Ur-Turn: Shopping For A Family Hauler

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
ur turn shopping for a family hauler

Reader Daniel Latini is a car guy and has a baby on the way. He’s looking for your advice on a new ride that can carry around his family.

My wife is one of those generally temperate souls who has a few firecrackers strewn about her personality. New challenges can spark a little friction in any couple, and something popped when we saw the ultrasound pictures of our still-developing first child.

Her current steed, a middle-aged Korean compact hatch, lost a lot of luster that day. I’m sure the B&B will pelt me with shop manuals for trading a car with less than 100,000 miles, but I think there are some sound reasons to consider an upgrade.

We’re young, clueless and enthusiastic – click the jump and join us as we begin the misadventure of finding our first family hauler!

As the owner of a 2008 Kia Spectra5, my wife has spent the last few years learning about the difference between “spec-sheet” cars (those that have a lot of listed features) and quality cars (those that do not cheap out on everything else). To be fair, the Kia was almost perfectly reliable during its 53,000 miles of service with us (86k in total so far). It did provide a few ongoing headaches though. The Kia giveth and the Kia taketh:

  • Fuel economy has consistently varied between “marginal” (29 MPG highway) and “disappointing” (19 MPG city)
  • The stereo features a 6-disc changer, but it sometimes withholds the CDs like a stubborn dog playing tug-of-war
  • The transmission appears to be gaining sentience as it is takes more and more time to ponder the four forward gears. To make up for the time wasted during the decision process, it slams home every shift
  • The dash is squishy, but it buzzes like previous owners installed an aftermarket beehive

Annoyances aside, there are more practical reasons to upgrade as well. Space is a big one. A weekend trip for the wife, dog and I fills the whole cargo hold and part of the back seat. Home improvement runs can be a challenge. We also periodically drive elderly family members, so something with improved ingress and egress would be appreciated.

Safety is the larger concern though. Jack’s recent wreck has driven a lot of conversation, and the few parents I know who lost young children in car accidents say they are changed individuals as a result. While the NHSTA scores for the Spectra5 seem okay at first glance, it is important to remember that the test was toughened in 2011. The IIHS metrics are both more current and more critical, especially when concerning side-impact performance. The Kia might be acceptable in a crash, but this is not a treasured sports car or weekend toy. Because we have the means, I am struggling to justify not providing something more robust.

So while I normally keep cars for most of their useful lives, my wife and I have agreed to see what the market has to offer. I hope to share some of our experiences on these pages, but I want to propose a question first – what is the deal with new moms wanting seven seat trucks?

Daniel: “Any idea where you want to start the search? Crossover? Sedan?”

Wife: [enthusiastically] “Tahoe!”

Daniel: [laughs] “Only if we were going to live in it. Wanna start with the CX-5? I think you might like it.”

Wife: “Tahoe! All my girlfriends want one.”

And that is mostly true. A quick poll of my wife’s friends carrying children (whether internally or externally) indicated a universal “need” for a seven-seat vehicle, usually an SUV. These are all young women in their twenties, so I imagine the SUV boom of the 90s conditioned them to some degree. Some hope to have large families, but they all currently have two kids or fewer.

The situation, to this young IT worker, does not compute. Large seven-seaters like the Tahoe strike me as an unnecessary waste of both resources and money for a family starting out. Small seven-seaters, like the redesigned Nissan Rogue, seem to fall between two stools.

What say you, B&B? Am I overblowing the safety concerns about the Kia? Are these women on to something my Y-chromosome prevents me from seeing?

Daniel Latini is twenty-something with a child on the way. A Millenial without a Twitter account, he was trained as a journalist but now works in IT. His passion for cars was ignited while helping work on his father’s Alfa Romeo Spider and was nearly extinguished when he got to drive it.

Join the conversation
15 of 340 comments
  • Mnm4ever Mnm4ever on Mar 03, 2014

    One thing I notice about the Tahoe and other full sized SUVs and trucks is they are very roomy for larger people, which I think is one of the appealing traits. Some of my friends are bigger, football player build type of guys and they complain they do not fit well in CUVs or crossovers. I can attest to one guy who changed from a car to a full size truck because of this. He's about 6'5", 250 lbs or so, used to drive an Altima but got an F150 extended cab and is thrilled with the room.

  • Bryanska Bryanska on Mar 03, 2014

    2013 Caddy XTS. White pearl tricoat over cashmere leather. Like a rolling Coach purse. Looks like $$$ in the dropoff lane. She'll look 100% woman. The SUVs may look empowering to the other moms, but a pearlcoat Caddy will make them straight up jealous.

    • See 12 previous
    • Kyree Kyree on Mar 03, 2014

      @PonchoIndian I'll submit that there is a significant difference in materials quality and design between the XTS and the Impala. And you can get a lightly-used mid-trim XTS for less than what you'd pay for an Impala LTZ...

  • Lou_BC "Owners of affected Wrangles" Does a missing "r" cancel an extra stud?
  • Slavuta One can put a secret breaker that will disable the starter or spark plug supply. Even disabling headlights or all lights will bring more trouble to thieves than they wish for. With no brake lights, someone will hit from behind, they will leave fingerprints inside. Or if they steal at night, they will have to drive with no lights. Any of these things definitely will bring attention.I remember people removing rotor from under distributor cup.
  • Slavuta Government Motors + Government big tech + government + Federal police = fascist surveillance state. USSR surveillance pales...
  • Johnster Another quibble, this time about the contextualization of the Thunderbird and Cougar, and their relationship to the prestigious Continental Mark. (I know. It's confusing.) The Thunderbird/Mark IV platform introduced for the 1971 model year was apparently derived from the mid-sized Torino/Montego platform (also introduced for the 1971 model year), but should probably be considered different from it.As we all know, the Cougar shared its platform with the Ford Mustang up through the 1973 model year, moving to the mid-sized Torino/Montego platform for the 1974 model year. This platform was also shared with the failed Ford Gran Torino Elite, (introduced in February of 1974, the "Gran Torino" part of the name was dropped for the 1975 and 1976 model years).The Thunderbird/Mark series duo's separation occurred with the 1977 model year when the Thunderbird was downsized to share a platform with the LTD II/Cougar. The 1977 model year saw Mercury drop the "Montego" name and adopt the "Cougar" name for all of their mid-sized cars, including plain 2-doors, 4-doors and and 4-door station wagons. Meanwhile, the Cougar PLC was sold as the "Cougar XR-7." The Cougar wagon was dropped for the 1978 model year (arguably replaced by the new Zephyr wagon) while the (plain) 2-door and 4-door models remained in production for the 1978 and 1979 model years. It was a major prestige blow for the Thunderbird. Underneath, the Thunderbird and Cougar XR-7 for 1977 were warmed-over versions of the failed Ford Elite (1974-1976), while the Mark V was a warmed-over version of the previous Mark IV.
  • Stuart de Baker This is depressing, and I don't own one of these.