Question of the Day: What's a Big Family to Do?

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman

Ignoring completely how they got to 2.8 children, once a family is a family of 5 (or more) third rows become almost a certainty. Look, I only have one sibling, and we would have beaten each other to death on road trips if not for the third row of my family's various full-size GM wagons. I bring this up because 1) gas is over $4.00 a gallon (just about $5 per here in LA) and is never going down and 2) the Ford Flex will be on the market real soon. Let's get the numbers straight. The FWD Flex is rated at 17/24 and the AWD version will deliver 16/22. Comparable to the competition and a words better than the essentially dead body-on-frame goliaths Americans have loved so dearly for the past decade. But, is it enough? Will large families just be cramming the brood into the back of Aveos and Yari? Or are the Flex and similar vehicles (CX9, Pilot, Acadia) still viable as family haulers?

Jonny Lieberman
Jonny Lieberman

Cleanup driver for Team Black Metal V8olvo.

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  • Brendon from Canada Brendon from Canada on Jun 14, 2008

    So what does a European family do? I'm sure there must be 5+ member families that don't have an SUV or Minivan.... Try this one on for size(!); We can fit two strollers and two car seats in a Mini Cooper. The key is a bit of research - sure, the options are limited, and we wouldn't be doing much shopping (2 small bags of groceries and we'd be full!), but there are slightly narrower car seats and some extremely well designed strollers that fit in vehicles. I believe you'd probably spend an extra $100 or so on each stroller/seat, but you'll save the money in gas (vs. an SUV) in no time! Look for Euro-models, there are quite a few that meet NA standards (they probably all do, but in Canada, anyway, you need a CSA sticker for it to be legal) and most are a bit more narrow. In terms of the Mini, we only have 1 child, and "packing" the car was a test only using "regular" sized car seats; we borrowed the extra stroller (fitting two "Quinny Zaps" in the trunk). If anyone is looking a common "narrow" seat is the Evenflow Titan V, which is roughly 16.5" across at the widest point (many are 20" across, making three across require an extra foot of room!) - remember when fitted, they technically shouldn't be touching.

  • Mudhen Mudhen on Jun 14, 2008
    "NBK-Boston: June 14th, 2008 at 9:18 am cleek, mudhen You don’t earn “green points” by increasing the passenger miles per gallon of your vehicle through the expedient of having more children, and therefore more passengers." @ NBK-Boston Your point is 100% valid and I am not so deluded as to think that having 5 children makes me "greener" than anyone else. I merely threw the pmpg reference in there because this website is TTAC, not TTAHALF (The Truth About Having A Large Family). Along the same lines, it's obvious that having children is expensive. I admit to occasionally thinking about the car I could buy if I wasn't spending so much each month on food (or what I will spend on feminine hygiene products over the next 18 years), but those thoughts go away when I get mobbed by my girls when I get home. The joy, laughter, and play my wife and girls bring to my life is worth every dollar. Cars and stuff break, families are forever. I completely agree with the many comments on car seats and actual seating space. We recently moved to Germany and had to put our oldest, 9 y/o, back into a booster as per German law. Did I mention we love our minivan?
  • Alexdi Alexdi on Jun 14, 2008
    I shrug off all of the stares, nasty looks, and rude comments made to my wife and I when we are out in public with our kids. You get nasty looks for having children? Or are they badly behaved? I'm fully in "the more the merrier" camp with offspring, but that's contingent on their civility in public. If your kids are pleasant, then I'm a loss. I could far more easily understand a superiority complex from those with children than I could from those without.
  • Cleek Cleek on Jun 14, 2008

    @NBK-Boston Nor does one '...earn “green points” by *decreasing* the passenger miles per gallon of your vehicle through the expedient of having *fewer* children, and therefore *fewer* passengers.' so your logic escapes me. And besides, who said I have lot'sa kids. If I did I sure wouldn't have time to post this message. ;-). Many people don't lead isolated lives and and keep their vehicles filled with carpools, friends, extended family. But none the less, discounting efficiency, even based on bloodlines and age, makes no economic sense. Back to the broader topic: In fact, most in my circle of friends and colleagues are facing a broader people mover challenge. Everyone has parents and or other older extended family they are responsible for within their household. A weekend trip that combines a couple of kid's with one or two tall and/or arthritic parents requires creativity. How do you keep them all comfortable and entertained and have enough room for the baggage on a weekend trip?. I really like what Ford is trying to do with the Flex. The second row captains seats have been described as business class. (I hope the surly flight attendants are still optional). The entertainment system would allow the kids to stream tunes and the P's to watch a flick. My wife and I could talk, **uninterrupted**, fondly recalling our days as newlyweds living at the beach and owning a 32+ mpg car. But generally we were riding our bikes everywhere. We were so happy, we didn't even realize we were supposed to be smug about it. And when I awake from this day dream and have to unload the luggage, all of those overnight bags will be waiting behind the 3rd seats- because it wasn't an after thought. What was Toyota thinking when it over looked the split bench on the Highlander. How could a machine like Toyota make such a rookie mistake. The MB R-Class is a contender, too. Though there isn't as much room behind the third row as the Flex, its has split rear seats so one could get the overnight bags in the beast. Many of the 2006s are coming off lease and selling prices are pretty competitive. ~$33K with mileage of ~20K and a year or two of factory warranty remaining. The Certified inventory is a little more but it will give you better warranty terms.