Buying a New Minivan? Here's What You Should Know

Sep 29, 2014 06:30 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma


You knew this day would come.

So your family is big enough to require a minivan now. Yes, it's not going to be the coolest ride in town, but a minivan is essentially the unavoidable answer to your need to get more space while saving money.

"Many times when I have recommended minivans, the result was a nasty look and a 'potential client' that has become a 'lost client,'" car consultant Tom McParland wrote for Jalopnik's CarBuying blog. "Even though my job is to help people find a vehicle that will suit them best, I can't tell someone what to buy. But seriously parents ... get a minivan."

The main perk that comes with purchasing a minivan is versatility when it comes to transporting different numbers of people along with varying amounts of cargo, according to Consumer Reports. Even though the segment has shrunk in recent years, a minivan is still the most cost-effective solution for growing families that need more space.

Before buying a minivan, families should look at five factors: the number of people who will travel in the vehicle; the amount of storage space needed; fuel economy; safety features; and price. The vehicles generally start in the range of $25,000 to almost $40,000.

The Basics.

Besides figuring out if the model has enough space for everyone, buyers need to look at how the minivan will travel and at what cost. Considering fuel economy is essential for any vehicle purchase, but it will be especially important when looking to buy a minivan if your family tends to do a lot of road trips. Minivans usually run on a V6 engine, getting power in the 250- to 280-horsepower range and fuel economy up to 20 miles per gallon.

The U.S. Department of Energy's list of EPA ratings for this year's minivan models breaks down the fuel economy for models such as the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country. The model, which is the most awarded and bestselling minivan of all time, according to Chrysler, is available with a six-cylinder 3.6-liter gasoline engine mated with a six-speed automatic transmission, getting 17 mpg in city driving, 25 mpg for highway driving and a combined 20 mpg.  

The New Essentials.

Minivans can include all kinds of features ranging from extra in-floor storage to reconfigurable seats, according to Convenient minivan basics like sliding doors are just a start.   

In the latest safety technology advances, vans can feature telematics systems to alert emergency personnel if an air bag deploys; lane-departure warning systems; forward-collision warning systems with both audible and visual alerts; and blind-spot warning systems that notice other vehicles, according to Consumer Reports.

The Luxuries (That Are Becoming a Must).

An infotainment system is a luxury that will feel like a necessity on long car rides when the kids get restless. And while you're looking for a more comfortable drive, why not get the leather seats? They might sound counterintuitive for a ride that will be transporting kids, but leather seats are easy to clean and won't wear out or show stains the way cloth seats will, said.

Other recommended features are power sliding doors, which will make it much easier to get children in and out of the car; park assist and a rear backup camera; and a "tri-zone" climate control system, which allows different settings for the driver, the front passenger and the rear passengers.  

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