As most of our friends and family know, we've been looking for a new car. By new I mean new to us. We contemplated the cars for clunkers program and figured we'd be saving over $10,000 just getting a car a few years old, even when you all paid us the $3,500 for the exchange.
Since we began with the cars for clunkers in mind we started the search based on gas mileage for the most seats and found the Toyota Highlander and Mazda 5. The Mazda only sat 6, but the back seats were split so we could fold one down for storage and seat someone in the other. The Highlander could seat 7, but you'd have to completely fold down the back. The split idea was nice to get to a baby if we needed. The downside to both: no storage. Seriously, with the third row there wasn't room for a stroller, esp. in the Mazda.
So we moved to looking at mini-vans. Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey had been recommended and were what we found to have the 8th seat. I love the options we have for seating arrangements with them as well. You can take out the middle seat in the 2nd row and slide the two captain chairs together or take one of them out, or even leave in all three and seat three carseats together. The back holds carseats as well. With the third row up there is a huge amount of storage since the seats are full side and fold into the storage area, leaving a nice flat storage in the back. The big difference was in the Sienna the second row's middle seat can slide up closer to the front seats, which is ideal for long trips with a newborn. He'd be in arms reach. (A friend mentioned how awkward it is to put a baby in a car seat in the very middle, though, esp. with other carseats on the ends.) The Odyssey, instead, has a storage compartment between the first and second row.
A side note on the dealers: I'm glad we didn't buy from our local Toyota dealer. I went there twice. The first time with my mom and kids and the guy brought us to the Highlander and showed us the second row's middle seat and left because he had an appointment. The second time was with Red and the kids where a different guy simply brought us to the Highlander and just stood there for a couple minutes, not bothering to even touch the car, let alone point out any of its features. I mentioned them to Red while the guy left us. The Honda salesman I would have liked to give commission. He stayed with us the entire time, showing us different Odysseys, including used, and checking if they qualified for the discount. He even went as far as to take the entire second row's middle seat out and slide the side seat over.
We did some on-line searches for used Siennas and Odysseys and ended up at Carmax. The first car they showed us, a Sienna, stunk terribly of dog and when the car turned on you could smell gas through the vent for a few seconds. Not impressive. It rode fine. The only thing I had an issue with as far as the model was how far the radio controls were from the driver. The salesman searched and transfered another Sienna and an Odyssey, both with steering wheel radio controls.
We went back tonight and drove the Odyssey. This one has automatic openers for the back doors. For whatever reason, I felt more comfortable driving it. We checked out the Sienna they sent over as well, but it only has 7 seats (no middle second), though it did have a DVD player (like our kids really need to watch more movies!).
At the end of the night we made a decision on which to purchase. Our bank's loan person isn't in until Thurs. so we can't purchase it until then. The salesman said they can't really hold it for three days, but he could ask the manager, who simply came, sat down and said they would. Red's even gonna sell them his car for a whopping $250, which is less than he just spent on its tires. I think he just wants to be done with it and not deal with having three cars here when we aren't allowed to park on the street overnight.
I'll be posting more once we get it!