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Olivia Lehmann, 3, sits in the back of her mom's car. (JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Olivia Lehmann, 3, sits in the back of her mom's car. (JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Ask Joanne

A new baby means another new car for family of five Add to ...

My wife and I purchased a 2011 Hyundai Sonata in April believing this would be more than enough room for us and our two young boys aged 6 and 4. Surprise, surprise, we recently found out that my wife is pregnant with our third child and my first thought (after utter joy, of course) was, “Where will we put everyone?”

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Although a baby seat and two boosters will fit in the back of a Sonata, it is an extremely tight squeeze and my decision to not buy a van is regrettable, to say the least. Here’s my dilemma: do I trade in my Sonata (at 24,000 kilometres) and refinance for a new van or do I keep my Sonata and buy a good-quality used van? Obviously, I will not get back what I owe the bank on the car, which is financed over 66 months but realizing that I will have an extra payment each month regardless, is it better to have a new van as opposed to a used one? From what I can see of the used market, I’m probably going to spend around $10,000 for something half decent, which will replace our second vehicle, a 2000 Honda CR-V with 300,000 kilometres on it. The van will most likely be our primary vehicle. What would you recommend? – Thomas in Halifax

Congratulations on your latest addition, though it sounds as if 2.5 children would have fit you just about right.

You may regret not buying a van, but I’m going to assume that you are happy with your choice of Hyundai.

If your budget can accommodate it, and you really need two vehicles, it would be better to replace your older second vehicle with a sound option to transport your team of tots.

If budgets are an issue, and you are willing to part company with your Sonata, your first course of action should be to head into the dealership to talk about your situation. This comes on the heels of a discussion I had with Hyundai Canada officials, who said:

“A recommended first stop would be a call or visit to the dealer that sold the Sonata to your reader. As this was a relatively recent purchase, the dealership’s sales staff may have options for him to consider.

“If he’s looking for a larger vehicle, Hyundai offers the seven-passenger Veracruz. With three rows of seating, it might be a good fit for a growing family.” The on-demand AWD may come in handy, too, when the winter weather rolls in.

“If he’s looking specifically for a van, Hyundai doesn’t offer new vans in Canada but his Hyundai dealer may have a used van for sale. Like any good business, a dealer’s success only comes with ensuring its customers are happy, so this reader’s Hyundai dealer may be able to help him consider his options.”

If Hyundai doesn’t have a vehicle that suits your needs on a trade with the Sonata, then your second option, to purchase a used minivan, makes a lot of sense. That way, you could keep the widely acclaimed sedan as your second vehicle; among the Sonata’s many 2011 accolades are a Top Safety Pick rating from the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a five-star crash rating from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

My suggestion is to limit the age of whichever vehicle you purchase to no more than two or three years. Not only will you have the benefit of the remainder of the existing new-car warranty, you’ll be assured that you’ve purchased the latest automotive technology to safely transport your precious cargo.

On a recent model with low mileage, the largest depreciation hit has already been shouldered, and you’ll likely be able to extract further value by retaining the vehicle for the long haul. After all, your days as a soccer dad have only just begun.

As for which minivan to focus your attention on, you’ll be hard pressed to find a poor choice from any of the manufacturers currently producing these practical family haulers – again, if you stick to a relatively new model. After that, it’s really up to you as to which features and options you’re looking for.

For me, it comes down to safety, budget and comfort. I’d buy a newer van for the peace of mind of the enhanced safety features. Whether you keep or replace the Sonata comes down, I think, to how far your wallet will stretch.

Send your automotive questions to Ask Joanne at globedrive@globeandmail.com

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