Is a minivan worth it?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
RJC
Posts: 379
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2018 1:40 pm

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by RJC » Mon Dec 02, 2019 11:55 am

Don't do it. Years later you'll look back and wonder what happened and it will have all started with the minivan.

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 22280
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by dm200 » Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:06 pm

bligh wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 11:52 am
Another big +1 for the Minivan. I am still driving my 2011 Honda Odyssey.
Minivans are absolutely awesome for young families. They are a product specifically designed to address your needs. I got one when my first kid was born. Sadly, several young families in my social circle joked that they would "not be caught dead in a mini van". Every single one got SUVs instead. Sure enough, a few years later, about half of those couples have switched over to minivans as well.
SUVs and Minivans have similar characteristics as far as seating capacity, and roominess. However, here are some huge advantages compared to SUVs to consider:
1) The sliding door opening provides excellent access. Your kids get heavier with each passing day. Until they are ready to climb in themselves and strap themselves into their child seats, you or your spouse will be the ones carrying and positioning them in there. Having that wide open access allows you to do it without contorting and squeezing to get in there at odd angles.
2) This is an even bigger issue in tight parking spaces. You may have a big garage or a wide open driveway.. but when you go out you may find yourself parking in a tight parking spot. If you have an SUV with its large doors, you will could often find it difficult to open them up all the way. You will then have to contort, squeeze and carry your kid out from an odd and restricted angle. This is even more tricky when they are little and and asleep in those basket type car seats like a Graco Snugride.
Having said that, for older kids / teenagers the advantages start to diminish. My current plan is to replace my Honda Odyssey with an SUV in 2-3 years. We'll see.
Being an owner of the "original" Chrysler Minivan - I never understood how, a few years later, Mini-vans became so "out of favor". Seems like the "in favor" SUVs were (and are) much more expensive.

Yes - the sliding door(s) are great! Kids do not bang the door onto other cars! Yes - too - about parking!

We got the 1985 minivan when our son was about seven years old. Riding in the back seat of our previous sedan, he could not see out the windows. In the minivan, though, he could see out of most of the windows - and became much more happy taking long trips.

As I had posted, the flexibility of a minivan is enormous - sliding seats into different positions, removing seats, some minivans allow some seats to fold down into the floor - and so on. With this great "flexibility", that meant (to us) that the same original 1985 Caravan served our changing needs over the next 17 years - and so did the 2002 similar size minivan.

wolf359
Posts: 1852
Joined: Sun Mar 15, 2015 8:47 am

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by wolf359 » Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:09 pm

Absolutely worth it. We deliberately did not get the entertainment system while the kids were young. We wanted them to learn how to entertain themselves and handle being bored. For long trips, we always had the option of displaying movies on tablets and phones. Our friends who had the entertainment system used it all the time, including for trips to the grocery store.

On our second van (10 years later), we did get the entertainment system. The kids felt like we had moved up to a luxury van (without the price tag of a luxury vehicle.) We only use it on long trips.

randomguy
Posts: 8400
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:00 am

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by randomguy » Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:31 pm

dm200 wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 11:47 am

As I posted, we had one of the "original" Chrysler minivans (1985 Dodge Caravan) - and the size was fine for us. Then, Chrysler added the slightly longer ones ("Grand" Caravan, etc.) I think those were still "mini-van" size). In 2002, when our 1985 Dodge caravan reached the end of its useful life, we bought a "standard length" Plymouth (renamed 'Chrysler' when Plymouth brand discontinued) Voyager and (I think) it was about the same size as out 1985 Dodge Caravan). The 2002 mini-van "died" (bad engine) about four years ago. I have not driven an recent minivans - but most of them look about the size of the "Grand Caravan". They sure do not look to me anywhere near the size of the full size Vans of decades ago.
Modern minivans are much larger cars than you are talking about

1990 caravan 178"
1990 grand caravan length 190"
1990 Chevy van long wheel base van = 202"
1990 chevy extended wheelbase van (i.e. the 12-15 person vans) 220"

Honda Odyssey = 203" long.

That odyssey is roughly the same size as full sized van from 30 years ago. I think those old vans were taller though which made them feel more overwhelming. And top heavy in corners. But it has been a LONG time since I drove one:) That extra foot of length and 6" of width of the modern minivan really shows up when trying to park them. Shoving a 90" (mirror to mirror) car through a 96" garage door is much harder than 84" car. And in your 18' garage, you have about 12" of space to mess with.

If your choice is between a 3row large SUV and a 3 row minivan, the minivan is the best choice for most people. If you can get away with mid size or smaller SUV, then you have to figure out what meets your needs best. Is it worth driving the minivan for 350 days for those 15 days when you need the added space? You would have to make guesses about your usage patterns and the like. Buying a car for the 3 days in 10 years that you are hauling a piece of plywood isn't optimal. Buying one because you can just shove you bike in the back when you go riding 60 days/year is probably worth it.:)

arsenalfan
Posts: 774
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:26 am

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by arsenalfan » Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:54 pm

Yes.
Consider getting the EX-L, leather cleans so easily.
Don't need the entertainment system - ipads/etc you can clip to back of seats cheaper, and if you're keeping the van >5 years, the entertainment tech will be obsolete.
I'd buy new, since the 2-4 year old used ones cost almost as much

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 22280
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by dm200 » Mon Dec 02, 2019 1:36 pm

arsenalfan wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:54 pm
Yes.
Consider getting the EX-L, leather cleans so easily.
Don't need the entertainment system - ipads/etc you can clip to back of seats cheaper, and if you're keeping the van >5 years, the entertainment tech will be obsolete.
I'd buy new, since the 2-4 year old used ones cost almost as much
BUT - leather seats are VERY COLD in the winter and HOT in the summer. I much prefer cloth seats.

User avatar
bligh
Posts: 1117
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2016 9:13 pm

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by bligh » Mon Dec 02, 2019 2:49 pm

dm200 wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:06 pm

Being an owner of the "original" Chrysler Minivan - I never understood how, a few years later, Mini-vans became so "out of favor". Seems like the "in favor" SUVs were (and are) much more expensive.
In general I have noticed a trend - Things that are cost efficient, sensible, practical or comfortable quickly become "uncool". A minivan is all of these things.

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 22280
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by dm200 » Mon Dec 02, 2019 2:53 pm

bligh wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 2:49 pm
dm200 wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:06 pm
Being an owner of the "original" Chrysler Minivan - I never understood how, a few years later, Mini-vans became so "out of favor". Seems like the "in favor" SUVs were (and are) much more expensive.
In general I have noticed a trend - Things that are cost efficient, sensible, practical or comfortable quickly become "uncool". A minivan is all of these things.
Yes - so many good things have become "uncool"..

The sellers and marketers of so many things work hard and spend money to be "cool" and in demand. :( ;(

Ed_Sandwich
Posts: 134
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:47 pm

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by Ed_Sandwich » Mon Dec 02, 2019 3:31 pm

Yes, I have never made a purchase as good as our '11 Odyssey once we had our second child. I would never personally buy a brand new car, though. We got a 4 year old EX-L for $17,000. It had 70k miles. It has leather, seat heaters, dimming mirror, "fridge", and navigation (which is not ever used or needed since it is worse than all phone apps.

Long trips are great, the doors are great for the kids. I swore I would never get one but it has made life so much easier, I am now a huge proponent of them.

I am not sure how the newest Odysseys compare, but remember that navigation is not needed, since phones are better, and neither is DVD, since tablets are much cheaper. We decided against the Elite version because of that (though the vacuum would be nice to have at times.

Reubin
Posts: 383
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2010 2:39 pm

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by Reubin » Mon Dec 02, 2019 3:36 pm

We have a 2001 Honda Odyssey that we beat the hell out of. It's indestructible. Look to purchase a used one if it saves you money.

User avatar
lthenderson
Posts: 4360
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:43 pm
Location: Iowa

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by lthenderson » Mon Dec 02, 2019 3:37 pm

masonstone wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 5:16 pm
For those in a similar situation have you found that minivans are worth it?
Absolutely. We're on our second one and I wouldn't give it up for the world, at least until we are down a kid. My apologies if this was already mentioned because I didn't read all the earlier comments, one great perk that nobody really mentions with a minivan is the ability to haul 4' by 8' sheets of drywall, plywood and dimensional lumber, rain or shine and without the need to fool with tarps. If you do a lot of DIY projects at home this is a huge perk. I love seeing the envious looks I get on a rainy day at the lumberyard when I just close the hatch and go while everyone else is futzing with tarps and tangles of ropes. When I get home, I just back right into the garage and unload.

UpperNwGuy
Posts: 2648
Joined: Sun Oct 08, 2017 7:16 pm

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by UpperNwGuy » Mon Dec 02, 2019 3:38 pm

If you have kids, you need a minivan, not an SUV.

RobLyons
Posts: 490
Joined: Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:55 pm

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by RobLyons » Mon Dec 02, 2019 4:00 pm

One more vote in favor of minivans! Inexpensive great passenger and cargo space.
"Great parenting sets the foundation for a better world"

psteinx
Posts: 3423
Joined: Tue Mar 13, 2007 2:24 pm

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by psteinx » Mon Dec 02, 2019 4:23 pm

We are on our 3rd minivan. '00 Ford Windstar - got old and unreliable eventually. '11 Toyota Sienna - totalled. '14 Toyota Sienna XLE - still rolling. Like many others, I strongly recommend them for families.

After years of fussing with older generation DVD systems, strapped to the headrests for the kids and with wires galore, we splurged a bit and went with the entertainment system on the newest. That purchase coincided almost perfectly with the easy use of iPads and other digital devices (smart phones, etc.), and so the pricey entertainment system has been BARELY used - probably < 5 hours of lifetime usage of the movie player. For younger kids, having a system that a parent can control from the front MIGHT be worth it, but at least think hard about alternatives, especially if your budget is stretched.

I'm a big fan of seat warmers, and would consider them for the middle/back seats (i.e. for the kids), if they're available in the newer models. OTOH, my wife doesn't like them at all. YMMV.

Fold flat middle seats would be a nice bonus, but are probably not THAT important unless you really see a lot of plywood/drywall/sofa moving in your future.

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 22280
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by dm200 » Mon Dec 02, 2019 4:49 pm

psteinx wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 4:23 pm
We are on our 3rd minivan. '00 Ford Windstar - got old and unreliable eventually. '11 Toyota Sienna - totalled. '14 Toyota Sienna XLE - still rolling. Like many others, I strongly recommend them for families.
After years of fussing with older generation DVD systems, strapped to the headrests for the kids and with wires galore, we splurged a bit and went with the entertainment system on the newest. That purchase coincided almost perfectly with the easy use of iPads and other digital devices (smart phones, etc.), and so the pricey entertainment system has been BARELY used - probably < 5 hours of lifetime usage of the movie player. For younger kids, having a system that a parent can control from the front MIGHT be worth it, but at least think hard about alternatives, especially if your budget is stretched.
I'm a big fan of seat warmers, and would consider them for the middle/back seats (i.e. for the kids), if they're available in the newer models. OTOH, my wife doesn't like them at all. YMMV.
Fold flat middle seats would be a nice bonus, but are probably not THAT important unless you really see a lot of plywood/drywall/sofa moving in your future.
Our original 1985 Dodge Caravan had a middle two person bench seat and the back three person bench seat.

Our 2002 Chrysler/Plymouth regular length mini-van had two separate bucket middle seats and a three person back seat. For much of the time we had the 2002 model, we removed one of the middle bucket seats (the one on the passenger side) to make carrying things (bags of groceries, etc.) easier for my wife. There was still plenty of seating for passengers - and we carried passengers infrequently. Our son was grown and moved out.

arsenalfan
Posts: 774
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:26 am

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by arsenalfan » Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:32 pm

dm200 wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 1:36 pm
arsenalfan wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:54 pm
Yes.
Consider getting the EX-L, leather cleans so easily.
Don't need the entertainment system - ipads/etc you can clip to back of seats cheaper, and if you're keeping the van >5 years, the entertainment tech will be obsolete.
I'd buy new, since the 2-4 year old used ones cost almost as much
BUT - leather seats are VERY COLD in the winter and HOT in the summer. I much prefer cloth seats.
Guess you'll have to weigh that, versus how easy it is to clean up food/accidents/mud/sweat/all the joys of being the family people mover.

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 22280
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by dm200 » Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:44 pm

arsenalfan wrote:
Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:32 pm
dm200 wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 1:36 pm
arsenalfan wrote:
Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:54 pm
Yes.
Consider getting the EX-L, leather cleans so easily.
Don't need the entertainment system - ipads/etc you can clip to back of seats cheaper, and if you're keeping the van >5 years, the entertainment tech will be obsolete.
I'd buy new, since the 2-4 year old used ones cost almost as much
BUT - leather seats are VERY COLD in the winter and HOT in the summer. I much prefer cloth seats.
Guess you'll have to weigh that, versus how easy it is to clean up food/accidents/mud/sweat/all the joys of being the family people mover.
Our 2002 Camry SE has leather seats - and a seat warmer for the winter - my wife loves it. Still hot in the summer.

arsenalfan
Posts: 774
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:26 am

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by arsenalfan » Tue Dec 03, 2019 3:25 pm

Kids haven't ever complained about hot sticky tan leather seats. And the HVAC in our 2005 Odyssey HVAC has been awesome (recharged it twice), it cools the van quickly.

Kids do complain about the black cloth GTI seats in the summertime.

OTOH I remember a Mercedes 280 diesel that was a deathtrap in the summertime. Tacky sticky leather seats, and for some reason I remember a lot of exposed metal on the seatbelt/buckles, that burned!

yolli71
Posts: 365
Joined: Fri May 20, 2011 9:53 am

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by yolli71 » Tue Dec 03, 2019 7:40 pm

masonstone wrote:
Wed Nov 27, 2019 5:16 pm
I'm considering buying a new minivan Honda Odyssey with entertainment system. They run around 37K. Are they worth it? I have two kids that fit in my sedan but sometimes with the wife sitting in the back it gets a bit cramped. They're infants/toddlers so my wife sits in the back to take care of them. Also there's not enough space to take another couple (in-laws or my parents) with us due to limited seating.

For those in a similar situation have you found that minivans are worth it?
We have a Nissan Quest and even for a van that isn't one of the big sellers, the answer is a definite YES.

FireHorse
Posts: 170
Joined: Sat Nov 25, 2017 7:03 pm

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by FireHorse » Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:39 pm

With 2 kids - yes, minivan is great. We had Nissan quest

shepherd
Posts: 38
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2011 7:46 pm

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by shepherd » Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:54 pm

We have owned two Odysseys. Both have had transmission issues once you get to 70k+ mileage.

arsenalfan
Posts: 774
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:26 am

Re: Is a minivan worth it?

Post by arsenalfan » Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:58 pm

shepherd wrote:
Tue Dec 03, 2019 9:54 pm
We have owned two Odysseys. Both have had transmission issues once you get to 70k+ mileage.
170k and going strong.
No tranny issues.

Post Reply