults and two car seats/kids) you can still a fit a fifth person in the middle in back (Usually me) if we have another person. If we ever get into car pool situations we will have to re-evaluate but till them I am still in the HELL NO catergory for mini vans.

Posted by: Christina at April 12, 2010 9:23 AM

Aside from the fact that my van means I've turned into a practical, responsible parent, it's totally awesome.

I don't have to stand in the rain to buckle my kids in, I can do it from inside.

When grandparents come to visit and we go out to dinner, we don't have to take two cars.

I can lay down the back seat and load up furniture and mattresses.

We back in at the drive-in, lay down the back seat, and roll out the sleeping bags and watch movies.

There's plenty of room for stuff when we travel, even for a whole week at the beach.

I have yet to buy so much at Sam's/Target that I can't get it all home (and I've TRIED.)

It's not cool. I'm not super proud of what I drive. But I can't picture myself in any other vehicle, because this one fits us.

Posted by: Becky at April 12, 2010 9:25 AM

Haha, I hate this discussion cause we seem to have it every week at my house. I'm 100% on your side. I want my husband to ditch his Camry and take my Rav4 so I can get a Sienna for all of your arguments above... and I'm even willing to hand in my cool mom card. I mean... seriously, sliding doors are a BEAUTIFUL thing. BUT in all rationality I'd have to say Beth is probably the right one on this. Get your radio fixed and keep the no car payment gig as long as you can... is a radio and a couple extra seats really worth $400 to $600 a month? (assuming you are going the newish non beater minivan route)

Posted by: Jen at April 12, 2010 9:30 AM

For transporting extra folks, you could always get a larger SUV - one with the 3rd row seating. We had a Durango for 10 years and it worked for that.

However...we now have a minivan, which I said I would never own. And I love the darn thing. Love, love, love it. And it cost WAY less than what we paid for the SUV 10 years ago.

I know that didn't exactly answer the question about who is right, but those are the facts. I'd go minivan. Even though my 17-year old self is laughing.

Posted by: at April 12, 2010 9:34 AM

Bottom line, you should never force your wife to drive anything she doesn't want to. It doesn't make sense for a whole host of reasons.

That being said, however...

1. Replacing your car with an SUV will increase your commute costs, won't it? Unless you've got one of those ones with no cargo space so it can house a battery the size of a small fishing village in the back (pretend I just said "environmentally friendly hybrid" there, K?) you're looking at adding a vehicle payment AND more gas costs.

2. However, I also felt like you (and many people) do about minivans before I owned one. They are, without a doubt, truly evil: you get used to the extra cargo room (that third row bench can be tossed in the garage, and with only two kids, it will live there most of the time) that affords you the ability to cart around TONS of stuff, or buy really big things like appliances without thinking about shipping or anything. I still remember the feeling of being able to bring home a 10 cu. ft. deep freezer myself.

Ultimately, it's your call. Why not replace your car with another car, and play up the minivan thing slowly while the SUV depreciates into replacement mode?

Posted by: SciFi Dad at April 12, 2010 9:34 AM

I'm with Beth on this one.
Actually Hubby and I have never had a car payment, ever. We buy good used cars that we have saved for. (Factory Authorized with great warranties.)
Anyway, I know we will need a new pick-up soon, but we are trying to save up and buy nothing for a bit.
If your car is really dying, then perhaps get a small commuter vehicle for yourself until you all can agree on a family vehicle.

Posted by: Maribeth at April 12, 2010 9:40 AM

i was just thinking on my drive to work that no man should ever drive a minivan. but if beth is driving it... that's different. BUT if beth doesn't WANT to drive it then YOU'RE stuck driving it and here we are back at Point A. there's other large-size options that are not SUV's (i know you are gas/eco-conscious).

Posted by: bri at April 12, 2010 9:55 AM

Wait, so my only options are a new minivan or nothing? Sheez...

I'd compromise and find a third option; something more reliable and larger than your VW but is both cheaper, cooler, and easier to drive than a minivan.
I have a 4-door Yaris that I love. Inexpensive to buy, very easy on gas, and it seats the four of us nicely; which includes one in a booster seat and a 6'-2" teenager.

Posted by: fauve at April 12, 2010 10:23 AM

We drive a BMW 325xi stationwagon (him) and a Mini Cooper S (me). We have never ever had a car payment, we saved up and then bought both. (Well not together, 6 months apart).

There is no way, no how, never ever going to be a minivan anywhere remotely near my home. I feel so strongly about that it is not fun. Nothing says "here are my testicles, let me hand them to you" like a minivan. Nothing says "I've given up on ever being attractive again" like a minivan. Don't do it.

Try a stationwagon first.

Posted by: jacqueline at April 12, 2010 10:33 AM

Team Beth.

Posted by: laineyDid at April 12, 2010 11:03 AM

Station Wagon.

Posted by: alektra at April 12, 2010 11:03 AM

I'm with Beth. We own a ridiculously inappropriate Chevy Silverado. It fits three at most (although four in a pinch if you don't mind getting pulled over by an Iowa state trooper with a grudge against folks with Minnesota plates). We don't have kids, so it's fine. As long as we don't want to bring our friends anywhere. But, and this is the big but, we don't have a car payment. We drive a dumb rear wheel drive truck in a giant city because it was free. It's pseudo-reliable (some electrical problems here, too, but, hey, who needs daytime running lights or a CD player that consistently works?) and you can't beat the price.

We plan on driving that truck until it is taken back by the wild with rust because there is no worse financial albatross than a car payment (except, of course, a mortgage, something we have also avoided like the plague).

Posted by: NGS at April 12, 2010 11:05 AM

I held off on getting a minivan for a while. But I have to say that I LOVE mine now. No, seriously, I do. Not crazy about the car payment, as we were car payment free prior to it too. But it's got some amazing upsides.

I'm not going to try to sell anyone on it, because if they don't want it, it's not for them.

But if you guys are willing to look into them and want to keep your cost down, consider looking into a Kia Sedona. The safety ratings are top notch, the car handles very nicely (a big for me, I didn't want a car I felt was too much for me to drive). I can back out of my very long gravel one-car driveway just fine without hitting the stone wall. And that's a feat my friend! AND the cost is not astronomical. My car was used, but practically new and I got it for a song and dance. We'll hit two years with it this August and I will have it paid off by Feb of next year.

As for the coolness factor. Well, you just kinda have to work that out. I personally think it's very cool to have a hot mom driving down the road in a silver Kia with a bike rack rocking out to some bitchin' tunes. But you know, I might just be delusional. ;-)

Good luck on whatever you guys decide!

Posted by: varinia at April 12, 2010 11:09 AM

I feel for the both of you. I was steadfast that I would NEVER own a minivan......yeah, well, that changed when we went and had 3 kids. I gave in to my husbands insistence to buy a van, and I wouldn't look back. We also did not want another car payment -- so we searched around and got a good deal on a 1yr old minivan. Saved us about 1/2 the cost! Good luck in your search!

Posted by: Jenn M at April 12, 2010 11:24 AM

Minivans have doors that slide open automatically! You can pile your kids, their friends and your band's equipment in there! I see there is a distinct lack of support your direction so, FWIW, I'm voting yes for the minivan. An intermittent stereo wire is in no way a car-killer but, say, an intermittent alternator wire could be. Better to unload it now than when you're stuck in monkeytown in a Hitlermobile that can no longer mach schnell.

Posted by: rebecca at April 12, 2010 11:29 AM

I had a Toyota Sienna until Christmas (when the repo man came). I loved it. loved it. loved it.

I really miss it. Don't buy the van the without Beth's okay, but if she agrees I think ya'll love it. It is great for traveling, even a couple of hours.

We had the regular version--no dvd for the kids, etc and still the kids love the 2 day road trip to granny's in it.

Posted by: debb at April 12, 2010 11:36 AM

well...I will never advocate getting a loan for a vehicle, they go down in value too fast. I got a minivan after totalling my other car, I really like it even if it does say...whatever it says about me. I am cool in spite of the fact I drive a minivan.

You need to look for a 3 or 4 year old minivan with about 50k miles and pay cash. For the space, and hauling kid factor minivans rule. My third row has saved my sanity because they can not see or touch each other. When you pay cash for this vehicle start paying yourself a car payment and then pay cash for the next new vehicle in your life.

Posted by: linda at April 12, 2010 12:01 PM

We absolutely cannot afford a new car, so even if the internet says you win, you lose.

Neener neener.

Posted by: Mrs. Cactus at April 12, 2010 12:04 PM

You lost your 17 yr old penis when you got life insurance. What ever you get, make it American. After the Toyota thing, all car people lie. Buy American and support American workers. Yes,Iam a GM-UAW person.

Posted by: joss is boss at April 12, 2010 12:04 PM

Sorry Chris, but I'm going with your wife on this one! We weighed a similar dilema for a year. We had a small SUV that maxed out at 4. We contemplated buying a mini-van at my husband's insistence figuring we'd eventually need more room. I hated every minute of driving that thing around. So, we waited a year in which time I became pregnant making a bigger car now a necessity. We again went looking for mini-vans, but for many of the reasons Beth mentioned I just couldn't face a world in which I drove a mini-van. We ended up with a Honda Pilot. Seats 8!

Posted by: Sarah at April 12, 2010 12:13 PM

We have a '97 Golf with stereo problems. Other than that, it has been a great car. Our other car is a pickup, which I need for work. I'd say don't get the van until you really need it. We've got infant twins, and we can do everything we need to (except carry extra passengers) in the Golf. The double stroller/bike trailer fits in a cargo carrier on the roof, along with one bike. Check it out: http://butterbeanandcobra.blogspot.com/2010/03/we-dont-need-no-stinking-minivan.html

Posted by: beta dad at April 12, 2010 12:15 PM

i would argue that making your wife get a minivan is grounds for divorce, or at the least a trial seperation, but that's just me :)

Posted by: Desiree at April 12, 2010 12:15 PM

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO, DO NOT go over to the "mini van dark side". Resist at all cost!!!

Posted by: Lesley at April 12, 2010 12:33 PM

UGH! A mini-van? Really? Come, now, my friend, put down the beer and step away from the mini-van, especially since it wouldn't actually be YOUR mini-van but the vehicle that your wife would be saddled with.

Get the wiring fixed in your VW and realize that your wife is right. Besides, you know car payments SUCK especially for a vehicle that your wife DOES NOT want.

I'm with Beth on this one. Sorry, guy.

Posted by: zanie at April 12, 2010 12:54 PM

i love my EXTENDED montana. it holds kids, groceries, ski equipment, other people's kids, grandparents, etc. i can move the kids to the very back if they are bugging me (or each other). i put social distortion licence plate holders on it to disguise it as a cool car.

Posted by: meanie at April 12, 2010 1:46 PM

I agree with what some others have said, don't buy your wife a car she doesn't want. My hubby talked me into a minivan and I still think it's ugly and I miss my cute little car. I hate that I'm that mom who drives a minivan. LOL However, it's the most functional choice for us. We have two kids, but often end up with my daughter's friends or my nieces with us, and there's no way they'd all fit in our other car ( a Honda sedan) I refuse to buy a large SUV for a few reasons, my momvan does get pretty good gas mileage (around 20 MPG) and it's really functional, I can do a large Costco shopping trip, with 3 or 4 kids with me and no one has to ride home with the case of diapers on their lap, and I don't have to take up 3 spaces in the parking lot. So yeah, as far as functionality goes, the minivan is great. It's still a bit of a blow to my pride to drive one though. :-)

Posted by: Stephanie at April 12, 2010 1:46 PM

I agree with the person who said "Don't buy Beth a car she doesn't want." No good can come of that.

There is the option that you could buy the minivan for yourself, and it's possible, based on some of the comments here, that Beth might end up liking it and will want to switch. But, I wouldn't take that to the bank.

Oddly enough, I can now add you two to my list of couples where the man wants a minivan and the woman wants nothing to do with it.

Posted by: Kelly at April 12, 2010 2:17 PM

Wooah, way to make me feel incredibly uncool while driving around in my Odyssey with my four kids in the back. I did eek it out with my then three kids in a cute little car and then that fourth one just shot it all to hell.
This is my opinion (remember now four kids,ages 13 to 7,and lots of running around and activities)....you will be surprised about as the kids are older, you will be taking one somewhere and the other is with the other parent somewhere else. Even if a surprise new little Cacfish comes along, there's plenty of room in a four door sedan.

Posted by: Kathy at April 12, 2010 2:18 PM

Who's right? Beth. Beth, Beth, Beth, Beth, Beth!

Posted by: Erin at April 12, 2010 2:34 PM

I just can't get behind a minivan. Just can't do it.

What about a wagon? Not currently in my budget - but, because of the crap that they can carry and haul, as well as the safety, gas mileage, and 4 wheel drive, I'm coveting the Audi wagon.

But no, never purchase a big ticket item like that without your wife's agreement. Dangerous territory, there.

Posted by: Mindy at April 12, 2010 2:48 PM

I, too, own that same smallish suv and have been facing the same "full at 4 people" dilemma. Frankly, I'd LOVE to have a minivan for family, friends, travel, hauling, and camping, but we can't afford one. My pragmatism won over "coolness" pretty early on, and I'm okay with that.

Posted by: heels at April 12, 2010 2:51 PM

Laughing. Chris, your kidding, right? I can't see you or Beth in a minivan. Another SUV seems more practical and likely, cheaper. Don't go against Beth unless you want stuck with the minivan. What about a truck?

Mazda CX-9 here. Seats 7 (if you use all 3 rows, but the 2 in the third row have to be small kids). Room is hard to come by in that row. I bought this when we thought my Jeep Sport was going to croak. I went bigger thinking at some point, I would be hauling around more of my son's friends. I have rarely had more than 4 in my car. I could have gone smaller, but it is great for road trips with all the extra room.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at April 12, 2010 3:31 PM

I can't be bothered to read through all the comments, but buy a 7 seater. We had a Ford Freestyle (now a Ford Taurus X) which I just upgraded to an Acura MDX. Look for a used 7 seater with low clicks to save $$. Much cooler than the minivan which my husband and I absolutely refuse to ever buy.

Posted by: Mandy at April 12, 2010 4:37 PM

You are mean to want Beth to have to drive a minivan. Have a nice day, you're still my favourite cactus.

Posted by: Heather at April 12, 2010 5:39 PM

Can't say who's right as we don't even own a car, but I have a friend who would rather have given up a limb than ever own a minivan. She ended up having to buy one (7 year old, 2 year old, 5 month twins) and all I can tell Beth is that she (my friend) is now totally in love with her minivan. It allows her to haul all the littles around and still hang out with HER friends that also have kids. It really is totally convenient. That said, we've avoided buying a car even though we could (technically) afford it, simply because of the expense of a car payment in these uncertain times. So, totally sitting on the fence on this one. Let us know what happens as it's more than a little uncomfortable up here. Good luck.

Posted by: Jen at April 12, 2010 7:17 PM

I agree with many of the above posters. Lose the minivan. Really. If you put out that much money for a car, you should at least not be embarrassed to be seen in it. The crossovers or SUVs are a nice compromise, and can seat more than 4. But be prepared for always needing the extra room. Two of our three kids are out of the house, leaving one. I sold our minivan (actually had to trade it in because no one was buying) and got a little Honda Civic Hybrid. Love the car, but we can't go anywhere in it. Three people! I would much rather have a Honda Pilot or Rav4 size vehicle for us. We also have no car payments, and any *new* car would have to be pre-owned and we'd have had to save up the money for it.

Posted by: Lojo at April 12, 2010 8:13 PM

We have three kids and get by on one Camry. That's right, one. Kids are 10, 7 & 4. They fit just fine.

We are nearing the point (due to careers) of needing two cars, and while tossing around the fanciful notions of an FJ (mostly to piss off my eco-family, but they're cool, too) & an Acura (drool-worthy & a realistic fantasy of both of us), more realistically, we'll go with a Corolla or a Civic as #2.

As for the VW, if you dig deep enough, you'll probably find something evil about all auto manufacturers.

Posted by: harmzie at April 12, 2010 8:16 PM

beth is right. period

Posted by: Dani at April 12, 2010 8:29 PM

I love my Sienna. I've only got two kids too but have been running carpool to swim lessons, preschool, etc. since the older one was two. It's great! That alone is reason for me to encourage anyone to go the minivan route. That said, I wouldn't rush the purchase until you need a new car. As for minivan versus SUV. Nobody who is too cool for a minivan is as awesome as they think they are :)

Posted by: Kate M at April 12, 2010 8:39 PM

My friends have a Sienna that they love and the comercials crack me up. Get yourself a swaggerwagon.

Posted by: Annie at April 12, 2010 9:38 PM

Chris, the environment, the environment. Eeek. Yours in European anxiety.

Posted by: Anne at April 12, 2010 9:55 PM

Once VWs start to go, they really start to go. We had one go from "more or less fine" to "not road worth without $5K worth of repairs" in less than a month.

So you're going to need a car. But... ummm... minivan??? I mean do what you want... but ick.

We drive a Civic. When The Boy was smaller, we very very very rarely took other kids anywhere. Really before age 5, if you're looking at both kids plus friends you're going to need more than one adult anyway so you take two cars. (Really. We've done this for bday parties and the like. That's three spots in the back.)

Now that he out of booster seats, we can fit three kids comfortably (The Boy plus one) in the back. Not a problem.

My friend Jewels drives a Santa Fe. She loves it, I haven't driven it but it seems like a lovely set of wheels. (And iPod controls are in the wheel.) Nice big trunk on it too. Might be something to consider.

Posted by: Nat at April 12, 2010 9:57 PM

Take her to test drive some minivans... I was firmly in her camp when our small SUV started misbehaving... and then I fell in LOOOOOOVE with my van. A 5 yo van... but much fancier than anything we'd owned before. It had me at automatic doors.

Posted by: Nikki at April 12, 2010 10:30 PM

I agree with everyone else... do not go the minivan route... your wife will not be happy.

I vote for sticking with what you have until it does not run. Listen to Pandora on your iphone if your radio isn't cooperating. An untrustworthy radio does not qualify a car as needing to be replaced.

As for me... twin boys are 9... started off with a used Nissan Quest (sliding door on only one side). It was a great starter car for our new family. Graduated to to a Chrysler T&C which I loved, but it was unreliable... in the shop all the time!

Now starting year 3 in a Honda Pilot and I am here to tell you that I will drive this car until the wheels fall off! I L.O.V.E my car. I am counting down the days (12 mths and counting!) until it's paid off.

I will tell you that once she's doing the after school sports runs, she will definitely want that 3rd row / add'l storage. I have three bag chairs, 2 baseball bags and a blanket in the back of mine right now.

Posted by: anne at April 12, 2010 11:36 PM

Could you get something like a large SUV - Honda Pilot that has a 3rd row that you really don't want to use, but it's there if you need it?? Also, mini-vans are un-cool, but if you need the space you need the space. Also, my brother has a Honda Odyssey and he LOVES IT!

Posted by: Rose @Dozenroses13 at April 13, 2010 12:30 AM

I drive a minivan and swore I never would EVER. But before the minivan, I drove a little bitty crossover SUV-type thing, and it only seated five. And at the time, you gotta figure: Mom and dad sitting in the front seat, two kids in carseats or boosters in the back, so that fifth seat? Psh. We couldn't fit in a regular car so well, and in my SUVish thing, my stepson was squooshed between two carseats.

Enter the minivan.

No, it's not cool. It's not even remotely hip.

But there is plenty of room for my guitar. And Ikea runs are super easy when you knock the back seat all the way down. Meh. And yeah, I can tote my kids and their friends, if I wanted to.

Someday I'll get to be cool again. You know, in about 14 more years.

Posted by: Sarah at April 13, 2010 8:11 AM

I totally bought my minivan so my children wouldn't be social outcasts. I so wish I was joking. No one wants to carpool with someone without at least a 7-seater....

Posted by: alimartell at April 13, 2010 8:27 AM

I have 2 kids (ages 8 & 11). Just got my first minivan. Really needed the space for all their friends, activities, family camping supplies, ect. LOVE the Minivan!!!

Do note though. I live in the DC area as well. My last car was a Saturn and I was spending about $20 a week on gas. Now I spend about $40 a week on gas. So there is that.

But still SOOOOOO worth it...and I don't feel uncool in it either...

Posted by: Kris H. at April 13, 2010 9:35 AM

I love my van. We got the Town & Country because we got a great deal on it, the color was right and it has the stow and go stuff. Awesome. We had only one car payment and now still have only one so it works for us. Sometimes I do miss my SUV, but not much. We have two kids and two big dogs so it's perfect to fit us all plus luggage to go out of town.

Posted by: Mutt at April 13, 2010 12:00 PM

We have four kids, so the mini-van is a no-brainer for us. Though I have suggestion for you.

Last summer our 13 year old Nissan Quest gave up the ghost on vacation. We couldn't handle the thought of car payments for a new van. Two of our kids will be in college by next year. We're on the tail end of van days.

So we did our research- consumer reports, kelly blue book and bought a GREAT used van for $5000. It had 70,000 miles, but had been really well taken care of, it is a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan. We bought it off of Craig's List. No problems with it. In five years when our van days are over for sure we can get a new car.

I decent used van might do you just fine and let you get used to the van idea without investing every dollar in it.

Posted by: Lisa V at April 13, 2010 12:43 PM

We ended up buying a minivan because we now have a family of five and we're foster/adoptive parents. We may have more kids.

It was the only thing that made sense because I am NOT driving a fullsized van around.

Now I love my minivan and all its creature comforts. Of course, if I don't have the kids, I also love my sporty car.

Posted by: Jen R. at April 13, 2010 1:18 PM

Minivans are ugly and huge and no one should be forced to drive one--let alone pay for one--against their will. I don't know why politicians don't talk about this pressing issue.

We have 2 kids and when the oldest started Kindergarten, it was clear that we needed extra room for hauling assorted friends around. Enter the Toyota Highlander with its 3rd row that folds flat when we don't need it. Lots of car makers make a midsized SUV that seat 8, are a joy to drive, get good gas mileage, and don't make you feel like you are driving your living room around town--check out some of those.

Posted by: nrbp at April 13, 2010 2:37 PM

I don't have kids. But I have used minivans for work, and if I ever did have kids, I'd get a minivan.
They are the smartest, most well-designed vehicles for the carting of people and stuff. The sliding doors and low floor make getting in and out easy and safe. They hold a lot of things, and still fit a lot of people. They are comfortable and easy to drive. I have NO idea why "soccermoms" get SUVs when those are just cars with a lift kit, and the minivan is designed for everything they do.

Posted by: Lisa at April 13, 2010 4:32 PM

I haven't read all the comments but I do see there are some people who already suggested what I was going to say- a SUV with a third passenger row. Don't do the mini-van thing, I'm with Beth, never ever will I drive a mini van. We got a used Chevy Trailblazer with incredibly low mileage, in almost new condition, one owner after looking around for a few months. We knew we wanted a SUV with that third row- driving our son and his friends around, it was so needed. I too hate having a car payment but since this was used, its not really bad and we should have it paid off quickly. Got a 3 year extended warranty as well.

Mini vans are just....wrong on all levels- check out some of the SUV's first.

Posted by: Lisa at April 13, 2010 7:05 PM

Your logic makes sense, but not wanting a new car payment does too.

I'd say find a friend who is a good, reliable, and honest mechanic, and ask them to go with you to look at privately owned vehicles until you find a good one. Chances are if you look hard enough you can find a great deal cheap that won't nickle and dime you to death.

I got my car (an '01 Saturn Sl) for $4000.00 with less then 40K miles on it. The only thing wrong with it are some cigarette burns in the interior, and at one point it was in a major accident and the front passenger door is hard to shut because of it. The paint is good, body is clean, and it runs great. I got it from a used car lot, but considered many privately owned vehicles before settling on this one.

Of course my boyfriend and his friend are mechanics, so it was checked out very thoroughly before hand. (They wouldn't want me to get a lemon cuz guess who would have to work on it? lol)

Posted by: Debra at April 13, 2010 8:59 PM

In the end, we talk it over but she should drive what she wants and so she will. BTW, you can find a good used Minivan for about $20k. I don't think you can get anything good for under $30k new.

Posted by: Brad at April 14, 2010 11:21 AM

Beth is right. When we got married we added "and never own a mini-van" to our vows. That and "no parking on the dance floor" Those are really the only 2 rules in our house.

Posted by: punkrockmom at April 14, 2010 3:06 PM

What is it with men and minivans? My husband wanted to buy one for me to drive too. I'm with Beth, unless she asks for it or wants it, why make her drive the minivan?

Posted by: jackie at April 14, 2010 11:30 PM

Why a minivan? Why not a larger SUV, with a 3rd row of seats that can fold down?
It's great that you don't have a car payment. We didn't have one either until recently, when we had to get a 4WD vehicle for our move to Alaska. But if you can afford a car payment without making any major sacrifices elsewhere, then it might make more sense for your family.

Posted by: Amy at April 18, 2010 1:35 AM