13 answers

Thoughts on Mini-van vs Station-wagon?

My spouse and I are expecting our first child in mid-November and thinking of purchasing a more child friendly vehicle two replace his two seater. We are considering mini-vans (such as Odyssey or Sienna) or station wagons (such as Subaru Forestor or new Volvo cross-over). My spouse is quite concerned about gas mileage, which is one reason we are not considering SUV's. I am concerned about ease of getting child into and out of car while minimizing risk of injury to back or other body parts. Also concerned about how much trunk space we will need to haul all of the things that go along with having a child, stroller, groceries, diaper bags, etc.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts!

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Thank you all for your very thoughtful comments and for the well wishes. My spouse and I are strongly considering having more children (though this bedrest does put a damper on my enthusiasm for the next ;) ). Based on everybody's input, we are leaning more towards the mini-vans (Odyssey vs. Sienna). We are planning to test-drive after I am permitted off of the bed and couch.

Thanks again!

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I drive a Nissan Rogue and love it! It's not quite an SUV; it's in line w/ Honda CRV/Toyota RAV. It gets about 25 MPG freeway, around 22 city. It's spacious (big back that fits my mega Graco stroller), high enough to easily lift my 1 year old in/out (and I'm 5'1"), not too long.

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I drive a Nissan Rogue and love it! It's not quite an SUV; it's in line w/ Honda CRV/Toyota RAV. It gets about 25 MPG freeway, around 22 city. It's spacious (big back that fits my mega Graco stroller), high enough to easily lift my 1 year old in/out (and I'm 5'1"), not too long.

After driving my 2 little ones around in a Camry, I love my Sienna! Also occasionally had them in a 4Runner, and Nissan Murano. Higher vehicles are much easier to lift kids in or out of seats. The Sienna took myself, hubby, 2 kids in car seats and 2 dogs from San Jose to Seattle, and back, a year and a half ago. The dogs are 80lbs and 50lbs. While that was a little tight, anything else has fit very well. My kids are 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 now. We have the 2 seats in the middle, not the bench.

Hi B.,

I have a 3 1/2 year old son and we have a Honda Odyssey. I cannot say enough good things about this van. It handles like a car and the gas mileage is decent. We always have room for wahtever we need to bring along. It is SOOOO much easier getting my son in than getting him into a car. With a car you pretty ,uch have to climb in with them and with the van you just sit them up in their seat. I love the comfort of my van too. We can take a long road trip in it and get out without feeling stiff at all. Try out an Odyssey I think that you will like it. We chose it over the Toyota because the features were more and the over all feel was sturdier. We got the EX model because the higher ones (EX-L, Touring) had leather seats and we really didn't want hot in summer, cold in winter seats! Good luck and congratulations on the new baby!

Hi B.,
I'm sorry to hear you're on bedrest, but I'll be you stay up-to-date on your email!
I have an entirely different suggestion: have you looked at the Honda Element? We have a 2003 Element that we bought in '06 before my daughter was born. It gets 22-24 mpg. This includes driving around town for a million errands and fully loaded for a long car trip. Getting my daughter in and out has always been really easy because the back door has the hinges on the other side, toward the rear of the car. When both doors are open you have access to both front and back seats. It was a wonderful haven in her early infancy. I could nurse in the back seat and change her on the floor, which is completely flat.
My only complaint is that cargo space is somewhat limited. We share a rocket box (goes on top of the car) with my mother-in-law and use this on long trips. We've done it without the box too, but the car is really packed.
Check it out! I haven't looked at recent models, but the earlier models were very reasonable. It's also been extremely reliable.

hey B..
I think you should consider thinking of the future. Are you going to have more kids? because, I had a mazda 5 which was a cross over between a mini van and a wagon. but I had my third kid right after I purchased it. It was great for two kids and had fantastic mileage, but for three it was really tight. Any how, I love my mini van and would highly recomend it if you are planning to have more then one child, but if you are planning to have more, I'd say a mini van.

I really liked having a minivan and wish I had it back. We had a pretty bad accident with it--it was a total loss, hit from behind. Our children were in the middle row of seats (3 and 2 years old at the time), and they were unhurt, thank God! But anyway, we ended up replacing it with a little 4-door car. The car gets better gas mileage and you do get to hide things in the trunk (in the van, everything was pretty much visible). But I really liked the space in the van, especially that you can fold or remove the back seat for extra storage--we never had a shortage of space and even got everything to fit on our annual Christmas trips to So. Cal.

But if you do get a van and especially if you shop for a used one, I definitely recommend one with two sliding doors and two captains seats in the middle row. Our second vehicle now is another van, but it's older with only one sliding door and a bench in the middle. I actually prefer our little car around town because this van is much more awkward to use--we only really use it for road trips and other situations when we need to haul things.

Hope this is helpful. I'm sure you'll get other good advice. Congratulations on the coming baby!

PS--Here are the names of the vans we have had: Grand Voyager (loved it except for some mechanical difficulties), Ford Windstar (the one in the accident), Dodge Caravan (our current one)

We have a Volvo XC90, which is the SUV but it's just a bigger version of the XC70 which is the wagon version. I must say Volvos are great cars if you have kids. There are many child friendly features (like built in booster seats), and of course they are VERY safe. Also, since ours has a Turbo engine we fill with regular, and get about 24 highway, 19 city, which is pretty darn good for a large SUV (3rd row allows up to 7 people total). Our trunk without the 3rd row seating is about the same size as the wagon...we regularly go up to Oregon for holidays and can fit enough luggage, portable crib, giant stroller, and gifts to last two weeks! Also, they have a nice built in divider for groceries which seems kinda corny when they show it off at the dealership, but I use it all the time!

I would suggest the station wagon or small SUV. I have heard great things about the Volvo. We currently have a Toyota 4-Runner and are very happy with. We have the 6 cylinder, 4x4 and are getting about 20 mpg average. I am sure the 4x2 gets a few more miles to the gallon. And I would highly suggest you looking into the small suv's (Highlander, CRV, Escape, etc.) They get great gas mileage and I believe are much more convenient and adaptable than a mini-van.
Good luck!

Hi B.,

Well, we have three children and only got a minivan when we knew we were going to need a car that had to hold three car seats for children under the age of 4. Prior to that, we easily fit our two young children into our Acura Integra or our Lexus sedan (hand me down from my mother-in-law, and not the best gas mileage). If you are going to have two or less children, it is not necessary to have a station wagon or a minivan. Any four-door sedan will do well, with enough trunk space to fit a stroller, which most cars have. If you stay with a sedan, you will get better gas mileage that you could ever find in a minivan or station wagon.

R. (full-time working Mom with a 5, 3, and 1 yr old)

We bought our first minivan (Odyssey) at the beginning of this year. The gas mileage is pretty grim, but it is like having a small room with you wherever you go, which is nice with small children.

I expected to get some sort of station wagon, but we were constrained by wanting a vehicle that would work for three in car seats and needing lots of leg room for my tall husband. If I was expecting to have only one child during the next few years, I don't think I could justify a minivan because of the gas mileage. One interesting option is the Mazda 5, which is styled like a minivan but is a smaller vehicle. I wanted to like it, but concluded there wouldn't be room for three kids and gear. When it came to larger station wagon/cross-over vehicles, I couldn't see that you gained much over a minivan in terms of gas mileage or price, so we went with the minivan.

For day to day stuff we have no problem fitting our family of four into my husband's compact sedan, but packing for a camping trip or similar would be a challenge. With just one kid you can easily have most of the backseat free for diaper changes or putting those extra bags of groceries. As for how much trunk space you really need, that kind of depends on how you like to travel.

We have on child and love our Honda Civic Hybrid. 45 miles per gallon and yes there has been room for the stroller, portable crib, diaper bag, bags of toys, etc., as well as the dog (and his stuff) and our stuff, too. The "baby" is now 5 and it's even easier, even with piles of books, a lap desk for coloring, dance bags, etc.

If you're planning multiple kids perhaps you should think larger but really... you do NOT need a big car to haul around a small baby (even with all her stuff!)

We found that the smaller cars get filled up too quickly. We used to travel with a portable crib and grandma for the holidays and that doesn't leave any room for anything else - like maybe a second baby seat :-). We bought our Sienna van when we had our second child and we love it. There is room for the kids (in car seats which takes up extra room), another adult and room for all the baby gear you'll be lugging around. Now that our kids are bigger, the van is still great as the porta-crib has just been exchanged for bigger toys like a blow up raft for Lake Tahoe trips, etc. Check consumer reports and see which vehicles are ranked the safest. They have a lot of info that I think you'll find useful.

Good luck!

sienna Mini van by toyota get great milage....
it is wonderful for the kids.

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