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Get OFF the Minivan Bandwagon

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Moms, listen up. You do NOT need to buy an SUV.

Family cleaning car

Guest blogger Gay Uncle Brett Berk: You may not know this, but in addition to being an expert on kids and parenting, I also know a little something about ... cars. In fact, I know enough to write a weekly online car column for Vanity Fair. It's called Stick Shift and, given its massive popularity, I'm often asked to field questions like: "What kind of car is good for a mom with two kids?" I usually start by boomeranging. "What are you thinking of?" And the answer I often get is "...A Crossover, or SUV?" Imagine that. In this economy. With oil running out, and prices bound to rebound, these ladies want to waste their money (and our resources) pushing around some bulky hulk of steel. Well, here's the T (as in truth), girls: better options exist.

Being inherently stylish, I won't even utter the M-Word (I'll spell it: M-I-N-I-V-A-N). So what do I recommend? Station wagons! A Subaru Forester or Outback will do, but if you want to be even the least bit creative, head elsewhere. Audi and BMW make gorgeous, sporty wagons in two sizes (A4 and A6, and 3 and 5 Series, respectively) and Certified Pre-Owned ones are surprisingly affordable. Cadillac is getting ready to release one (CTS) and it's hot as hell. Volvo is famous for its full-sized wagons like the V70, but the smaller V50 is adorable. VW makes wagons in Jetta and Passat variants. The Toyota Venza is butt-ugly, but is essentially a Camry wagon. The Chevy HHR is wagon-ish in a '40s delivery van kind of way. The Saab SportCombi is a fantastic wagon. Even Honda is preparing to circle its wagons with a new Accord Estate. And while it looks M-Word-ish, the Mazda 5 is actually a tall wagon.

Sadly, when I pitch moms these vehicles, they inevitably counter: "But we have a lot of cargo." To which I say: "If you're carrying more stuff than can fit in a wagon, you're carrying TOO MUCH STUFF. Commence dumping!" (For load-lightening instructions, read my piece about Lifeboating.) Regardless of what you drive, carting around extra junque in your trunque increases wear, clutters your life, and lowers your m.p.g. In these times of change, shift your paradigm: go wagon.


next: Octuplets Mom Wants YOUR Money
15 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley February 12, 2009, 7:30 AM

What about a Chrysler Pacifica? It’s like a tall wagon right? That’s what I want but we don’t have the money right now. My friend has one and it doesn’t seem too big and gets pretty decent gas mileage. I live in a fairly well-off suburb of OKC and ALL the moms drive giant SUV’s. Most of them only have 1 or 2 kids!! I drive a late model Toyota Camry. It works, and its paid for. I feel so tiny parked next to these huge SUV’s at school, it’s ridiculous!!

Lisa February 12, 2009, 8:42 AM

All the people(yes, men included) with SUV’s is ridiculous! And 90% of the owners don’t know how to drive them properly…way too much vehicle for them. They can’t park them, don’t know how to use their mirrors and think 4 wheel drive is the answer to their bad driving habits/inabilities.

We wanted an Outback back when we purchased our Toyota Sienna but cost was what made our final decision for us. Car manufacturers have just made it so that minivans are the obvious choice for cargo room and affordibility.

LovemySUV February 12, 2009, 10:36 AM

Lisa if you don’t like SUVs don’t drive one. We have one and LOVE it. Sorry for ya. The reason they are so hard to park is that the spaces are designed for midsize or smaller vehicles. ANd trust me I see just as many bad drivers in cars and wagons and etc. So to me you have no point. I drive a minivan though. My hubby drives the SUV. I love my minivan and would not trade it for a wagon. And the “cargo” we are carrying can’t be dumped! It’s our 4 kids, carseats, diaper bags and strollers.

mollysmom February 12, 2009, 11:58 AM

i have a 98 toyota 4runner with less than 90k miles and it will have to truly die on the side of the road for me to give it up. i love it and though my husband has tried to get me in something else i refuse. it’s the perfect car :)

Anna February 12, 2009, 4:35 PM

lovemySUV - you sound like the typical SUV owner…arrogant and ignorant. The point is to comment on the article, not attack someone else’s opinion. Keep driving your SUV and polluting the environment. That’s a great legacy to leave for you 4 kids!

Laura February 12, 2009, 4:37 PM

Since having kids we’ve owned mid-size cars, a PT Cruiser, a Pacifica, and yes, the current and dreaded minivan. My need for a larger vehicle is that my cargo is human. The PT Cruiser was great, but once the kids started getting bigger seating for five was not enough. Especially since several times a year our passenger count increases by a grandparent or aunt. I drove the Pacifica for a year and went back to the minivan because seating for six beats seating for seven. It ain’t glamorous but it’s great for transporting bodies.

Anonymous February 12, 2009, 5:12 PM

What’s the bad rap about minivans for. They carry all that extra cargo and are ok on gas. It seems like a good compromise. And they are roomy for the kids. So they are not that cute, it’s just a matter of opinion. I drive one, no big deal. I don’t feel dorky, just smart.

Micaela February 12, 2009, 5:22 PM

I finally agreed with my husband to get a minivan & I LOVE it! I thought I was too young & hip for one, but I don’t have any regrets at all. I have a Honda Odyssey & it is great! GPS, seat warmers, everything electric & a VERY PRACTICAL PRICE. Our friends teased us until they rode in it! LOL!

not February 12, 2009, 5:49 PM

Don’t you love it when men think they are hot shots in their mini-vans? *barf*

clm February 13, 2009, 1:10 PM

We have twins and elderly parents. We adore our Volvo V70, but it cannot carry 6 people when two of them are in car seats. We don’t carry much cargo, but we do carry a lot of people. So for now, the minivan is the most viable option.

j February 13, 2009, 3:19 PM

I also have 4 kids and drive a Suburban. When you travel, grocery shop for 6 people, etc. You need the cargo space. I drove a minivan, it just couldn’t carry as much. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Actually, I just helped our economy and bought a new one. LOL

jackie February 17, 2009, 12:21 PM

I traded my SUV (an Isuzu Axiom) for a VW Jetta to help with gas costs and I loved it initially. Now, with a toddler seat that takes up half of the back seat the car is practically a 2 seater and I have back problems from having to bend over and lean into the car to pull my daughter out. I’d take my SUV back any day. Some people need more space and storage…

Jeb February 17, 2009, 7:16 PM

Notice how all of the wagons, except the new Caddy CTS (which has junk rear visibility unfortunately) are ALL from foreign manufacturers. A lot of these wagons have just as much storage as many SUVs but are more fuel efficient because they aren’t all jacked up to appear bigger. The Big 3 automakers do not want to think outside the SUV/CUV box and they are, as usual, lagging behind and paying the price for it (well, it looks like we’ll be paying for it with a bailout).

melinuxfool May 6, 2009, 10:55 AM

Don’t knock the Minivan. Some of them get mileage equivalent to the wagons you recommend.

I had a 93 Dodge Caravan with over 200,000 miles on it. The thing got 28 mpg on trips.

The Plymouth Voyager minivans with a 2.5L Four cylinder and 5-speed stick could get around 30 mpg depending on how you drove them.

Sadly, nobody, save Mazda, makes a stick shift van these days.

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