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Buying Our First Minivan: What Features?


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The kids are 11 and 8 and it is finally time to get something bigger than a Honda Civic, so minivans here we come! We are probably going to get a 2008-2012 Honda Odyssey because their crash test ratings are better than a Sienna's. We need to figure out which trim package we want. Are leather seats easier to keep clean than cloth? I'm interested in getting one with a backup camera. Are there any other features that are in the higher trim packages that are that useful?

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We have a 2000 base model Odyssey with cloth seats and a 2012 Odyssey nicer model that was converted for rear-entry wheelchair use. We actually like cloth seats better, but we got the higher trim package for the 2012 because I wanted to be able to open the back door with the key fob to get wheelchair kid in more easily. We got heated seats (wonderful!), a sunroof (good for when we sometimes did some school in the car and needed more light), a nice sound system, we have a back-up camera, and leather seats. Most of it we don't really need, but the higher end model was the right choice for us just to be able to open the back door as I'm approaching the car in the rain with dd. Heated seats are great and I've finally gotten to the point where I miss the back-up camera if I'm in the old van. But I wouldn't choose to pay more for leather or the sound-system if I could pick and choose options.

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Automated doors AND lift back

 

Be sure you can turn off the door buttons on the doors (child safety lock) but still be able to open them on a switch in the front or from your key fob.

 

Heated seats (depending on where you live)

 

Ability to hook your ipod/smartphone up to the sound system

 

rear view camera or beeping warning sensor (like a commercial truck)

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drivers sliding door

adequate engine size/power (and yes, some of them ARE too small)

towing capacity.  might only be an itty bitty - but  it increases your hauling capacity for "stuff" of people and luggage/baggage too.

roof rack

midcabin vents and passenger lights

auto locks/windows

 

 

captains chairs - very nice when they were adults and dh and I ended up in the back because we were the last ones to the car. . . .

 

I don't remember what it was - but we rented one where the middle windows rolled down.  seemed nice.  at first.  then we drove down the freeway with the windows at different levels.  it REALLY had a negative impact on stability, and the oscillation sounds were atrocious.  we had to keep them up anyway.

 

eta: cargo capacity with six passengers.    some were just too short to hold six passengers AND luggage for six passengers.

and why I am unhappy with every suv on the market.   my mini - I can haul 4 x 8 sheets of plywood laying flat.    

 

 

Edited by gardenmom5
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We have a 2006 exl. I wasn’t a fan of leather seats before, but I am now. Spills, wet bathing suits, sand, potty training mistakes, puke, ....

 

The only items I’ve wished for were a button that would pop my trunk, and a way to plug my MP3 in to the stereo system.

 

Love the auto doors, windows etc. separate front and rear heat/ac control. And most everything it’s come with.

 

Barely used- moonroof.

 

We did not have the navigation system or entertainment. Have not missed either.

 

We do have the ‘8th seat’ and that’s come in handy.

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Have always liked cloth seats more, leather gets too cold in winter and too hot and bare skin sticks to it in summer.

 

Make sure you can fit whatever luggage you take on road trips in the thing - our first minivan we had the cooler stuck under the kids feet in the middle row as did not fit in the back.

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I find it interesting that many here prefer cloth. I always said leather all the way. Yesterday though I helped MIL purchase a van and the price break for leather was just too high.....so cloth it is. I hope it is a good decision.

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I only have one kid at home, so we've downgraded to a sedan. There are some things I miss about the van though.

 

Automated back doors. So nice here in a hot climate - while walking to the van, I can open both back doors to get the heat out and some breeze (ha) blowing through.

 

Separate climate controls for front and back. Not necessary - but very nice.

 

I'm not sure what it is called, but we could fold the farthest rear seat into the lower section and have a nice large flat area to put large items in needed. Sometimes we also removed the 2 middle seats to accommodate a larger item. 

 

As for seats - I prefer leather. But... our last van we purchased used with leather. The arm rest cover on the driver's side (right arm) had a crack/split in it. So annoying. You had to place your arm just so or it bothered you. My dh put a sock over it when he drove. 

 

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As for seats - I prefer leather. But... our last van we purchased used with leather. The arm rest cover on the driver's side (right arm) had a crack/split in it. So annoying. You had to place your arm just so or it bothered you. My dh put a sock over it when he drove.

This happened to us too. Easy fix: get a replacement arm at a junkyard. Less than $10.

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We got a 2007 EX new. We still have it. It doesn't have the back up camera, not sure what year those started. It does have cloth interior but no sun roof or things like that. I actually really like the cloth interior. I am not looking forward the next van having leather standard. :( The cloth has been easy to clean, doesn't get hot, doesn't get too cold, you never stick to it. I don't see the upside of leather. 

 

I do have dual electronic sliding doors. Honestly I am looking forward to having manual door in the next van. Less to go wrong. Don't get me wrong, I like pushing a button and allowing my kids to run up ahead and them getting in before I buckle the (now) 1 in the seat. But I have also had issues with the doors. They don't always like opening. Grease normally helps but you need to find the EXACT spot that it is needed and often times for me that means I spray WAY too much in it and have running down my car for a few days. :(

 

However at the end of the day, I would go with the color you like and the price you could afford. All of this stuff is just levels of comfort. Who knows you may find your dream van is a 2013 that is priced unbelievably!

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I was in an accident in September in which my 2011 Odyssey was totaled.   (Other car pulled right into my path and was 100% at fault, but I hit him going 45 mph.)  I was seriously impressed with the safety features - airbags, crumple zones, etc.   They did exactly what they were supposed to do, and I walked away with just bruises.   

 

My van was an EXL trim level, which did include leather seats and sunroof, but was the minimum trim level to get the power liftgate.   I absolutely LOVED the power sliding doors, power liftgate, and backup camera.   There were pros & cons to leather seats (easy to clean, but HOT in the summer), but they were a package deal.   I barely used the sunroof.    I had no issues with my Odyssey other than just routine maintenance.    It also held its value well.   We had the 8-seat version, and while I agree that bucket seats make it a bit easier to get in & out of the 3rd row, it wasn't much of an issue.    If we had kids who used the 3rd row every day and car seats in the 2nd row, I might want bucket seats for sure, but the 2nd row seats slid forward pretty easily to get into the 3rd row.   The separate climate control was nice but not a dealbreaker for us - we live in FL so the A/C runs constantly about 11 months out of the year.   It had a TON of room for both passengers and luggage.

 

After the accident, I replaced my van with a Honda Pilot, only because DH asked me to choose a new vehicle that I would plan to keep for 10 years.   My kids are now 15 & 13, and while I loved the Odyssey, we have outgrown the real need for a minivan and I don't want to be driving a minivan that long after they are grown.   I do miss the room I had in the Odyssey, since my kids aren't driving just yet.

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I'm enjoying these minivan threads. 3 years ago we downsized from a minivan (Chevy Venture) to a RAV4. Initially, I loved the smaller vehicle, but now I cannot wait to pay it off (1 more year!!) so I can pass it to DH and get myself a van. Probably an Odyssey, likely used.

 

The main things I miss from our minivan days:

Sliding doors (youngest kid is awful about doors and cars and parking lots)

REAR FANS - sheesh, the RAV4 only has dashboard vents. Insane!!

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This happened to us too. Easy fix: get a replacement arm at a junkyard. Less than $10.

 

Or.. you can get a yard (or half a yard) of marine grade vinyl fabric. Remove the original cracked arm rest cover, replace with the nice new vinyl, in the color of your choice.

 

I've done that for our ancient Ford Explorer. There are  YouTube videos on how to do this without breaking the arm rest. It was a thing of beauty.

Edited by RosemaryAndThyme
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If you live with snow and ice, you might want to opt for the all-wheel drive Toyota Sienna instead.  As much as I love my 2007 Honda Odyssey, it is useless in the snow.  It might do better with snow tires, but we have such a short snow season, we can't justify the expense, and we don't have a place to store an extra set of tires.  

 

The only other thing I don't like about the Odyssey is that the visibility is very poor.  It has huge blind spots, especially on the driver's side.  I don't know if more modern Odysseys have more visibility, and I don't know how it compares to other mini-vans.  I have a low sitting height, so I have more trouble than my husband, but even he has changed lanes without seeing the car right next to him.  I've backed into things (telephone pole in an alley, a car parked behind me) because I couldn't see them, even though I was looking right at them.  It's weird.  A rearview camera would help with the backing up problem, and adjusting your mirrors further out than you may be used to, and just being super careful to take your time to look mindfully before changing lanes is a must.  

 

I love leather with kids.  We spent a whole lotta time in the car when the kids were younger, which meant that there was a lot of eating going on. Where fabric would have gotten all gunky and stained, the leather still looks new, even after 10 years and three kids.  

 

We got the extra tow package, which has been helpful.  

 

We took the rails off the roof rack because they would whistle sometimes.  

 

I think most cars come with heated seats these days, don't they?  You need those.  

 

Bluetooth for hands free phone and other phone functions (music, audible, etc)

 

 

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I don’t know what features the models you are looking at have, but we had a minivan where you had to take the seats entirely out of the car if you wanted space and put them somewhere in your house or garage.

 

And then we got a model where you folded and stowed them down on the floor. Make sure you have the kind that fold and stow.

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