Our older car is a 2000 Chevy Cavalier. It has very low mileage, but is starting to show its age and if a large repair pops up the car will be toast. So we're starting to plan what we'll be replacing it with. Our newer car is a Pontiac Vibe, which we enjoy driving and is good for everyday use but a little on the small side once you throw in a stroller (though we only have about a year left of regular stroller usage) or for camping or road trips with the family. So our next vehicle needs to be larger, and for some time we'd assumed our next purchase would be a van, since you can get tons of space for not too much money. I've been becoming resigned to being a suburban mom driving a giant van.
We took advantage of my in-laws recent visit to pop out one morning on our own and check out the Dodge Grand Caravan. We wanted to see how it felt to drive, and also take it home and find out if it would fit into our garage. As I drove it off the lot I was surprised at how nicely it drove. It had good visibility, nice suspension and felt comfortable, not at all like I was driving a behemoth. Then I drove into the empty corner of our grocery store's parking lot and tried parking it. Uh oh. Several tries later, I had clipped several imaginary cars in the spaces beside me. And we won't talk about what happened as I tried to back it up. Jeff was sitting beside me, and I could tell he was refraining from commenting on his wife's poor driving skills. Then it was his turn. More carnage amongst the imaginary vehicles. This was not looking good. At home, we discovered that the van does juuust fit into the garage, if parked on a slight angle so as to avoid the railing of the stairs into the laundry room entrance. It was possible to park it indoors, but would be annoying to do so and would require removing a set of shelves on the side of the garage to be able to get the kids in and out on that side.
I think we had both hoped to find that the van fit well into the garage, and that we would love to drive it. But we both feel unsure about driving something that would require quite a few hours of parking practice and would probably still leave us both fighting to drive the older and smaller family car. We haven't completely said no to the van, but we think it's possible we're just not van people. Our next step is to research some of the crossover type vehicles that are like an SUV or station wagon with third row fold-down seats, such as the Mazda 5 or Dodge Journey. If you think there's a vehicle in that class that we should consider, let me know because we're not really sure where to start.