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  1. #1
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    Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    Hello all. My husband and I do not have children yet but plan to start our family in the very near future (TTC in the next few months). I currently have an '03 VW New Beetle and I need to trade it in for something that I feel more safe driving in the winter weather here in southern New England, especially with a baby. We live on a bit of a hill and our driveway is relatively steep and many times I've been unable to get my car up it in the snow. My husband has an '01 Toyota Camry that we will be keeping for at least another few years.

    We find ourselves in the very unusual (for us) position of shopping for a car that will hopefully need to accommodate kids in the near future, but we do not have any kids yet nor is one on the way. Therefore I have NO car seat that I can try to install for test drives, and of course when I ask the car salesmen they all say that car seats will install easily due to LATCH. It appears that car seat friendliness is a different beast than merely having a seating position that is suitable for a car seat.

    We're looking for a small/midsize crossover with AWD that seats 5. We plan to have at least 2 children, hopefully 3. Car seat compatability is a consideration since I'll likely be doing daycare dropoff/pickup and this vehicle will also be our "family" car (allowing DH to keep the Camry running as his commuting vehicle as long as possible). We will be keeping this car a minimum of 6-7 years.

    We've narrowed it down to two vehicles:

    2010 Chevrolet Equinox 1LT
    2010 Subaru Forester 2.5X Premium

    I really like both vehicles as the driver. When pricing them with the options we want, the price difference isn't substantial enough to make the choice for us. (The Ford Escape, Toyota Rav4, and Honda CR-V have been ruled out after a test drive.)

    I did a quick search here and found that Subarus are apparently horrid for car seat installation. Of the many Subaru drivers who I know IRL, none has any children, so I can't easily ask a friend. Reviews of the new Equinox elsewhere online indicated no trouble with 2 car seats, and I imagine three is do-able (with the right combination of course). Threads on the Forester here are not nearly as positive.

    Thoughts?

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  3. #2
    Carseat Crazy Jordynsmama's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    How big are the backseats b/c in my moms rav 4 you cannot really fit 3 across. The middle seat isnt a true seat really. But if youd think you would have your 3rd kid after you purchase something bigger than no biggie. But if your goal is to fit 3 carseats in the back most of the time I would go with something bigger personally, like a suburban type or a van.
    Jessica, mama to Jordyn (8) in a backless

    and Madisyn & Kingston (2 yrs) in Britax

  4. #3
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    Quote Originally Posted by Jordynsmama View Post
    How big are the backseats b/c in my moms rav 4 you cannot really fit 3 across. The middle seat isnt a true seat really. But if youd think you would have your 3rd kid after you purchase something bigger than no biggie. But if your goal is to fit 3 carseats in the back most of the time I would go with something bigger personally, like a suburban type or a van.
    If you are in the position to buy a brand new car, (which I presume you intend to keep for a while), and you intend to have three children, I absolutely would not buy a 5 seater vehicle.

    I would also be very careful about the seven seater crossovers. Very often, those third rows do not have top tether anchors, making them essentially unusable for children still in harnessed restraints.

    Given that you intend to buy a new vehicle and spend a fair amount of money on it, and you intend to have three children, I would go for something with three rows, that has top tether anchors in BOTH the second and the third row.

  5. #4
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    If 3 seats can fit across a full-size sedan, then what is the issue with wanting to fit 3 across in say an Equinox? I'm not getting why nobody is even trying to answer the question and instead trying to convince her to buy larger. A larger car would cost more to drive and seems like it would be overkill for a family who doesn't even have kids yet. If only Radians would fit 3 across, for example, then she can start off buying seats that would fit in a 3 across configuration rather than having to figure that all out when #3 is on the way.

  6. #5
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    not all vehicles with a bench style back seat ("5-passenger vehicle") can do 3-across. i don't know whether the equinox or forester can do 3-across, even with radians. it's quite possible, but i just don't know.

    i sort of agree that a 6- or 7-seat vehicle is not necessarily warranted in this case, because it's hard to know when DC #3 will actually come around. if the equinox and forester are what the OP likes, then we should try to determine whether there has been success with 3-across in either of those vehicles.

    on the other hand, to the OP-- even if you have only 2 kids, it's often nice to have additional seating for outings with three adults, in which case it's impossible in a 5-seater, even with only two child seats. that's what we're finding with our mazda3.

    i understand that you have narrowed your car search to two vehicles that you like, but if i can make a suggestion based on 24 years of driving experience in new england and catskill mountain driving, you might not really need an AWD vehicle to get reliably up your driveway. i've owned both AWD cars (subarus) and FWD cars, and i have found that a FWD car with high performance winter snow tires does as well as AWD vehicles with average "all-season" tires, which are found on most new vehicles these days. having dedicated snow tires on a FWD car is actually safer in some regards than all seasons on an AWD, because the all seasons will *not* stop your vehicle better than snow tires, AWD or FWD! so, getting down your driveway and stopping at the end of it, i would argue that a FWD car with snow tires is safer than an AWD car with all-seasons. in fact, i'm such an advocate of snow tires that i recommend them on ALL cars that are driven in snowy climates. i'd be willing to bet that your VW beetle would perform admirably on your driveway with snow tires.

    i just want you to be informed about your decision-- most people assume AWD is safer all around, when in fact, the only real advantage to AWD is climbing up steep hills. there is *no* advantage to them in stopping and in preventing sliding off the road.
    Two girls, 7 and 6. Trek Mountain, Specialized Hotrock, Soma Buena Vista, Bike Friday tandem, and multiple other bikes. Oh, and a Mazda5.

  7. #6
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    Quote Originally Posted by covigirl View Post
    If 3 seats can fit across a full-size sedan, then what is the issue with wanting to fit 3 across in say an Equinox? I'm not getting why nobody is even trying to answer the question and instead trying to convince her to buy larger. A larger car would cost more to drive and seems like it would be overkill for a family who doesn't even have kids yet. If only Radians would fit 3 across, for example, then she can start off buying seats that would fit in a 3 across configuration rather than having to figure that all out when #3 is on the way.
    Because when people do three-across, they are usually limited in their choice of car seats, BY their vehicle, and often the solution is car seats that are not necessarily the number one pick for that particular child.

    If she all ready HAD a car, that would be one thing, but where she does not yet own a car, and clearly is in the financial position to spend money getting the 'right' vehicle, I'm steering her away from cars that could potentially cause a lot of frustration and swearing in the future.

  8. #7
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    It will take at least 4 years (probably 6-8) years from now before you maybe have a 3rd child. By then, you'll probably want a new vehicle anyway. I would not worry about that much now. Who knows what kinds of vehicles and child seats will be on the market then. Get the type of vehicle you like for other characteristics for now. 2 seats should fit is just about any of them.

    The reason why people recommend larger vehicles (at least for the main family vehicle) for 3 kids is the cargo space. A family of 5 with luggage and baby/child gear will not fit in a Rav4, CVR, Escape, Forester. etc. Heck, put a double stroller in and some of these are full. Mid+ sized sedans and 2-row SUVs are fine for daily activities, but 3 usable rows is just more usable. Even better if the 3rd row split folds.

  9. #8
    Carseat Crazy
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    Hi, OP here.

    We originally considered the Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4, and Ford Escape as well and ruled them out for various reasons. The Escape had inadequate back seat room for an adult, I just plain didn't like driving the Rav4, and the CR-V was comfortable but had a lot of road noise. We want something with reasonable mileage, so a Jeep Liberty is out.

    We are not sure how many kids we'll have, but 3 is the absolute max and stopping at 2 is just as likely. It's correct that unless we're blessed with twins, we will have gotten 4-5 years of use out of this new vehicle by the time we decide our family's complete. DH's Camry has a few more years of life in it, and at that point if we think 3 kids is going to happen, the replacement for the Camry will be something more suitable for a family of that size. His vehicle would then become the primary family vehicle, but ideally we would like to still be able to fit all three in my car in event of emergency - hence wondering if three across is technically possible with the right seats or if there's something structurally about either vehicle that would prevent it.

    We do need AWD. All three access points to our neighborhood/street are significant uphills and our driveway itself is steep. Several times each winter I have to abandon my New Beetle and walk home to wait for DH to get home to help me dig the car out of a snowdrift. Not a good scene, and a very bad deal with an infant! Our driveway is usually impossible for any front wheel drive vehicle if there's more than 1" of snow, but people with AWD have always been able to make it up. DH wants to make sure that my vehicle can get me and our kid(s) safely home and up the driveway.

    I guess my concern about the Forester is fitting even two car seats in it. There are a lot of complaints/issues here about fitting seats into Subarus in general, even in the outboard seating positions; lots of talk of pool noodles, towels, etc. I was curious if either the Forester or Equinox is known to have some horrible issues with car seat installation - especially one that would prevent a three-across setup (albeit rarely used and perhaps not necessary in the end).

    If either vehicle will allow us to haul around at least 2 kids, I think we can make a decision. A minivan or full size SUV is not in the cards right now.

    Thanks for the input!

  10. #9
    Carseat Crazy Jonah Baby's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    I know you have narrowed down the search to two vehicles already, but I could suggest...

    Pontiac Vibe. I have a lot of experience with these. They fit most seats in most positions great. They can come in FWD or AWD, standard or manual. My stepmother drives hers up route 9 in and out of the Berkshires every day, even in weather that the schools are closed. She also has a very short and steep hill on her driveway. She never has a driving problem! They get roughly 26 MPG (she beats on hers, however, so you may get more.)

    If you are set on having 3 children within 6 years...
    We KNOW that our F350 will fit LARGER carseats 3 across in the back (it has been done!) FFing AND RFing. We also have the 3rd seat in the front row if we want to take adults and 3 kids. F series trucks are made out of solid steel. The only thing that could truly kill it would be Amtrak. I can safely drive it, and I'm only 5 ft tall.
    Not the best gas consumption vehicle, however.

    I don't know if anyone has said this or not.
    You could "test drive" a vehicle to BabiesRUs and then "test install" the seats you would use!
    Jonah 4/11/07 Avery 3/25/10 Noralee 10/14/11
    And my man from dream land, Sam
    RSTV, Coccoro, 2 Titans, Marathon, MyRide, Apt40, R100
    We do it in a Yaris!

  11. #10
    CPS Advocate
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    I would go and sit in each one of them, see which feels like it has the most room. I have heard Subarus are cramped, but have never actually been in one.
    “Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes...
    That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away AND you have their shoes.”

  12. #11
    Carseat Crazy
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    I drove an Equinox a few years ago when I had 2 kids. I honestly love it. I had Boulevards in the out board seats. If I remember correctly I bet you could get a Radian inbetween them especially with the way they puzzle of course this is with all 3 facing the same way. I had my BVs in FF at the time. I did try one RF just to see how it fit and it did not mess with the front seats.

    I only had it for a weekend but I love it and would love to get one even though I have three kids.

    That is my 2 cents.

  13. #12
    CPS Technician skipspin's Avatar
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    Re: Trying to pick a new family vehicle

    The old Equinoxs were had the same back seat as a Saturn Vue. If that's still true three- across is pretty easy as long as you don't have huge car seats. Boosters can be hard to buckle.

    IMO the most frustrating thing about three across is not having an extra seat for a friend/family member to ride along. Well, that and when one kid gets tired and decides to make everyone else suffer. If DD needed to be in a booster that would be a frustration too.


    9 yr old in a pink zebra NBB and 5-stepping
    6 yr DS1 old in a Harmony
    4 yr old DS2 in a Nautilus and Radian
    18 mo DS3 rfing in a MyRide65

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