About once a month someone says to me, "Now that I have kids, I think I need a minivan, but I really don't want a minivan. What should I buy?" Early in my career my answer was, "Well, you should probably buy a minivan." Most folks don't like this answer, but more often than not it's true.
Many times when I have recommended minivans, the result was a nasty look and a "potential client" that has become a "lost client." Now I when I get the question, I run off the normal bevy of mid-size 3-row crossovers: the Toyota Highlander, the Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9 etc...all of these vehicles are fine M.A.Ms (Minivan Avoidance Machines). I have brokered deals on dozens of them. Even though my job is to help people find a vehicle that will suit them best, I can't tell someone what to buy. But seriously parents...get a minivan, here is why -
It is such a simple concept, yet so wonderful. You hit a button and they open or close if you so desire. If someone parks too close to you at the mall, you can still slink into your van. The sliding doors combined with the lower ride-height also means that little ones can get in and out of the vehicle on their own a bit easier than a taller SUV. This means less lifting for you and every opportunity you can take to save your back from hoisting 50+ lbs youngster is worth it. Also, sliding doors gives you easier access to the 3rd row seat.
Most minivans will give you the option of getting "captain's chairs" for the second row seat. I say this is a must-have feature. Children especially between the ages of 5-10 will benefit from a "separation zone." Do you really want to hear, "Mom...he is touching me" on the way to soccer practice? Yes, some of your mid-size and large crossovers can also be had with 2nd row captains chairs, but I can tell you that the DMZ gap between your youngsters is much smaller.
I am well aware that last winter was brutal and that snow crippled places as far south as Atlanta. But unless you were driving BigFoot (the monster truck) a 4WD vehicle was not going to save you in the Atlanta gridlock. Nor will it necessarily make you "safer" in all the other areas that get inclemate weather. Maybe 15% of car-buyers actually need a legit 4WD vehicle. Even the states that get regular snowfall are much more equipped at clearing the roadways for safe travel than places like my home state of NJ. Also, if and when the epic blizzard does hit, chances are you are going to stay home. But if you insist, know that the Toyota Sienna does have an AWD option.
Guess what..kids grow up. They get older; they get cars of their own and eventually will move out. At some point along the way once strollers, sports gear, and little league car-pools are out of the equation you won't need the minivan anymore. You can trade it in for a luxury crossover, or a nice sedan, a maybe even a sports-car. A minivan is not a prison sentence. Also worth noting that many American families have two cars. One of which could be the primary family transportation (i.e a minivan) and the other can be whatever you like, a monster truck, a Lamborghini, or maybe something a little smaller that balances out the MPGs.
I know why you want to avoid the minivan, because to give into that type of vehicle means that you have to come to terms that you are now older, more mature, and thus have entered a different stage of your life that is not exactly easy. Minivans are meant for one type of person, parents. SUVs and crossovers are for people that go on "adventures" and fill their car up with "antiques." But I'm a car consultant not a therapist that is going to help you work out your mortality issues. You are a parent now, as much as you want to think that you are one of those "cool, hip, new-age, daddy/mommy blogger" parents the fact remains that when you transport children and their gear convenience and safety will soon take priority over some fleeting sense of youth.
Minivans don't have to suck...they are not going to handle like a Lotus, nor lay down rubber like a Challenger Hellcat. Dodge Grand Caravan Hellcat... make it happen. Today's minivans don't look like rolling slabs of "I've given up all hope." I happen to think the Sienna SE has bit of JDM style.
Drop some rims, some tint, and a few more goodies and your Sienna can be a Vellfire!
So from one parent to another, if you want a vehicle to haul the family around, don't kid your self about the whole SUV thing...just get a damn minivan. Trust me, you will be happier.
If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at AutomatchConsulting@gmail.com and be sure to include your Kinja handle.
(Awesome GIF via Jason Torchinsky)