Vehicle recommendation for large family

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objectivefunction
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Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by objectivefunction » Sun May 21, 2017 6:21 am

My wife and I have four children (aged 11, 7, 5, 2), and number five is on the way in less than a month. We are currently a one car family (I work from home), but that has only been the case for about a year, and we figured it would be temporary. We expected with the new baby we'd need something bigger than our Honda Odyssey (2008) minivan.

It is possible that the minivan could work for trips around town (we'll have two in car seats, two in boosters, and one in a seat belt). However, when we go on family trips we are already stretching at the limits of the minivan and have a top carrier that we use. One option would be to just rent whenever we go on a trip, and in August we're going on a road trip and renting a Suburban as a trial run (though we may need something new before then since the baby will be born in June!).

I don't like the idea of a Suburban (they just seem so big and gas guzzly), but if we were to get another car, we're basically considering:

1. a Suburban
2. a Sprinter van
3. a full size van

Are there other vehicles we should be considering?

Does anyone have an experience reports with vehicles for large families? (There are others as crazy as us right?)

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bottlecap
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by bottlecap » Sun May 21, 2017 6:48 am

Expedition
Excursion

Perhaps some minivans seat 7?

Purelife304
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by Purelife304 » Sun May 21, 2017 7:21 am

I would be inclined for a van style vs SUV. Something like the Sprinter or Nissan NV 3500 would be top of my list. That may souls certainly generates a lot of "stuff" that would need to be a part of the trip.

Here is an article of someone who seems like they went through the same process. Although looks like they ruled out the Sprinter due to cost early on.
https://medium.com/@marshallhines/but-w ... 59080896e1

Best of luck and Congratulations!
:sharebeer

objectivefunction
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by objectivefunction » Sun May 21, 2017 7:52 am

bottlecap wrote:Expedition
Excursion

Perhaps some minivans seat 7?
One option is to just keep the minivan and buy a cheap junker sedan for myself, and my wife is ok with this. We could probably make it work for trips around town.

researcher
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by researcher » Sun May 21, 2017 8:04 am

You need to take the Suburban OFF your list. I would not even bother renting the Suburban for your August road trip.
A few things to consider...
- Do you know the cargo capacity for a Suburban? 39.3 cu ft with the seats up compared to 38.4 in a new Odyssey.
- Have you ever tried to access the 3rd row in a Suburban? It is a terrible, painful, uncomfortable experience compared to a van.
- Have you seen how high the cargo load floor is in a Suburban? It is much higher and inconvenient compared to a van.

You will NOT be gaining any meaningful cargo space in a Suburban, and will end up with a much less family friendly vehicle.

If you need more space than a mini van, then you definitely need to look at a full size van or Sprinter-type vehicle.

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arthurdawg
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by arthurdawg » Sun May 21, 2017 8:21 am

Our Toyota Sienna has the 8th seat option. It's a removable seat that fits between the bucket seats in the middle row.

I'm not sure what years offer it, ours is a 2011 model.
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bigdav160
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by bigdav160 » Sun May 21, 2017 8:23 am

A Suburban basher, I haven't run into one of those in a while.

There is nothing in the market with the utility of the Suburban. Driven gently it's fuel economy rivals smaller SUVs and minivans.
I have driven them for nearly 30 years.

Although, I think five kids is pushing the seating capability of that segment. You might look at something like a full size Ford Transit.

Atgard
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by Atgard » Sun May 21, 2017 8:31 am

I don't think you're going to find any "normal" vehicles with more seating space & cargo capacity than an Odyssey. (For those who don't know, they already seat 8 comfortably, plus some room for stuff, although with all 8 seats up there's not a ton of room left over for stuff.)

I would think that would still work for "around town" driving for 7. If you need more cargo capacity than an Odyssey + roof rack, I'm sure you've gotta look at full size vans, or RVs.

researcher
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by researcher » Sun May 21, 2017 8:45 am

bigdav160 wrote:A Suburban basher, I haven't run into one of those in a while.

There is nothing in the market with the utility of the Suburban. Driven gently it's fuel economy rivals smaller SUVs and minivans.
I have driven them for nearly 30 years.

Although, I think five kids is pushing the seating capability of that segment. You might look at something like a full size Ford Transit.
I'm not a Suburban basher.
I'm pointing out the reasons a Suburban is not a better vehicle than a minivan for a family of 7.
It sounds like you agree with me.

objectivefunction
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by objectivefunction » Sun May 21, 2017 8:55 am

Purelife304 wrote:I would be inclined for a van style vs SUV. Something like the Sprinter or Nissan NV 3500 would be top of my list. That may souls certainly generates a lot of "stuff" that would need to be a part of the trip.

Here is an article of someone who seems like they went through the same process. Although looks like they ruled out the Sprinter due to cost early on.
https://medium.com/@marshallhines/but-w ... 59080896e1

Best of luck and Congratulations!
:sharebeer
Yeah I really don't want to spend 30k on a car. I'd buy used for sure, but still...

apokryphon
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by apokryphon » Sun May 21, 2017 9:00 am

I would at least consider the new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Can travel 33 miles in electric-only mode (=cost effective) before the gas range-extender turns on for a total range >500 mi. As this is the first model year it unfortunately can't be bought used just yet.

objectivefunction
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by objectivefunction » Sun May 21, 2017 9:00 am

arthurdawg wrote:Our Toyota Sienna has the 8th seat option. It's a removable seat that fits between the bucket seats in the middle row.

I'm not sure what years offer it, ours is a 2011 model.
We have an 8th seat in our minivan. The trouble is there are 8 seats and then there are 8 seats with car seats, which tend to take up more than one seat of space. Though we'll have some graduating to boosters or seat belts not too long after baby.

Purdue
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by Purdue » Sun May 21, 2017 9:08 am

We have 6 kids (ages 6-19) and really like our 2011 Odyssey. Much cheaper to drive than fly with that many, and the Odyssey has taken us on road trips across the country. We don't use a roof carrier either. Cozy ... yes, but comfortable. Before the Odyssey, we went through a couple of Siennas (one of which I still use as my car). I prefer the Odyssey. It's roomier than it looks.

dbr
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by dbr » Sun May 21, 2017 9:13 am

The OP writes that he has an Odyssey and thinks it is not big enough. Given that a full size van would seem to be the logical choice. A good choice could be to rent the full size van for family trips and use the smaller van day to day.

DTSC
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by DTSC » Sun May 21, 2017 9:30 am

Does your Odyssey have towing capability? That might be to cheapest way to go, if you more cargo space only on road trips.

dbr
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by dbr » Sun May 21, 2017 9:36 am

An additional thought is that children and infants become teenagers very soon. That is a whole different proposition as far as filling up a vehicle.

mmmodem
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by mmmodem » Sun May 21, 2017 9:52 am

There's no way a minivan or Suburban won't have enough space for 7. I've driven both and they are equally spacious. The Suburban has cylinder deactivation on the one I rented two years ago so fuel economy was pretty good: 17 mpg. On size, there were so many cameras that I felt completely content I wasn't going to hit anyone. Almost did hit a car in a shopping center parking lot but my seat buzzed while I was backing out indicating I was angled to hit the car next to me.

What you're asking is what has more cargo space. None of the alternatives have more cargo space. Sprinter van or fullsize van have more people space. The Suburban has more horizontal space versus the Odyssey's vertical space. Maybe that will help out? I will recommend what I say to most people. Buy very expensive smaller things. A $300 Diono Radian car seat is very small and slim. A $200 umbrella stroller is very compact. I had to buy a different shaped ice chest that fits the interior better but has the same volume as the old one. Maybe a shorter pair of skis or snowboards that don't require a carrier. Consolidate, consolidate. New smaller "things" may be expensive. But it's likely more expensive to replace a perfectly working Odyssey for a used Suburban. Maybe bring only one pair of shoes and buy another one at the destination. Throw it in a donation bin before you head home. Seems like a waste. But what is more of waste? That's right, buying a whole other vehicle to replace a perfectly working one.

crazygrow
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by crazygrow » Sun May 21, 2017 10:53 am

So, pretty similar situation here, although we added a sixth (10,10,10,9,7,4 ages). When we had the triplets, we bought a new 7-seater 2006 Toyota Sienna and still have that (~135,000 miles). When we had #6, we bought a 2012 Suburban one year used. They have both been pretty good cars although the 4WD on the Suburban has had two warranty replacements.

We have really liked the Sienna and just outgrew it (none of the kids can sit in the front seat yet legally and my wife is a stay at home mom that needs to move them all together). We have driven it (and the Suburban) cross country many times for month long visits to the in-laws (read - we took everything but the kitchen sink). We are looking for a replacement for the Sienna and struggling with that as it is now my (the husband) daily driver.

We like having one car (Suburban) that is 4WD as we do a lot of camping, etc. I also love that my wife has been rear-ended twice on the freeway leaving her a dented bumper and the other two cars (one older sedan and one a newer Highlander) completely wrecked. She wasn't even sure the sedan hit her but it totaled their car.

About four years ago we realized that we were way overpacking for all of our trips (both car trips and international trips) and got smart about it. We used to have to put a huge Thule box on top of the Suburban for any trip and now only do if we have to carry skis/boots/poles for the whole family in addition to the normal stuff. My advice: really look closely at what you are packing. My guess is, unless you are doing outdoor sports that require a lot of big gear, you can fit it in the car. Remember the kids feet room is largely underutilized by them and is a great place to pack stuff as well.

The minivan can definitely seat five kids in car seats.

stoptothink
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by stoptothink » Sun May 21, 2017 11:19 am

crazygrow wrote: About four years ago we realized that we were way overpacking for all of our trips (both car trips and international trips) and got smart about it. We used to have to put a huge Thule box on top of the Suburban for any trip and now only do if we have to carry skis/boots/poles for the whole family in addition to the normal stuff. My advice: really look closely at what you are packing. My guess is, unless you are doing outdoor sports that require a lot of big gear, you can fit it in the car. Remember the kids feet room is largely underutilized by them and is a great place to pack stuff as well.

The minivan can definitely seat five kids in car seats.
As someone who grew up as one of 5 kids in a family that never owned a van of any kind and has comfortably made countless week-long family (4 of us, including 2 car seats) trips in a 2-door subcompact, this is the bottom line. We recently did buy a larger car, but still a compact (VW jetta), and have already done one 5-day family trip and did not have to put a single thing in the trunk. All our bags easily fit under the children's feet and between them in the back. I guess it is just our nature to be pretty minimalist, I don't even understand what other families are bringing that we don't. It is much easier and cheaper to examine what you need to bring, then to buy an entirely new car. And of course, the obvious answer is to simply rent a cargo/sprinter van on the rare occasion you actually need to take a lot of stuff.

objectivefunction
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by objectivefunction » Sun May 21, 2017 12:37 pm

Thanks for the feedback everyone!

After hearing what people are saying, I'm leaning more towards just getting a sedan for me to drive around town (actually I'd love to get a Nissan Leaf), and using the minivan for trips.

We take a yearly trip with my side of the family and have been able to make a minivan work as our family has grown (with the addition of a top carrier), but that's with bringing food and things that we shouldn't normally need to bring. With an infant we'll need some additional stuff, but we can be content to like buy diapers on our way and such. We could lighten up our packing a bit, but I'm not sure we could get by without the top carrier, but that's why we have it.

MrNewEngland
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by MrNewEngland » Sun May 21, 2017 1:07 pm

Conversion vans are really, really cool.

rebellovw
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by rebellovw » Sun May 21, 2017 1:24 pm

I'd feel pretty safe in a suburban. Those things are tanks -and you hope you are not hit by one.

I'd vote for a Land Cruiser - I love my 2002 LC. It is a car to have for life.

But with that many kids - I'd want a tank - I'd go Suburban.

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badbreath
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by badbreath » Sun May 21, 2017 4:05 pm

Mazda CX9. Three rows of seats, 4WD and handles great.
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Purdue
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by Purdue » Sun May 21, 2017 7:24 pm

dbr wrote:The OP writes that he has an Odyssey and thinks it is not big enough. Given that a full size van would seem to be the logical choice. A good choice could be to rent the full size van for family trips and use the smaller van day to day.
OP's Odyssey is a prior generation, though I'm really not sure how much room was added when it changed.

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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by iamlucky13 » Mon May 22, 2017 2:03 am

objectivefunction wrote:Thanks for the feedback everyone!

After hearing what people are saying, I'm leaning more towards just getting a sedan for me to drive around town (actually I'd love to get a Nissan Leaf), and using the minivan for trips.

We take a yearly trip with my side of the family and have been able to make a minivan work as our family has grown (with the addition of a top carrier), but that's with bringing food and things that we shouldn't normally need to bring. With an infant we'll need some additional stuff, but we can be content to like buy diapers on our way and such. We could lighten up our packing a bit, but I'm not sure we could get by without the top carrier, but that's why we have it.
If it's any encouragement, we did a ton of traveling growing up with 7 people in a 7 passenger mini-van (before seat belt laws changed, even more than 7 actually - after the laws changed we took 2 cars on full-family trips). Learning how to stack in the cargo area, as well as under and between seats really provides a lot of utility, and we never even owned a roof-top box. We did occasionally tie duffle bags to the roof rack, though. This continued right on through our teenage years.

It certainly would have been more pleasant in a larger vehicle, but naturally at a significantly higher total cost of ownership.

Besides, today's minivans usually seem to be slightly larger vehicles than the 1995 Caravan that hosted most of our trips.

Car seats have gotten a lot larger too, though. We found Diono makes one (a Radian, I think) that fits 3-across in most back seats. For the middle row in a mini-van, it's harder to say. Something to keep in mind in case you're getting a new seat for the new arrival, or might want to replace one for better space effectiveness.

Also, if you do find yourself needing more room than you have inside and in a roof box, considering getting a hitch installed and buying or renting a small utility trailer for such trips. The Odyssey has a respectable towing capacity. Granted, dealing with a trailer is not for everybody. Backing up in particular takes some getting used to.

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dratkinson
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by dratkinson » Mon May 22, 2017 7:12 am

The most comfortable vehicle I've test driven recently was a Honda Pilot, and was hoping it would be big enough for you as it had 8 seats. But unfortunately, the Pilot seems to be a smaller vehicle than the Odyssey.
See: http://www.thecarconnection.com/car-com ... pilot_2017

I knew of one large family that drove a 15-passenger extended van. Was way bigger than a Suburban.
http://www.google.com/search?q=extended ... +passenger
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lazydavid
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by lazydavid » Mon May 22, 2017 7:40 am

bottlecap wrote:Expedition
Excursion
Excursion is a bad idea. They're all 13-18 years old at this point (MY 2000-2005), and the only one worth a damn--the powerstroke diesel--still goes for upwards of $20k because it's the only mainstream SUV ever made that can pull a REALLY big trailer while getting (low) double-digit fuel economy.

bloom2708
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by bloom2708 » Mon May 22, 2017 8:25 am

This is the next step up from a Suburban with middle bench (seating 8). Ford Transit.

https://grandforks.craigslist.org/ctd/6139015921.html

The Nissan NV is similar. I would think you could take out the back row of seats and have plenty of cargo space in the Transit.

A friend with 8 kids has the Nissan NV. Seating for 12, 2 kids can bring a friend.
Last edited by bloom2708 on Mon May 22, 2017 8:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Luke Duke
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by Luke Duke » Mon May 22, 2017 8:29 am

Others already mentioned it, but you may want to look into the Diono Radian RXT car seat. We were able to fit 3 across in an older Toyota Highlander.
http://www.amazon.com/Diono-Radian-All- ... 005MQRAAK/

Also a StowAway2 hitch rack/box may help too. They aren't cheap, but they are the only hitch racks that I am aware of that swivel out of the way to allow full access to your tailgate door.
https://www.stowaway2.com/

msk
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by msk » Mon May 22, 2017 8:46 am

Got a new Ford Expedition a year back. With 7 seated, one can still have a rear seat folded over and thus allow more luggage. With 8 adults seated, there is not enough luggage space even for 4. With the turbo 6 engine it does seem to be more economical than the previous models. This is my 3rd Expedition, first one acquired when Expeditions were first launched. I use it mainly on family outings into the boonies, off road. Bought new it is an expensive vehicle... However, a new baby probably requires much more luggage space than an adult (stroller, etc.). Get a full van and be spaced out :happy

tech_arch
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by tech_arch » Mon May 22, 2017 8:56 am

We have a 2016 Odyssey and you might be surprised at how well it does car seats. The outer seats in the middle row have a "wide" setting, which moves them out from the middle seat a bit. We have done two boosters in the outer seats + rear-facing car seat in the center of the middle row, and with a low-back booster still have easy access to the third row of seats. There are websites out there that show how well and how many car seats different vehicles can fit, so I would recommend searching those first.

Personally, I would look at either pulling a small trailer or trying to travel lighter. Things we've done in the past are doing laundry while on vacation, packing less food, buying diapers on location, etc. Maybe the older kids can keep a backpack at their feet to save space?

tech_arch
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by tech_arch » Mon May 22, 2017 8:57 am

Luke Duke wrote:Others already mentioned it, but you may want to look into the Diono Radian RXT car seat. We were able to fit 3 across in an older Toyota Highlander.
http://www.amazon.com/Diono-Radian-All- ... 005MQRAAK/

Also a StowAway2 hitch rack/box may help too. They aren't cheap, but they are the only hitch racks that I am aware of that swivel out of the way to allow full access to your tailgate door.
https://www.stowaway2.com/
+1 for looking for narrower car seats/boosters! That hitch rack also looks neat!

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lthenderson
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Re: Vehicle recommendation for large family

Post by lthenderson » Mon May 22, 2017 9:11 am

I say keep your Odyssey. How many weeks a year do you travel with so much gear that you can't fit it in, on top or pulling behind your Odyssey? I'm guessing any costs associated with renting during those times are offset many times by the increased costs of buying and using a larger vehicle that is underutilized for the vast majority of the year.

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