Car companies are trying to reposition minivans with ads aimed at appealing to the "hip mom and dad" consumer audience. Will they succeed? Can minivans ever be cool? Or have they been cool all along... and we just didn't know it?
What was once the most mocked vehicle on the road is making a comeback as a cool kid cruiser for the hipster set. NBC's Janet Shamlian reports.
Read on for your true stories of minivan love and hate....
TODAY Moms readers have some strong opinions on this topic. In our unscientific poll last week, most seem to be resisting the siren call of the mom-mobile, with minivan-haters at 60 percent and van-lovers at 40 percent. You really can't be neutral on this one: Got to choose sides in the minivan throwdown.
We asked for your minivan love-or-hate stories last week, and you delivered. Reading these comments, it's clear that it's not just about the styling or the horsepower: it's about our self-image. It's about growing up, and growing old, and coming to terms with our identities as parents: cool, sexy, hip, minivan driving parents. Read on, and share your thoughts in the comments.
Couldn't understand why anyone would want one... then came twins.
I have to confess that I love my minivan. For years my husband and I would discuss buying a new car and no matter what, minivans were out. We couldn't understand why anyone would ever want one! Who are those people?! Then we had twins. Then 18 months later their little brother came along and we started to see things a little differently. Finally the small SUV that I had been driving for 9 years decided it was done. Uh oh, I think WE are those people. Seriously, we have three kids in car seats for years to come. Nothing else made sense! So, we took the plunge and here we are 4 months later and I am thankful for this car everyday that no child can reach another one and I don't spend entire trips in the car anymore listening to them torturing each other. On the downside, I am fairly certain that I have Kung Fu Panda and Toy Story 3 memorized, but that is a whole different issue....
Does this minivan make my butt look big?
As a former city girl, I thought if I ever bought a minivan, I might as well buy a bumper sticker to go with it that said, “I gave up.” I had dreams of driving a sexy convertible, not a car that looked like it ATE a convertible. When I got pregnant and we moved to the suburbs, I became even more resistant when it occurred to me that the proportions of the minivan suspiciously resembled my burgeoning pregnant body. Of course, my other mommy friends all raved about it’s comfort, functionality and space, but to me, a minivan represented all that was uncool about the ‘burbs. Minivans were right up there with Uggs, Mom Jeans, and Scrunchies. No thanks.
Then one day our ancient sedan gasped it’s last diesel breath and we knew it was time for a family car upgrade. When we got to the showroom with two kids in tow, the salesman smoothly redirected us from the SUV’s we were checking out to their top-of-the-line minivan. It had swivel back row bucket seats, individual dvd screens, and an integrated minifridge. It was tricked out with just about every mom-friendly feature you could imagine, but as I sat in the front row, I felt like I was driving a house. While the kids cavorted in the swivel seats, I glanced up and caught my reflection in the rearview mirror.
“What do you think?” asked the salesman eagerly.
“I can’t get this car,” I replied.
“It makes me look fat.”
I will never be Minivan Mom! Never!
Let me start by saying that I am not a minivan owner nor will I ever be a minivan owner (even if somebody was to gift me one, I don't believe I would ever drive it). Well... if it was free and nice and didn't really look too much like a minivan I might consider it...
My hatred for minivans started about 11 years ago, when I married a phenomenal guy I met online in a chat room and left my native Romania for the United States. I don't honestly remember seeing any minivans in Romania, if there were any at the time, they must have been few and far between cruising down the narrow Romanian streets. I remember seeing some big utility vans, although these were not used by families since the typical Romanian parent takes all the brood and crowds it in a bus, cab, trolley, tram, train, subway... or more often in a horse cart. For me, Romania was... public transportation at it's best, or a cab and only if the snow was around 3 feet. Since the cabs had no A/C, in summer I prefered to walk.
So, I landed on US soil sometime in November of 2000. My husband came to pick me up and I had my first taste of what being "stuck in traffic" meant. Yes, you've guessed it, we didn't have a lot of traffic in Romania back then (now it is worse than the DC Beltway at rush hour). I 95 was crowded by minivans, lots and lots and lots of them (it was the day before Thanksgiving when families crowd in their minivans and drive cross country). I asked my husband what the weird, squished-bug looking cars were and he told me "minivans, every woman buys one when she is 30 and has kids, most of them tend to become MINIVAN MOMS". Yeah, stereotype you might say, but I promised myself then and there I would never be a Minivan Mom! For the next several years, whenever we traveled somewhere (pretty much every weekend so that is a looooot of weekends), I was always reminded that when I will turn 30 I will get my very own minivan. Well, 7 years after my first minivan encounter, I got pregnant. Worst even, I was turning 30 right around the same time, so my husband reminded me that it is high time to trade in my little Corola and consider a minivan, after all, women seem to love them... and they are good for kids... NOT FOR ME!!! Can you imagine hearing for 7 years that one day you will have to be a minivan mom??? It just filled me with dread each time. I went to shop around and... found a sports car, test drove it for a few days. Husband said "no way, a minivan is better". I returned the sports car. I did not buy a minivan. I am driving a "toaster" now (Scion XB) and yes, people ask me all the time if that is my car or the box it was delivered in, if XB stands for XtraBoxy, if the brick actually has a gas pedal... I think I heard it all by now, but the "Xtra Boxy lady" is music to my ears versus the "Minivan Mom". My husband is now thinking about a second child... and I am thinking about a supersized jumbo boxy car... Because can you imagine? What if I got pregnant with twins?
Minivans are hot
My mom drove a minivan. I'd like to repeat that for effect - My MOM drove a minivan. Somehow I never envisioned myself old enough to need a minivan and, honestly, I still don't. Even though I've been driving one for three years.I write a blog entitled Minivans Are Hot where I chronicle the every day crazy that comes with being a minivan mom. Including finding moldy breadand other such...science experiments...in the back seat.
Incidentally, every parent who purchases a minivan should be forewarned that they are NEVER to venture into the far back of the car. To do so will send any decent parent into a tailspin of wonder as they try to figure out how they ended up raising wild baboons instead of children. I know this from experience. The far back of a minivan is a scary, scary place.
So yes, I am single handedly attempting to raise the hot factor of the minivan. The purchase of a minivan sends parents into a major identity crisis. Suddenly we feel the need to wear our flannel pajama pants and leave the house with curlers in our hair.
It doesn't have to be this way, though, right? Minivans are hot! Can I get an amen?
I promise, if you say that enough you'll start to believe it....
Granny Pants and the Minivan
I L O V E MY M I N I V A N!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wow, I feel freed by that exclamation! I no longer have to pretend that I am just grinning and bearing it while driving my looser-cruiser all over town. No more dark glasses and slouching behind the wheel. I drive a minivan and I am proud!!!
I am unsure where my problem with the minivan began. I a suppose it was some self-imposed idea that a cool mom was one that fought the minivan transition like she fights the inclination to trade in the Victoria Secret Ultra-Low Cheeky Hipster Panties for the Wal-Mart Ultra High Covers Everything From Armpit to Knee Granny Pants. “Damn it. I still got it. I will not buy a minivan,” was my mantra.
Perhaps my problem with the minivan is that I break into a cold sweat when I think back to my mom and dad’s dull brown Caravan on which my three sisters and I were forced to learn to drive. No amount of Dippity Do, White Rain, and electric blue eyeliner ever distracted potential cute-boys-at-red-lights rendezvous from the crappy vehicle I was driving around in.
Maybe, just maybe, the minivan-fear I have held onto for so long is due to the fact that it is a sign of my age. My lack of freedom to come and go as I wish. My responsibilities. I didn’t need my marriage, my mortgage, the birth of my first (or 2nd or 3rd) son to make me feel like I had others to think about before myself. Nope…..it was the purchase of the minivan. If I could fit all of the aforementioned in a Mini-Cooper, surely I would still have felt like a twenty-something girl off to the Jersey Shore for the day with nothing more than a towel, some Sea-n-Ski, and a pack of gum.
So how did I come to terms with my death sentence, I mean my minivan? It happened one crazy morning while we were running late for preschool drop-off.
I had my one year old in one arm, two gifts for the Secret Santa exchange in the other arm, and a large tote that held lunch bags and miscellaneous papers strung over my shoulder. While getting my older boys out of their respective seatbelts and out the door of the car, I deeply sighed and thought just how thankful I was for only having to press a button and watch as my two boys calmly removed themselves from their seats and jump out of the vehicle. In our previous very cool and very black and very sporty SUV, this simple task would have required the acrobatic agility of an Easter European cast member of Cirque du Soleil; I surely would have popped a capillary from the exertion that would have been required of me to get all four of us (and our paraphernalia) out of that car.
So, perhaps I have given up on the coolness factor as I embrace my minivan. I am sure I overcompensate in other areas of my life – that sequin tube top, for instance, that I just bought to wear to my next night out at Friendly’s – to make up for my love of the minivan. That’s ok. We all have our issues. Mine will just be comfortably riding in my minivan.
Who's laughing now, huh?
Hey, what do you think of my new ride?
Every single one of my girlfriends laughed at me. How UNCOOL can your car be? Don’t you know that your car is a reflection of you? Do you really want to be a minivan? hahahahahahahaha
Hey girls, let’s get the kids out of the house. Want to go to the park and ride bikes? “Sure, but could you drive? I just hate that bike rack on the back of the SUV and I can’t fit bikes and kids in there.”
Hey girls, let’s go to lunch. “OK, but can you pick us up? We shouldn’t take two cars and I don’t have enough seats for us all.”
Hey girls, let’s go to the beach. “OK, but can you drive? My SUV just drinks gasoline and it’s way too expensive to drive that far.”
Hey girls, let’s have girls night out! “OK, but can you drive? I hate climbing over Susan’s seats in a dress. I feel like an idiot with my feet in the air like that.”
Hey girls, let’s do whatever always leads to, “Can you drive?”
Bottom line, my minivan might not be the coolest ride, but everyone ends up riding in it. I get great gas mileage, have plenty of seating, every seat is easy to access, plenty of room for luggage/storage and nobody has their knees under their chin. You might not think it’s cool, but I do!
Dads drive minivans, too!
As a divorced dad with three children, I continue to drive a mini-van for one reason: practicality. I like the fact that I can carry 7 passengers, or a load of cargo - 4 bikes, or camping gear for the Grand Canyon - with ease. It gives me flexibility, which I appreciate. You sit up high, which is good in traffic. The whole image thing I find amusing. My ego is quite secure, I can assure you!
A matter of life or death?
I love my mini-van. It has nothing to do with "cool" or "dorky", or my self-image (I have a great one) or anyone else's perception. It simply has to to do with the fact that my mini-van has saved the lives of me and my family not once, twice or even three times - we walked away from FOUR accidents that finally totalled the original Odyssey.
While evacuating from Houston during Hurricane Rita in 2005, we were stuck in a horrible traffic that allowed us to move only 50 miles in six hours. Our twins were 15 months old, fast asleep in their car seats at 11 PM, and suddenly we were rammed viciously from behind TWICE - and before we could pull over, the insane person who rammed us simply drove away on the berm. A very kind grocery-store manager helped us duct-tape cardboard boxes to the back window so we would drive the rest of the way to Dallas. After $9000 of repair work, our van was repaired and we could drive home from Dallas.
Second accident - another hit-and-run, this time in broad daylight by a taco truck, who had the nerve to run me off the road, and then flip me off. Again, van fixed, I am fine. Third, young woman "didn't see" me, pulls out into traffic and knocks me so hard that I land on the median. Her car disintegrates. Once more, fixed van, I am fine.
By this time, insurance has paid more for the van to be repaired than the original sticker price, but miraculously, it still runs great, and we are unharmed.
Final coup-de-grace - I get t-boned at a four way stop by a guy who not only doesn't have insurance, but doesn't have a license, and the car isn't his!! This time, the twins are in car with me, hysterical; EMTs check me and recommend a trip to the ER. Thank God, no damage to my precious 3 year olds, and but for some burns and cuts and bruises, I am fine, too. Once again, we walk away, but alas, the red Odyssey is no more.
After the initial shock wears off, my husband asks me what I would like to replace the van, and my first retort is, "A TANK!!!" But, I stopped to think about it, I said, "nothing else but another Honda Odyssey. That minivan saved my life so many times, I wouldn't put my family in anything else."
Sometimes what we drive is more than "image" or "cool factor." Sometimes, it is more about what is most precious to us: the lives of our loved ones. A bit cooler than driving a hot car, don't you think? Nothing cooler than safety and peace of mind.
Maybe not cool, but practical
With 3 kids ranging from age 7 to 13, I wouldn't have any other vehicle. Between running them to all of their activities, there is always the need to pick up/drop off one of their friends. I've had minivans for 13 years now and I don't think I will switch to a smaller vehicle until my last one is in college. My sister has 5 in her family and owns an SUV (5 seater only!) and a car. Whenever we visit her, we have to always go in two separate cars. She can't even car pool unless she leaves some kids at home! It may not be cool to drive a minivan, but it is definitely practical.