Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Bertha

There are two kinds of people in the world:

Those who swear they will never get a mini-van, and those who swear they will never get a mini-van but eventually fall victim to the wormy charms of obscene spaciousness and tank-like safety features.

Reluctantly, I have joined the ranks of the latter group.

Big Bertha and I did not get started on the right foot. First, you may remember my post about beginning a search for a new vehicle to replace my beloved Milan *sniff sniff* when the lease was up. "I ONLY BUY AMERICAN CARS!" I announced proudly, the good ole Stars and Stripes waving in the background, from the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam. And specifically we wanted to go with Ford, because as DH puts it, it's the only American car company that isn't state run. (We are small government people, if you haven't guessed.)

Of course our first stop was our friendly Ford dealership. We chose one with a "no dicker sticker" because seriously, who wants to dicker? We met with a wonderful salesman with three kids of his own. Who better to help us match with our next Ford vehicle? Perfect!

We explained our needs and our budget. He looked at us grimly -- I think it was clear to him early on that he would be delivering a devastating blow to a young, innocent family. We looked at every model of sedan and SUV that he had on the lot, from the Focus to the Flex, and one thing was becoming obvious.

The yellow brick road was leading us right to... a mini-van. He knew it all along, and he let us gently come to this conclusion on our own. And when the shock of realization hit, our faces twisted in horror and defeat, he was supportive and kind. He explained that his wife drives a mini-van with their three kids, and it just. simply. works. best. Many people have argued that three car seats do fit in an SUV. Certainly they do. And if you have three small children and want to do all the reaching and stretching to navigate the small doorway and inflexible seating EVERY TIME YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE, then by all means, hook yourself up with an SUV. But I have a feeling I'm going to be dreading leaving the house with all the kids anyway, and I'll take the maximum level of convenience when I do so, thank you.

Then the salesman showed us the only used mini-van he had on the lot, which was a fully loaded 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan. (Ford and GM have pulled out of the mini-van market, for those of you keeping score at home.) I liked the look of the Grand Caravan -- I mean, if you're going in the direction of a gigantic boat mobile -- and DH was salivating at the affordable price. But we were still too shell-shocked to go for a test-drive, so we went home to mull over this new direction and do some research on *groan* mini-vans.

From reading our Consumer Reports guide and countless reviews from everyone from experts to regular moms, one thing became clear. The best two mini-vans on the market are the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna.

Trust me, we searched and searched for a reason to get the Grand Caravan. It's a good vehicle, don't get me wrong. I like the whole "ram" image that Dodge has going, I imagine it kicking some major butt in a cage match. The Town & Country is a bit of a step-up from the Grand Caravan, but that front grill always screams "I'm old and I have no fun" to me. (Which is a bit unfair, because my grandma is in her 80s and has way more fun than I do. And probably more than you, too.)

Anyway, when it came down to spending our hard-earned money on a vehicle that needed to be 1) convenient, 2) well made, and 3) safe, it was obvious that we were going to have to cross into the Dark Side and own a foreign car. Or more specifically, a foreign MINI-VAN.

We went back-and-forth between two dealerships, checking out late model Odysseys and Siennas. Fortunately, my dislike of both vehicles meant DH could employ some stiff negotiation tactics. Walk away from the deal? HA! Just watch us! I can extend the lease on the Milan... for up to two months... sniff sniff.

In the end, we did settle on one: the Toyota Sienna. Mainly because it was red. Really, at that point, I might as well have been driving the Wiener Mobile. Which I guess I kinda will be. (Heh. Sorry, couldn't resist.)

We've had it for a few weeks now. DH is really happy with it. I think it's... fine. Maybe I'm being ungrateful, I don't know. It's a nice vehicle, roomy, very safe. Bean is farther away from me so when he cries in the car (not tremendously often, but still) it's much less annoying. I guess I am still coming to terms with the fact that after 13 years of driving, my car is no longer an extension of my personality.

Or is it?


It does fit in the garage, which was a potential concern. Even if I pee my pants a little every time I open the door to the garage because I think I'm about to get run over.


Big Bertha in all her glory. Try not to be jealous.

Well, at least Bean seems to be comfortable.

I just hope we don't meet a Grand Caravan in a dark alley some day. Because Bertha and I will totally get creamed.



Kristina P. said...

My husband hates minivans so much, he won't even park next to one. I think SUVs have overtaken the minivan.

Shelley said...

Thanks for the good laugh! I've been lurking for a while and was am so happy to have read something entertaining on a very stressful day at work, I just HAD to comment! And oh, yeah, don't worry, I hear you get over the minivan phobia eventually. I only have one child, so I'm not there yet, but I may eventually end up where you are too!

Kate said...

we became a family of five. Now, even though all the kids are grown and out of the house, when he went to buy a new car... he bought a minivan.

Apparently those suckers can grow on you!! :)

Kate said...

Seriously? Only half my comment went through? UGH that makes no kind of sense.

Okay, here's what I meant to say:

My dad did not want to be a guy with a mini-van and resisted it for years but when we became a family of five hee had no choice. Now even though all the kids are grown and out of the house when he went to buy a new car, he bought a minivan!

Sheesh. Talk about taking the punch out of the funny conclusion. Blech! :)

Jen said...

This is why I'm stopping at 2 kids!

But in all seriousness it is a very pretty red. And it would have been a serious PIA to try and get 3 car seats in the back seat of an SUV.

A Mom in Jacksonville, FL said...

We became first time mini-van owners this spring. DH is the primary driver. But we love the space and storage. And our road trip to/from Florida-Ohio this summer was sooooo much nicer for space for Em and our large dog in the back. I am 100% sure once the twins are here, you won't regret your minivan decision. :)

Our Family said...

I was definitely a member of the latter group as well...but I love my Sienna. And we're only going to have 2 carseats...

Kristi said...

My sympathies. I am NOT a minivan person either, although my friends with them LOVE them. And I do mean LOVE.

That said, since the birth of the twins, I have been driving my husband's Trailblazer (and he is driving my beloved 10-year-old Jetta). Yes, three car seats do fit, but it is insanely tight and requires contortionist-like maneuvers to get everyone strapped in. Also, Isabella beats on the twins simply because they are so close to her reach.

My dream car? A Mini Cooper. Yeah, I haven't a prayer of living that dream for the next 17 years.

Michelle said...

We just bought a minivan and I love it...and it is just the 2 of us. I guess we are prepared...

Red said...

Wow! THAT is a car. It's massive and will cope with all your (expanding) needs. It'll do the job until your buys have left home and you and DH can get a sporty little number.

Allison said...

Well, I think it's beautiful. I'll say it again....Mini-vans are awesome. You will come to realize this someday, and when you do, you will thank me. And you will love the automatic door.

Lavender Luz said...

Husband and I had the "no minivan" claus put into our wedding vows.

Come to think of it, maybe that's why we ended up infertile.

Bertha is beautiful! I think you SHOULD call her the Wienermobile.

Furrow said...

She seriously looks like she is about to invade your house. But I really have no problem with mini-vans. They serve a purpose and they are far more fuel-efficient that the monster SUVs (I have a small SUV, myself. Honda CR-V). Ironically, my brother (the one also expecting twins) has an old Ford van and an old Ford monster SUV, and they have determined that two infant seats and a toddler seat will not fit in the van without putting my tall brother's knees in his face, but they will all fit in the monster SUV. Go figure.

MissMVK said...

You are so awesome for getting Bertha. I just cannot pull the trigger! I just....can't. I'm going to be one of those poor suckers who is trying to climb in and out of my SUV and killing my back along the way.

Martha said...

Welcome to the dark side. Your minivan is beautiful. I love both my minivans and my 12 y/o Sienna still Rides Fabulous.
Toyota and Honda are also made here in the US, employ US mechanics, etc. I hope that helps w/your Michigan auto guilt.
Oh, I couldn't thrown my son's bike in the back of a sedan like I did with the minivan when I got it back from the scumbag thief. You can definitely kick some booty in a minivan.

Eve said...

Congrats on moving to the dark side! We moved with our first son (yes I had one child and a minivan)...but it was b/c we had a chance to buy my sis' minivan at cost since they were moving to England. Once you go mini you never go back! You'll love it!!!!!

Nicky said...

I live in fear of needing a minivan some day, because I don't think I could drive one. I mean physically drive it -- I have no depth perception, and I would hit something every single time I tried to park it. Or un-park it. Shudder. I'll stick with sedans for as long as I can.

Ditto the comment about many Toyotas being made in the US. But then, I'm biased -- my family has only owned Japanese cars (exclusively Toyotas, actually) ever since my dad got tired of fixing our Pontiac Bonneville when I was 5 years old. We were such bad midwesterners.

Aunt Becky said...

I bought an Odyssey when I got a third kid. Trust me when I tell you that it's worth it and I feel like the biggest effing loser EVER.

But man, am I a comfortable loser.

Mary said...

I love the van, you made a great choice with all that soccer and football gear you will no doubt haul in years to come!

Foster Family Blog said...

Congratulations on joining the minivan ranks! We only have one baby and were lured into the amazing convenience! We went with the Odyssey (we're Honda people) and have been very happy. Nice to see you still have Bean rear-facing in his car seat. I'm going to wait as long as possible to turn Audrey around. Enjoy the minivan life!

MK said...

"And specifically we wanted to go with Ford, because as DH puts it, it's the only American car company that isn't state run. (We are small government people, if you haven't guessed.)"


Stephanie Faris said...

Funny you mention this today. We left the minivan home and took the tiny Honda on our road trip this weekend. I really missed that minivan...even though it was just the two of us and the dog this weekend!

Cousin Kimmy said...

This is small compared to the "Big Bertha" we drove around during my teenage years...remember my 16th birthday party when I got a key to "Bertha" and I'm pretty sure I started crying??!! :)

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