Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ty is Now a Van Man!

I've mentioned before my regret in not buying a mini van. Almost 2 years ago we decided we should get a new car to replace Ty's then pretty downtrodden SUV. We wanted a safer and bigger car before adding another child to our family. We also wanted to have a while to get used to the added expense of another car payment before #2. Neither of us felt we needed a minivan. I felt it would be silly to drive a van with only one child and after researching SUVs we felt one with a 3rd row would be sufficient. It wasn't until we started trying to fit my parents and brothers in the Mazda with us that we started to realize it wasn't big enough. The 3rd row was basically a joke and we all dreaded when it was our turn to sit in it.

Then Elise came along and we added another car seat. Before buying the Mazda we had played around with the car seat to see where all it would fit. At the time we only had the infant car seat and didn't realize how much bigger our upgraded car seat would be. We had planned out how we would set up the car with 2 car seats, putting the baby in the middle and Carter in the back. It wasn't until Ty went to install the infant car seat just weeks before Elise was born that we realized our plan wouldn't work, the car just wasn't big enough. There wasn't enough room. Both the passenger seat and driver seat were limited in how far they could be moved back due to hitting the car seat behind them. On long trips I wasn't able to stretch my legs out and it sucked. There had also been the frustration of being giantly pregnant and having to lift Carter all the way up into the tall car.
Elise and Carter riding in the middle seat of the Mazda.
Elise was born and I started transporting 2 kids in 2 car seats, one on either side of the car. In our driveway I'd load Elise up while Carter waited on the other side and then I'd go around to load him up. Everywhere else I'd set Elise's car seat down to load Carter and then go around to get her in. It wasn't awesome but it wasn't too bad and I got in a good routine. But man, there was no room in the middle and to get to the dreaded 3rd row we had to crawl through the trunk. When the stroller was in the trunk the back seats had to be folded down so it could fit. The 3rd row was even more of a waste. When we took longer trips and I sat in the back between their car seats it was miserable. I was squished on the hump of the bench with no leg room with Carter's toys spilling over into the little leg room I had.
My mom squeezed between the 2 car seats in the middle of the Mazda.
I kept telling Ty how much I wished we'd gone with a van. Getting the Mazda turned out to be a big mistake. At the time it was a great decision but once I started driving it I realized it wasn't what we'd hoped or needed. Plus if we decided to have a third child there's no way the Mazda would work. Ty told me if we were going to make the change we should do it sooner while our Mazda had more value. My thought had been to wait until we had more paid off as we had only paid off about $2,000 on our loan, but what Ty said made sense. Last weekend we finally had time in town to look at some vans. During the week Ty did some research and found a few used vans that were in our price range. My hope was that we could find something cheaper than what our Mazda was worth since we were upside down with it, owing about $5-7,000 more than the projected trade in value. I figured there was a small chance of that happening and didn't have much hope in finding a van. Ty discovered a used Dodge Grand Caravan priced in our range. He was excited to look at it and wanted to jump on it after having a Honda Odyssey sell before we got a chance to look at it. Jeremy agreed to come to our house after Carter went to bed Friday evening so we could look at it without worrying about him running around the dealership.

We arrived at the dealership a little after 8:00 with it closing at 9:00. Our plan was to mess around with the car seats and stroller to see how they'd fit and then return the next day to look some more. We knew our best bet for a car in our price range was a Dodge so we wanted to get a feel for one. We were in a hurry leaving so I forgot my purse. Normally there's a pacifier in Elise's car seat but it had gotten taken out and not put back. So we weren't prepared to be there past 9:00. We were greeted by a friendly salesman who took us right to the van. He was working with another couple who were in and out of finance buying a car so he'd go back and forth between us which was nice and gave us plenty of time to play with the car.
Our sweet new ride!
We opened the hatch and I tried out different ways to lift the double stroller in and fit it into the trunk. I was amazed at how much lower it was and therefore an easier lift! Then we got inside and played with the seats. Our favorite thing about the van was the stow 'n go seats in both the middle and back row which folded down completely into the floor. Ty put both car seats in different places in the van to get a feel for how they would fit. I started to get giddy seeing all the different options and how much space there'd be to move around! Ty showed me all the places we could fit car seats and I jokingly said, "So you're saying we could fit 4 car seats in here at once." He quickly replied that if that was my plan we would abandon the search for vans immediately which cracked me up!

The salesman then brought over a Chrysler Town & Country which was about $10,000 more than the Dodge. It was in great condition with automatic lights, leather seats, and a back up camera which were the things the Dodge didn't have that we would have liked. It was also fully loaded with a DVD player, navigation system and other features we didn't need. Although beautiful I wasn't interested because I liked the idea of a cheaper car that we could almost trade the Mazda in straight across for. We had seen what we'd planned on for the evening but the salesman offered for us to go ahead and test drive it so we figured why not?! The power adjustment  in the front seat was broken so I couldn't reach the pedals, something they assured us they would fix, but that meant I couldn't test drive the car so Ty did. I was immediately impressed with how comfortable the seats were. I originally thought cloth seats may have been a deal breaker because they would get so dirty with kids, but man were they comfortable! When we got back from the test drive they wanted us to try out the Chrysler but I wanted to head home and honestly didn't want our interest in a more expensive car peaked. We declined the second test drive because Elise was getting tired and fussy. I wanted to head home but they talked us into heading inside for a few minutes to run some numbers and see what our payments would look like. While inside the manager took our Mazda out to drive and get an idea of what they'd offer us. It became clear they were trying to close the deal and it was nearing 10:00. I told Ty to close things down so they reluctantly let us leave as we promised to return the next day. 

Saturday morning we had planned to take Carter on a special group hike at our nature center and we went ahead with those plans. Once Carter was down for a nap Jeremy came over so we could head back to the dealership. This time I was more prepared with my purse and a pacifier in hand. The salesman we worked with the night before was happy to see we had returned. We talked about what we were interested in and he brought out papers showing us numbers. Going in we were expecting to be offered $11-13,000 for the Mazda as Kelly Blue Book listed that as the estimated trade in amount. We were floored when they offered us $15,000 which meant we would only get $3,000 less than what we still owed. With our down payment we were back at zero which means our car payment even with tags and taxes included will be around $60 less per month than we were paying! So now we have a car that is a better fit for our family and have a cheaper car payment which is a win all around!
Elise zonked out while we sat in the finance office at the dealership.
Right now we have the captain seat behind the passenger seat folded down and stowed away to give Carter more room to climb into the back, me more room to move around while loading the kids, and a place to easily change diapers on the go. The van also has automatic sliding doors so I don't have to worry about Carter waiting on me to open the door or accidentally swinging my door open too far in a crowded parking lot and dinging someone else's car. The key fob has buttons that open each of the doors as well as the back hatch. All of this is a game changer and makes my life so much easier!
Carter peeking out from his car seat in the back of the van.
Carter pushing the button on Elise's mirror so it would play music.
Every time we walk out of the house and I can push buttons to have both doors open by the time we get to the car I am so happy. I load Elise in on the driver's side, close the door, circle the car and step in on the passenger side. By the time I'm in the back ready to buckle Carter in he's already sitting in his car seat waiting on me. I was worried with him being all the way in the back I wouldn't be able to hear him but I can actually hear him better than I did in the Mazda. Not sure if it's because the van is quieter or because he's more centered in the car rather than all the way on the passenger side so he's more in my line of hearing. Either way I love it! There have been a few car rides where I've sat in the back next to Carter. I love being able to see both my babies really well. With the seat in front of me folded down I can stretch my legs all the way out which is such a treat after being sardined into the spot between the car seats with no leg room in the Mazda. I am one happy momma! 

From the moment we bought the van I knew we made the right decision and each time I drive the car I find a new reason to love it. Yesterday it was having the room and privacy to change into my running clothes after storytime at the library. The van is so easy to use that one day after a run I let Carter play around inside it while I loaded up the stroller. He found the buttons to open and close the doors and hatch so I dealt with him closing and opening the hatch on me. I told Ty the disadvantage of having such an easy car is that a toddler can do it! This weekend we were playing at the park while Ty ran and it started to lightning and rain. We went to the car and played with the door open rather than wasting gas by turning the car on and leaving it running. We were in a parking lot but due to the sliding door were able to do that. All things I've loved about our van and I'm sure I'll find even more reasons to be pleased with our purchase!
My view from the back seat!


  1. It is very comfortable, and a lot more room! And MUCH easier to get in and out of. And the seats are comfortable. I prefer cloth over leather, but they say leather is easier to clean. I'm not so sure about that.

    1. Since we have cloth we bought one of the warranties they offered where we essentially can get our car detailed as many times as we want in 5 years. Thought it was worth the $300!

  2. I am happily jealous! We squeeze into my Camry, which is super tight. The driver and passenger seats can't be adjusted at all, so poor Rob's legs are squished when he drives. And I have to ride in the back when we drive to his parents' because Maeve can't fit back there, so she gets the front seat! I'll live vicariously through you until we get a van of our own one day!

    1. Oh my gosh, it is so amazing! I feel for you! I hope you don't have to wait too long.