I know. I get it. You are reluctant to embrace full-fledged soccer mom-dom by driving a minivan. You don’t want to be a cliche. You’re interesting and complicated and don’t fit the “mom” stereotype.
Listen to me. Get over yourself. A van is the best car for any parent with more than 2 kids. It will make your life easier every day, every time you drive it.
I know what I’m talking about. I used to feel the same way about vans. I have driven some of the best van-alternatives. I’m here to tell you: The van beats everything else, hands down.
Our first family car was a Subaru Wagon. This is a nice car—easy to drive, lots of space, reliable in snow. But you can not fit more than 2 car seats in it. Believe me, I tried. When you have your 3rd kid you have to either get a van or a van-alternative with a 3rd row of seats. I talked my husband into a Dodge Caravan when that 3rd baby came. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. It had automatic doors and a dvd player for the kids. But I guess my husband’s heart was never really in it. After a few years we traded it in for a used Land Rover.
The Land Rover was very cool. But it was a stinker to drive, clunky and top-heavy. It had a 3rd row that was a huge pain to get to. But it was rugged and had 4-wheel drive, as well as a built-in cooler that held a 6 pack of Diet Coke. I had a lot of friends who were envious of my car. But even my husband admitted that it was the opposite of convenient.
A few years after that my husband surprised me by trading the Land Rover in for a great deal on a driven-by-the-dealer Mercedes GL. This was my fantasy car because I had seen it in movies. It seated 7. It’s like a baby Suburban. We had 4 kids at this point so we needed a mini-van or an SUV in order to haul them around. I love the idea of something that’s super energy-efficient, but until I’m an empty-nester a Prius just isn’t in the cards for us.
So, a Mercedes! Can you imagine? A Benz! It’s like the nicest car ever. I’m not going to sit here and complain about driving a Mercedes. It was sweet. But I’ll tell you what—I still missed the van. You think when you’re done with car seats the logistics of seating and belts and middle seats will become irrelevant to you. But it doesn’t. Because guess what takes up as much room as a car seat? A teenager. And their friends. I found myself carpooling 3-4 members of the Cross Country team home along with my younger kids. Getting in and out of that gorgeous, deluxe, SUV was a killer. And so, after going through 2 full new sets of specially-made, hugely expensive Mercedes tires in 2 years we decided we had to be done with the Mercedes. It was just too pricey to drive and to maintain.
(Oh and by the way, do you know how much other drivers hate you if you’re in a Mercedes? The answer is: A lot. I’ve never been flipped off as often as I was driving that thing around town. Ah well. Who can blame them?)
Halleluja! My husband finally had a true change of heart and was ready to go back to a van. We got a Honda Odyssey last summer and we are in love. I feel its influence for good in my life every day.
The features that mean the most to a mom like me are the automatic doors and the aisle between the seats. Those features alone will improve your life with kids. When you pull up to pick up and drop off, when your hands are full with a car seat and a toddler, when you parked a little too close to the next car over, you will give thanks for sliding doors that little kids can open themselves with the push of a button.
Having, essentially, a hallway between the 2nd-row seats is wonderful. Kids can climb in and out without having to go over seats. I can walk around back there and buckle kids with ease and grace. It is life-changing.
And while I have to admit the Mercedes had a better stereo, the Honda has a decent one and the technology interface is much slicker and intuitive than it was in the Mercedes. My phone syncs with the car for hands-free phone calls. I stream Spotify from my phone through the car stereo. It’s dreamy. The gas mileage is a little better and even though my van does not have 4-wheel drive, it does fine in the snow. In fact, the SUV was harder to drive in the snow and slid around more even with 4-wheel drive because it was incredibly heavy.
Now, I don’t want this to simply turn into a rave review of the Honda (they aren’t even paying me!) But I want to make one final appeal to people who refuse to consider the mini-van.
If someone as self-actualized and rad as you would just give in and get what you know in your heart is the most practical car for a family it will help all of us. It will raise our image and we can take ownership of the stereotype in order to thrash it against the rocks just like people took ownership of the term queer or mommy blogger. Let’s change the world, people! We can do this. No need to be a hold out to show that you are cool. Show that you are cool by buying a van. Make the statement that the coolest folks don’t worry about driving a car with a lame reputation. It’s hip to be square, right?