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.