Irritated by Van Shopping

Our minivan is on its last legs. Well, I wouldn’t quite say that – a savvy car owner could probably drive it for another few years at least, if one knew about things like tune ups and was handy with minor repairs and such. But Sir Monkeypants and I are not those people; we live in fear of a highway breakdown, and we do a LOT of driving in our van, so at 11 years old, we feel it’s time to replace it.

We went van shopping last weekend and man, the market really does not cater to larger families anymore, does it? We have an eight seater van from 2006, so we can put all three kids across the middle row in some comfort, and have oodles of space in the back for camping gear or Christmas presents for the whole extended family or a month’s worth of Costco shopping or a day’s worth of ski and snowboard gear. When the kids were small, we had three full car seats across the middle, with each kid having about the same amount of space.

Now, however, there’s only two companies that make an 8-seater, and they are 8-seaters in name only. The Toyota in particular – what we have now – has this unbelieveable, token middle seat that is sort of like a lawn chair you unfold and stick there, only it’s barely a foot wide. It’s a lawn chair for babies. How anyone who actually required a third car seat would make that work is beyond me – in fact, I don’t think that middle thing is even approved, legally speaking, for a car seat. The Honda is marginally better, but even their middle-middle seat is smaller, tighter, and way less comfortable than a real seat. It’s clearly meant for some marginalized member of the family who doesn’t rate actual comfort.

How do people with even bigger families do it? Do they have to take two cars on ski day? I wonder.

So we find ourselves van-disappointed, but needing something, so we are weighing our options. Do we abandon the ideal of the 8-seater van, and accept the fact that one child will be exiled to the way-back, to sit alone amid the luggage and groceries, unable to view the TV? Or do we suck up the 8-seater option and force the smallest kid to ride in it – for at least as long as her butt is able to squeeze into it?

Or do we give up on both and just get a stretch limousine to carry us around, because apparently that’s all that’s made to house a five person family anymore?


5 thoughts on “Irritated by Van Shopping

  1. We have solved similar problems by buying used. I don’t know if it’ll work in this case, but if you can find out when the 8-seater made that change to a lawn chair, you can look for used minivans from the years before the change. Of course, you may find that the last year of good minivans was 2006, in which case you’re up a creek.

  2. Our Odyssey, bought used, is also a 2006 I think….and I keep telling my partner to bite the bullet and start looking for something better. With hockey season just around the corner and so.many.conflicts where we need both cars in good working condition, I am very hesitant to keep the van.

    I leave it up to him. He buys used, does the research, and then when he selects one to test drive I have to go along. I hate it, just give me a car to drive and don’t bug me with the details. But…I grin and bear it and tag along if I must.

    What I’m saying here is this: I feel your pain. 🙂

  3. It’s funny because you sound like us – “Why is nobody making the car we want?” – except we want different things than you do! And it does make car shopping a real chore when you’re not shopping for something you really WANT, but instead something you have to buy (for a lot of money).

    I’m looking forward to seeing how car ownership / use changes in the future – I think (hope) big changes are in store.

    Oh, and for the record, most big families I know these days seem to drive honking big SUVs instead of mini-vans … however, I sympathize if you don’t want a honking big SUV.

  4. A.Q.

    Maybe find out what sort of van the airport shuttles use, and then try to find that for your family? It would probably be a full van, not a minivan, but– whenever I take a shuttle to the airport, it seats more than 8 adults plus everyone’s luggage. (And it’s a van, not one of the little buses.)

  5. maryatparenthood

    We have a Honda van and routinely stick 8 people in it. I was worried about that middle seat but find it comfortable enough that I have sat in it all the way from Ottawa to Toronto. I like that you can adjust the spacing; we are currently in massive car seat land and it’s nice to be able to move the seats with car seats in them over so that they aren’t encroaching on the middle seat as much.

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