Real Life Wednesday - Mini Van Edition

 You asked for it - and here is my RLW post about my mini van! 

First off - I LOVE my van.  But I was hesitant to get one too....until I thought about things a bit and then I was 100% committed.  And I'm pretty sure I can talk you into being 100% committed too.  :)  I'm going to try with this post at least!

When you first consider buying a minivan - you need to give yourself the following pep talk:

Mini vans aren't considered cool.
But they should be.

What they ARE is:
Easy to drive.
Easy to get into.
Easy on gas mileage.
I like ALL of these things.

I have ALL OF THE FEELS about mini vans, and so to try to condense things I tried to consolidate my logic below.  If you have a question - leave it in the comments and I'll answer!

What brand did I buy?

I bought a 2017 Sienna XLE Premium.

We considered all brands, and test drove a Dodge, Toyota and Chrysler.  Because I knew we would probably resell it in a few years (see below) I wanted to stay with either a Honda or Toyota since they hold their resale value better.  We've owned 3 Camry's, so we were familiar with Toyota and liked how comfortable they were, and found the same to be true of the Sienna.

The real selling point for me was the sliding mid-row captain's seats. (see below about Clint being comfortable).  The Sienna is the only model that has this feature, and it was a deal breaker for us.

Where did I buy it?
I also wanted to buy locally, and Rogers Toyota in Hermiston is a HUGE supporter of ag youth in the community.  If you go there, tell Doug I sent you - we both get a discount. :)  They are awesome to work with, and very fair about pricing.  We've bought our last 3 vehicles from them and would go back and buy another.

How long will I keep it?
As much as I love the van, I know that in 5-6 years I will probably need to drive something that has a hitch.  And yes - I know you can put a hitch on my van, but it probably doesn't need to be pulling a horse trailer, lol.  Our plan is to keep it for that long and then buy something that we can pull a small trailer (4 door pickup, maybe a Suburban, etc.) and since the boys will be out of car seats/boosters we won't have to worry so much about Clint being able to sit in front of one of the boys.

Until then...I love that the van costs 30-50% less than an SUV in a similar trim.

That's why we bought a Toyota, because the resale value on them is awesome.  It's also why I ended up buying a new one.  We'd been waiting for a "good" used one (something with less than 100k miles on it, and leather seats) to come up for sale - and they just don't.  Probably because when you buy one, you freaking LOVE IT and don't trade it in until you have to.  :)

For example - the week before we bought ours, a local dealer in Walla Walla had a 2016 Sienna with the same package (Premium XLE) and 30,000 miles come in and it was listed for $1,000 more than our brand new 2017 Sienna (ours had dealer & Toyota incentives attached to it at year end).  So we were able to buy a brand new van, for less than the exact same used model.

Disclosure - If we were going to keep it for a long time, it was my only rig and I was going to drive the wheels off of it - I probably would have bought a Town & Country since they are quite a bit less expensive and come with a similar trim (entertainment system, leather).

How much do I drive it?
We drive the van on weekends, and when we go on trips.  During the week, I drive a 2008 Camry Hybrid because I can sit comfortably in front of a car seat in it, it gets better fuel mileage, and I'm not putting a lot of miles on the van.  We also have a 2009 Chevy 2500 that we use for personal cattle stuff, and Clint drives a Chevy 3500 for work.  Because there are other vehicles in the mix, we were able to buy the van and just let it be our "family" rig. 

If it was my only vehicle (and we didn't have the 4x4 pickup to drive in winter weather) I would have bought a model that had AWD. 

What are the features I love?
The main features I love are:
Sliding doors - and not having to worry about the boys (or me) dinging the person next to us.
Push button doors - I can open or close both sliding doors & the rear door with a push of a button at the door, from the front seat, and from my key fob.
Entertainment system - This was a must for us.  Since we travel so much (15,000 miles in the past 5 months) I knew this would be a bonus to have for the boys.  Chandler loves watching movies in the van.
Leather seats - this is a must for us.  We have leather in every rig we own - not because we're stuck up, but because it is a rancher's best friend and cleans like a dream.
Seat level - It is awesome not having to lift car seats & kids up into a seat like you have to in a pickup or Suburban.  I just can't tell you how much you will appreciate this, until you have it. 
Rear climate control - the boys have their own fans & thermostat.  It's another one of those things that you don't realize is important until you ride in the back of a rig and realize how hot it is in the summer, because you don't have your own vent.
Shades on the rear windows - I don't have to have the clinging baby shades, since the windows are both tinted and have their own shade that you manually move up and down.
110 power - The Sienna has 2 110 power plugs, as well as multiple 12 volt (cell phone charging) plugs throughout the van.
Flat floor - I love that when you fold the rear seats down (mine are split, so you can fold each side down independently or both at once) it makes a flat floor.  The rear seats are also really easy to put up and down.

What would I change?
Well, I wish the Sienna had a vacuum in it like the Honda Odyssey.  ;)
I also don't like the defrost on the front windshield - for some reason it doesn't work well on the low fan setting.  This probably bugs me 10% of the time I'm driving.

Does Clint fit into it?

Don't let the look on Clint's face above fool you.  :)  Clint is 6'4'' and one of the main reasons we went with the Toyota Sienna is because the mid row captain's seats can slide forward & back.  I almost always drive, so we put Chandler behind Clint and slide his seat all the way back, and by doing that, Clint can both recline & slide his front seat all the way back and be comfortable.

I keep Cal slid up close to me, to make it easy to reach back & find a bink.  :) 

How much can you fit into it?

I don't know about total cubic space, but I will tell you this - you can fit A CRAP TON into a mini van.  Yes - I know that is very scientific. :)  I posted the below to illustrate:

Exhibit 1: We road tripped to the Midwest for 9 days with a double Bob stroller, luggage for 2 adults and 2 kids (including hanging clothes), a 4 ft cooler, personal cooler, snacks, a pack & play and all of the stuff  (diapers, wipes, etc.) that comes along with traveling with kids.  :)  We even had enough room to still change a baby easily & bring home a saddle.

Exhibit 2: I can go to Costco and make 2 trips with over flowing carts, and fit it all in the back with room to still change a diaper.  (I almost 99% of the time have my rear seats folded down, and a big cooler stowed in the back.) 

Exhibit 3: I can fit an entire weekend's worth of supplies for an FFA concession stand in the back of the van, and not squish the buns.

Exhibit 4: I don't have a picture, but I help organize an auction for our local FFA alumni and at a meeting I was able to put all of our silent auction baskets in the back of the van.  A friend who was there told me I had more room than she did in her Tahoe.

Exhibit 5: I can fit four kids in car seats and have room for a person in the front (and probably one more in the back if they can climb a seat) PLUS room in the back towage area.

Exhibit 6: I can entertain
 kids and have laid out all of the supplies needed to breed cows out of the back of it.
I rest my case.  :)

Listen friends - I am 100% on the minivan train.

You should be too.....once you buy one, you won't ever look back!

And Toyota - if you need a testimonial, I'M YOUR GIRL!


  1. I think you convinced me I need a van...and I live in the city and DON'T have kids. LOL!

    1. Ha ha - but think how many friends you could haul around?!?

  2. I am exhausted just reading this. Toyota should put you in a commercial!!


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