Thursday, October 14, 2010

Buying a Family Vehicle

With another baby on the way we are of course thinking a new car (HA HA - new as in, one I don't own yet). We have two cars now, but they are both tiny (Corolla's) and won't fit 3 carseats. We really don't have much of a choice and have got to get something bigger. While it'd be easier (and certainly more gas efficent) to just buy a larger sedan (some will fit 3 car seats) my husband and I are thinking of buying a family vehicle since we want to have 4 or 5 kids. We'd like to get something that will last us several years.

So, give me your advice on buying a family vehicle......

What type of vehicle do you own, or have you looked at owning? A minivan? An SUV? (Keep in mind that we'd like a vehicle that seats at least 6 or 7).
Did you buy it through a dealership or the newspaper?
Did you buy it new or used?
How much did it cost?
What are the advantages of a Minivan vs. an SUV?
What should I be looking for in a family vehicle?
What general tips can you give me??


Jennifer said...

This is the husband. we have owned a car, van, and an SUV. we still own the two latter. One was bought a few years back from a private owner and the van was bought from a dealer. both were used. My jeep was 10,000 total cost, and our van was 6,000. there are advantages to both. Most SUV's have either all-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive. They are harder to come by in a seven seater, and most that have that third row seating are real gas guzzlers, and they are usually the type that you have to climb over a seat. I don't think a van exists without at least seven seats. vans have a lot more options as far as seating and amenities, and they have a lot better gas mileage usually. The downside on a van to an SUV is the general lack of all-wheel drive, a few older models have it but almost all the new ones are front-wheel drive only. you are really looking for space and three kids in car seats will be difficult in a third row SUV. I would recommend a van with middle row captains seats then it is easier to get to the back seat to buckle the third car seat. Ease of use is definitely a plus. also get a Carfax report they are awesome we got one on the van and found out it was never owned by anyone out of the valley and never had a major accident. (Most dealers offer this for free.)

This is the wife.
General tips- Take all your carseats car shopping with you and buckle them into the vehicle to make sure they fit. Especially make sure that the baby carseat fits. Don't believe the car salesman. We ran into this problem with our first car.
That is all for now. :)

Megan said...

Sorry, my post is long! My sister was in the same position as you guys earlier this year and they bought a used Toyota Sienna from Rand's (SLC dealership). I think they paid just over $20000, and it is a 2009. The thing I like about their van is that the front row has a removable seat so you still have captain chairs, but all three car seats can fit on that row as well with the removable seat. Myself personally, we have looked at used Honda Pilots. The thing we like about the pilot vs. the van is it is 4-wheel drive and you can tow heavier things with it (my mom's tows a camping trailer) and for an SUV it gets great gas mileage. There are a couple negatives about the pilot, with the third row of seats up there isn't a lot of storage room and it can be difficult to get an infant seat in and out if your aren't very tall(like me!). Like Jennifer mentioned, take your car seats with you to shop, we also had salesmen tell us the car seats would fit and when we tried, they didn't. I would definitely look at storage capacity if you are looking at SUVs and not vans. A lot of newer SUVs with third row seats don't have a lot of storage room (my SIL's double stroller barely fits in the back of her Durango and you can't really fit anything else in with it). A carfax report is also a must and if you can, take any vehicle you look at seriously to a mechanic to check for problems. When we bought our VW we looked at several and one of the vehicles we seriously considered was going to have to have a ton of work done on it with in the first couple of months we found out after having my brother (who is a mechanic) look at it (brakes, rotors, etc).

Chris and Laura said...

In short: If you're looking for space (seating and storage) and ease of use, get a van. If you're looking for power, towing capability, and non-minivan status, buy an SUV. ;)

I have always been a self-proclaimed minivan opposer. I never ever wanted to own one. Ugh. But, now that I have children--great eye-openers that they are--I am repenting of my anti-minivan ways and will probably own one someday. Sigh.

Here's what I think...

Minivans are generally easier to get in and out of, especially if you can find a model with two sliding doors. SUVs usually require climbing over a seat...annoying, especially if you have to reach around to buckle a carseat. They are wider than cars, too, so many can fit three carseats on one bench. My sister was just telling me of a friend who had a van with two captain seats. They removed one of those, then had two carseats on the back bench and one in the remaining captain seat. Very easy access to all three kids. :)

SUVs big enough for two benches generally don't have much space at all behind the last row--hardly any storage space. A van may not always have much more depth, but they usually have more height to make up some of the difference. I also know that newer models often have underfloor storage bins... something to research at least.

So my vote is van. Storage space is a really big deal to me...I always like to be over-prepared anytime we go anywhere, and each kid adds more stuff to haul around. I also get annoyed easily if things take too much effort to get in and out of. :)

SUVs are good for towing, and they do more often have 4-wheel drive, as mentioned. If that's a bigger concern, it could be worth the other sacrifices. Watch for gas mileage, though. That can make a HUGE difference in cost of owning.

As far as buying a car...

I've done both private sellers and dealerships. As I will never buy a NEW car, I haven't found dealerships to be overly useful to me. My personal experience with dealerships has been a hassle, without getting much of anything above and beyond what I could have gotten myself without problems, like a carfax report. So, in the future, we'll probably stick with (way better than a newspaper in Utah, by the way).

My biggest tip for buying a car, though, is to not rush it. Don't ever buy the first car you test drive unless you test drive several more and then come back. Don't ever buy a car the first day you start looking, either. Do your research and take it slow. (My husband would be proud if he heard me say that!)

Delia said...

THank you so much. This advice is really helping me. We aren't in the market at the moment but anticipate having to get a van in the next year or so.

One thing I would like to add is that if you go to a dealership make sure they are aware of your situation and your real intentions in looking/buying. We were just looking for the most part! We gave some of our financial information to see what we could afford. We were thinking of maybe buying but were thinking of shopping for several months and wanted to explore our options {but have since postponed the idea}. The dealership ran our credit a bunch of times trying to get us approved for a van that we never considered and was like 10,000 + out of our price range. I am fairly sure that hurt our credit. We had no idea they were calling bank after bank trying to get someone to approve our loan. OUR LOAN???!!? what? We were bugged. So be clear and redundant and make sure you talk to the financial people so that a greenie salesperson doesn't screw things up - like he did with us. I don't think it messed up our credit too bad, but it was embarrassing and I am a little anal about our credit score. So...just saying. Dealerships can be creepy.

JeriLynn said...

I always wanted a minivan, and I knew for a long time I wanted a Dodge Grand Caravan. I love mine. :) We have a 2006, and the storage is great. Sure gas milage is crumby, but it doesn't matter so much if you love the vehicle.

By the way, the Grand Caravan usually resales for a price low enough to buy with cash. In 2009, We paid $10,000 for our 2006 that had only 56,000 miles on it. A pretty good deal, if you ask me.

When I was doing research, I paid about $20 to AutoCheck (cheaper than CarFax) to get the vehicle history of each vehicle I wanted to look at.

Also, tell the dealership that you don't want to talk about how you're going to pay for the car until you actually decide which one to get.

Do lots of research online about the general history of each type of history. There are lots of great sights I don't remember but that provided user feedback about each vehicle.

Erin said...

I am also one of those people who swore they would NEVER be caught dead driving a mini van... But I am changing my ways I guess. In the SUV/van debate, we have decided to go with a van, mainly because an SUV is actually harder for me to get my kids in and out of than our car, and a van is so much easier than our car.

We have test driven a bunch. I love the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey the most. The Sienna is a little more expensive though, so an Odyssey is what we are mainly looking at. We also like the Chrysler Town and Country (which I believe is the same as the Dodge Grand Caravan.. only the T&C is considered the luxury version I guess) but I don't feel as comfortable driving it because the seats are just so big for me! The thing is that the T&C is less expensive so we could get a newer T&C for our budget, or a little bit older Odyssey. The odyssey does have higher safety ratings. So basically, we are looking at an 04 odyssey or an 06(ish) T&C for around 8-9000, just go give you an idea of cost.

We decided that even if we were going with a sell by owner car, we would go to a dealership first so we could test drive a bunch at once to see what was available adn what we liked or disliked. I would make a list of things that are important to you so you don't spend too much time looking at vans that you won't end up liking. For me storage space (stow and go or seats folding down... I know the Chrysler was the first to do stow and go and it starts in 05 models), and auto doors are my two requirements.

JeriLynn said...

The nominal fee to AutoCheck got me about 30 vehicle history reports, by the way. It wasn't $20 per car! :)

Jennifer said...

HA. I totally forgot to write down which van we ended up buying.
A used 2002 Honda Odyessy. Love it. :)

Jessie said...

We researched out best ratings for vans (we knew an SUC wasn't going to work for all the reasons already mentioned), and found that Odysseys, Siennas, and town and Country's scored the highest, so from there we hit up KSL, and found local sellers. We test drove a bunch of Odysseys and Siennas, and just personally preferred the Odyssey, so that's what we bought.
I LOVE our van. It's a 2006, and has a capacity of 8 people, but the middle seat in the middle row pulls out, leaving two captain chairs. My two older girls have their seats in the back row corners, so they can each easily see out the windows, and the baby's carseat is on the passenger side in the middle row. The doors are automatic, so I can push a button on my way out to the car, tell the girls to race to the van as I walk there, and everyone is able to get there and in, in a reasonable amount of time. Since the drivers side middle row is empty, I just climb in there to get to the backseat to make sure everyone's buckled. When we're getting out, I open both doors so I can easily unbuckle Janey, but then close the door before she gets out, and have everyone get out on the same side, so we're all together to walk through the parking lot or wherever. I also love all the storage we get with our van--it's been perfect for us.
My advice, when you're ready to go look for a vehicle, is to either figure out what you want to spend, or get preapproved from the bank you want to go through, and go in with that knowledge. Then people aren't running your credit repeatedly, and you know what you can actually afford. Our van used to be a lease, so it was in great condition when we got it. There are lots available that used to be rentals, which may not be as nice, but might be a little cheaper for a good vehicle. Drive lots, as they're all different, and many dealers will try to convince you to buy one right off. Look for the one that looks and feels right to you. :)

Tannie Datwyler said...

Thank you all SOOOOOOO much for the advice. I really needed this and it will help us a ton.