Not From Toronto

Home » Archives » May 2004 » minivans

[Previous entry: "Playbeav in Mexico"] [Next entry: "Friends is done..."]

05/05/2004: "minivans"

It's certainly not unusual when cars become the main topic of discussion around my workplace. Truth be told, that was part of the reason I didn't like my previous job - nobody there talked cars, ever. In any case, the topic somehow got around to minivans, and one of my co-workers kept insisting that "minivans are great!" I've heard this from a few people, and it alway revolves around the same thing: minivans hold a lot of stuff.

My coworker's first vehicle was a pitiful 4-cylinder Chrysler minivan, but for some reason he loved it, and now sings the praises of minivans (despite driving a 2-seater convertible). His main selling point? "A minivan can haul a sheet of plywood!" Well, woo-hoo. How many times am I going to do that in my life? Thus far, I would have had to do it twice; once when I built the shelf in my garage, and again when I built another for my neighbour. I need to get some drywall soon, so that will make 3 times that I'd need to move something that size. Every other time, I'm just moving myself to and from work, or my family of three (soon to be four).

Why the big fixation on being able to haul a lot of stuff around? Right now I'm leasing a 4-door hatchback, and let me tell you, it's got lots of space. Admittedly, a stroller can pretty much fill it, but I can still get a load of groceries tucked into the truck with a stroller, and that's without folding any seats down. Last summer, I actually hauled lumber with my car by folding one seat down and sticking it out the hatchback. Perhaps not ideal, but it certainly worked the few times I needed it to. I'll never try a sheet of plywood, but it handily moved my 10 cu.ft. chest freezer I bought a few months back. Do I really need space to haul more stuff?

Consider that my current vehicle cost just under $22k (fully loaded) and has fulfilled all my haulage needs, save for the plywood and drywall. (Which, by the way, was and will be delivered free of charge from a local hardware/lumber store, which totally obviates the need for me to get any sort of hauling vehicle.) I can easily get 8L/100km on a tank of gas, and it's still a nice light vehicle that's fun to drive. A minivan, on the other hand, costs about the same, but for a stripper model. If you want features, expect to pay through the nose. There are currently three minivans that I would consider (all Japanese, thank you very much), and they start around $36k. They also have V6 engines and weigh considerably more than my car does, with fuel "economy" to match. So essentially I'd be paying 1/3rd more up-front, and in fuel costs as well just for the honour of being able to drive half my possessions around town.

If I ever end up with 4 kids, my tune will likely change. There aren't a lot of choices for 6+ passenger vehicles, especially if you're looking to be economical about it. Sure, a Pathfinder Armada would do it, as would some other enormous SUVs, but at a huge cost as well (even relative to minivans). Until that time comes (and I'm planning a weed whacker accident if it ever looks like that) minivans are pretty much off my list.

Replies: 10 Comments

on Wednesday, May 5th, Hat Daddy said

It seems that you stop just short of claiming that just because a minivan isn't appropriate for *you* it shouldn't be appropriate for most people.

Very likely many who are driving minivans today would have been better off with a hatchback like what you have, but obviously haven't. Clearly this logic puzzles you, but your reaction looks to me a lot like the reaction PC users give when they're honestly trying to figure out what's so great about Mac.

I don't think I have the answers either, but I could suggest two things most people don't think about: ride height and visibility. You could probably argue that your hatch offers as much visibility as a minivan, but you certainly can't argue that you're riding as high as a minivan. And why would that be desireable? Perhaps it's useful for the drivers to see over car-height obstacles (like, I don't know, cars, maybe).

So now a minivan driver has three reasons, each, on it's own possibly indefensible, but taken together might be worth something: room, visibility, and ride height (clearly a variant on the visibility theme). And all those things are more important to those drivers than initial outlay and followup fuel economy.

Conspiciously absent from your tirade for this week is how you managed to get those sheets of plywood & (soon) drywall from the store to your home. If you're going to create an airtight case for choosing hatchbacks, you might want to throw out a bone addressing that niggly question for the benefit of those who *do* anticipate moving such large goods.

enough ranting; I have work to do.

on Wednesday, May 5th, xhead said

Cmon Mr. Grumpy-Gills...

Frankly, as the soon-to-be-owner of a 3/4 ton pickup truck, and a current home-renovator, I am waiting anxiously for my truck instead of trying to move plywood, underlay, etc, with my van.

(Tell me again why I can't make the kids ride on the roof?)


on Wednesday, May 5th, Hat Daddy said

xhead: because it's illegal?

on Wednesday, May 5th, mr.ska said

Actually, I did say how I got the plywood home: free delivery from the lumber store.

As for ride height, it just means that minivans are visual obstacles (along with trucks and SUVs) for us car drivers. Why, exactly, does a minivan driver need to see over the car in front of them?

The main point I was trying to make (which I may not have succeeded in doing) was that buying a minivan to haul stuff isn't a good reason, IMO, to buy a minivan.

on Thursday, May 6th, Hat Daddy said

mr ska:

no, you didn't say that - nowhere in the text above did you mention 'free delivery'...

...I stand corrected. Where you put it wasn't where I mentally asked the question (in paragraph 2) but where you're talking about something different (in para. 3)

You did promise us badly edited stuff, so I guess we're seeing that in all it's glory. :)

Now, you're asking a wonderful question about ride height. But, I don't think it's worth answering. See, I don't know what you mean by exactly. I'll assume that you want me to detail a specific set of circumstances that ride height would help with, but then once I do so, you'd move the argument over to 'how likely is that to happen', which completely sidesteps the fact that my example may have had merit.

I think you succeeded in making your point about capacity not being a very good reason for buying a minivan, and I agree with you on it too. So I went ahead and suggested a couple of more reasons to get a minivan so that when you take all three together, it'll be more compelling.

You see, sometimes, Mr. Ska, people don't buy a thing for just one reason. They buy it for 10, or 20 reasons. But when you try to talk to them about it, they'll tell you their number one reason, because they perceive that they don't have time to list the other 19. But, like it or lump it, you're going to have to accept that there will be times when it's not for just one reason something is worth buying, but for a bunch of little ones. I could say that I wanted a minivan because it's the only kind of vehicle that comes with a back-seat DVD player. You could as easily swapped in this reason for the capacity one in your article, lightly re-edit, and still leave us with the same message.

on Thursday, May 6th, xhead said

(am I missing the implied smilies here? I'm getting gordie-like vibes...)

One good reason for ride height, at least here on the Prairies, is that it is much easier to drive in a snowstorm with a higher vehicle, for both visibility and the vehicle clearance over drifting.

on Thursday, May 6th, Hat Daddy said

Hey, xhead

I used to send ska email like that all the time. We have, I think, a pretty good understanding of each other, and can tolerate this level of... criticism.

At any rate, this isn't the first time we had this conversation (I too used the capacity argument to explain why our family would like to get a minivan), and what you're seeing is me moving forward a bit on that conversation.

as for my message to you earlier - that was me being a clever-trousers, and was intended to be funny.

on Thursday, May 6th, xhead said

I figured there were implied smilies there. My gordie vibes were just small vibrations.

on Thursday, May 6th, mr.ska said

HD: You're right, people buy minivans for many reasons. Hauling sheets of plywood or drywall is only one reason. Ergo, hauling sheets of plywood or drywall is insufficient reason for buying a minivan. QED.

And yes, HD harshly criticizes me all the time. ;)

on Thursday, May 6th, Hat Daddy said

my criticism may be harsh, but it's always constructive.


New! RSS Feed!
2004 and on
Dave Howlett's WOMBLOG
Mobuzz TV
Stu's Travels
Warpfish Stories
Mike Diehl
Church Dude

May 2004

Listed on BlogsCanada