Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Vehicle - SUV or Mini Van

Yes I know I don't post that often but I wanted to ask a question to anyone who does have any insight on this topic.

Daniel and I knew we would probably be buying a new (used) vehicle sometime this year. With another little one on the way and our cars that we have now just being old and having issues we figured the time would probably come sometime in 2009. But we may end up buying one sooner than we thought.

So my questions to are...

SUV vs. Mini Van? pros and/or cons of both?

And if you have one or the other do you like? good gas mileage?

We are looking if we get an SUV for it to have a 3rd row anticipating wanting more kids in the future (well at least I do) :) but we are open to whatever.

This will be a hard decision for us because neither of us like spending lots of money at one time. We struggle making big decisions like this, so if you have any thoughts or suggestions - leave us a comment! We would appreciate it!


Dana E. said...

Please Mandy, don't succumb to the minivan! You'll no longer be a cool'll be the ....

the "Mini Van Momma!" !!?!?!?? Ohh the horrors!!

Shannon Smith said...

I would like to hear what some people with experience have to say about this, too. At some point, we will be in this same boat.

I know that mini-vans don't seem all that cool, but they do "seem" very practical. Does anyone how what the mpg on a mini-van compares to the mpg on something like the Honda Pilot?

Come on folks. Spill it. We newer parents need to learn from your experience.

Nichole Hackmann said...

We went with the Honda CRV because I wasn't quite ready for the "minivan" mom status. I love the CRV but for our many travels back and forth to MD to visit the in-laws it gets filled up fast. The Pilot, (a bit out of our price range) I guess would be a bit bigger, but we have made the comment several times that we wish we would have went with the minivan, and we will be getting one for the next little one we have. Good luck.

Mandy said...

Yes I have the same thoughts on a minivan not being cool but they seem practical and easier to get kids in and out of. So I would like to hear what folks have to say about the two choices.

Renee S said...

Mandy, I just wrote a comment, but think I did something wrong. I am getting tired of my minivan now, so if you and Daniel want to work out a deal with us... :-) But, I have enjoyed it. It is great for long trips and piling in all the kids' stuff. Also, for carpooling when your kids get a little older. We decided against an SUV b/c of the rollover factor. (I'm not sure if the newer ones are improved in this category or not.) My cousin couldn't see herself in a minivan, but she flipped her SUV with 2 kids in it. She went and bought a minivan immediately after that. But, that could be better now - I don't know. I would recommend a DVD player. Best thing we ever did. We try not to watch it too much around town, but it really comes in handy on long tripe. Good luck with your decision. You two will be cool regardless of what you drive...

Kim Vargas said...

Oh my, oh my! Such a big decision!

There are two many people out here going to the dark side and giving in to the mini van fad. The Vargas family is standing firm and sticking to the SUV!!!

We are driving a Yucon. Not the best in gas but not the worse. My opinion!

I have another suggestion....................

VOLVO Stationwagon!! This is our other car and we LOVE it! Probably the best thing we bought. And to solve your third seat.... We have the brady bunch style backword seat. And when you are not using that you have a great size of storage. GREAT MPG!!!! Look at them you will discover a new love. Especiall the VOLVO is the BEST!!

There is my advice!

But know I will love you, EVEN IF you go to the dark side and drive a mini van!!!

Shannon Smith said...

Per wikipedia: A fad is something that is very popular with a small group of people for a short period of time.

Half the people that I know with kids have one and my folks had a minivan fifteen years. So, I'd say it is not really a fad. It is more of a trend.

Also, per wikipedia: A trend is something that somehow becomes popular within mainstream society over a long period of time.

I like the idea of the station wagon, but if you are going that direction, you should go with the a big one with the wood panels on the sides.

Reignkings said...

Well We have had both and I would say the most functional of them is a Mini-Van! It is easier to get kids in and out and it is easier functionally. We have 6 people now so it is also the only real affordable way to carry that many people. It is not the coolest thing to drive but it is supremely functional. I really like the Toyota, or the Nissan Mini Vans. Hope this helps.

Jeramie Mullis said...

mini van = function
function = cool

JP said...

Simply put I think the mini van is better in all categories except coolness and towing. We justified our choice of the SUV (Ford Explorer) because of CA needing to be able to get to work even in bad conditions. Also we hope to get a trailer someday so it would come in handy for towing. If you want to make sure you get the cool parent stuff like 28 cup holders, secret compartments for wipes and then secret compartments inside those compartments for germ-x, and get better gas mileage then go mini van. Our Explorer gets about 19 mpg. I also think a mini van is going to give you a more comfortable ride and probably a little more passenger space but I don't know that for a fact. If it will make you feel any better about it I will make songs for my next album called "Mini Van Moms Are Hot" or "Mini Van Dads Still Have It" and start a fad that will then become a trend and make mini van parents the coolest of the cool. Good luck folks!

kerry said...

Have you heard anyone with a minivan say, "Wow, I really wish I didn't buy my minivan. I should have gotten an SUV, instead?" It seems like all I hear from my minivan driving friends is that it is the best thing ever. I hear a lot of negatives against minivans from PEOPLE WHO DO NOT OWN ONE. I'd say they are hardly the best judge. Then again, I do not own one either, so I'm not sure how helpful that I am here. I see a minivan in my future based on many discussions with mommy friends!

Anonymous said...

Anytime this subject comes up, the conversation seems to always turn to what is viewed as being cool or not cool in others eyes. Here's the thing- you're looking for a vehicle with versatility to sustain your fertility :). If we are to stay on the topic, my best suggestion is to go with a mini-van. Mandy/Daniel- you know from placing Brayden in and out of the jeep that it can become quite difficult after a while; especially has he continues to grow. Conjointly, he will not be able to climb into a SUV on his own until he's at least say 6 or 7. With a baby in tow and a toddler at your ankles, those automatic sliding mini-van doors are sounding better and better! Do something for yourself and not for what others may view you as- I willingly go on record as recommending a mini-van. And no Lisa, we will not trade our SUV in for a mini-van (at least not in the near future)!

Anonymous said...

My friend Kerry pointed me over to your post because she knew I would have something to say about it!!! My recommendation is - go minivan! Looks like you have a baby and toddler... SUV's definitely seem like the "cool" route at that age, but I can't tell you how many of my friends regret their SUV choice by the time their oldest child is school age or by the time they have a third. If you want this to be a long-term purchase (which is sounds like you do), you need to think ahead. Think about whether or not you want your 5 year old banging open your big heavy SUV door into the cars next to you. Is he going to be able to open that big heavy door by himself when he is three? When you start carpooling to birthday parties and boy scout events, do you want to deal with folding the seats of an SUV up and down to get kids to the back row while moving booster seats around? All the "minivans aren't cool. I'm an SUV mom" moms that I know now own minivans. The first poster said you don't want to be the "Minivan Momma" but seriously... they aren't a bad thing. You'll love it once you own it. For a real-life scenario comparison, read my blog post here about my minivan love:

Good luck!

Mandy said...

Well I have drove twice this week in a Denali. That is what my friend Allison has. She has a 3rd row and still has quite a bit of room in the back of her truck behind the 3rd seat. Which is nice! But she is pregnant with her 3rd and her oldest will be 4 next week. He can get out of his booster seat just fine but can't get himself buckled in well so she has to climb back there for that. The one seat in the 2nd row becomes nonfunctional during those times because she has to lay it down for him to climb in and out of. So we had to put two transitional car seats next to each other on one side which worked out ok. Wonder how well a infant carrier would work out right next to a transitional car seat in that 2nd row?

We do like the Honda Pilot but it doesn't have much room for groceries, strollers - behind the 3rd row when it is being used.

Kendal and Kerry - you are right. The only thing I ever hear from folks about mini vans not being cool are from folks who don't have them.

Do we buy a smaller SUV now and get the mini van when we have more kids? Do we want an SUV and a mini van? or could we just use another sedan someday instead?

decisions, decisions, decisions!

I would still like to hear more from folks who have driven both or who have a mini van. Daniel likes anyone have the Honda Odyssey? I like the idea of a DVD player on long trips. :)

time to start test driving and researching!!

DudeMama said...

Minivan, all the way. Kerry sent me here. I have an SUV and recently bought a minivan. I LOVE the minivan. It is designed for people with kids. Every feature makes it easier for a parent driving around kids. I have a Honda Odyssey, so I don't know if all of these features are in other vans, but it's crazy the things they think of that just make life easier - the automatic doors, the convex mirror under the rearview mirror that lets you see the entire van, the collapsible center cupholder/center console, rear temperature controls, etc. You should go drive some and see. Even my husband - the punk rock dude with arms fully sleeved with tattoos - LOVES the van!

ncsuengr00 said...

Jeanne-Marie and I were in this same boat a few months ago in prep for our 2nd who is coming in August. Ultimately we decided to wait, but then our hand wasn't forced with the death of a car. We did have CarMax on call watching for vehicles for us. I haven't had the chance to really get to know you and Daniel well yet, but you both strike me as pretty practical people. So from one practical person to another: get a minivan.

Typically, they get better gas mileage, have a smoother ride, are more kid friendly, easier to get in and out of, more room to move about the cabin should the need arise, and can have more cargo space if you take seats out. One could also make the argument they are safer since they may have less of a tendency to roll than a large SUV. We, too, have a Jeep, and getting Aidan in out of the backseat is a real pain (and I mean that in the truest sense). Even I long for power sliding doors and a big captains chair ready to receive the child in my arms. And in my humble opinion, until they start putting third row doors on SUVs, third row seats are useless with little kids. Jeanne-Marie's brother has 3 kids and a Suburban because he wouldn't be caught dead in a minivan. It is a complete pain getting kids into car seats in the third row. Perhaps when they are older, it might not be so bad, but still.

Should you decide to go with the minivan, I would recommend spending the extra money and getting a Sienna or Odyssey. We were looking for a 2005 or newer Odyssey. I would steer clear of the Caravan, although the 2009 is suppose to be a lot better (according to Consumer Reports) if the prospect of Chrysler going bankrupt doesn't bother you. We were hot for a Kia Sedona or Hyundai Entourage (same vehicle, different trim packages) for a while (until I read up on them on CR), but ultimately decided it would be worth the extra dough for the reliability of a Honda or Toyota. We decided to go with Honda because Toyota's trim packages are just plain confusing and it was hard to tell (at least online) what a particular (used) vehicle had or didn't have.

I haven't read all the other posts, but it would seem to me there really is no compelling reason to get a SUV over a minivan other than "cool" factor. At least I can't think of any. Well, unless you want to tow something or are concerned about 4-wheel drive I guess. But then you guys have a Jeep already.

That's my two cents worth. Hope it's helpful, and good luck! Oh, and one more thing, if you haven't done it before, I highly recommend CarMax. We've had 3 good experiences there. Oh, and if you do decide on the Odyssey, be prepared to look around. They are popular and can be hard to come by if you want a particular color or option.

Anonymous said...

That URL of mine got chopped in half... maybe this one won't get chopped

Jenny Benny said...

Hi Mandy, I'm one of Jenny's friends (not Jenny. She asked me to come and post a comment because I have a Honda Odyssey (the minivan).

I have two kids, one 6 and one 3. We bought the 2006 in December of 2005 when our second child was 4 months old. Two child seats fills the back seat of a Honda Accord - unless grandma's butt is 18" wide, she will be riding in the car behind you.

It was obvious that my wife was going to get the new vehicle and I was going to get my Accord back. She in no way wanted to become a minivan mom. She had all the worries you've seen here on your post by people who don't have minivans. Bottom line is, it is really nice with young kids.

She really wanted the Toyota Sienna. The problem with Toyotas is the fact that they have a million and one "packages." They have so many options that to get the one or two things that we really wanted, it would have been about $10,000 more than the level of Honda with those same options.

So we went with the Honda. The minivan has more room than the Pilot and it gets better gas milage by far. The van was 26mpg while the SUV was just cracking 20mpg at the time. I think the SUV's might be a little better now. We sprung for the EX level that comes with the Eco feature. The V6 engine cuts down to 3 cylinders when your cruising along and gives you about 2 more mpg. Its pretty cool if you wish you were really driving a Prius.

The EX level we got had the leather seats. Yes, it seems like a luxury, but if you are going to have the van for a while, its really nice for young kids. Fabric seats and kids is a disaster and will look like crap in about 2 years.

We didn't spring for the high-end with the built-in DVD player. Instead, we went with portable ones you strap in and then can take out and let them watch whenever you get where your going. My wife regrets the decision because it can be a pain. I however don't like the built-ins because they are up in the ceiling and because the person behind you at night will be watching Spongebob through your back window and will almost run into your tailend at the stoplight.

Don't laugh, I've seen it before.

The Honda also has VSC standard in the level we have (Vehicle Stability Control). Like airbags, the foreign cars are putting them in before it becomes law. You want the VSC, it helps prevent that roll-over in vehicles. I hit a huge lake in the middle of I-440 one spring tsunami and was very glad I was in the van. It will get you where you are going in any weather.

My wife now loves her minivan, but truth be told, you only really need a minivan between the ages of 0-4.5 Then all of a sudden, seats get smaller and you're hauling less crap around (pack-n-plays and strollers, etc). I'm pretty sure that her next vehicle won't be a van. She still likes the Pilot, but she's thinking smaller (she'd rather have a Mini Cooper than a minivan).

Me? Its not a minivan, its a Honda. I don't mind driving it because it drives really well. I only wish that she hadn't finally channeled her inner "soccer/minivan mom" and put those family stick figure stickers that appeared on the back window last month. I guess its full acceptance! Good luck with your decision.

ncsuengr00 said...

And I guess I'll throw this out there, too, since I just saw you mention it in your last comment, Mandy.

We currently have a Jeep Cherokee and Mitsubishi Galant. We thought about going with a smaller SUV in the interim, but then we already have one, right? Plus, buying and selling cars is just a pain, if you're going to go the trouble, might as well just do it all at once... kinda like ripping a band aid off. :)

So our plan was/is to replace the Jeep with a minivan. That way, we're replacing our worst gas mileage vehicle with a slightly better gas mileage vehicle. And we still have the car in case one of us needs to go somewhere without the kids, and we don't have to get 10 MPG doing it. Because let's face it, once we have the minivan, the entire family will never be in any other car together again unless it is unavailable for some reason.

Jonathan Smith said...

Minivan. Hands down.

-You're not hauling a boat or need to tow anything. You still have the jeep if you do. And then there's Jeremy's big rig truck that you can always borrow.
-Gas mileage is hands down better in a minivan. And despite the current state of things, gas is only going to go back up. Meaning lower re-sell value for an SUV if you decided to sell down the road.
-Minivans are much easier to maintain and less expensive
-Minivans are designed for families. SUVs are generally designed for people who want to pretend they can/do go off road.
-How many times have you wished you had 4WD since owning the jeep or cougar? A handful maybe, if that? 4WD transmissions are expensive, more prone to problems and kill your gas mileage.
-I'm almost certain that a Minivan is cheaper to insure than an SUV.

Just my thoughts. Let me know how the search goes. Love and miss you. See you in May.

Kim Vargas said...

Ok Shannon Smith!

Thank you for the definition to the word FAD. Also don't knock the wagon till you have one! They ROCK!! And for the record they are made to be pretty cool these days.

Jenny Benny said...

this really is Jenny this time:
You can put a trailer hitch on a minivan. It pulled our boat just fine growing up. My dad even had a bike rack that used the hitch gizmo so we could take our bikes on vacation/grandparent visits. He still uses it to pull the trailer (how do you think all the bathroom door got to the house?) All that to say, you don't need an SUV to pull things.

Mandy said...

Thanks for all your input! It helps a lot and gives us more insight and things to think about.

My friend Erin emailed me about the Mazda 5...anyone know much about that car?

Anonymous said...

OK, I COMPLETELY disagree with Jenny Benny's friend who said you only need a minivan for ages 0-4.5. My kids are 1, 5, and 7, and I find the minivan most useful for the 5 and 7 y.o.'s! When I pick up the 7 y.o. in carpool at school and the other two kids are strapped in their carseats in the middle row, it is easy-peasy for her to walk through the middle to get to her booster in the third row. I don't hold up the whole carpool line waiting for her to climb over some seat in an SUV to get to that third row. If we're walking to the car in the rain, I just open those sliding doors with the clicker and don't have to worry about helping the 5 y.o. who might not be able to open (or close) a big ol' SUV door by herself. When carpooling to scouting events and I have a bunch of 7 y.o.'s in my car getting picked up or dropped off at various locations, I don't have to get out, and flip over an SUV seat to let them out of the back row. Seriously, I could strap the 1 y.o. into anything and it wouldn't matter. I am going to have to help her with doors and the carseat regardless. The minivan sliding doors and seat arrangement are most helpful with the older kids.

You were interested in people who have owned both. I drive an Odyssey (had an Accord before that, got the Odyssey when my first child was a toddler). My husband used to drive a Ford Explorer and switched to a Sienna before we even had our third. He has so much flexibility with the Sienna and that third row seat with the 60/40 split. He can transport all three kids and his bike inside the car when it is raining and he doesn't want his bike out on the bike rack. I don't think he could do that with any SUV since they don't have the "fold into the floor" seats.

As for the DVD player, we thought about it, but it is about a $1500 upgrade where as a portable one that straps onto the seats is about $180. I would rather save the $1000 and spend an extra 5 minutes straping on the portable one before a trip. We also didn't want to hear the kids whining "We want to watch a video" every time we went to the mall or grocery store. By not having it in the car all the time, there is no whining. We only put it in there for long trips... not a big deal in my eyes.

And I'll second the recommendation for leather. I wouldn't do anything else with kids. You can wipe up spills so easily. Fabric just gets trashed.

As for Sienna vs. Odyssey... I think they are equally great vans. We have both. You just have to look at the packages (Toyota's are confusing), see what sort of deal you can get, and pick one. You'd be happy with either.

I heard some financial person on the Today Show say recently that you can get better deals right now on brand new cars than you can on used ones that are just a couple of years old because the financing and incentives are so great right now for new cars.

Jenny Benny said...

Hi, this is Jenny's other friend at work...

Mini Van. Definitely.

Of course, don't count out the wagon either. I loved my 98 Subaru Outback. If I had the choice, we'd still have one, but after the wife wrecked that one (bummer), we went with the Kia Sedona.

Secretly, I think she wrecked it on purpose (not really) because she always wanted the Mini Van. She could care less about the "cool mom" issue. I think that makes her pretty cool by itself, but I'm bias.

I would recommend the Sedonas after the 2006 model, because Honda began investing in the company then and sharing their technology. The newer Sedona's are very similar to the Odyssey, but are about $10,000 less because they don't have the market clout yet. They have all-around 5-star safety ratings, very good warranty, and pretty much the same features as the Honda.

Oh, and our Sedona has a 2500 lbs towing capacity which I planned to use for a boat if this darn economy hadn't tanked. (You sacrifice the gas milage if you get the bigger engine, although it's still better than the SUV.)

Tania said...

I would absolutely vote for a Honday Oddyssey. They are super nice. My CRV rocks, but I know we are stopping at two, so a bigger car is not an option. Minivan serves a purpose, just like anything else. You buy it because it makes your life easier...
Tania K. :)

jason said...


We have a Mazda can check it out on Sunday if you want! :)

kim said...

Well, I'm single, no kids, and I just bought my parent's old mini van from them. (I'm so totally NOT the stereotypical mini van type)

It is so much easier to haul stuff around, easier to get in and out of when you have long legs, easier to unload really heavy items from the back instead of from a trunk, and so much easier to haul my husky around with me!

The only thing I do wish is that more than the front windows open. The far back windows open a crack, but as one who does not like air conditioning, I do wish they would come up with a way for the side windows to open as well. Even if only part way.

I have to say that I really love my mini van, and it is far from new.

aiza@ subarucar said...

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