Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Transporting the little big family - up to nine

Our previous 94 Town and Country
Recently we purchased a new vehicle; our most recent baby put us at 8, while our trusty, but rather elderly, minivan only seated 7.  Well, I suppose the van was getting to the point where it was more elderly than trusty.  Just now, I can't remember how many miles were on it, but trust me, it was a lot, and it had more than a few, ah, quirks to show for it. 

Well, for three months after Abby's birth, we drove two vehicles everywhere we went as a whole family - which is mainly church, and often a museum trip or some such on Saturdays.  We put off shopping for a new vehicle because we really wanted to pay cash for one, rather than finance it.  There were a few reasons we changed our minds - the main one being a desire to travel to visit faraway family.  Also, we never realized how much we value the conversation time, driving places together.  When all the kids are belted in and Mark and I are up front, we get more time to talk than almost any other.  We missed that terribly.  Finally, the van kept having more and more problems, and we wanted to put the money toward a new vehicle instead of the old one!  So, we took the plunge and went shopping.

If you are an emergent big family like us, you may be just getting to that point when you realize that not only do you no longer "fit in" the culture in a figurative sense, you don't "fit in" most places literally either!  The culture and its stuff are both built around small families.  This was painfully apparent as we car shopped!  Let me share some things that I learned from many hours of research.  If it saves you a few hours, drop me a comment and let me know that my car hunt suffering served a greater good! ;)

We considered a 12 passenger van.  Pros:
  • Plenty of space - room for luggage and room to grow.
  • With room to grow, no need to car shop for a good many years.  I hate car shopping!
Cons:
  • Less comfort.  Most models are quite basic, without headrests in the back, CD players, or other creature comforts.  These features are out there, but a little hard to find.  Most comfy: Dodge Sprinter.  You pay for that comfort, though.
  • No 4 wheel drive, that we were able to find.  That was important to us, as we often travel in the winter.
  • Beastly to drive.  
  • Awful gas mileage.
Then we considered 9-passenger SUV's.  Pros:
  • Much more comfortable.  In fact they tend to be downright luxurious feeling - at least to me.  It probably does depend on what you are used to.
  • 4 wheel drive is easy to find.
  • Much more pleasant to handle, especially the smaller ones.
  • Gas mileage - middling.  Better than the 12 passenger.
Cons:
  • Less room to grow or transport company - only one spare seat, for us. 
Well, from the list you probably guessed it - we went with the SUV.   It's an 05 Chevy Tahoe, seats nine, four wheel drive, and we love it.  The Tahoe is pretty much a short Suburban; it's almost two feet shorter.  It is that much easier to drive and gets better gas mileage, but also has almost no cargo space when all the seats are up.  We were ok with that trade-off; we plan to use a top carrier for long trips and enjoy easier parking maneuvers the rest of the year!

The Chevy Suburban, the Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and the Ford Expedition can all seat up to nine.  Not all models do - some only seat seven or eight.  If you are searching for used online, the easiest way to tell the difference is to look at the front seats.  If there is a fold-down middle seat, it probably seats nine.  If it doesn't, it can't seat more than eight.

If you are hauling more than seven, how do you do it?  Or if I missed a nine-seater, please share!

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