4 Reasons You Should Absolutely Get That Minivan

Go ahead, you know you want to. We hereby give you permission to get that minivan. Yes, we know you said you’d never get one.

Go ahead, you know you want to. We hereby give you permission to get that minivan. Yes, we know you said you’d never get one, and you are a woman of your word, but you also said you’d never let TV raise your children or let your kids eat a revolving menu of chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and pizza. This particular instance of caving will actually HELP your family. Here are the reasons you should do it:

Going the distance

Your minivan can help put some much-needed distance between you and your little ones. You’re around each other all day, every day, and let’s face it, everyone needs a break. With the kids in the back and you in the front, you will be protected from the whining, the requests for snacks, and the sibling bickering. Sure, if you accidentally look in the rearview mirror, you might just catch them mouthing the words, “Mom, I’m hungry,” but it’s not your fault you can’t hear them. They’re simply too far away.

The entertainment value

Many minivans are equipped with theater-type seating and sound. Since you’ve already let your kids learn science from “Sid the Science Kid,” you may as well give in and let them watch a movie while you drive around gathering your sanity.

A lot of minivans come with headrest screens, chairs with cup holders, and headphones for the kids…or are they for the adults? If the kids have the headphones on, you can feel free to rock out to questionable music with innuendos and the occasional bad word because no one else can hear it. Relive your youth; throw up that “rock on” hand signal in the name of your minivan.

No one expects much

When others see you on the road, they’re pretty sure you’re going to drive five miles an hour under the speed limit and take your time accelerating when the light turns green. When the Harley or the F 150 pulls up next to you, make eye contact and smile as you hit the gas leaving them coughing on your dust. You’re a beast. You’re unstoppable. And you’ve just been underestimated.

This is not a life sentence

Just because you make this purchase now, it doesn’t mean this is what you’ll drive for the rest of your life. You’ve got a five- to 10-year commitment, tops. Be honest, you’ve probably got fruit snacks older than that in the back of your current vehicle. You’ll be free as a bird in a little while, and you’ll enjoy your Jaguar, BMW, or Lincoln soon enough.


It’s time to stop lying to yourself and to others. Yes, there was a period in your past when you scoffed at the thought of becoming “that mom,” but look at yourself. You walk proudly down the sidewalk in that macaroni necklace your daughter made you, while donning the picture pin of your soccer star on the front of your sweater. The time for cool is over, and you deserve to let the minivan take care of you.  

The next time you see one, give it a once over. Ask your friend if you can go for a spin with her, or better yet, roll down the windows, and test drive your sweet freedom on the open road. We give you permission.

Top 5 Hybrid Sedans for Your Family

Buying a new family car is a giant pain in the boo.

I’m always being asked by friends and family to help them decide what car to buy and, after over 15 years in the car business, I suppose I’ve been anointed Parent Co’s in-house car expert. I’m a real dork when it comes to car shopping. I’m one of the rare weirdos that genuinely loves the art and science of consciously coupling a car to its owner. That’s not what it sounds like, I promise.

When looking for a car, especially for a family, there are so many things to consider: Do we buy new or used? How many people can it seat? How much will the maintenance be on this thing? Does it have the gadgets and doo-dads our modern family has come to expect? How easily can I clean Gogurt from the seats?

And the always important: how far can I stretch the dead dinosaurs I’m burning?

We’ll do a follow-up on used family cars, but for now let’s focus on new cars and specifically hybrid sedans. Sure, there are Hybrid SUVs and Crossovers and we’ll cover those in another post, but the sedans tend to be the best from a dead dinosaur-burning perspective. And if you’re space savvy a sedan can work just fine as a family hauler.

There are a lot of sweet hybrid sedans on the market spanning the range of price points, but since most of us aren’t rolling in Benjamins, we’ll keep this list to cars under $40,000. Also, I will say that I haven’t driven any of these cars. I’m working strictly on the info on their websites and my (informed) opinion. With that said, if you’re a manufacturer on this list and want to change my mind by having me test out a press car, you know where to find me. Ha!

So here they are – the Top 5 Hybrid Sedans, listed in order of good to best.

5) 2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford Fusion Hybrid

I’m a fan of what Ford is doing lately. Our family truckster is a 2014 Explorer and the value is certainly there compared with its peers, but I’m not sure Ford is bringing their A-game with the Fusion Hybrid.

On the plus side, 41 MPG highway isn’t too shabby, and I know from experience that the Ford Sync system is really fantastic. I’m also a fan of the styling on this car and I think it will still look pretty sharp five years or more from now. If you’re a bigger driver who appreciates a spacious cabin, Ford has this nailed.

The base price S model is tempting at just a skosh over $25,000, but the options to get a well-equipped car add up quickly. I’d personally want leather seats (for the ease of cleaning), sunroof, and definitely all the safety features available since I’d be hauling precious cargo. When you load it up, you’re looking at the Platinum model range at roughly $34,000 (without floormats). With an industry-standard 3yr/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 5yr/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, I’d be a little squeamish to purchase outright and would probably lean towards a lease considering the fancy and expensive bits that make up a hybrid drive system.

4) 2016 Honda Accord Hybrid

Honda Accord Hybrid
Honda has always been a staple of reliability in the auto industry and the Accord has been a mainstay on American roads since the early 80s. The Accord and its chief rival, the Toyota Camry, are benchmarks for value in the mid-sized sedan category. The Accord Hybrid is no exception. With the Accord, you’ll get vanilla… but there’s nothing really wrong with a solid vanilla like Breyers or something like that.

The styling isn’t anything to write home about, and the starting base price of roughly $29,000 isn’t cheap, but it’s a Honda and it’s going to be a solid all-around vehicle. The 45 MPG highway rating is pretty darn good, and 4 MPG more than the Ford, but just like the Ford, when you start adding on features like lane departure warning, forward collision sensors, sunroof, and leather seats, you’re in the EX-L model at a base price of almost $33,000. With the same warranty as the Ford Fusion Hybrid, I would again lean toward a lease instead of purchase, despite higher overall resale values for Honda.

3) 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Toyota Camry Hybrid

Just like Honda, Toyota is a gold standard for reliability in this segment. I’ve traditionally thought of the Camry as the car people buy when they just don’t care at all about style (you can’t get more bland than a beige-on-beige Toyota Camry), but Toyota has really stepped up its game when it comes to styling refreshes across the model lineup.

The bare bones model has an admittedly attractive base price of roughly $27,000, but lacks two critical family car features – leather seats and optional Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) – making the top-of-the-line XLE model the only one up for consideration here. That model starts at roughly $30,000 and with Camry’s relatively simple package bundling strategy (versus other manufacturer’s a la carte method) you can choose a mid-range package with decent audio, moonroof, and BSM to take you up to about $33,000. It’s right in line with the others on warranty and, although slightly less gas friendly at 39 MPG, I think the updated styling, the simple package configuration, and its perceived resale value make this car an easy buy.

2) 2016 Kia Optima Hybrid

Kia Optima Hybrid

I know what you’re thinking… You put a Kia ahead of Honda, Toyota, and Ford? Yep, I did. Kia has come a long way since the Sephia rolled into the states in 1994. Sure, the Korean brands can often be seen as taking styling cues from other, more “established” brands, but you have to give them credit – it works. The Optima is a great looking car. It might even be the best-looking of the bunch.

Loaded with every conceivable option, it tips the scales at just over $35,000. Dead dinosaur burns-per-mile comes in at 39 highway, right in line with the others on this list. Although it may seem like a pretty big jump from the steadfast and well-equipped Camry at $33k, consider the bumper-to-bumper warranty at 5yrs/60,000 miles and a powertrain warranty – including the hybrid drive system – at 10yr/100,000 miles. The car looks great, and you can drive with confidence it won’t be taking any more from your wallet for some time.

1) 2016 Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid

2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV
2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV

Again, I know what you’re thinking: wha, wha, what? But just like Kia, Hyundai has come miles and miles from their entry into the US market with the ‘86 Excel. I remember my father and I went to look at one just because it was so cheap. Well, this Hyundai isn’t cheap, but it shouldn’t be, either.

This car is packed with technology, including ventilated seats that will keep your boo cool on those hot summer days. From what I can tell, this car delivers value in spades. Fully loaded up with every option and safety feature available, it’s the most expensive of the group at just over $38,000, but consider the key feature of this car that sets it apart from the rest: It’s a plug-in hybrid that Hyundai claims can run on 100% electric drive for up to 27 miles. Pretty impressive considering the average family commute to school and work is about 29 miles a day. You and your brood might just have enough juice to make your runs every day without burning a single dinosaur! Those savings will add up quickly and will more than justify the higher initial cost of the car.

The Sonata Plug-In Hybrid also has a 5yr/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper, a 10yr/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and also free lifetime hybrid battery replacement. The Sonata is the one to buy if you’re in the market for a sedan that looks great, is packed with the latest doo-dads, and you want to spend less time at the pump. Sure, gas is cheap now… but that doesn’t last forever.

Learn more about the Sonata Hybrid Plug-In

9 Family Cars for Dads and Moms Who Still Love Driving

Here are 10 “family” cars both new and used for those of you who know how to change a tire and can capably drive a manual transmission. Sure, some of these might not be considered the most practical or reliable vehicles you could buy, but if you’re looking for reliable and practical, just go buy a beige on beige Toyota Sienna Value Edition and stick with missionary position. It’s cool. Nobody is judging you.

The definition of the family car has evolved tremendously over the years. Family cars actually used to be cars. Families chugged along without the urge to carry everything they owned wherever they went.

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We have Lee Iacocca to thank for the slow and steady vehicular castration of the American family car.

Good old Lee was a savvy businessman who brought Chrysler back from the brink with a slew of crappy cars for Americans who had given up on the enjoyment of driving.

The most influential of Iacocca’s offspring was the Plymouth Voyager / Dodge Caravan. Chrysler thought they could sell a bunch more cars if they just put different labels on the exact same vehicles since we’re stupid consumers. They were so right. They were the same van with two different badges. They were terrible by any measure, but American families flocked to Chrysler / Plymouth dealerships to snatch up the latest must-have family accessory.

The minivan is still a staple of many families, but what if you’re the sort of person that cares about what you drive? What if you understand what makes a good car is not cargo capacity, infotainment systems, or chilled upholders? For decades families drove station wagons and sedans, and we were content.

Here are 10 “family” cars both new and used for those of you who know how to change a tire and can capably drive a manual transmission. Sure, some of these might not be considered the most practical or reliable vehicles you could buy, but if you’re looking for reliable and practical, just go buy a beige on beige Toyota Sienna Value Edition and stick with missionary position. It’s cool. Nobody is judging you.

E90 M3 Sedan

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The 2007-2011 BMW M3 sedan is an absolute animal. I know… I owned one and then I had to buy a house, so I sold it. I wish I never had… I have had over 40 cars and It was the only one I really regret selling. It’s a 4 door sedan with all of the modern safety devices you need and the latch system for your kids carseats. With 420hp, you can safely merge into traffic and outrun the cops. You will also be the coolest parent in your elementary school drop-off line. It’s a BMW, so it’s not cheap to fix or maintain, but with regular maintenance they’re quite reliable. It’s also a bit under the radar. To the layman, it looks pretty much like any other BMW sedan except you know what it feels like to rip 0-60 in a hair under 4 seconds, and it feels good.

Three Volkswagen Offerings

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VW is making some pretty sweet rides that are fun to drive, but also really practical. The latest generation of VWs are packed with enough tech goodies to make anyone born after 1970 pretty happy and the interior quality is almost better than their more expensive Audi cousins. The ones to buy are the 5 door hatchback GTI, Golf R, the Jetta GLI, and the Golf SportWagen.

All of these cars can be had with a manual transmission which just makes any car more fun to drive. The Golfs and the SportWagen are cavernous when you flip the seats down. You really can’t go wrong with much of what VW is currently putting out, but if the budget allows, go for more options and leather. Sure, VW has been marred of late with the TDI scandal, but now is the time to get a great deal on a VW while they’re not selling as quickly as they once did. Well optioned cars will hold their value more than the base models if you plan to sell them on.

Chevrolet SS

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We’re making some pretty decent cars stateside these days and Chevrolet has been stepping it up in the performance arena with the new Stingray. Even the most staunch critics have been praising the latest Corvette. However for the family there’s the SS. It’s a midsize sedan with a 6.2Litre v8 and can be ordered with a manual transmission. The interior is really well appointed while the exterior is very much under the radar. The only options are a sunroof and a manual transmission and I’d suggest signing up for both.

Ford Flex Limited

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Ford has recently been building the best vehicles it ever has. Our family has a 2015 Explorer, but sometimes I wish we had gone for the Flex. Like the Explorer, you can get it with AWD and a 330hp Ecoboost motor which is Ford’s way of saying it’s a turbo, but unlike the Explorer, it looks cool as hell. You get all of the benefits of an SUV, but you’re not driving something that every other bloak on the road is. Go for the limited model with the 20” alloy wheels and the appearance package to get a black painted roof.

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
If you give zero f*cks about what some people may think about you, but you have a family and want something fast as hell, the Hellcat is for you. It’s packing a 6.2Litre v8 putting out an amazing 707hp and can burn dead dinosaurs quickly enough to do the quarter mile in around 11 seconds. That’s just what you need if your kid is super late for t-ball. Chrysler Corp has also come a long way with it’s interior quality as demonstrated by the latest Cherokee, but the Hellcat is a little over the top with the stitching and logos. Buy this if you’re making six figures, but also love NASCAR.

Subaru WRX Hatchback

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The new Subaru WRX doesn’t come in hatchback form anymore and that’s a shame. The WRX is an all-time great hot hatch with AWD, cargo space, and a turbocharged motor that will get you and the kids up to the mountain in a hurry. The WRX hatch looks awesome with a roof rack and a cargo box. If you The interior on these cars is a bit dated and has more hard plastic than most will like, but if you’re going to spill gogurt all over it, who cares. It’s a super fun car to drive and has the practicality for the family to match.

Tesla Model S

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The Tesla is “expensive”, but so is filling up a full-size SUV. If you’re a two car family and can afford the up-front cost of buying one, they seem like a really great option. They are fast! I’ve driven one and the experience of regenerative braking coupled with a silky throttle response is sublime. The interior room in a Model S is really astounding. The story is that when Elon Musk was working with designers for the Model S, he insisted he could bring his whole family with him and that meant three carseats in the back seat. The Tesla can run three Gracos wide in the rear seat and there is a “rumble seat” in the back for two more little ones. Remove the rear seat and there is endless cargo space. Remember, there is no gas tank to take up space. The battery is located underneath the passenger compartment which creates a low center of gravity and extraordinary handling in the curves.

Confession: my car is a dumpster on wheels. And I’m ready to be ok with that.

The wayback, as we refer to it, is an ever-changing cornucopia of cast offs. It’s like a 7 layer dip of things that left the house with intention and have fallen into some sort of trunk purgatory.

Generally speaking, I’m not a messy person. My house is an average level of organized, save for that one corner of the kitchen counter that seems to collect every broken toy in need of superglue, school newsletters I plan to read eventually, and pennies that even the three-year-old has deemed useless.

I can’t stand getting dirty, which is a discomfort I’ve passed onto both of my children (note that my son has been known to wrap the end of a chicken wing with a paper towel.) My desk is pretty sparse, and 6 nights out of 7, I see to it that the kitchen sink is empty when I go to bed.

I offer this information to temper the confession I’m about to make.

My car is a dumpster on wheels. And I’m ready to be ok with that.

Here’s the thing. It’s not for lack of trying. But for six years, this slate blue Subaru Outback has been the sole vehicle for my family of four.

Years ago, when we took it on a test drive, my then 4 year old somewhat accidentally opened the door while we were (thankfully) at a stop light. We drove it back to the dealership at about 20 miles per hour (after initiating the child locks) and in a couple hours had made not only our first large purchase as a couple, but as individuals as well.

Though it wasn’t brand new, it sparkled. The cupholders, if once defiled, had been restored to a level of sterility they haven’t seen since. (Now they are dotted with stickiness and slime, a flytrap of sorts for spare change and receipts. I’ve scrubbed and wiped with vigor, but there’s really no coming back from spilled sunbaked chocolate milk and melted half-eaten lollipops. Have I mentioned the restraint in not yet trying to sell these kids on Ebay?)

It’s possible that enough snacks to feed a modest sized elementary school have been smashed into the backseat. Sure, we vacuum up the carnage from time to time, but short of actually taking a firehose to the interior, nothing could rid the nooks and crannies of being stuffed with a buffet of pulverized goldfish. There’s a slight film of filth, akin to what you may find in say, a roadside diner kitchen, and 75% of us have thrown up in it at least once. (But only one of us has done it while simultaneously operating the car, and I’m not going to name names, though it wasn’t me and two of us can’t see over the steering wheel. You do the math.)

The wayback, as we refer to it, is an ever changing cornucopia of cast offs. It’s like a 7 layer dip of things that left the house with intention and have fallen into some sort of trunk purgatory.

I prefer to think of it less as “laziness” and more of “an investment in my future unpredictable needs.”  Case in point, last week I picked my three year old up at preschool. As I hoisted her up onto my shoulders (a choice I’d regret for the rest of the day), I couldn’t help but notice an eau d’ subway station wafting from her person. I jerked her back to the ground inquiring about her successes and failures with the toilet that afternoon.

“Did you pee your pants?”

“Don’t worry, mama. How did you know? It was just a little bit. I can’t even feel it any more. It’s all the way dry.”

It was the last week of school. I hadn’t properly packed her backpack in at least a month, and it was completely void of anything that could be used to supplement the offending (formerly) piss soaked jeans.

Around to the back of the car I went, and dug through the garbage bag full of clothes I put in there two weeks ago to take to Goodwill. BAM. Problem solved.

It’s not lead us on any epic adventures, but it’s gotten us to New Jersey a few times. Never once has it left me standing on the side of the road with the hood open pretending I have any idea what the hell I could do to fix it (blow on something? I don’t know.) It’s handled the last few winters far better than I have.

It wears the battle wounds of a minor backing up incident and the various poles and shopping carts that have intercepted opening doors. Once, in the dimly lit parking lot of the grocery store, my son, unbeknownst to me, slipped from my right side to my left and I smashed the door right into his face. The damage to his lip was minimal. Even still, I mentally added a tick mark to the “failing parent” column, my eyes welling up as I willed him to be as angry at me as I was at myself.

The trunk has seen the comings and goings of baby furniture, hauled each piece of outgrown clothing to new owners (eventually), and assisted in the covert missions of playroom cleanouts. We’ve cleared it out completely, filled it with blankets and pillows and watched hours of drive-in movies while being devoured by mosquitoes. (There’s likely still a few kernels of popcorn clinging to the carpet.)

We’ll get a new car eventually. And though I’m tempted to hitch some sort of horse trailer to the back for the children when we do, I guess there’s no family memory making in that.

 

5 Ways to Make Car Shopping Not Suck for the Family

Getting a new car is exciting for everyone in the family, especially kids.  For guys like me (I’ve personally owned over 40 cars), some of my fondest memories from childhood centered around negotiating and picking up a new car.

Here are some tips for making car shopping something everyone in the family can enjoy.

1. Fill in the family on your plan
Let the kids know that buying a new car is something special.  It’s a big purchase for the family and something everyone can weigh in on.  Discuss why you’re getting a new car and talk about why kind it will be, minivan, SUV, truck etc.

Show them a picture of the car type and talk about what colors everyone likes as well. This way, the kids can be on the look out for cars that fit the bill and point them out as you’re out driving.

2. Make it a game
When the kids see a vehicle they think would fit the description you’ve laid out for them, make it a game to find out what make and model the car is.  This will be a little tough for kids who can’t read yet, but even if they can’t, they can still point out the cars that fit the description you talked about in your plan.

If one of the cars they spot indeed becomes the one the family buys, let them choose a movie or the dinner for the family after you bring the new car home.

3. Set the expectation for the dealership
Ideally, if your kids are really young, you won’t have to bring the kids with you to the dealership, but if you do set the expectation that you want their input when checking out the car, but then you’ll need some quiet time to work with the salesperson. It’s also important to make sure you set the expectation that you may not leave with a new car.

The deal might not be right or the car might not fit your needs.  Let them know that sometimes it’s important to shop around for such a big purchase for the family to be sure you get it right.

4. For older kids, make it research project
First, if your kids are old enough to use the internet and you’re trading your car in, have them find out what your current car is worth.  They can ask you the questions to be sure they’re picking the right options, but have them use KBB.com or some other site to get your car’s value.

You can also have them dig into the list of cars that they thought fit the bill a bit more deeply.  For example, if you’re looking for an SUV with a 3rd row, have them look on the manufacturer websites at the vehicles in question to determine if they fit the criteria.

5. For older kids, explain negotiation
Bring them with you to see a negotiation in action.  Before you go, set the expectation based on their research on what kind of deal you’re hoping to get to.  It could be an amount for your trade you’d be happy with, or a monthly payment on the new vehicle that fits your family budget.

Explain to them that this is an important family purchase and you want to be sure the deal is right. Let them know if it doesn’t work out, you may just have to get up and leave and that’s okay.

All in all, buying a new car can really be a fun experience for the family if you make it participatory for everyone.

Also, maybe it’ll give the kid enough pride of ownership that they won’t throw their open apple sauce containers all over the floor. Probably not, but it’s worth a try.