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  1. #1
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    3 across? Or get a minivan?

    With #3 on the way (due in the spring), DH and I are thinking we need a larger vehicle. We currently drive a Yaris hatchback with a 4yo RF in a Radian and a 2yo RF in a Coccoro. We are hopeful we can squeeze another Radian or a Foonf back there (move the 2yo to that, put the new baby in the CCO) but have accepted that is most likely not possible.

    Our first thought was a minivan, either an Odyssey or a Sienna. But then I looked at the gas mileage - we haven't gotten less than 30mpg in a loooong time and minivan mileage made me balk.

    So we are looking at more fuel efficient options. My first question: Is it insane to intentionally put 3 kids next to each other, like for long term? Will they kill each other? Next, out of these options, are there any that play nicely or not at all with Radians/CCO/Foonf? (I know it's cheaper to buy a seat than a car, but we have to buy a car anyway so would rather not replace the seats we have.) Here's what we're looking at:
    Odyssey
    Sienna
    Prius
    Insight
    Escape hybrid (I'm leery of Fords though, had some bad experiences)
    hybrid sedans (Camry or Accord)
    Highlander hybrid (probably out of our price range unless really high mileage)

    Is there anything else I should be considering? Or should I just bite the bullet and go with a minivan? Our budget will be around $10K...could maybe go up to about $12K.

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  3. #2
    CPS Fanatic aept's Avatar
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    We have a prius and a minivan. The prius is doable with the right seats. Three radians will fit if they are alternating. (FF, RF, FF or RF. FF, RF). I would assume Cco will also mix in there ok since they are narrow.
    But I'll say they do sometimes try to kill each other and there are many times we drive the van just to be able to spread them out!
    But three can be safely done in a Prius if you are diehard about your mpg.
    Ps- when you get to boostering age you will be scraping your knuckles to help kids buckle!
    Ann, mom to 3 big brothers and a baby girl:
    DS1 - Aug 2006, 80 lb, 56", incognitos
    DS2 - May 2008, 77 lb, 51.5", Vivo or NBB
    DS3 - June 2011, 46 lb, 43", FF in FR85 or booster training
    DD - May 2015, 19 lb, 29", ) Snugride 30

  4. #3
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    We had 3 across in a small car for about a year before buying a minivan. It was do-able. It was very difficult for long trips - we could only really bring about 2-3 days' worth of clothes for everyone, and couldn't fit all the baby "gear" that we would have otherwise brought (pack n play etc). It was sort of nice to have everyone so close together! But I think it's the kind of thing that is nicer in retrospect than at the time, if that makes sense. Our kids got along fairly well.

    I've heard that fall is generally the best time of year to buy a used vehicle, so maybe consider using your Yaris for another year and shopping for a new-to-you vehicle next fall, assuming that you do find a 3 across car seat option that you can live with for a while.
    Cutie #1 (13 years) 5-stepping
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  5. #4
    Carseat Crazy DawgDad's Avatar
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    Yeah...boostering age is brutal for 3 across in a smaller car...I can't tell you how many times I have scraped my knuckles trying to get my almost 7 year old in her booster in my Ford Fusion...and that's a bigger car. Plus, they do like to bother the baby.

    The van is the best option for your family "go-to" vehicle. Not only can you really spread the kids out, but you can fit a stroller & groceries every day, buy an infant carrier for more convenience, and have a TON of room to pack all the essentials for weekend or week-long trips. Trust me (and I think everyone will agree), the move from 2 kids to 3 is a good leap...you are now completely outnumbered and juggling the baby gear & baby while tending to the other two (especially if alone) can be daunting...so having convenience of the van to where all the kids can pile in the car waiting to be buckled is QUITE nice while you tend to the baby then work your way around. Same with getting the stroller in and out at an easier height (the load deck in the back is lower so it's easier for all heights to get things in and out compared to a SUV).

    Lastly, buying used hybrids in your price range...not the greatest track record. Why? Batteries on older hybrids need to be replaced sooner and are quite expensive. Also, a Highlander Hybrid in that price range is going to be the older generation ones that really aren't very big. If you want fuel efficiency for a 5 person family...the minivan or "MPV" as it's hopefully being renamed to remove the stupid stigma of the former...is your best option while adding a LOT of benefits to being a parent of 3 children.

  6. #5
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    Smile Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    When I was pregnant with our 3rd we bought an 06 Odyssey and LOVE it! Yeah, it's not as cool as our last car but it is so dang roomy and practical. So much space and features for children. The cargo room is amazing. I would recommend it for sure. My husband has to swallow his pride a little though to drive it haha!
    Haley C.
    Mom to Allison 4/09 Britax Parkway SGL, Will 4/11 Britax Frontier 90, and Samuel 4/14 RF Peg Perego PV Convertible

  7. #6
    Senior Community Member jennzee's Avatar
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    We managed to make 3-across work for 3 years after we had our twins. By then, the fighting and bickering had us at a point where I could hardly stand to get in the car with the entire family anymore and we moved up to something bigger. Having space between all the kids was WONDERFUL!

    I will say that perhaps you might consider sticking with 3-across for a while and use the time it buys you to save up so that you'll have a bigger budget when the time comes to buy something bigger.
    Ryan, 12yo, Incognito
    Owen, 9.5yo, NBB
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    Quincy, 4, FF'ing Marathon
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  8. #7
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    Hmm...I hadn't thought ahead to boosters. That's a good point.

    If we do keep the Yaris, at least temporarily, we will NOT be taking it on long road trips. We do an interstate drive (~18 hours) once a year in the Yaris right now, and I wish I could have general anesthesia for it. We would rent (or beg/borrow a friend's larger vehicle) for that trip if we still had the Yaris in a year.

    I'm not concerned about the cool factor (or lack thereof) with a minivan - I mean, we drive a Yaris hatchback! And before that we had an Echo. My main hesitation is the ongoing fuel expense. I guess I am wondering if the practicality & features of a minivan is worth the trade-off of at least doubling our gas expense? I know I will love a van, just not sure about loving the added expense.

    What about a Matrix or Versa? Non-hybrids but still decent-ish fuel economy?

    And, what are booster guidelines? DS (the 4yo) is a lightweight, which is why he is still RF...just wondering how long we could work the 3 across til we even need to think about boostering. He is currently 41" and 33lbs. I am pretty sure the Radian will expire before he gets anywhere near a weight limit.

  9. #8
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    Never mind. Looks like the Matrix somehow has a smaller backseat than the Yaris.

  10. #9
    Senior Community Member jwilliams's Avatar
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    Here's my two cents: I would put up with the tiny car as long as possible and save up for a car-seat friendly sedan like a 2013 or newer Honda Accord. Either the gas (27mpg city/36mpg highway) or hybrid (50mpg city/45mpg highway) model, depending on how much you want to spend vs. the fuel efficiency you can accept. Only the 2013 and newer models have a usable middle seat that can take lots of car seats or a human tush. They also have nice rear leg room for RF convertibles.

    I can't deal with less than 30mpg highway. I've driven a Honda Insight for the past three years, most of that time with three kids (currently 5, 2, and 2). We're sizing up to an Accord soon. In another three years I may crack and get something with three rows, but at this point I'm not ready to spend that much on the vehicle itself or on gas. I've borrowed my mom's Odyssey and honestly, it's *still* a PITA to get three little kids loaded.
    5yo harnessed in a Britax Pioneer, one 3yo RF in a Fllo and another 3yo RF in a plum RXT, all in a 2014 Honda Accord.

  11. #10
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    Quote Originally Posted by jwilliams View Post
    I've borrowed my mom's Odyssey and honestly, it's *still* a PITA to get three little kids loaded.
    What do you mean by "still?" How is it a pain to get the kids loaded over a sedan? What year is her Odyssey? I have both a 2014 Ford Fusion and a 2014 Honda Odyssey...there is no way that I would say they are equal to loading kids in and out of the car. I have only one way I could conceivably load them in and out in my sedan, but in the Odyssey, I can configure and move the seats to multiple ways of getting them in and out...plus, it's bigger and low to the ground that the kids themselves climb into the car without me having to worry about them running around the outside of the car or any other crappy thing that might happen when I turn my back to tend to the baby getting in.

    To the OP...I could see you holding onto the Yaris for a while. It might be pretty tough to do 3 across in the little guy, but with some puzzling, it could be possible. I would think though, just as some others who were in the same boat, that the frustration of 3 in a small car will wear down on you to the point that those pluses of a larger car will far outweigh the one small negative (and improving I might add) in the mpg.

  12. #11
    Senior Community Member Dillipop's Avatar
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    I think you might have a chance with 3 across with 3 radians or 2 radians and a foonf. However, I think you'll likely have to flip the 4 year old to forward facing to make it happen. If you put the 4 year old on the middle ffing, with the other 2 outboard rearfacing, you probably have a shot. Though with a radian, you will unlikely be able to use the front seat in front of it at a newborn angle. I'd see if you can find a combi cocorro for the newborn to try out. It is very compact and might work perfectly while letting the person on front have some leg room.

    If a full size minivan isn't up your alley, I'd take a look at a mazda5. Gas mileage would be between a sedan and a minivan but it would give you 6 seats to work with. Keep in mind though, that recent crash testing wasn't great though the same model in Europe gets good results. I've also heard that the honda odyssey gets good mileage in real life- my friend insists that she gets over 25 mpg with mixed driving. Whereas I rarely see 25 mpg in my sienna unless I'm on the highway most of the time.


    CCO 4/15

  13. #12
    Senior Community Member jwilliams's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DawgDad View Post
    What do you mean by "still?" How is it a pain to get the kids loaded over a sedan? What year is her Odyssey?
    What I mean is that it is still quite the undertaking to get three kids situated. It's a 2012 Odyssey. There's a 5yo who needs help buckling a booster or a harnessed seat. There are two 2yos who can't climb into their seats. There is a somewhat wasted 8th seat because it is incompatible with a fair number of RF seats (it is incompatible with two of the three convertibles I have), and doesn't play nice with boosters (or adults). There is a very narrow third row. I like the van, but it doesn't solve every problem.

    With my car, it's not really that difficult to lift one 2yo in, lift the other, buckle them both, then help the self-seated 5yo with her crotch buckles. This is with a vehicle that is pretty far from being three across friendly.

    Yes, the gas mileage on three-row vehicles is improving but it's still pretty bad on most models. It is a harsh adjustment to suddenly never get over 40mpg. Some people really do value decent fuel efficiency, for a variety of reasons.

    I completely understand that a bigger vehicle is great for some people, but I hope *you* can understand that it is possible to do things another way and be completely happy.

    Of course, I might be worn down and not thinking straight from having three kids in a subcompact car
    5yo harnessed in a Britax Pioneer, one 3yo RF in a Fllo and another 3yo RF in a plum RXT, all in a 2014 Honda Accord.

  14. #13
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    I think it depends a lot on the kids. If they sit well being right next to each other then I'd do it for as long as the seats fit. For us it hasn't been an option in years! I wouldn't make it 5 minutes from home before I came back! Ds2 has different ideas of what personal space is and doesn't function well with someone seated next to him. He's had a third row to himself since dd was born 7 years ago. We tried 3 across in dh's fusion once and I will only do that again if there's an emergency!

  15. #14
    Carseat Crazy DawgDad's Avatar
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    Quote Originally Posted by jwilliams View Post
    What I mean is that it is still quite the undertaking to get three kids situated. It's a 2012 Odyssey. There's a 5yo who needs help buckling a booster or a harnessed seat. There are two 2yos who can't climb into their seats. There is a somewhat wasted 8th seat because it is incompatible with a fair number of RF seats (it is incompatible with two of the three convertibles I have), and doesn't play nice with boosters (or adults). There is a very narrow third row. I like the van, but it doesn't solve every problem.

    With my car, it's not really that difficult to lift one 2yo in, lift the other, buckle them both, then help the self-seated 5yo with her crotch buckles. This is with a vehicle that is pretty far from being three across friendly.

    Yes, the gas mileage on three-row vehicles is improving but it's still pretty bad on most models. It is a harsh adjustment to suddenly never get over 40mpg. Some people really do value decent fuel efficiency, for a variety of reasons.

    I completely understand that a bigger vehicle is great for some people, but I hope *you* can understand that it is possible to do things another way and be completely happy.

    Of course, I might be worn down and not thinking straight from having three kids in a subcompact car
    I suppose it's a unique situation you are in. I haven't found a car seat that doesn't work in that middle 8th seat when the captains chairs are pulled out for wide mode. I currently have my daughter's infant carrier sitting there (Britax B-Safe) and it's super snug with LATCH.

    I understand the mpg part as if you are used to only budgeting $50 every two weeks for gas and now have to budget it every week to fill up, then yeah...that's a $100 adjustment for the month and for some that's a very big deal. Everything should be justified in that you feel good about what tool you are using (a car is just a tool). For me, I like to create a pro-con list if I am on the fence with something. If it's even, then I don't usually make a change...but if it's overwhelmingly favored then I don't feel bad at all if I make that change because I made it based off of my needs & wants which can often times be dictated by the lifestyle we have.

    If you do basic runs in your cars to get groceries, take them to school/preschool, and/or grab a bite to eat...and the majority of the time it's a commuter to work and back...then yeah, I would try to make the small car work for some significant savings in gas & insurance over time. If I like to go out on the weekend to shop, go to the park/playground, events/festivals, or even a weekender to the mountains or beach...then a larger car would be required to tote everything needed. Plus, it's nice when the inlaws are in town to just pile everyone in one car and just go instead of doing the caravan of "is he behind us? Why is he driving so slow??"

    Lastly, just as another pointed out...wait until you get to booster and seatbelt buckling. 3 across is not fun to try and buckle up with the seatbelt. Lots of scraped knuckles.

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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    Quote Originally Posted by DawgDad View Post
    To the OP...I could see you holding onto the Yaris for a while. It might be pretty tough to do 3 across in the little guy, but with some puzzling, it could be possible. I would think though, just as some others who were in the same boat, that the frustration of 3 in a small car will wear down on you to the point that those pluses of a larger car will far outweigh the one small negative (and improving I might add) in the mpg.
    We only ever buy used, so current minivans improving their mpg won't affect us any time soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by jwilliams View Post
    I can't deal with less than 30mpg highway. I've driven a Honda Insight for the past three years, most of that time with three kids (currently 5, 2, and 2). We're sizing up to an Accord soon. In another three years I may crack and get something with three rows, but at this point I'm not ready to spend that much on the vehicle itself or on gas. I've borrowed my mom's Odyssey and honestly, it's *still* a PITA to get three little kids loaded.
    Everyone who has a minivan LOVES it, but usually didn't get good mpg before. It's nice to hear a dissenter, especially one who is making 3 across work.

  17. #16
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    Quote Originally Posted by shb View Post


    Everyone who has a minivan LOVES it, but usually didn't get good mpg before. It's nice to hear a dissenter, especially one who is making 3 across work.
    Our previous car was very fuel efficient. And we still love our minivan. (Now we have 4 kids, so a sedan wouldn't be enough anyway, but even with 3 we were glad to move to a minivan.) However, as dawgdad explained, it really does depend on your OWN pros/cons and what will work better for you. In our case, while we do drive short distances (<10 miles) sometimes, we take longer drives on a fairly regular basis, and the extra space is really helpful.

    Since you were talking about renting a larger vehicle for longer trips, you might also want to figure in rental costs to your pros/cons list. Renting a minivan tends to be quite expensive - we looked into renting one for a week of family vacation once, and were stunned by the cost. If you're driving for a day or two, and then having vacation, and then driving a day or two back, you're looking at a pretty expensive rental. Enough so that you start to wonder... how many of these rentals per year will completely zero out the savings in gas that I'm getting with my little car? If you are an analytical type, then actually running some numbers might be worthwhile.

    ETA: I just ran some quick numbers for you to give you an idea... of course your numbers will probably be a little different depending on your annual mileage and gas cost... But, comparing the 25 mpg for a 2010 Odyssey (upper end of highway mpg on msn autos), to 36 mpg for a 2010 Yaris (upper end of highway mpg on msn autos), figuring 12k miles per year and gas at $3.50 a gallon, we have annual fuel cost of $1680 for the Odyssey and $1167 for the Yaris, so savings of $513 for the Yaris. I also checked travelocity for the cost of renting a minivan for one week in the middle of March, and the lowest price was $542.
    Cutie #1 (13 years) 5-stepping
    Cutie #2 (10 years) riding in a Safety 1st Incognito

    Cutie #3 (7 years) riding in a Chicco KidFit
    Cutie #4 (6 years) riding in a Frontier
    Cutie #5 (3 years) riding in a Nuna Rava

  18. #17
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    I have an 11 month old daughter, a 6 year old son, and a 9 year old son. I've had 4 minivans in the last 10 years, a VW Passat (was my hubby's), and a Volvo XC70 wagon. I've done 3 across or packed kiddos in ALL of these vehicles.

    Some of the factors that make 3 across really tough are booster seats and school drop off and pick up. If your kids aren't old enough to do any of that yet and you've never done it before, it's really hard to imagine what the rest of us are describing as difficult. Frankly, it can be a real PITA. I had practice with my niece, whom is the oldest in our family and I drove to/from school. 3 across is doable, yes, and not always that bad. But not having to deal with fitting in 3 seats together, kids climbing over each other to get in or out (esp when you only have a minute in the drop off line), little ones waiting out in the rain while you get another one in, etc, is really, really nice. The minivan can make having more than two children in tow much easier, if you choose to use it that way. I do miss my wagon, but we did 3 across in it a lot, including school & boosters. That stunk. And since we don't have an attached garage, leaning into the car to buckle the baby in during pouring rain wasn't really fun. in the van, I can climb in to buckle her and not get drenched.

    Gas mileage in my '09 Odyssey is not as good as in my Volvo, but I also had to use a higher grade of gas. It also is still much better than in my previous much older vans.

    I do wish we could find and afford a vehicle that fit all our criteria...I'd love something that left less of a footprint, drove like a race car, had the flexibility of a van, and cost less! Overall, I'm happy with our van.
    henrietta
    former CPST & Mom extraordinaire of 2 rowdy little boys & 1 spunky girl toddler, among hundreds of other skills!
    #1, age 9.5, Harmony Literider or Transit backless booster, occasional Safety First Incognito
    #2, age 6.5, Cybex Xfit booster/Harmony folding travel booster/Evenflo hbb
    #3 age 15 months, Britax Advocate CT/Combi Cocorro

  19. #18
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    My husband drives an Aveo, which is close in size to your Yaris. It's doable, but when possible we take the minivan. Even to the point now where my husband takes the van to work every Tuesday and Thursday because he'll have to pick the kids up and drive DD1 to gymnastics and it's calmer in the van. Then I have to drive the Aveo, which I've affectionately renamed The GhettoMobile.

    We had three across for almost three years in both cars before I got the van. There was nothing we couldn't do, and not knowing differently, I had no complaints. I got the van for carpooling possibilities and traveling with my mom (so 6 passengers). Now that there's options, we'd pick the van.

    The nice thing about a small car with little ones is that you can just reach in and buckle everyone from one door. When I first got my van, I got so annoyed walking around the van to the other side all the time. I also used to unbuckle all the kids by reaching back into the back seat and click, click, click, they were on their way the same time I was getting out of the car. Couldn't do that in the van, either, so I was walking from door to door when it was time to get out, too. Now they can all do it themselves.
    Kelley - Mom to: DD1 4/25/2006, DS 8/9/08, DD2 9/10/09
    host mom to a 16yo Chinese foreign exchange student
    2011 Toyota Sienna, 2008 Chevrolet Aveo

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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    Quote Originally Posted by jjordan View Post
    ETA: I just ran some quick numbers for you to give you an idea... of course your numbers will probably be a little different depending on your annual mileage and gas cost... But, comparing the 25 mpg for a 2010 Odyssey (upper end of highway mpg on msn autos), to 36 mpg for a 2010 Yaris (upper end of highway mpg on msn autos), figuring 12k miles per year and gas at $3.50 a gallon, we have annual fuel cost of $1680 for the Odyssey and $1167 for the Yaris, so savings of $513 for the Yaris. I also checked travelocity for the cost of renting a minivan for one week in the middle of March, and the lowest price was $542.
    Thanks for crunching the numbers for me. At first I was thinking that we'd only need the van for the trip to/from, so 2 days (sometimes we take 2 days to drive though, so that would be 4 total) and then we could carpool with family members once we get there. But due to recent changes in the family, that may not be possible anyway. So that is definitely food for thought.

  21. #20
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    Re: 3 across? Or get a minivan?

    Quote Originally Posted by shb View Post
    Thanks for crunching the numbers for me. At first I was thinking that we'd only need the van for the trip to/from, so 2 days (sometimes we take 2 days to drive though, so that would be 4 total) and then we could carpool with family members once we get there. But due to recent changes in the family, that may not be possible anyway. So that is definitely food for thought.
    With that option, you'd need to figure in two one-way rentals, which can often be more expensive. But yes, there's definitely a lot to think about! So many moving parts! Good luck with your decision.
    Cutie #1 (13 years) 5-stepping
    Cutie #2 (10 years) riding in a Safety 1st Incognito

    Cutie #3 (7 years) riding in a Chicco KidFit
    Cutie #4 (6 years) riding in a Frontier
    Cutie #5 (3 years) riding in a Nuna Rava

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