Why Our Mini-Van Wasn’t Working

Let me start by saying that my family is a big collection of exceptions to the rules.

My husband is 6’5″ and does not easily fit into every vehicle. Besides that, even if he fits, he can’t drive with a car seat behind him or he no longer fits!

We chose to extend rear face our children and we have them close together. This means we have three, three and under all rear facing. (and will soon have four under four, ideally rear facing). Making loading and unloading an errand in and of itself!

With that, you can understand a little bit about how we decided to get rid of our van.

It all started the day we realized we had to replace the breaks and tires before our safety inspection expired. It was going to cost a day in labor and about $1000 if we did it ourselves. I asked my husband, “do we plan to move the van off island?” to which he replied, “Does it meet all of our needs as a family?”

We drove a 2009 Volkswagen Routan SEL. It had all the bells and whistles, that is for sure. However, when we purchased it, we had one child and our second on the way. I knew very little in the way of car seats, and had I known what I do now, I would not have purchased this van.

In terms of safety, this van has 3 seats with both anchors and tethers. I prefer seat belts to anchors when installing my car seats, however, the lack of front facing tethers was a problem. If we were to keep this car forever, knowing that I am now expecting a fourth car seat, I would have to move Salem into a potentially less safe seat for his age and size to accommodate our younger children in front facing seats.

Our van also had Front Wheel Drive. We know that living somewhere with snow is likely, and living on a farm is a dream. All Wheel Drive is better suited to us in terms of safety and amenities.

Other issues that the van presented regularly came in the form of automatic sliding doors. As my dad says, “the more things that have automation, electric, and buttons, the more that can break and the more it costs to fix.” These doors not only broke, they would NOT stop CLOSING for anything! This is not the case with every minivan, I know this to be true because many of my friends have wonderful vans! Mine almost caught my two year olds leg, though, so I may have been holding a grudge.

Another inconvenience was having to buckle (and during tantrums, load) our rear facing toddlers through the trunk of the vehicle.

Lastly, the minivan did not match my energy efficient goals in life. It averaged 9-12 mpg. I got 17 once. With a fresh oil change and a clear H1…we all know how likely that was to happen again. We paid about $150/monthly in gas. That’s like adding a third car payment to it.

So now what?

I looked at other minivans. I knew how to drive them, how to park them, and how easy it was to let little people climb up into them.

The Toyota Sienna has AWD. The Honda Odyssey has 8 seats all with tethers. Rumor has it 2017 Odysseys come with AWD, but we were looking to not invest money into a vehicle we were not keeping and certainly were not gonna get returned.

If I get an Odyssey that meets my seat requirements, will I kick myself every time we get stuck in snow?

Let me tell you a story. When Sebastian and I were expecting our first child, we bought our first, second vehicle. We wanted something safe and fuel efficient. We determined the Ford Focus met our needs, but the big questions was, “do you want the hatchback?”

Nah…who needs a hatchback?

Our stroller never fit easily into the Focus. We should have gotten the hatchback.

Was AWD going to be my hatchback? Did I want to chance it?

I was scared of SUVs. I convinced myself they got the worst gas mileage. But gas mileage was an amenity, and AWD and tethers were my safety concerns. I could sacrifice gas mileage.

Well, Sebastian’s dad works for Ford, so off we went to the Ford dealer to look at Explorers. 7 seats, but 6 had tethers, AWD was an option, and the mileage was great in the ecoboost engines!

We have to wait 4 months for our car to get in and our car seats don’t fit..

This means, sure, I’ll pay less in car payments, but I have to purchase new rear facing car seats that fit. I’m not ready to deal with that hassle. I really love our Cleks and I love how safe and comfortable they are for our kids. And, we’ll have to do the work on the van because we’ll need it until the Explorer arrives.

Sebastian looked up reviews on the best SUVs. Number 2 was the Honda Pilot. So, I did some digging…

Here is where the Car Seat Lady gives a nice layout of seats with anchors, tethers, anchors and tethers, and neither.

Here is where the Car Seat Lady talks about what features to consider when looking to buy a vehicle that safely holds car seats and their precious cargo.

Which brings me to why we chose the 2016 Honda Pilot.

We have an AWD version.  We can load our toddlers comfortably standing at one door or sitting beside our daughter on the other side. Our Cleks fit in the front row, behind the driver, and my very tall husband is still able to drive! (Cleks could not be in the captain’s chairs in the van if my husband was to be comfortable driving). The front seats slide forward instead of having back row passengers climbing onto seats. ALL 6 rear seats have tethers! There is not buckle/seat overlap. All head rests are removable, meaning they won’t interfere with front facing tethers. Our gas mileage is 20-27! (Remember, my van did not even get that on its best day..)

I am excited to welcome this vehicle into our family life. I’m thankful it is rated so high in safety and overall gets incredible reviews. I don’t think this car will suit every family, and I think mini vans are wonderful vehicles! Once again, our situation is uncommon, but I’m so glad that Honda made a vehicle that suits our safety standards and our desires for a family vehicle!