Controversy Wednesday: MINIVANS

17 Aug

Or girl, for that matter.

If you had any shred of respect for me prior to this post, I suspect it will be henceforth destroyed.

And why?  Because I refuse – REFUSE – to drive a minivan, purely out of vanity.  How’s that for controversy?

My obstinacy was the cause of a pretty massive fight between me and my beloved Jake before Seabass came along.  (As in, yes, crying.)  When we found out we were pregnant, all we had was a 1994 Honda Civic two-door with a cracked windshield and 200k miles between us.  The purchase of another car shot to the top of our priority list like lightning.

Jake and I agreed on several aspects of the purchase: that the car be clean, well-maintained, extremely fuel-efficient, with four doors and a little bit off the ground, if possible, to save our backs from breaking every time we put the baby in the car.  We also agreed that we wouldn’t make payments on anything or put it on the credit card, so it would have to be seriously cheap.

Beyond that, though, we disagreed on just about everything.  To me, a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CRV fit the bill, but Jake insisted that a minivan was the only way to go.

“Everyone has one!” he argued, “And they all love theirs.  Why can’t you just put your vanity aside and listen to reason?”

He had every right to be frustrated with me.  Why not just give in and go the way of the minivan?  They’re spacious and convenient, with plenty of seats for gobs of kids to sit in and something like four cupholders per passenger.  They can also be fairly inexpensive to purchase used, and are often quite fuel-efficient.  And those automatic open-and-shut sliding doors, wow.  So what was the problem?

I don’t know exactly.  Maybe it’s that I grew up getting car sick bouncing around in the back of a giant Dodge Econoline that resembled the A-Team van.  Or perhaps it’s memories of kids getting dropped off at school by exhausted mothers who drove wood-paneled Astrovans encrusted to a near-Baroque degree with Cheerios and snot.  But most likely, it’s just that I don’t want to give in to the stereotypical mom image, spending my entire waking life driving kids to soccer games, dance lessons, etc. in a minivan with a bumper sticker that reads “Mom’s Taxi.”  Like I said, it’s vanity.

While I’m not proud of myself for being so shallow, I *do* feel affirmed by the hoardes of people who feel the same way.  Just Google “anti minivans” and you’ll find a thriving community of people like me, some of whom even go so far as to write blogs on the subject.

Mmmmm, Vanagon.

Before I lay down my weak defense to be pummeled by all of you proud minivan drivers out there, I’d like to note that there is one exception to my minivan prejudice.  I wouldn’t mind driving a VW Vanagon or Westfalia because they’re a) the descendent of the VW bus, b) European, and c) often outfitted with a sink, stove, and hookups for camping.

Anyway, my friend Linda has already scorned me on her blog with an ode in praise of her minivan, and she speaks convincingly to its many charms.  But what do you think/drive?  Are minivans the pits?  Or are they the best thing since indoor plumbing?

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43 Responses to “Controversy Wednesday: MINIVANS”

  1. Marta August 17, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    I do not have a minivan, but I covet one. Perhaps you need to watch some of the ads of the swagger wagon to be convinced. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql-N3F1FhW4

    • Hannah August 17, 2011 at 8:25 am #

      love it!

    • jaimeclewis August 17, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

      Footnote Andy Samberg, Flight of the Conchords, etc. Love it!

      But I still don’t want one. Blech.

  2. Kim Fahrni August 17, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    I NEVER wanted one and shuddered whenever it was mentioned. I’m sure they have their good qualities….. but the coolness factor is about -75. Lol

  3. Hannah August 17, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    I have an Odyssey and LOVE LOVE LOVE it! I do not love it for its curb appeal or anything like that- but man oh man the power sliding doors with three kids all in car seats is amazing. And for the size it is quite fuel efficient. When gas prices spiked a few months ago we did consider trading in for a sedan, but when push came to shove the fuel efficiency was not much better. I have many friends such as yourself that are not a believer- but seriously test drive one….and not the wood paneled or dust buster looking one from our childhoods! My neighbor was not a believer- she tested all the SUVs on the market, finally gave in and sat in an odyssey and she is now a believer. Another friend asked for any and all suggestions on FB for a car that would fit 3 car seats, that is not a mini van….and in the end she ended up with an odyssey too. The new ones are even more fuel efficient and fit 3 FULL SIZE carseats in the middle seat, if we had the money I would have traded up! I know I sound like a spokes rep for Honda, but they are great! All I can say to the mini-van haters is don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! But one disclaimer- I am not the slightest bit vain in cars…could care less to be honest and once the kids are out of carseats I would love a compact super-fuel efficient (over 40 mpg) vehicle once again!

    • jaimeclewis August 17, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

      Nice D, Hannah.

  4. Sara August 17, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    I don’t have kids, but I second the first comment- SWAGGER WAGON!

  5. shotwellwallace August 17, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    i hate to say that i probably share your sentiments, despite having learned to drive on my mom’s mercury villager–a van that i LOVED when she got since it meant that my sister and i each got our own entire row. my husband and i had one car between the two of us when we had our little guy. it was a 4-door manual transmission mazda 3 that we still own and that i love, but that was wasn’t exactly roomy with the car seat installed (the front seat passenger was basically pushed up into the glove compartment). when he moved to a different state a month ahead of me, we realized that we needed a 2nd car, preferably one that was large enough to comfortably fit the car seat and all of the crazy tons of stuff that travel with an infant. we pretty much completely ruled out minivans, and researched the hell out of crossovers based almost entirely on cargo space. we were pretty limited with our budget, but ended up with a rav4. i love it. that being said, if we end up with more than 2 kids (not in the plans, but you never know…) we’ll have to re-evaluate and go with something that has a 3rd row. And yes, I will call it a swagger wagon 🙂

  6. Monika August 17, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    I was raised riding around in one of those wood paneled mini vans, and while they were great for long trips, I cringed when my Mom dropped me off at school in that thing. We only have one kid and aren’t planning any more so I don’t see any reason to get something that big. I have to admit, though, my brother has an Odyssey and it works great for his family of 5. And it’s pretty sexy for a mini van!

  7. Nikki August 17, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    That is exactly why we have a Honda Pilot. Best car ever. It fits eight people and our family is currently at six. We bought it knowing we wanted a lot of kids and it has worked amazingly well. It’s fairly roomy, can be set up in a ton of different configurations and drives beautifully. It’s not as fuel efficient as a minivan, but it’s not all that bad. It also has four wheel drive. What’s not to love? Although they can be expensive, we got a heck of a deal and were able to pay for it up front with the help of our two totaled cars before moving from SLO (remember that Jaime?) and a generous gift from my grandparents’ estate.

    I vote Pilot. We love it!! And Steve’s the same way…he’ll never, EVER own a minivan. I personally don’t care that much but, really do love our Pilot. It’s been our best big purchase. And that’s coming from a family with four little kids six and under.

  8. Robin Lee August 17, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    People like me will be laughing out loud at people like you every time your child opens the car door into the car next to him, leaving a dent that your vanity will need to pay for.

    Minivans FOREVER!! 🙂

    • jaimeclewis August 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

      That’s okay: People like me are laughing at you NOW.

      🙂

      • Barbara McKnight August 18, 2011 at 9:38 am #

        LOVE this! I had 3 kids and Never gave into the minivan thing. Just couldn’t do it. Of course, when my kids were little the minivans were not as fancy as they are now with automatic doors, etc. However, I cringe to confess that I drove a HUGE Suburban, and then (even more cringing), the coolest green Escalade ever, that my hubby gor a great deal on. My daughters were in high school then, and boy did they love that thir mom drove a “cool” car–but we never had spinners, much to their chagrin.

  9. Anna Hoest August 17, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    I’m with you 150% Jaime! I’m just glad Ryan agrees with me 🙂 I just can’t picture myself as a “soccer mom” … And I totally agree with Monika – nothing more depressing than getting dropped off at school in an ugly minivan.

  10. Megan Stiles August 17, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    2 things: 1) Nobody WANTS a minivan.
    2) You are more than a year into this now; have you not learned to ‘never say never?’ 😉 Pride goeth before the minivan.

  11. Michelle Driscoll August 17, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    With 5 people in my family including a 4 month old little guy, I have to say that our Honda Odyssey (affectionately known as Homer) has been a godsend. And compared the wood-paneled monstrosities from when we were kids, it is quite sleek and modern looking, and actually gets better gas mileage than we were expecting. All around, it’s been a win for my family- I’m quite proud to be living the minivan dream! 😉

  12. Caroline August 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    We rented a minivan for about a week when we were in Florida last year. I was aghast when the rental car company said that was the only medium to large vehicle they had. I was embarrassed to drive around in it, and felt like I had succumbed to being a woman with no soul (of course, I’m exaggerating).

    Regardless of my judgment on myself driving one, I hold no judgment when I see others driving their minivans. Instead I think “Good for them! Thrifty! Practical! Putting family first!”

    That minivan we rented was awesome. I realized how easy it makes everything. But our Nissan X-Terra is a just a smidge less convenient than the minivan, I don’t really ever miss the automatic sliding doors, and we look bad*ss driving around in it. Bring on the vanity!

    • Husband August 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      When I see X-terra, I think Andy Bernard.

  13. Husband August 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    The comments regarding how bad it is to be dropped off at school in an ugly mini-van are short-sighted. You don’t think that kids are going to hate getting dropped off at school by the ubiquitous crossover someday? “Nice CRV Jimmy, does your mommy use Botox and try to get away with skinny jeans too? Noogie!!”

    • jaimeclewis August 17, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

      I’ll drive a minivan if you keep saying sexy words like “ubiquitous” and using hyphens correctly. Mee-ow.

    • Hannah August 18, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

      Ah, husband- too funny! I drive a mini-van, no botox, and will NEVER wear skinny jeans. I have decided to accept my place in life and roll with it- in my mini-van!

  14. J.C August 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    We have a Honda Odyssey as well and adore it. We got one as it was the ‘sensible’ move, but I’ve totally fallen in love with it. It’s awesome to drive, has separate a/c for front and back (which keeps everyone happy!), with plenty of room for the three kids. Love my car!

  15. g-mama August 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Preach on sista!

  16. Dad August 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    There is no such thing as a Dodge Econoline,if you want to be on the A- Team you gotta get it right.

    • jaimeclewis August 18, 2011 at 11:48 am #

      Ouch. Busted.

  17. Valarie August 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Minivan = My life as any kind of an interesting person is over. But, strangely, I don’t feel that way about my friends that drive minivans. Guess I’m in the vanity corner with you. A VW bus is cool and retro. Evokes a much different feeling than a minivan does.

  18. Monika August 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Husband, I think it’s embarrassing to get dropped off at school in ANYTHING.

  19. Jerry's Wife August 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    Ugh, my CR-V drives me crazy! Two carseats in the backseat and ours is maxed out. If we want to pick up a little buddy to go to the zoo with us or even have Grandma come along for a roadtrip, it won’t work with our car. I’m praying for a larger vehicle miracle because both cars are paid off and we don’t want a car payment. We should have bought the minivan in the beginning instead of resisting.

    Jerry and I call ourselves “Mr. Form” and “Mrs. Function,” so he has always said “no” to the minivan, but with two kiddos and hopefully more in the future, he’s changed his tune. The minivan functionality benefit outweighs the dorky/uncool/ “we’ve given in” aesthetic. I also yoga pants (elastic waistband) everyday and know I have no chance of being “cool,” which kinda helps.

    Ps. I can’t believe people were embarrassed to get dropped off for school in a minivan. Try a five-foot tall mom in a 1976 Firebird.

  20. Jen August 18, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    I pretty much don’t care what anyone thinks of me driving a mini-van as I have never come close to being considered cool and am totally okay with that, but I do think it’s kind of sad that people judge mini-van drivers as having given up their identity and become soulless shells.

    I wonder if moms have a harder time with this because to be a mom is already to be struggling with insecurities about your role as a woman. As a non-mom, I don’t worry about being judged solely by my relationship to others and not as a person in my own right. So I really don’t care whether my van says “soccer mom” or not.

    • Michelle DeWitt April 24, 2017 at 10:09 pm #

      I have been looking for another car based solely on easing my back issues. I climbed in to all kinds of vehicles. The salesman finally said, just try this. So I got up into the cabin of a Chrysler T&C Limited and my response–“This is perfect!” I say cabin because it felt terribly capacious and cush after 8 years of driving a Toyota Corolla with manual window cranks. I test drove it twice. I think about it longingly. But I have that damn vanity thing going on and can’t take the plunge. Oh, I should add here that I don’t have children and I don’t need it to haul stuff. It just felt luxurious, even compared to the tricked out cars, crossovers, and SUVs I tried. I’m just waiting for permission from the world to have a van and not be uncool. Silly, right? Like that middle school need for peer approval never goes away. Meanwhile, I am driving my mother-in-law’s Grand Marquis till I make a decision. Oh, the irony.

  21. Linda Z August 18, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    There are lots of props for the swagger wagon here! Nice! What I think is hilarious is that Jake was the one who actually wanted one.

    And I disagree with Megan… I actually did want a mini-van. But I like to be different. 🙂

  22. Gina August 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Ok, this made me laugh out loud (LOL if you will):

    “Nice CRV Jimmy, does your mommy use Botox and try to get away with skinny jeans too? Noogie!!”

    Full disclaimer: We recently bought a Subaru Outback because I couldn’t stomach the idea of giving up an ounce of “coolness” (I don’t have much to spare these days). Nice big backseat, large cargo area, and plenty cool. Voila. 🙂

  23. Hank August 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Heather is with you on this, while I’m on Jake’s side. I love the idea of a Minivan, she would rather walk. It’s ok. That’s why the car manufactures make so many different cars. We settled on a station-wagon-ish car, or as the Brits would say, an estate car. See, it sounds better when you say that. Say it with me, Estate Car. Now say it with a British Accent, Estate Car. Yep… definitely the way to go. 🙂

  24. Anonymous August 18, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    Fall by “Go Westy” in Los Osos to get your fill of Westfalias

  25. jaimeclewis August 19, 2011 at 8:16 am #

    Oooooh! Care to do any trade, Go Westy? 🙂

  26. Noelle August 19, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    I unfortunately do completely care about the cool factor! We recently bought a used CRV and looove it but it is now maxed out with two kids, so my dream car is the Honda pilot or the Buick enclave, mmmmmm. And yes, I wear skinny jeans 😉

    • jaimeclewis August 19, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

      So do I!!!! I swore I never would, and then…well, I just look really cute in them. No shame.

  27. Noelle August 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Oh, and I learned to drive in one of those fake-wood paneled minivans, so I’m fighting my hardest to stay minivan free and thankfully my hubby agrees haha!

  28. Debra August 20, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    I am with you girl. I am too vain for a minivan. Tim is all for them. I’m not giving in no matter how convenient they actually are!

  29. Debra August 20, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Oh and we had the exact same Dodge Ram Van growing up. First car I learned to drive when I turned 16.

  30. Liz August 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    I realize I’m late with this comment, but I just had to go through and read everyone else’s comments after your last post about still not giving into the minivan.

    I love my minivan & I do think I’m one of those rare people that actually wanted a minivan someday. I also look forward to the day I can have a normal vehicle again, but for now, it is all about functionality with a 4 year old, 2 year old and baby on the way.

    I won’t hold it against you that you do not like the minivan, because I feel the same way about SUVs. We actually had an Xterra before we got the minivan, but it was my husband’s cause I would never choose an SUV. I think of SUV’s the same way that I think of BMW’s. They are for people to “show off” and really have no real function. We drove an SUV for 2 weeks on our last trip to NY cause it was the only rental car they had left and I found myself missing the ease of my minivan within just a few days. I did feel much cooler though!

    • jaimeclewis August 29, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

      Liz, I’m actually totally with ya on the SUV situation. I don’t like SUVs or minivans. I guess I’m just kinda picky.

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