Christina Cronauer is co-founder of Spouses in the City, a social group based out of Virginia Beach. You can spot her on the road rocking out to her favorite songs behind the wheel of her new minivan.
“Me...drive a minivan? You must be on crack. No way will I ever drive one of those... with those dang stickers on the back. NOPE it will be a SUV for this lady.”
So that basically was the tune I was singing for the last seven years of my life. After the birth of my first son seven years ago everyone joked I would own a minivan someday. I literally thought I would have to be on some serious drugs to actually purchase one.
At the time I ended up upgrading my sedan to a cross-over SUV; figured it would have plenty of space for a car seat, stroller, groceries and whatever other junk I decided to chuck in the back; and it served its purpose for the most part. I could fold the seats down when I went to Home Depot and there was enough room for one person besides the car seat or two super skinny-mini individuals. All in all it was a decent car and then.... the second baby came. Oh boy!
Our sons are seven years apart, so I was able to live the life of a SUV mom for that long. For awhile I puttered around in our Prius, since my husband won’t be caught dead in it. The forty-eight miles to the gallon was pretty sweet, but it was crammed to the limits with a seven year old, a three month old, a dog and all of the kiddo clutter that comes along with having two kids. I finally told my husband we needed something bigger. I couldn’t stand feeling claustrophobic in my push start battery powered car.
I had listed several SUVs on my car wishlist...an Arcadia, Highlander, 4Runner, Pilot and Explorer to name a few. I literally researched everything from crash test ratings, insurance premiums, gas mileage, cubic measurements to consumer reviews. I probably wasted half my free time doing this, but I wanted to make sure I got the best of the best and got it at a good deal.
I had spent several hours refreshing pages to local dealerships hoping “the one” would appear. Low and behold it finally did. A 2011 Ford Explorer with all the bells and whistles. I thought I had scored the big kahuna for this family of four. I drove to the dealership and fell in love with it...right up until I opened up the trunk.
The Big Bad Ford Explorer.VERY Nice! Until….
I asked the sales associate “ummm where do the groceries go?” He basically told me to fold the seat down. Now how the heck can I do this with two car seats in the car? Apparently there is a teleport in the back where I say “beam me up scotty” and my groceries end up back at home. Pfttt only in a dream world. I sat there and pondered the thought of ok maybe I don’t have to have the third row up...uhhh ok with the stroller and portable highchair I still have no space....
I considered the fact that maybe it was just that vehicle, and I moved on to the others from my list. But what did I run into? The same issue. Finally one of the sales guys, at one of the many dealerships I visited, said "maybe you need a Suburban"? I said UHH I can barely see over the steering wheel as it is and I do jive with big cars; just ask the couple who had me drive the trailer hitch up the hood of their car. WHOOPS! Thank goodness for insurance. So he looks me dead in the eye as he shrugs his shoulders and says “maybe a nice minivan?"
Are you flippin’ kidding me??? Me in a minivan. Ok wait...I am 29 years old and young and hip. NO WAY IN #@%% am I going to drop any money on a van. I seriously thought the guy was crazy for even asking me. After I calm down from the initial shock, I went home to do a little more research.
That night my husband and I talked. I mean, both of our parents had vans during our childhoods. It wasn’t that bad, right? I guess the stigma behind driving a minivan is what I couldn’t get past. After doing the research I realized I could get WAY more for my money with a van. The space was equivalent if not more than a SUV. Vans rated high in a lot of the ratings. Plus they were priced less than any of the SUV’s we were looking at.
An added bonus, the insurance was cheaper too. Ok ok...it won’t hurt to look since right now the SUV pool was slim pickings. So I made an excel spreadsheet of prices, MPG and insurance ratings and I only listed the ones I would even consider after a few glasses of wine. We had the Odyssey, Sienna and Town & Country. Obviously the first two had outstanding for everything, but the T&C was less expensive with good markings as well.
My OCD Crazy Spreadsheet on Car Research…AKA Waste of Time
The next day I brought my A game and spreadsheet and set out to look at minivans. I will admit I was hoping I wouldn’t see anyone I knew and figured I could maybe play the “I’m looking for a friend” card. I finally ended up at Southern Chrysler Greenbrier. As much as I liked the fact that the Honda and Toyota had high marks, I just wasn’t sure the price tags were what we could afford right now. I had found a 2011 Town & Country on their website. It was nice, it had DVD players, wireless headsets, a hook up for a gaming system for hubby and the kids, leather sets, bluetooth, the list could go on. I said “self just think of it as a Volvo X90 and all is good”.