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  1. #1
    CPST Instructor Avery'sMama's Avatar
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    Van/SUV/Sedan Question

    Hi

    We are considering buying a mini-van to replace our 2002 Malibu LS as we are planning on adding to our family in the next year or so (not PG yet! but hopefully soon). The Malibu is hubbies. I drive a 2003 Vibe. The Vibe would become DH's and I would get the new van/suv. We have a 2 yr old, FFing. We get the GM and Chrysler/Dodge discounts. We need to keep payments low and will most likely lease. We had been planning on getting a mini-van but through my Dad (GM) we can get a Envoy, Trailblazer or Buick Rendezvous on great lease deals (PEP discounts) that we cannot get on any GM model mini-vans. Our other option are the lease deals on the Caravans and Town & Country mini-vans. Foreign cars are not an option (Dad would disown me )

    So, what would you do?
    1) Keep the '02 Malibu (hubbies car). I would continue to drive our '03 Vibe and put two kids outboard in seats with TSIP.

    2) Lease a Dodge Caravan or Chrysler Town & Country mini-van with side-curtain air bags.

    3) Lease a Buick Rendezvous (it's really the only one we are considering because it is technically a station wagon and gets better gas mileage and insurance rates) that has third row seating but NO side curtain air-bags.

    Obviously we are early states of looking-- don't have any specifics yet. I keep reading that the Kia, Honda's and Toyotas are the safest! That's great info, but I am not going to get one of those cars! I need input on what would be safer a GM model SUV, a Dodge/Chrysler mini-van or the Pontiac Vibe that I am currently chauffering in

    Thanks for your input!
    Carrie- CPSTI and busy WOH Mama to
    A., 11 yr old, I., 8 yr old, E., 4 yr. old, and baby O. 2 yr, old!

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  3. #2
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    If you look on some of the other posts in the Car Safety section (I think) you should find some links to some good sites. The NHTSA is a government entity which issues car safety ratings and more stringent tests are run by the IIHS (?) Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. You can do a search for those two sites and they will give you some good info. Personally I like the IIHS ratings as the tests are more stringent and sometimes cars that test well at NHTSA do only marginally at IIHS.

    Hope I got the names right and hope that helps a bit! We just bought a car about a year ago and its a big decision to factor in safety, price ect....

    Good Luck!

  4. #3
    CPSDarren - Admin SafeDad's Avatar
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    Unfortunately, none of the SUVs you mentioned have particularly good crash test results and may also be missing some important results. If you can equip them with side curtain airbags for all rows of seating plus stability control, they should still be very safe for properly restrained kids in the back seat. It is mainly the adults in the front seat that would be at increased risk.

    For safety, the Grand Caravan and Town&Country would be an improvement, but you also need to make sure you get the optional side curtain airbags.

    IMO, if you are limited to "domestic" SUVs and minivans, the safer choices would be a Ford Freestyle and Ford Freestar, both with side curtain airbags if they are optional. The Chrysler Pacifica crossover would also be a very safe choice- it has 3-rows of seats with side curtain airbags and is a safer choice than the Rendezvous, in my opinion. The Dodge Durango should even be somewhat safer than the other SUVs you mentioned, again provided it is equipped with side curtain airbags and stability control.

  5. #4
    CPSDarren - Admin SafeDad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered
    If you look on some of the other posts in the Car Safety section (I think) you should find some links to some good sites. The NHTSA is a government entity which issues car safety ratings and more stringent tests are run by the IIHS (?) Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. You can do a search for those two sites and they will give you some good info. Personally I like the IIHS ratings as the tests are more stringent and sometimes cars that test well at NHTSA do only marginally at IIHS.

    Hope I got the names right and hope that helps a bit! We just bought a car about a year ago and its a big decision to factor in safety, price ect....

    Good Luck!
    The IIHS tests are not necessarily better than the NHTSA tests. They vary enough from each other to be complementary. You really would prefer to have top ratings in both tests for a better overall safety evaluation. When you start to see "3-star" or "Marginal" results, you might start to consider other models. There are plenty of vehicles in every category that get at least "4-star" or "Acceptable" ratings in all the frontal and side impact tests that there really isn't any reason to settle for less. Also, make sure to equip vehicles with side curtain airbags and stability control if they are optional.

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by CPSDarren
    IMO, if you are limited to "domestic" SUVs and minivans, the safer choices would be a Ford Freestyle and Ford Freestar, both with side curtain airbags if they are optional. The Chrysler Pacifica crossover would also be a very safe choice- it has 3-rows of seats with side curtain airbags and is a safer choice than the Rendezvous, in my opinion. The Dodge Durango should even be somewhat safer than the other SUVs you mentioned, again provided it is equipped with side curtain airbags and stability control.
    Hi- Avery'sMama- Carrie, here. I am not logged in because I am at work and just taking a second to reply. I should have mentioned that not only are we limited to domestic, we are limited to GM and Chrysler/Dodge. We get their employee discounts. The Rendezvous doesn't appear to even offer side curtain air bags as an option! I wish their was some way to really "rank" these cars w/out wading through the safety information. Not that it isn't important, but it is confusing and hard to know what I am looking for. Not to mention the input from my Dad, GM employee, on what he feels the "truth of the matter" is. It's not that we don't want to get the safest car that we can but we do feel limited both by financial constraints and by family loyalty. I can't be the only person looking for a safe, domestic family car!

  7. #6
    Admin - CPS Technician Emeritus Jeanum's Avatar
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    A website that may be helpful in deciding which of your choices is a safer model overall is at http://www.informedforlife.org/. The site uses a safety scoring system to rank vehicles based on various crash test results, etc. It's unique because it rates vehicles overall in comparison to other vehicles on the market, rather than rating say SUVs as compared to other SUVs, or minivans only within the minivan category. I think CPSDarren posted about this site before, and I've kept it bookmarked ever since for vehicle safety comparisons.

    I also wanted to mention a potential drawback to the Envoy/Trailblazer SUVs. My MIL has an '04 Envoy and the center seat (second row) has very little space between the seatbelt anchors. Only a very narrow carseat (or petite person who probably would need to use a booster seat) would fit there. I couldn't install my older DD's Marathon FF in that center spot when she was going to ride with MIL, but I could install it outboard using the seatbelt. The outboard LATCH anchors were not easily accessible either. In fact they were buried so deeply in the seat that I couldn't even locate them. . There's no LATCH anchors for the center seating position either, so IMO it's not very carseat user friendly.

    MIL used to have an '02 Rendezvous and I was able to install a Marathon FF outboard using LATCH in the second row. The LATCH anchors were much more accessible than in the Envoy. The Rendezvous had the optional third row, and it was extremely awkward to reach the top tether anchor at the bottom of the second row outboard seatback . I had to just about stand on my head from the front of the seat to reach the tether anchor. When I needed to remove DD's Marathon from the Rendezvous, we tried folding the third row seats down and to get to the tether anchor to unhook it, and it was still very difficult to reach the tether anchor. Access to the third row was pretty poor in general and MIL wound up rarely using that row.

    Hope this helps some with your vehicle research and shopping and let us know what you decide.
    Regards,
    Jean

    DD1 Age 16, 66" Driver's Ed
    DD2 Age 12, 64" 5 steps

    Click here if you wish to view the full size version of my avatar

  8. #7
    CPSDarren - Admin SafeDad's Avatar
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    Yeah it's too bad that GM and Chrysler have not really been leaders in crash test safety and putting safety features like stability control and side curtain airbags standard or readily available in common options packages.

    If you can find a 2006 Grand Caravan with the Supplemental Side Curtain Air Bag option manufacturered after December, 2005, that is a reasonable option. Invoice price on an SE with the Popular Equipment Group and the Side Curtains is under 22k after rebates. Otherwise, the Pacifica is a very good choice. The Dodge Durango and the Jeep Commander are other promising models that don't (yet) have any Marginal or 3-star crash test results and have side curtain airbags and stability control available.

    If anything new is a consideration, the 2004+ Malibu is also a very safe choice when equipped with side curtain airbags. Not much of a change, I know, but it is one of GM's safest options. Models like the Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300 and Buick Lucerne are all very promising for larger sedans. The Saturn Vue might have been a very good option, had GM requested an IIHS side impact test with a model that had side curtain airbags. Pehraps they will do so on the new version.

    As for ranking vehicles, this is the easiest way right here:

    http://www.informedforlife.org/CRSriskorder2006.pdf

  9. #8
    CPS Technician Splash's Avatar
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    I have an Aztek which is the same vehicle as a Rendezvous. It DOES have side airbags. So I cannot imagine it being an option in the Aztek and not the Rendezvous. It also gets awesome gas mileage. I average about 27/36 on my car with standard 87 gasoline and average maintenance. I don't know how, but I am not complaining!

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