siennawashing270.jpgMy status of traveling mom roadtripper was catapulted to Traveling MomRoad Warrior thanks to the 3,200-mile trip the kids and I took as partof our family vacation this summer.  It started as a simple visit tosee the grandparents.  It turned into very a long minivan vs. SUV testdrive.  

I’ve secretly been eyeing minivans for years.  I know they are efficient and spacious and my thrifty practical side covets its benefits.  I also know that the choice really comes down to image and then comfort.  

Even before gas prices jumped to new heights, I had felt the green pinch driving around in my Suburban.  I had a great meeting with a woman in the Internet business and when we walked out to the parking lot together, promising to meet again soon, she climbed into the only Mini in the lot.  I slinked behind the wheel of my mammoth gas hog as she yelled out that I needed to get anther car.  

A moment of justification is necessary, however.  My 1997 Suburban is in perfectly good shape, has only 70,000 miles on it, is paid for and, on a lucky day, I might be able to sell it for $2,000.  I can’t buy another car for $2,000.  Oh, but I could save on a lot of gas!  And help the environment!  These ideas motivated me to find a minivan for my road trip.

I thought about renting one, but when I checked rental prices, Toyota rentals did not show up on the list.  I was explaining my plan to a friend who works at Toyota of Stamford and he suggested I get a car from them.  I had no idea they rented cars.  Turns out that there are several Toyota Car Rental outlets in the United States and the company is confident that people who try a Toyota will buy a Toyota.  I can see why.  The Sienna did not feel like the tin can minvans I had driven on Florida vacations.  

On this family vacation, I drove flat, straight highways, winding back roads, and through several downtowns.  I never felt the car shake as a semi passed or like it couldn’t take a curve.  As much as I liked the gas mileage and efficiency of the Fiat minivan we drove in Italy, I appreciated the Sienna’s amenities and sturdy feel.  Not to mention you can’t buy the Fiat here anyway!

The biggest surprise was how much space we had.  I really had convinced myself that I would have to give up storage and hauling space if I traded my SUV for a minivan.  I had so much space that I carried all kinds of junk home.  I would suggest a net for the back trunk area, however.  I did not appreciate bags tumbling out on top of me when I opened the back.

One of the cousins we visited on this trip is in the market for a minivan and has narrowed it down to the Honda Odyssey or the Toyota Sienna, which I expect is very common.  I still want to drive some of the hybrids that are offered before I make a purchase decision.  The ultimate would be a hybrid minivan.  Then I’d be green and cool.

Read Road-trips and minivans.