My 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.