Monday, November 26, 2012

The Joys of Driving a Minivan!

I am a car guy, but I'm also practical and I'm not rich. I also have several kids (which is partially why I'm not rich) to transport safely and comfortably around town and on long trips. Because of my life situation I have found myself doing what I swore I would never, ever do: I bought a minivan.

What's so bad about owning a minivan? Many people consider minivans to be a scourge on the road. I've noticed the most violent reactions against minivans and those who drive them come from women. Perhaps these women view minivans as an undue form of female bondage, like the bra-burning flower children of the 1960s? I once had a woman explain to me that driving a minivan is "sacrificing your sexuality for your children." I had no idea I drove my sexuality around on the road, but of course the little guys who drive huge trucks help confirm that at least some people do. How sad.

I really like SUVs for a number of reasons: they are excellent in snow, SUVs are good for camping and other outdoor activities and some can actually be fun to drive (while others constantly feel like they're going to tip over). But there is one major problem with 95% of the SUVs on the market today: if they have a third row, its large enough to transport a house cat or maybe a beagle and that's about it. Don't believe me? Go try to sit in the third row of a Toyota Highlander, Volvo XC90, Acura MDX or even a Ford Explorer. If you're tall like me, you won't even fit. To add insult to injury, with the third row up the vehicle's cargo area is completely annihilated. So that means if the family goes shopping together, everyone has to hold the store bags on their laps. Road trips are accomplished with everyone holding the luggage or using it as wonderful in-vehicle ottomans, or by loading everything onto the roof and increasing the possibility the vehicle will rollover at freeway speeds. Car makers could at least expand the hip room on the second row of these SUVs, allowing parents to place three car seats or boosters side-by-side and still close the doors and use the three shoulder belts.  

Minivans in general offer more cargo and passenger space than SUVs

Minivans, for the most part, have ample space on all three rows, as well as a surprising amount of cargo space behind the third row. Image be damned, having space for everyone and everything makes life bearable! Kids also have an easy time getting into and out of minivans, since they have a low step-in height and wide sliding doors. Kids have trouble with the large, heavy doors found on SUVs, which means they're more likely to hit other vehicles, metal poles, etc with them.

As gas prices continue to climb, minivans offer a more fuel-efficient way to transport a large group of people. In general, their tires and other consumables cost less. They are a more budget-friendly way to transport around your family. So many people have SUVs that cost an arm and a leg to maintain, and yet they never tap into the vehicle's off-road capabilities. If that's not conspicuous consumption, then I'm not sure what is. 

Ultimately I feel like I'm villainized by other drivers on the road because I chose a vehicle that makes sense. I had been conditioned to think that minivan drivers were some sort of a scourge, but my thinking has now changed by necessity. If more people would give minivans a try, they might realize that their kids don't need to eat their knees in an SUV's crammed third row. My experience is that the more comfortable kids are in a vehicle, in general the better behaved they are in that vehicle. I enjoy driving down the road without crying and fighting, which is hardly a scourge but instead is a huge blessing.