We need a budget-friendly van to fit our growing family
The Dodge Grand Caravan is cheap and capable
We are expecting twins, soon going to need a large vehicle to haul our family. We also have a Great Dane that is heading toward middle age, so the higher ground clearance of an SUV isn't ideal as she gets older. That leaves us looking at minivans. We have to be budget-conscious (our diaper costs are set to skyrocket!) so we're trying to keep the overall price under $35,000. – Drew and Christie, Toronto
Leeder: What I wish is that we could recommend a minivan that comes with a Jetson-style nanny to help you with all those diapers. Family vehicles have come a long way – some have vacuums! – but nobody has figured out how to lower the diaper burden. The first minivan these kiddos need to go drive is the new Honda Odyssey. I know you know it, Mark. Talk to me about that innovative, second-row sliding seat thingamajiggy. For parents lugging car seats and all manner of kid-related crap, this is the stuff of magical dreams.
Richardson: The 2018 Odyssey is a lovely minivan – now there's an oxymoron – but it's too expensive for Drew and Christie. It starts at $34,890 before taxes and all the other tack-ons, which means it's a bit more than $40,000 out the door. That sliding second-row seat makes all the difference to easy access to the third-row.
Leeder: And unfortunately it's only available in the all-new generation Odyssey, which has just been released.
Richardson: Which means there might be good deals on the 2017 Odyssey, as dealers try to shift them for the new vans. Don't count on it with Honda, though – people love Odysseys and they don't sit around for long.
Leeder: Not on car lots. But they do seem to sit in owners' driveways for years – people freaking love them. So it might be worth the splurge to lock in a minivan that will inspire love, even if they can't have the fancy mid-row seats. We don't hear much about that.
Richardson: Honda reckons the Odyssey is worth decades of customer loyalty. People buy them, are totally satisfied even though they're not the cheapest, and stick with Hondas after the kids have grown out of the car seats.
Leeder: Since the odds of an Odyssey winning here are slim, onto the Dodge Grand Caravan, which is another fan favourite. It's cheap, capable and gets the job done. It also won't be around much longer, so perhaps good deals are to be had.
Richardson: Perhaps, but it's hard to believe it won't be replaced with something else affordable in a year or two, when Dodge has said it's ending production. The other Fiat-Chrysler product, the Pacifica, is a premium minivan like the Honda and Toyota Sienna and high-end Kia Sedona and not everyone can afford – or wants – a premium vehicle.
Leeder: Based on the detritus my own two children leave in the back seat, I'm not sure going premium is the right call with two babies. The Kia is popular in my mothers' groups (yes, I am a member of mothers' groups and, yes, they actually did let me in). It seems to hit the spot for most people I know looking to marry value with plenty of options and utility.
Richardson: But better value is the Dodge Grand Caravan, which you can find for around $30,000 out the showroom door. It's well-tried and its reputation for poor reliability improved a few years ago when Dodge finally fixed the transmission. It also has Stow'N'Go seats that fold the second row completely into the floor.
Leeder: So does the Pacifica, but it's out of the running due to its hefty price tag. All roads here point to the Grand Caravan which, if Drew and Christie decide to have one more set of twins, will have enough space to accommodate them, too!
Richardson: And don't forget the dog. There's no better vehicle on the road for carrying large dogs.