By on September 24, 2011

Want a cheap car? Buy a minivan. Even in today’s tough market, a minivan is a tough sell. A dealer friend of mine now has over 50 minivans spread out at four different locations. Not a single one sold so far this month. Only three sold the month before. In our business we don’t call that slow. We call that, “Yikes!”

It’s as if minivans are the automotive version of leprosy. Or perhaps the 2000’s version of a station wagon. Nobody wants em’. Nobody buys em’.

But should they?

If you took a unibody pickup… enclosed it… raised the seats a few inches… gave it front wheel drive… a ton of options… upgraded the suspension for comfort… and made it look like a beached whale… you would get a minivan.

You can seat seven (or eight). Tow 3,000+ pounds (in most cases). Enclose anything you want of real value in a safe manner. Heck, you can even stow 18 open cans of soda while letting your passengers enjoy an endless array of DVD’s and headphone fed tunes. Time flies in the cocoon that is a minivan.

For moms and dads, minivans have always been the road trip version of nirvana… and for good reason.

Except no one goes on road trips anymore. At least most families have low-tailed it since gas has remained at $3.00 and change. It costs an awful lot to keep a minivan running these days. Even the good ones.

A lot of other things have changed since minivans hit their peak sales of 1.37 million buyers in 2000. Americans are older. Poorer. Millions of jobs have been lost and nearly everything seems to increase in price in ways that the government can’t seem to track. While all this has gone on, hundreds of thousands have perished in the modern version of ‘oil wars’.

For the wars? Against the wars? Doesn’t matter. Only the most politically correct of big vehicles are selling these days. Even if those vehicles are far more wasteful and poorly designed. Automakers don’t push minivans anymore. They want crossovers, CUV’s, overweight metrosexual vehicles.

Let’s face it. You can’t even call a minivan, a minivan anymore. It’s a ‘lifestyle’ vehicle. A ‘family’ vehicle. A vehicle that is so icky in it’s pop culture connotations that you can’t even speak it’s name.

The deception of what is cool when it comes to a daily driver is just a small symptom of a much bigger problem. Americans are just slowly crawling back from a morass of media fed lies, poisons, and frauds. Deficits don’t matter. Wall Street is virtuous in its greed. Politicians can solve our problems. What does all this have to with minivans? I’ll give it to you in one word, representation.

The face of America is changing… and what we buy reflects it. While many of the usual purveyors of financial whoredom are still pretending that bad things are good, (high fructose corn syrup is merely ‘corn sugar’) many more of us simply know that all this shit just sucks.

Minivans aren’t representative of a bygone era of innocence. They reflect excess, bloat, and the one thing most businesses making record profits can’t seem to offer these days… commitment. Minivans reached their peak when the pursuit of family values and upward mobility seemed to be our country’s Manifest Destiny.

Not any more… families are now embracing a leaner lifestyle not because of want, but of need.

So who ‘needs’ a minivan?

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65 Comments on “Hammer Time: Of Man And Minivan...”


  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    jack’s review of the Dodge Town n Country van thing is the counterpoint to this

    how are new vans travelling?

    as i see it here there don’t seem to be any smaller vans, just the gas guzzling 4,000lb things that few people really need

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      Minivans drive like they look. So, not only are you seen in an overpriced diaper bag, minivans drive like an overpriced diaper bag.

      A used minivan has more cooties and germs than a used condom. After three years of peeing in them, back seats in minivans are dirtier than a rest stop urinal.

      You want to spend $30-40,000 for a vehicle that is a rolling diaper pail? Folks who spend this much money are not thinking.

      You can come up with a list of reasons minivans should be in every driveway. Fortunately, most guys test drive vehicles before buying them which prevents this from happening.

      It isn’t just the dowdy appearance. It isn’t just the lousy performance. It isn’t just the kids passing a turd in the third row. It is all of these things which combined make minivans so unattractive.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    I think an excellent counterpoint to the Minivan is the Cube/Soul/xB trio with the xB seriously large enough to haul around 3 kids, 2 adults and most of their stuff. Going to Costco with one can be a bit tough but cheap to run. The CUV crowd looks nice but they’re larger than they need to be without any real increased space inside.

    I feel for the minivan, the problem I see is that the two preferable models out there from Toyota and Nissan are vastly overpriced compared to their SUVs and the Dodge/Chrysler combo look good but lack the refinement of the previous two. Most minivans I see in the paper being advertised are cheaper than comparable years SUVs but also tend to be cheaper models with few options because the family that owned them couldn’t afford 30K for the option packages that were nice.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    A lot of second-marriage families still seem to want minivans, but they don’t want them to look boring or too practical anymore. I’m not sure you can buy the Ford S-max in the US, but it’s a big seller over here, because it looks (reasonably) cool, and drives really well. Although I feel there are more and more of the small minivans (microvans?) on the roads, like the Mazda 5 and Toyota Verso. CUV’s are taking over here too though, with more and more of them offering 7 seats. But apart from fuel economy , most CUV’s seem to be a quite reasonable practical alternative.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      There are hardly any MPV’s nor wagons available here in the US. The Ford [Grand] C-Max was cancelled, replaced by an EV C-Max. The Transit Connect has made it here sans rear seats thanks to the Chicken tax.

      The Mazda5 is here, but without the 7th seat. I wish mine was just a little bit larger behind the 3rd row, the JDM Odyssey has a flip-down 3rd row as a result. The kids are fine with the low-effort sliding doors, and no need to worry about them banging other car doors.

      • 0 avatar

        The Transit Connect has made it here sans rear seats thanks to the Chicken tax.

        Actually the opposite is true. The chicken tax only applies to “trucks”. So they get shipped over with rear seats & glass side windows so they are technically “passenger vehicles”. Once on the docks in the US 99% of them get the seats ripped out, and the glass removed & replaced with solid side panels to turn them into “commercial vehicles”.

  • avatar
    Gedrven

    The unpopularity of minivans seems quite simple to me, and it’s not the “uncool” factor. On the contrary, I see about as many “tricked-out” vans as cars, and they appeal to a wider audience: your typical modified car with go-fast… er, go-loud parts and aftermarket wheels is interesting to a lot fewer people than a van with curtains, a minifridge, and other such interior comfort bits that anyone can enjoy.

    What it comes down to is that vans are singularly good at two things. Hauling cargo is not one of them; a pickup truck will do just as well, and be a lot more versatile, durable, and easier to maintain. The first is having a high ratio of interior volume to exterior size. In cities where roads were built centuries before motor vehicles were invented (see: Europe), this is a major advantage. In the USA, it doesn’t matter much. The second is being able to haul a lot of people, something a truck can’t do (safely, and without major modifications). Though ridesharing and carpooling is catching on, and big families are enough of a unit by themselves to warrant such a vehicle, it remains an intrinsic part of American car culture to prefer driving oneself, or with one or two passengers, not 6 to 10. While being able to carry a good amount of nonspecific cargo is a fairly common buyer’s requirement, being able to fit more than four nonspecific people generally isn’t. Of course, if you have some *specific* people in mind, well, you’re a family and that’s the main buyer of minivans. But other than that buyer, there’s a lot less of a case to be made for a minivan than for a pickup or even a larger car.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      I’m with you on the durability. Minivans are basically bloated cars with highly-stressed transmissions, brake rotors and other light-duty components.

      But less versatile than trucks? My Nissan Quest hauled everything from the family camper to a 900-pound stack of drywall sheets (in the rain, tailgate closed), and then with the flip of a lever converted into a spacious 7-passenger taxicab that could easily fit in my compact garage. Truck shmuck. Minivans are by far the most versatile vehicles on the planet.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        Well said, Don1967. As I’ve said here many times, vans make great working vehicles. Unless you’re carrying gravel or ATV’s and such, a van can do pretty much everything a pickup can do while doing some things even better. I would venture to guess that most people don’t choose pickups over vans purely for utility (just as most families don’t pick CUV’s over vans purely for family utility). Don’t get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the importance of image, and will fully admit that it plays a role in my purchasing decisions as well. But I would argue that pickups are a lot less versatile than vans when it comes to general utility.

        An automobile is like a set of clothes, and few people these days want to be seen wearing a van.

      • 0 avatar
        Mathias

        Agreed. I had a short wheelbase Silverado and my wife used it exactly once to pack her antiques for a show… it had a cap over the 6.5 ft bed and i was stunned how much less stuff it held than her minivan. The recent ‘mini’ vans have the same footprint the fullsize vans used to have — about 80″ wide by 200″ long — and because of the FWD layout, they have nearly the same interior height. Huge hauling potential.

      • 0 avatar
        flatout05

        Yes indeed! Note that many wily contractors have wised up to minivans: They buy disposable Windstars for $1500 – $2500, pull all seats except the front pair, beat the hell out of ’em, and do minimal maintenance. When the vehicle inevitably dies (usually of tranny failure, and often after a ridiculous number of workhorse miles), they have ’em hauled off and find another.

        I’m in the process of getting a large dog, and I’m trying to work up the guts to get an uncool minivan as a dogmobile. It’s that or a $35,000 Jeep …

  • avatar
    Mathias

    My biggest hangup with minivans is they don’t come with a stick. When I finally convinced my wife to get rid of her Nissan hardbody and get a minivan — “think of the child’s safety!” — I got serious backlash in the form of, waddayamean, it doesn’t come in a stick?

    She sells antiques and needs a vehicle to haul; since she’s had her ’03 Sienna, you’d have to pry it from her cold, dead hands. We only have one kid, but when she was little, it was SOOO nice to have all the extra space. On vacation, back up to the beach early morning, open the hatch, and eat breakfast in the playhouse. That sort of thing. We went camping this year, the girls slept in the van. You don’t “pack” in a minivan, you just “take with.” For a family, it’s about perfect.

    And then you get 25 mpg freeway. What’s not to like? What exactly do people think the “image” is you get with a Tahoe, say? I see one of those, and “big ass” comes to mind in several ways.

    FWIW, I’m not so sure about them being hard to sell up here in MI. I occasionally look for Siennas, just to see what the market is doing, and here you can’t find any. Detroit Craigs, ’02 or ’02 Siennas — right now there are 4 cars. They will sell fast, and for what the missus calls “whorehouse prices.” Do the same search and substitute “Caravan” — 220 hits. Of course, that’s Detroit, but still.

    A really good bet for cheap wheels — and a really nice hwy cruiser — is the ’99 – ’02 Villager. Nissan truck powertrain, indestructable, domestic nameplate, not much demand. That’s about the sweet spot; too bad they quit making them. Only problem is rust — what’s an ’02 with 100k, say, doing at the Atlanta auction these days?

    Or for sophisticates… a shorty fullsize Van… my kind of image ;->

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The 1st gen Dodge mini vans were K car based. The newer ones are way bigger. Cirrus based?

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      The first and second generation minivans were K-car based. Afterwards, the minivans diverged onto their own unique platform.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      Yes, the 96 minivan (NS platform) was based off the Cirrus/Stratus (JA platform) which came out in 1995. I don’t know if today’s minivan is based off the Avenger/200 platform or not. There was a proposal to create a “mini” minivan base off the PL platform (Neon) but it never came to pass.

  • avatar
    Slocum

    In a year or two, we’ll need to figure out what to buy to replace our van. It has to tow a ~3000# boat. Obviously, we could buy a lot of vehicles that are *cooler*, but what else could we buy that handles and performs as well, gets better fuel economy, and is more flexible for other things?

    The obvious alternative would be something like a Pilot or a Highlander. But the performance and capacity are worse. No way you’d get 4 people, 4 mountain bikes, and luggage for a weekend *inside* a Pilot like we can do with the van. You have to give up quite a bit of utility for image.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    On a side note Steve has posted a video of one of my all time favorite Oakridge Boys singles.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Steve, I’d really like to believe that Americans are finally opening their eyes to the “morass of media fed lies, poisons, and frauds”, but I fear that they’ll slip right back into the old consumer complacency if and when the economy recovers and they begin to feel fat and happy once again.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      “…nearly everything seems to increase in price in ways that the government can’t seem to track.”

      It is a Democratic Administration. It goes out of its way not to correctly track the rising cost of living.

  • avatar
    detlump

    A stick shift minivan? You must be joking. I’ve been in a Mazda5, and at 6’3″ 260 it was tight. Too tight.

    I like minivans, they really need diesels to balance the fuel economy. I have a wagon so I like practical vehicles. Chrysler did drop the standard minivan, now only offering the “grand” version. But I doubt the additional cost would justify the smaller one coming back.

    I don’t think a minivan is less complex mechanically than a CUV, which likely has AWD. Otherwise, a 2WD minivan and 2WD CUV may even share the same platform (Pilot, Ody) and powertrain. True some parts like plugs may be tough to access, but even cars are getting tight in the engine compartment.

    Finally, sliding doors are the best, especially in the city. And that flat load floor is great for moving stuff. Hail minivans!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      A stick shift minivan? You must be joking.

      Well Chrsyler did offer the stick for a 4cly Caravan for many years, sadly it was ONLY offered with the 4cyl.

      • 0 avatar
        Sammy B

        1980s Toyota Van had a stick. You could even get it w/ the 4×4 model (that had a proper hi-lo transfer case). The Previa even had a stick, but never on the supercharged model. Manual transmission, RWD, mid-engine. Almost like a supercar :)

      • 0 avatar
        wagonsonly

        Yes, but if you knew what option boxes to tick off, you could get your Chrysler minivan with both the manual and the 4-cylinder turbo. Also, there were other small/minivans available with a manual at that time – the cab-over designs from Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Nissan (remember the ones that all got recalled?), the Vanagon, and the Nissan Stanza.

      • 0 avatar
        mazder3

        There was also a swb diesel 5 speed Voyager for Europe. Lucky sunuvaguns….

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      the ’90s Mazda MPV was available in a 5 speed stick. Though the one I drove was my boss’ and it was a Canadian market car that somehow migrated to Texas. It lacked power, but it was entertaining to drive.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Bring all your minivans to Canada. We’ll have them gone in a month. Again and again the minivan (usually the T&C) is the best selling vehicle. It’s a value proposition: cost/utility. Nothing beats a minivan.

  • avatar

    I rented a Toyota Sienna in July for a family trip. 5 of us and our gear had plenty of room as we chewed up the miles. It was just right.

    I owned a Sienna many years ago. As a daily driver, it was just wrong. Too fuel inefficient, ponderous handling.

    My conclusion: Minivans are great to rent when you need one. Otherwise, just buy a car.

  • avatar
    bucksnort

    You will rarely see the load capacity in pounds advertised for minivan or crossover. One of their dirty little secrets is their load capacity in pounds is far less than their cargo capacity in cubic feet would suggest. The Nissan Quest mentioned may have been overloaded at 900lbs cargo plus driver and fuel. These so-called 8 passenger vehicles are great as long as half of the passengers are children. They probably cannot safely carry 8 adults. Then their is the safety issue; I would rather be in a body on frame truck than a vehicle with the same basic structure as a beer can.

    The truck based platforms do not have this problem. My wife’s expedition can safely carry 8 fat broads.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      The Nissan Quest mentioned may have been overloaded at 900lbs cargo plus driver and fuel.

      Yes, it was sagging pretty badly. But it made the haul from Home Depot to my driveway with no ill effects, and then went back to doing things no truck can do. Versatility is my point here.

      As for the safety of body-on-frame trucks, this is out of date but not by much: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB0araA0T_k Hopefully your wife’s Expedition fares better.

      And then there’s the famous “Chevy vs Chevy” demonstration, which clearly shows the superiority of “beer can” technology over old-school full-frame design: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_ptUrQOMPs

      Yes, in the average car-on-car collision your wife is probably safer with 6,000 pounds of steel surrounding her vs. 4,000 pounds. But using that logic she would be safer in a Peterbuilt, and safer still in a bubble-wrapped Sherman tank flanked by secret service agents. At what point are we grasping at straws to justify such extravagant means of transporting 130 pounds of human flesh?

      • 0 avatar
        Bryce

        Most companies dumped BOF in the 50s only the US kept this creaky unsafe technology

      • 0 avatar
        bucksnort

        …she regularly carries a full cargo load which the Quest could never handle, safely or otherwise.

        A you tube video does not repeal the laws of physics. We spend 22 years in the land of drunk drivers (…aka the Land of Enchantment). The previous expedition was hit 3 times in 10 years by red light runners….it drove home every time. The other vehicles were totaled.

        I gladly pay the premium at the pump as extra insurance. Even then, the current expedition gets 18 mpg on average…me doing the math, not the dashboard.

        …btw, she only weighs 108 pounds.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Nissan Quests of 2006-2009 had a payload of 1,203 lbs. The Grand Caravans of the same era had payloads as high as 1,700 lbs, same as a Durango or Dakota. Other minivans fall between these two extremes.

  • avatar
    gasser

    My 1995 Windstar cost $22,000 and got 13 mpg in town. Gas was less than $1 a gallon.
    What part of a $30,000 minivan and $4 a gallon gas makes any sense today??

    • 0 avatar
      Coley

      My third child is due next Spring. What would you suggest?

      BTW, an online inflation calculator shows that the $22k you spent in 1995 is worth $32k today–conveinently, a Honda Odyssey EX-L. Today’s Odyssey, you’ll surely agree, is far better vehicle than your ’95 Windstar.

      Relatively speaking, I’m getting a much better deal than you did.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The part where modern minivans get the same CAFE-mandated 25 MPG highway rating as every midsized vehicle on the road, from compact cars on up…

      25MPG in a $15k used wagon/sedan, or 25MPG in a $7.5K used minivan. Practical man buys minivan.

  • avatar
    DrivnEZ

    Love the video. The minivan makes a very functional handicap conversion. This is what I use for Mrs. Dez:

    http://www.braunability.com/wheelchair-minivans/rampvan-xt/

    Braun removes the floor, installs a drop floor conversion and ramp. With the added weight we obtain over 19 mpg combined driving with the 3.5 L V6. It offers a smooth ride, important to someone who lives with chronic pain, and adequate acceleration. We’re due for another one in January.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      There was a company (was it Braun?) that did something similar to the Companion Van (enter/exit from the rear hatch) for Chrysler PT Cruisers and Scion xB or xD’s. I thought it was a nice alternative to the not-so-mini minivans.

      My sister had one for several years before she gave up driving. I thought it was a neat package.

  • avatar
    Freddie

    It’s debatable how well Chrysler executed its Caravan R/T “man van”, but I’ve always thought that there would be market for the concept – a sporty, performance minivan that could make both Mom and Dad happy.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Depends on the man…

      What I really want out of a minivan is a removable interior. Most new minivans are way too civilized for my taste, but I would like to be able to haul passengers in comfort a few times a month. So, I either have to buy a used one that I can let get trashed, or be able to remove the interior when I’m hauling something dirty/smelly/mishapen. I currently use a Ranger for these jobs purpose, but I’d like a kid-friendly back seat from time-to-time — and those 4′ trucklet beds that seem so popular on concept-trucks just won’t cut it.

      Removable and fold-flat seats are a great start, but I’d really like to be able to take all of that plastic out and store it.

      All modern cars have more power than I need. Hell, even the Prius that my wife drives is plenty powerful. Just so long as I can keep up with the tractor-trailers, I’m good on the highway — what I need is a vehicle durable enough to do light towing (the usual 3500lb minivan towing capacity is fine) with a removable/durable enough interior haul uncivilized loads internally without being ghettoized.

      The people who want a “sporty” minivan can already buy a Mazda5. But a minivan is what it is, and that’s a practical vehicle. Trying to make it sporty would likely detract from its practicality.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’m one of those people in the market for a used minivan. I have e three coupes and a sedan, it’s tough to get big items home sometimes. Yes, you can rent the truck at Menard’s or Home Depot, only so long as someone else hasn’t rented it already. Plus, it’s a helluva lot easier to load my drum kit into a minivan than a coupe. Truly, there’s little that is as versatile as a minivan.

    My problem is this: I want a SWB minivan. Most of the ones I run across are the LWB ones. During the winter, I cannot park on the street. Once the snow flies, the plows pile it up. I’m relegated to putting three cars on a driveway that holds two and a half. A LWB minivan would put one of the car’s rears into the sidewalk. A ticket-able offense if a LEO were so inclined.

    So, I will just keep looking…

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Here in Wisconsin, all I see is minivans. The 2001-2007 Chrysler and Dodge ones seem to be the most popular. There are also quite a number or Siennas and Odysseys.

    What I don’t understand is old people (70+) with minivans. Their kids are all grown up and have lives of their own, why do they need 8 passenger seating?

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    geozinger. Not that I like it or anything… Kia has been selling the current generation of their Sedona in the US with a SWB like overseas 2007-2010. No one seemed to bite. You loose the rear folding seats and have to drag them out with your own back.Just get a 2WD SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @rental Man: Not that I troll the Kia dealership much, I seriously did not know that. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a SWB Sedona anywhere in my travels.

      I have considered a FWD SUV of some kind but they’re not quite as space efficient as a minivan.

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    For older drivers it’s the chair height that sells minivans. You don’t have to hoist yourself up like in a full-size SUV, and you don’t have to duck and slide out like in a lower sedan. The seat is just a few inches away from your standing butt height. (They probably got talked into the 8-passenger thing at the dealership. )

  • avatar
    Advo

    I saw a Chevy Orlando at the mall a few weeks ago. Thought it was an HHR at first glance from a ways away, but I knew in the back of my mind that it wasn’t.

    The styling makes it look more like a crossover than a swoopy, modern Mazda 5, and it looks more integrated than the last Chevy minivan that seems to have the squarish nose tacked on to the body.

    There was a senior on the opposite looking in through the open window like I was, and he complained to me how he was going to buy a Dodge Caravan since he couldn’t rest his elbow at a comfortable height on the Orlando’s open window sill. I’m bemused at what different people find is absolutely necessary in a vehicle to them.

  • avatar
    majorfrn

    Dude – if you have to ask “why a minivan” you don’t have babies. This is the vehicle where a baby’s diaper can be changed, inside the car, without getting out or opening a door or window, as opposed to standing in the rain with the door open in 35 degree weather changing your baby on the seat. I’ve experienced both and I’ll take the Odyssey for now.

    Talk to me about a CUV or SUV or sport wagon when the youngest kid hits 5. If you travel a lot where there is weather, this is huge.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Naw, I see a lot of old people traveling in minivans. Motel parking lots that cater to the AARP crowd are full of them at night. What I see old people who use a minivan driving around in are overwhelmingly top of the line Sienna and Odyssey minivans, and to a lesser extent a T&C.

      Also in my area, musicians and band members drive around in minivans, usually with the seats removed and loaded to the gills with band equipment.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      “Dude – if you have to ask “why a minivan” you don’t have babies.”

      My Gen-Y peers who have kids (0-3 years old) have the following cars and CUVs:

      – Honda Civic
      – Honda Fit
      – Subaru Forester
      – Toyota Matrix

      Maybe minivans are necessary when you have 3 kids, but modern young families with 1 or 2 offspring seem to get by with smallish sedans and crossovers.

      • 0 avatar
        Coley

        I’m 32. With two kids, we’ve “gotten by” with our 8-year-old CR-V. It’s fine, but it’s not ideal. With the third one due, we definitely will need a minivan.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        @Sam, I agree wih you. I grew up with two siblings … even with three kids (the oldest early teens, the youngest still in a stroller) and a small dog, the biggest car my parents ever had was an Audi 5000. We took lengthy vacations, too.

        For a three-kid family should be no *need* for a minivan (or a large CUV which is really a minivan in disguise). If you want a minivan, sure, but a mid-size sedan can indeed carry two adults and three kids.

    • 0 avatar
      Coley

      @th009 – I, too, grew up in a family with three kids, and mid-sized sedans (wagons) were the biggest we ever had. However, car-seat requirements are far more stringent now than they were when you were a kid. What modern, mid-sized sedan would you recommend to carry three children under five years in compliance with all car-seat requirements, paying particular attention to the fact that rear-facing infant seats (now recommended for children up to two years of age) should not come into contact with the seat in front of them. And remember, for the purposes of this disucssion, I’m ignoring all considerations of cargo volume and diaper-changing space, as previously noted.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        I just bought an 8-year old CR-V, because I needed the space for two rear facing child seats and a 5’7″ teenager. Of all the wagons and minivans I checked out, the CR-V had the roomiest regular backseat, and having to crawl in between the rear seats to reach a tiny seat on the third row didn’t look promising. Keep the CR-V as long as you can… (maybe add some sound-deadening, I will :P )

      • 0 avatar
        Coley

        @Zykotec – Yep. I’m still keeping the CR-V; I’ll drive it back and forth to work until it falls apart. It IS a relatively spacious backseat compared to similiarly-sized CUV’s, but I’m still impressed that your 5’7″ teen can fit in the middle of two rear-facing child seats. If he/she is doing so without much complaint, you’ve got a great kid. Is this the regular, family car, or is this the amount of space you wanted to be able to fit everyone in a pinch, if necessary?

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Although she could fit in between the seats, getting in and out would be difficult, so we put one seat in the middle and let her sit by the door. I tried all the mid-sized wagons around the same price and two minivans (Avensis Verso, and Mazda 5) but they are realistically 2+2+2 seaters, and not ‘real’ 7 seaters. German and American cars were not seriously considered as this was going to be a daily driver and I already have a project car ;)
        I can admit that the cargo space could be bigger, but if I need to haul longer and bigger stuff the rear window opens, and I have a trailer hitch.
        (and the CR-V works a lot better as a daily driver than most bigger cars, considering it’s low weight and length. Easy to park, and borderline fun to drive.)

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I owned a minivan, a Caravan, back in the late 80’s. With three dogs, it was very handy in some ways. It was so gutless, I had no AC on a large portion of trips down south, as I had it floored going up mountains so much of the time, there was no vacuum and all I got was hot air out the vents. Between the lack of power, and the weird and scary handling it had at times, I was very happy to trade it for an 88 S10 blazer, with 40 more HP, it at least could keep the AC running, and being RWD based, it was predictable in the handling dept. When I went to the dealer I bought the Caravan at to test drive a new one, I drove both the short and long wheelbase vans, and I don’t know why anyone would want the LWB version. It was too long, too heavy, and just cumbersome. It made the S10 an easy choice. That thing was a rock, my total repairs in 5 years were a battery, two headlights, a turn signal, and 7 tires. The tires all died from junk on the road that I couldn’t avoid, or craters that the city/county wouldn’t fix until they became large enough to do severe damage to cars. Only then did they take care of them. That S10 was still on the road until the rust made it impossible to drive in rainy weather, and it went to the boneyard, with about 400,000 miles on it.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I have 5 kids, a wife, a dog, and we’re on our 4th minivan in 15 years – they are the bomb.

    We took our 09 Sedona on a 6000-mile cross-country camping trip last year, towing a U-Haul with the camping equipment in it. It was awesome. Even though we only averaged 12 mpg due to the added weight of towing, I wouldn’t have wanted to travel any other way.

    By the way, to avoid the bloat of $30-40k minivans, don’t buy them. I got mine 1-year used for $17k – a great value.

    • 0 avatar
      Coley

      I’m impressed on every count–5 kids, cross-country camping trip, the value find.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      We just got back to Richmond, VA last night from an 8-day trip to the House of Mouse in Orlando, FL. My wife and I brought our two girls, 6 and 3, and my wife’s sister and husband and our nephew (also 3) all in our 2006 Honda Odyssey. The three kids fit in two forward-facing car seats and a low-back booster across the third row and the adults sat in the first two rows. We took out the 8th seat for storage space, plus had a storage rack slid into the 2″ receiver that held the suitcases.

      It worked amazingly well. We were on the road for almost 12 1/2 hours yesterday (including stops for lunch, fuel, and dinner with meals spent outside the car). While on the road we averaged just over 75 mph for the whole trip excluding stopped time and I calculated 24mpg on the way south and 23mpg on the way north.

      Only a full-size van or SUV could have swallowed the same load and the kids would have been much harder to buckle in in a taller vehicle. Plus those vehicles would have probably used between 1.5-2 times as much fuel to travel 750+ miles with the cruise set near to 80. With any smaller vehicle we would have had to take two cars for a similar fuel economy penalty plus risk upsetting the ability to actually complete the trip in one day as there would have been fewer individuals to share the driving duty.

      All in all the trip was ideally suited to the vehicle. On a daily basis it makes dealing with the kids (and we usually have our nephew as his daycare provider) much easier than in a smaller vehicle. Now that the young ones are 3 it would only start to become possible to have three kids in a sedan since they could move up to boosters and no longer use a stroller. Having two kids under the age of 2 in a sedan is nearly a non-starter because the double stroller sucks up nearly the entire trunk and two full car seats all but eliminates the possibility of a third should you have an older kid in the equation.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Lots of minivan love here, but not in the automotive marketplace. The preferences of internet car forum guys obviously do not match up to what new car buyers actually purchase.

    Vehicles represent the image that the purchaser wants to convey, and minivans do not present an image most buyers want to project…and I would argue, especially with women. Women (thankfully) usually want to project an image of youth, beauty, and sexuality. I just read a quote that today “teenagers want to dress like whores, and women want to dress like teenagers.”

    Minivans do not project an image of youth, beauty, or sexuality; to most people they represent middle age, mid-life responsibilities, and being a matron of the home vs. belle of the ball. They are not sporty or sexy, and by association neither are their drivers (Julie Bowen of Modern Family being an exceptionally notable exception).

    Cars, like clothes, allow the purchaser to make a statement about how they want to be perceived. Minivans make a statement that may be more reflective of people that spend a lot of time on computers than the public at large.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I think you’re missing the mark.

      I’ve been a dad for nearly two years now, and I’m becoming very comfortable with the role and I’m happy to present myself to the world as a dad. Even using your model of image-based human behavior, I’ll be happy to drive a minivan when my Ranger finally kicks the bucket

      My model of this portion of human behavior is slightly different than yours. I see that some people are obsessed with image. Others are more practical. Myself, and most of my friends, are practical people who put form over function. Your model ignores the existence of myself and my social circle.

      To a practical person, a minivan appears to be a cost-effective and versatile vehicle. I’d considered a minivan before before, but didn’t want to scare off any potential girlfriends. Now that I’m married and a dad, that’s no longer a problem.

      I’m not obsessed with my youth. Your model suggests I should be. My youth was unpleasant and awkward. Now that I’m in my 30s, I have more experience and more resources and I’m really glad I’m done with that awkward, unpleasant, and sexless time. Plus, I get to hang out with my toddler-age son, who’s turning out to be quite an awesome little kid — and I can’t wait to see who’s going to be when he grows up.

      Your model doesn’t seem to be comprehensive. Perhaps it explains the 30-something with kids who buys a sports car, or an SUV that never goes off road? Or perhaps it describes aging people who are determined not to grow up? It sure doesn’t seem to be explaining the behavior of a minivan-buyer, and I see lots of minivans on the road.

      (Your model might explain why minivans depreciate faster than other classes of vehicles? But that’s only to the benefit of people like me. :-) )

  • avatar

    If you have two kids a good car,or a wagon, would be the default choice.
    But three kids or more and you can’t beat a minivan, but you could make a case for the Mazda 5, Kia 5 or the Orlando for most families.
    The biggest problem with today’s minivans is they’re not so mini anymore, not to mention they’re ugly with the Nissan Quest being right on top of that list IMHO.

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