I’m the first to admit it. Once upon a time, I declared I would never ever ever drive a minivan.
Even after baby number three, I STILL did not budge. But after six months of popping the trunk of my SUV to access the car seat in the back row (climbing in and out of the vehicle each time to buckle and unbuckle the kids), I decided enough was enough. We drove down to the used car lot and chose between the three minivans they had on hand that fit our basic criteria.
A year and a half later, I know it was one of the best decisions we’ve made yet!
Before kids, the exterior of my vehicle mattered the most to me. I wanted it to look cool, sleek, new(ish). I was much less concerned with the functionality of the vehicle.
Now, three kids later, functionality is just about the ONLY thing that matters to me.
When I bought my first SUV in 2015, I made sure to choose bucket seats for the middle row which I thought would make back row accessibility effortless. What I failed to consider was that with a car seat in each bucket seat, it was nearly impossible for my 5-foot 10-inch self to climb in over them! Plus, having three kids in a relatively short amount of time meant that we had THREE large car seats to maneuver.
Thus began our “new normal”, which involved popping the trunk and lifting the then 3-year-old in through the back hatch, waiting for her to crawl into her car seat, and then climbing in behind to buckle her. The process repeated each time we needed to get her out of the car. It was… no bueno.
Cue the minivan!
I wish that I could tell you I researched endlessly, narrowing in on every safety feature, comparing MPG between each model, and incessantly reading reviews from other moms about what they like and didn’t like about their vehicle. But… I didn’t. All I knew was that we had just paid off our SUV, and I was not willing to add a new huge monthly payment to our list of ever-growing expenses. So I searched for used vehicles online with only a few criteria (75,000 miles or less being the main one).
While I searched online, I was amazed at how in the last 5-6 years, the minivan market has STEPPED UP ITS GAME.
You should see the family-friendly features they put in these things now: Stow ‘N’ Go seats that fold into the floor when you’re not using them? Check. A deep trunk that will hold lots of groceries and your bottle(s) of wine won’t roll out when you pop the hatch? Check. Shade coverings already installed on the windows so your sweet little baby won’t have the sun glaring in their face on a long car ride? Check. And I haven’t even talked about the automatic power doors that essentially guarantee nobody will slam their fingers. Some of these vehicles even have vacuums(!!) already installed. (Talk about goals and dreams changing as you get older!)
Once we got to the car dealership, only one of the three I had narrowed it down to online was still available. I didn’t love the color(red), but after a test drive and a quick run-through of the features, I was sold. It was clear how much more convenient this would make our family’s life. After a little bit of wheeling and dealing, we agreed on a sales price of our SUV and a purchase price for the minivan.
We left the dealership with a used Chrysler Pacifica and I officially became a “soccer mom”, despite none of the kids being enrolled in soccer.
That was last March, and I can honestly say I have ZERO regrets. The color has grown on me (it’s easy to find in the parking lot!) and the small monthly payment we incurred is hands down worth the convenience that has been added to my day-to-day life. Preschool dropoff was a cinch this year, and the 3 and 4-year-old being able to open/close the door themselves has saved me so much time, effort, and sanity.
Here are my “Must Haves” if you’re in the market for a new vehicle and you’re considering a minivan:
- Backup Camera and Bluetooth – I use the camera every. single. day. and it’s a game-changer. Bluetooth is wonderful for syncing your iTunes or Spotify, and for hands-free phone calls while driving.
- Automatic Power Doors – Whether it’s for school dropoff, grocery pickup, or anything in between, I cannot tell you how much I love and use this feature.
- Stow ‘N’ Go Seating – We fold one of the middle seats all the way down into the floor and it makes back-row accessibility an absolute dream. If we ever have extra people riding with us, popping that seat back up into place takes about ten seconds.
The number one thing I would consider if going from an SUV to a minivan is that winter driving can be more of a challenge. We opted not to wait for an All Wheel Drive model to become available, and our Front Wheel Drive has gotten us around just fine (plus, FWD costs less). We will not be taking any trips to the mountains anytime soon, so if that’s on your “must” list, a minivan might not be for you.
When it comes to vehicle color, interior fabric, navigation, sunroofs, and the other bells and whistles, don’t fret too much on the details or spend too much on these upgrades. If you have young children, this van is gonna SEE SOME THINGS, so don’t put extra pressure on yourself trying to keep it perfectly clean or adding additional budget constraints for things that don’t make much of a difference in your day to day life. Say it with me: FUNCTION!
See ya’ll at soccer practice!
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