Transitioning from the SUV to the Minivan

January 20, 2015 • Notes from a Working Mom

Notes-from-a-working-momI still can’t believe I am writing a post about MINIVANS!!!!!

Nonetheless, that’s where we’re located these days. Gone are the days that Frank and I would even consider a coupe or sedan.  And now, gone are the days we would consider a SUV for daily use.

When I was expecting our first child, we bought a Lexus GX, which I adored.  To this day, it is still my favorite SUV.  Then, when we were planning on the arrival of the twins, we purchased a Cadillac Escalade ESV.  It was fabulous as well and kept me out of the minivan world, which made me very happy.

Now, pregnant with baby no. 4, I am too exhausted to battle the SUV and I have finally succumbed to the mommy minivan craze.  I just can’t justify the style of the Escalade for the comfort and convenience of the van.  Jumping in and out of such a huge SUV to secure my little ones is just overwhelming and straining on my body, especially being pregnant.

Trust me, you just know when it’s time for the van.  If you don’t know, you’re not there yet, so don’t force it.  For some reason, it is a tough decision to make, particularly if you care about style in any way ☺

Over the past few weeks, I have researched the minivan market.  I decided to hone in on three different models: the Toyota Sienna, Limited AWD, the Honda Odyssey Touring, and the Chrysler Town and County Touring-L.  They all have their advantages and disadvantages and are priced similarly, new, at roughly $40,000.00+, although the Toyota and Honda seem to hold their re-sale value better.  As a mom with three young children and an infant on the way, there were certain criteria that mattered most to me.  I needed to have plenty of space for the kids to take their coats off and on inside the van during winter months.  I also needed plenty of space for them to maneuver around one another as they get seated in their car seats.  I wanted leather seats for easy clean-up and an entertainment system for road trips and movies.  I had to make sure my double and single stroller would easily fit in the rear storage.  As an added bonus, I wanted to enjoy the dash and driver area as much as possible in a van.

I do want to point out, although we found the best van for us, you really have to try all three and determine what works best for your family.  It’s not a one-size-fits-all choice and all three vans have pros and cons.  Depending on your kids’ ages, car seat needs, and space requirements, each van offers different options.  You also have to feel comfortable with the drive, which is totally different with each model.   Bottom line, take the time to research and test drive all three!

toyota_sienna_limited_awdToyota Sienna, Limited AWD.  The Sienna is impressive.  It’s drive is very floaty and smooth, which I love.  It seemed a bit heavier on the road as well and the AWD option is comforting for someone who is used to having it in the northeast winters.  I also loved the additional sunroof in the passenger cabin area, which I think children would love.  On the other hand, the Sienna’s dash is very simple and plastic.  The second row seating has two captain’s chairs, which fold and slide forward to reach the third row seats.  Still, you must physically remove the second row seating to gain more space.  I didn’t find that configuration to be convenient for daily access to my third row passengers.

Honda Odyssey TouringHonda Odyssey Touring.  The exterior of the Honda is my favorite.  It looks and drives the most sporty and I like the lines the most of the three.  The interior has the most comfy feel and offers seating for three in the second and third rows.  The dash leaves a lot to be desired and reminded me of my old ’99 Honda Accord, which was great at the time, but not for today’s standards.  The second row seating can also be reconfigured to best suit your needs.   For example, the middle seat or either of the side captain’s chairs can be removed to help gain access to the third row.  Still, you have to physically remove seats for more space.  Just like the Sienna, if you remove a seat, it’s not available should you pick up another passenger, like grandma or another family member.

Chrysler Town and Country Touring-L
Chrysler Town and Country Touring-L
.  The exterior is my least favorite, the drive isn’t as smooth, but this van offers the most power and get up and go.  It also has the nicest dash for the driver with chrome detailing all of the bells and whistles.  From the heated steering wheel to effortless wireless synchronization with your cell and music to an easy to use entertainment system, this van seems to be the easiest transition for luxury SUV fans.  It’s not the same, but it has the options to help you transition.  It also has two DVD screens and blue LED interior ceiling lights that are fun for the kiddos.  The best feature of this van is the Stow ‘n Go feature for the second row seats.  Both captain’s chairs, complete with heated seats, can be EASILY folded and stowed directly beneath the second row.  They just disappear and are there if and when you need them.  It gives you tons of space for parents to make sure the kids are buckled into their car seats in the third row without climbing or maneuvering around anything.

If you haven’t already figured it out, we went with the Chrysler Town and Country.  It’s loaded with amenities and is extremely well thought-out for parents.  Everything is easy to use and safe for little ones.  The automatic sliding doors have been put through the ringer with our kids and will not close if their arms or legs are in the way.  I love that every time I think of something, it has already been thought of and automated.  It has a push button start with a key fob complete with remote starter and automated sliding side doors and hatch.  I can fit both my double and single stroller in the back and love the little grocery bag hooks!!  All three of my little ones are secured in their Radian Diono RXT car seats in the third row.  When baby no. 4 arrives, he or she will be in one of the captain’s chairs in the second row.  For now, I have both captain’s chairs stowed underneath the second row and am loving all of the space.  As an especially extra financial bonus, it costs us LESS THAN HALF the money to fill our tank than the Escallade!! (From roughly $100.00 each fill to roughly $41.00!)

I keep telling everyone, I am loving the convenience of the van, the options of the Chrysler, and am constantly forgetting it looks like a van from the outside.  I am startled every time I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a storefront window, but I’ll get used to it.  The Ziccarelli Family is a minivan family now.   While mommy and daddy get used to the idea, the kids are sitting back and enjoying the ride!

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