Earlier this summer, we decided it was probably time to trade in our 2015 Chevy Colorado for a new vehicle for travel. I have loved having a mid-sized pick up truck. However, besides an occasional trip to the dump with recycling and helping friends move furniture, we really weren’t driving it a ton.
Our other vehicle, a 2012 Lexus RX350 crossover, has about 150,000 miles on it and has been starting to need some repairs. On top of that, it’s a little smaller than what we want for long road trips, especially when it’s more than just Ann and me. It worked out fine for our road trip through North Dakota this summer, but we often found ourselves saying it would nice to have more room.
You should know that whenever we make a large purchase, we like to move slowly. We do some investigating, budget well in advance, and seek online reviews as well as recommendations from others. As a part of our research, this time we asked readers of our blog for suggestions and laid out our priorities.
What we wanted in a new vehicle for travel
Our new vehicle for travel needed to:
- Be able to seat six people comfortably
- Have plenty of cargo space for suitcases and a cooler
- Get good gas mileage (25+ mpg)
- Be easy to get in and out of
- Cost less than a small house
Immediately, we received lots of ideas for a new vehicle for travel. Some folks suggested an SUV like a Tahoe, Suburban or Explorer. Others suggested crossovers like the Forester or Equinox. Still others suggested a minivan, swearing that they loved theirs. One person even suggested a MINI Cooper which sounded like a lot of fun but seemed a wrong step on the size scale. In any event, we knew we had to do some digging and answer some questions.
Would an SUV be a good vehicle for travel for us?
One reason we decided to sell the truck is that it was pretty high up off the ground. Ann, (who is 5’4″), has a lot of joint pain and climbing into the truck wasn’t easy for her. We visited our local car dealership and looked at a few SUVs.
These things are huge! Turns out, the SUVs were just as high up off the ground as my truck and getting in an out was not easy for Ann. In addition, the gas mileage was terrible. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk only gets 13 mpg and the Tahoe wasn’t much better at 15-22 mpg. In addition, it honestly didn’t have a lot of storage space with the third row of seats up. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the sticker prices were shocking.
The sticker on the Suburban we saw showed a price higher than what Ann paid for her first house! For us, an SUV was out.
Could a crossover work?
Next, we considered crossovers. Being crossover owners already, we felt we knew the category pretty well. We can pack a lot in the back of our Lexus RX but there’s not much space for extra passengers.
While a few of the crossovers we considered did offer a third row of seating, it wasn’t necessarily easy to use. And if we did use the third row, there was often no cargo space at all for suitcases. While they were less expensive and got better gas mileage than the SUVs, we really wanted more space. So we crossed off crossovers on our hunt for a good vehicle for travel.
What about a minivan?
Honestly, we have never thought of ourselves as minivan people. Our daughter is all grown up now and we don’t have little ones to take to school or soccer practice. We’re empty nest travel bloggers and way too young and hip (or does using the word hip make us not hip?) to have a minivan. My parents have a mini van for goodness sake. It wasn’t for us. The photo below is from our Nebraska road trip with Steve’s parents in 2017.
But the more we looked for a vehicle for travel, the more we saw that minivans offered everything we wanted. They had tons of cargo space, room for seven people to sit comfortably, and they were super easy to get in and out of. In addition, minivans get about 28 miles per gallon on the highway and the cost was far less than that of a house (or an SUV).
So, which minivan would it be?
We began looking at the different vans available and found two options that rose above the rest. The Chrysler Pacifica and the Honda Odyssey each had great reviews. In addition, they both offered all the bells and whistles we’d ever want for our long road trips. But the Pacifica had one feature the Odyssey doesn’t that we couldn’t live without: Stow ‘n’ Go seating. Here’s a 16-second video to show you how it works.
In the Chrysler Pacifica, you can fold the seats into the floor to make room for cargo, so the seats stay in the van. In the Odyssey, you have to remove the seats to make room for cargo. And considering how we’ll use the van to take cargo from Nebraska to Oklahoma, it only made sense to buy the vehicle that allows us to take our seats, as well.
Our new vehicle for travel
So, we headed to the dealer to take one for a spin. While a larger vehicle, it sat low to the ground and handled like a regular car. The ride was smooth, and the seats comfortable enough for a long road trip.
We picked the options we wanted finding one that even has TV screens for passengers in the back. And before you laugh, you should know that Ann and Meghan have already watched a movie on one of our trips.
The van also offers three climate zones, USB ports galore, cup holders, and even a 110v plug in. Yes, it has an honest-to-goodness plug – perfect for charging a computer and blogging while on the road.
And look how much space it has for cargo with the seats stowed in the floor! We spent several days thinking about it, reviewing our budget, and negotiating a fair price. By the end of the week, we bought a minivan. Well, actually, we like to say we bought a Pacifica. And we love it!
Since we didn’t pay the price of a house for the vehicle, we spent an extra $20 to get a vanity license plate. Now we have “GO PLCES” and “C THINGS” on our two vehicles so we can share travel advice as we head down the road.
We’ve had our Pacifica for a couple months now and are still very happy with the choice we made for a new vehicle for travel. We’ve already put more than 4,000 miles on it and have a big road trip across the south planned for this fall. Can’t wait to hit the road and take her for a spin.
Have you been new car shopping recently? What are your must haves in your next car?