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A Minivan: Why I Traded Up.

Ugh. I never thought I’d be writing this post just like I never thought I’d drive a minivan.

Allow me to admit…no…declare…that our main family vehicle is a minivan.

I think Pete once called minivans “the sweatpants of the car world.”

Well, I’m wearin’ sweatpants.

For those of you calling for my man card, just hold on a minute.

There were a few factors here. One was necessity. Two was safety. Three was drivability. But let me tell the backstory of our family cars first.

Car #1

Volkswagen_Jetta_wagonWe were having our first child. We both had two-door, somewhat sporty cars. It was time to trade one in and get something with more doors. We got this brand-new awesome compact German station wagon with a turbo. Sporty-family. Family-sporty.

Well, it spent more time in the shop than I got to drive it. At one point, it sat at the dealership for six months waiting for some obscure part from Germany that really didn’t fix the problem. And then one day the interior of the car caught fire with me and my young child in the car, spewing toxic smoke that landed us on the side of the road gasping for air. BTW, the seat heater burned up the driver’s seat and burned my favorite jeans.


Got rid of it that afternoon.

Car #2

2006-toyota-scion-xbThere wasn’t much in the marketplace we liked. We kind of settled on this new Japanese boxy compact car-thing. It was a mailbox on wheels. It was like the designer’s said, “Hey, this is waaay too fuel-efficient. Get that smoky wand-thing and meet me in the wind tunnel.”

Then they were inspired by a loaf of bread.

But it was peppy and my wife really liked it. It was roomy like a clown car. But I felt like I was driving in a tin can. But that’s not why I traded this one in for  a minivan.


It was out of necessity. We were having another baby.

Yet that still wasn’t the reason why. Our new baby turned out to be two babies.

Yeah, twins.

So by sheer number of humans, we all couldn’t fit in that little car.

So it wasn’t a clown car after all.


We covered necessity. Next on the list was safety.

Crash reports. Airbags. Front. Side. Curtains. Blah, blah, blah.

Check, check, check.

Most everything we looked at had comparable safety ratings and airbags and stuff.

But they can’t really skimp on this stuff, right?

“Hey Buck, whatcha gonna do with all those eggshells? I got an idea for this here bumper.”

And it didn’t look as if it caught on fire recently so…

Reason number three.


Neither my wife or I wanted some full size earthmover-gas-hog-truck-pretending-to-be-an-SUV.

Nor a van. Hello 1985-want-some-candy-creeper-van.

I was worried about her parking something like those. Having to back up in today’s tight parking lots.

And they rode like trucks.

So minivans here we come.

What made it “drivable?”

We could back it up easily. Not too long. No blind spots.

monroe-oespectrumIt needed to have a nice smooth ride, yet had to be stable at highway speeds. You know…good shocks and struts…I always use Monroe shock absorbers, so those late night drives around the neighborhood getting babies to sleep won’t jar them awake. Plus, a good set of shocks will help prevent any bottoming out when you drive over the inevitable pothole.

Oh, and on the highway it had to have some gumption. You know, you could step on it and be able to merge.

It had to have quality tires, not some off-brand factory deals, but a reputable name brand with a good wear rating.

The Verdict

hyundaiSo that’s it. We traded up. It’s been a good ride—good to us.

Even after driving four kids to sleep on more than one occasion, a few fermented juicebox explosions and countless beach trips, the minivan is alright.

I’m on the second set of tires, and I-don’t-know-how-many-oil-changes. Since we started towing our little popup camper, I’m about to change out my shocks to some new Monroe shocks (Monroe recommends you get them checked at 50k miles, and we’re due for a new set). Good shocks and struts are more important to car safety than you might realize; particularly when you use your vehicle for towing or use it to transport heavy loads, like all of your groceries and four kids and two dogs—but I’ll cover that in a little DIY post.

Most of you know I’m the type to keep stuff going as long as I can. So I think the minivan will be around for awhile.

And I’ll be driving it in sweatpants.

So do you have a minivan? Was it a trade up? Why did you let that one car go?


This blog post was sponsored by Monroe Shocks and Struts, for more information on shocks and car safety, check out their website, as well as their Facebook page.



  • Akaahan

    Hi Marty,

    I’ve never really owned a minivan – they’re the type of automobiles I fervently pray never to be tempted to drive :)

    But then, I’m damn lucky: just my wife and a boy – so we can pretty choose anything (except a 2 seated convertible)!

    Wish you success with your new ride.

    Akaahan Terungwa


  • DIY Money Guy

    My wife and I have twin girls just under a year old. Which in turn meant my wife had to sell her dream car, black Chrysler 300. While I was successful in avoiding the dreaded mini-van, we up getting her a mid-size soccer-mom SUV. We settled on a 2010 GMC Acadia with fairly high mileage, but got it at a very good price. The Acadia has the now-important 3rd row seats and even has captain-style/bucket seats for the 2nd row. We can fit seven people in there and as long the ride isn’t for more than a couple of hours it is actually fairly comfortable. Good luck with the new mini-van! I have been able to avoid one so far but it seems like more and more of a possibility as our family grows.


  • MJ

    Love reading your posts. We were a mini-van family a long long time ago. Funny how memorable it is when you get your first one and just as memorable when you move on to something different when you no longer need those mini-vans, LOL


  • OldKrustyBread

    The year was 2000 and I rented a Ford Windstar for a work trip to Las Vegas for a convention. Me and another guy, our booth display, props, sales brochures, and luggage all fit great. Best of all the long drive from Sacramento was very smooth.

    Jump ahead three months and we were in need of upgrading our midsize SUV (GMC Jimmy) which had 180K miles on it. I instantly thought of the Windstar. My wife was not to keen on the idea, but with the 3rd row seat we could easily take 7 adults in one car she gave me the green light.

    I wasn’t too keen on driving it everyday since it would kill my street cred, but I sucked it up for the good of the family. Thankfully I only had to drive it for about 8 months before our other car needed to be replaced and I got a Manly Man’s Ford F-150!

    That being said, with two kids and often grandparents or friends it became “the taxi.” And when used for vacations it had tons of room for things like ski boots, boogie boards, ice chests, etc etc.

    Sure, I would have like to upgrade to a big Suburban but not for the extra $10K.


  • Kkmommaoftwo

    Hey love your posts. It’s funny always had a car. Then I had bought my beautiful Rav 4 back in 05. Loved it. That was it. Never buying another car again. Yeah right. My husband is a US Marine. He had gotten out. Well we went back in two yrs later and went from Florida to Nc. We started traveling. Our first road trip besides moving was to NY where I’m actually from, we went to go see my brother. 12 hrs in the Rav and my husband looks at me and says this is not a good traveling car. The kids were complaining they were squashed together and had no room to sleep. So when we returned back from our vacation we upgraded to our first mini van in 2006. Btw. I loved it so much that I just bought another one in November 2016. Haha. Yes still in military and still traveling.


  • Norman Buchanan

    Being an ex military I’ve been ridiculed for driving minivans since 2003 since I have a small family but they’re too versatile to stop driving them from hauling stuff to road trips, comfort and power, only drawback is high fuel consumption round town but great on long trips, I hope to have a minivan long as I am able to drive.


  • Bryant

    Hi! My family and I have been minivan owners for 12+ years. In my opinion, its the most versatile vehicle hands down from people hauling, towing and storage. Over the years, we have owned several minivans by Dodge, Chrysler and now Toyota Sienna which has been most reliable of the group and our favorite. We routinely have six passengers but this one can accommodate eight utilizing the jump-seat. Throw on the rooftop luggage carrier and away we go! We added some aftermarket wheels and wider tires to give it a sporty look and better handling response. It gets lots of looks! No shame of driving this minivan.


  • Joshua

    A year and a half ago we had boy #3. There is no way either of us would tolerate a minivan so for us the best option was to buy a high mileage GMC Yukon with 3rd row seating. It is perfect and being a gas guzzler doesn’t matter much when you’re not putting many miles on it.


  • Vulcanlogix

    The hot set-up is a mini-van cargo van if you’re transporting stuff and not people. I had a great 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan cargo van for 7 yrs. Then I retired, and my DIY and landscaping projects got serious. I moved up to a former U-Haul Ford E-250 cargo van for the additional load and towing capacity.


  • KD

    I have been a minivan driver since the birth of our second child in 1998. Our first one was an AWD Dodge and we have never looked back. An AWD minivan can get you anywhere in any weather no problem. Our most recent one is a Toyota Sienna also with AWD and I miss it. As the children grew up I was spending most of my time driving alone so it was not practical. We downsized to a smaller car but kept the minivan for the kids use. I get jealous and will often let them drive my new car and take the 12 year old minivan instead. Can’t be beat comfort and versatility.


  • David

    I leased my first minivan (2010 Toyota Sienna) with the birth of my twins. I loved it. Drove great and so much room. We had automatic side doors, which were wonderful to load up the kids during cold days. We just opened them with the remote as we walked up. Traded it in for a another Sienna after 3 years with the birth of another child. Again, love the van. If you are strong enough to remove the second row seating (they’re very heavy), you can drop the third row and slide full sheets of OSB in through the tailgate. Nothing unmanly about the practicality of a minivan.


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