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Eco Friendly Family Vehicles: Urban Legend?

Tahoe HybridAdding a third child into our family presents a number of physical and emotional challenges — at least that will be the case unless I can grow an extra set of arms over the next few months. But along another round of sleepless nights, having child #3 definitely puts a strain on the wallet. We’re not so much worried about the baby gear, since at this point in our parenting lives, we know exactly what we need and what we don’t. And with plenty of consignment shops, thrift stores, and generous friends, we’ve already got more clothes and toys than we’ll probably need.

But nothing puts a hurting on a budget than a new car and an eco-friendly one at that.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we need to buy a brand new car. I’m just saying that we’re going to need to invest in something big enough to fit two car seats and a booster. Well, legally anyway, because no matter how much my daughter begs me to ride on the roof, I just don’t foresee that in her future.

And we’re trying as hard as we can not to have kiss our freedom from car payments good-bye. It certainly helps when we’re paying $4/gallon for gas.

Thanks to the folks at GM and Volvo, I’ve had the opportunity to try out a few different cars, including GM’s Acadia and Tahoe Hybrid, and Volvo’s V-70 Wagon. But even those fairly reasonably priced cars (okay, except the Hybird — WHOA!), may not be feasible. Then add in the fact that my husband and I really want something that’s eco-friendly and doesn’t have the word “VAN” in it and we’ve got ourselves quite a dilemma.

Of course, doing less driving is always a fantastic option, but considering we live in a suburb of a city where you do really have to drive to get anywhere, it’s not the greatest one, at least for a mom with three kids under four (wow, that’s still really hard for me to get my own mind around!).

So aside from continuing to research all our options, I’ve invited Jody DeVere, the Founder/CEO of Ask Patty, to join me on my parenting podcast Wednesday, July 2 from 9-9:30pm EST to discuss eco and family friendly cars. Her website offers fantastic resources specific to women and cars, and I’m sure she’ll offer a myriad of helpful suggestions.

I’d love to hear from eco-conscious families of five plus — what car are you driving and what do you think about it? Leave your answer in the comments or share them on the Motherhood Uncensored podcast from 9-9:30pm EST by calling in (646-915-8634) or chatting at Blog Talk Radio.

More Related Posts on Cars:

Pimpin’ Your Ride: The Green Way

Company Turns Familiar Gas Cars into Electric Vehicles

How Many Hours Do You Have to Work to Fill Your Gas Tank?

[This post was written by Kristen Chase.]


  1. This is a problem my husband and I are just about to face. I’m unexpectedly 9 weeks pregnant with #3. The one advantage we have is that our oldest is 6 and no longer legally required to sit in a car seat.

    The big disadvantages?

    The worst is that my husband was laid off in January. This little rascal snuck in despite our precautions. That’s stress, I suppose.

    We currently only have the one car since I work at home, but it’s not good enough. It’s one of those Saturn 3-door cars, and there are only 4 seats in it. Absolutely no way to get 5 in there… legally, anyhow. The gas mileage is sufficient that it will probably be the commuter car when we get another. Another baby means lots more doctor appointments and such, and my husband won’t be unemployed forever!

    We are thinking minivan and wishing there’d be a hybrid, but I wouldn’t mind just a larger sedan. Not the most comfortable thing for my oldest, sitting in back with two car seats, but likely cheaper and more fuel efficient.

  2. We are currently anticipating the arrival of our third child as well. We had to get a new car since we will have 3 in car seats. Cost was unfortunately prohibitive for us and left us with fewer options than I would have liked! We ended up with a minivan (used). We do try to limit our driving, but it would be so nice to have a more eco-friendly option!

  3. Hi,

    I drive with a Passat Diesel and I consume only 5.4 l/100 km and I try to eco drive as much as possible. This results that the 5.4 l/100 Km is lower than the specs given by the manufacturer.

    Btw. as mentioned in this blog a Toyota Prius and a BMW 520d Efficient Dynamics where tested on the energy efficiency and one came to a surprising result.


  4. FACT:
    American car companies make dozens of family vehicles that are safe and get over 40-50 mpg.
    NOT for sale in the U.S. – This should bother more people.

    As far as “eco friendly” goes, this is harder to hear that the fact above…

    The worst thing you can do for the environment is “purchase NEW vehicle”. Who buys your old car?

    Like “carbon offsets” you are not eliminating or conserving anything just shifting the burden of the problem to someone less fortunate.

    The lifetime environmental footprint of ANY car is alarming at best and even worse on most hybrids due to complex, exotic parts and batteries.

    The best “eco choice” has always been your families best economic choice: “find a good used car that gets good MPG and has a HIGH safety rating….

    Some of the safest and most economical vehicles were made during the late 80’s and early 90’s and the market is full of them.

    1992 mini-vans & most safe mid size cars of that age get 25-35mpg (look for 4 cylinder models)

    Consumer reports & many online government resources will confirm everything I have posted.

    Also talk to a good mechanic these cars are VERY eco-nomical to maintain and keep running efficient (unlike current models).

    Someone who tells me that a car that gets 10mpg better is a good reason for me to spend $25,000 on a NEW car and lose over $15,000 over the next four years is a salesman.

    Someone who tells me to “not spend” more and make do with what you can afford and need… is a environmentalist.

    We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
    – attributed to Albert Einstein

  5. Thanks for your comments!

    Eddy — I don’t think I can fit a family of five in a Passat or a Prius — although would love to if I could.

    Haase — I think shopping used is great, my only concern with early 90’s mini vans is upkeep! Finding one with under 100K – is that possible? AND, if you do, what is the up keep, maintenance on those cars? It’s one thing to buy an old car with great mileage, but if you’re constantly having to fix it, especially with kids, it might end up costing you more.

  6. My initial reply seems to have disappeared!

    Eddy — I’d love to be able to fit all my kids and husband in a Prius or Passat, but it’s not going to happen!

    Hasse – I love the idea of purchasing an older vehicle, but I’m wondering how they fair in terms of maintenance and upkeep? If repairs keep cropping up, particularly if you get a 1990s vehicle with a lot of miles, I’m thinking that the cost of repairs might outweigh the overall eco friendliness of it. Thoughts?

  7. I can understand your desire to have a newer care. Nothing like breaking down with three little ones! I just realized I was fooling myself that I could drive a prius. The clearance is too low for my dirt road and driveway. Buying a hybrid SUV that only gets 30mpg is not worth it. I am waiting it out hoping that things will really change in the next few years (sorry, I think your baby will come before it does).

  8. Kristen,

    Ther is plenty of space in the back seat of a Passat. If that’s not enough, you can go for a Skoda Superb (http://new.skoda-auto.com/COM/model/superb/facts/Pages/SuperbFacts.aspx).
    A Prius can be indeed a problem.


  9. Kristen,

    Ther is plenty of space in the back seat of a Passat. If that’s not enough, you can go for a Skoda Superb (http://new.skoda-auto.com/COM/model/superb/facts/Pages/SuperbFacts.aspx). Same car, only a bit longer.
    A Prius can be indeed a problem.


  10. I am in the same spot right now. Though, baby number 3 is on the way and my oldest isn’t even 30 lbs so it will be some time before we can move to a booster seat. I do know that my brother has a Passat wagon that is probably 8 years old and it fits 2 Britax Roundabout car seats and a tiny booster seat very cramped in the back.

    If anyone has a suggestion for a car with 3 real car seats that would be great but I’ve found there is no answer. The Toyota Siena is supposedly coming out with a hybrid in 2010 but that is a year late for me.

  11. According to Jody Devere from http://www.askpatty.com, there are a lot of crossovers (that are safer than minivans) that get around 28 mpg… Mazdas are something to check out.

    Also, another idea is getting a fuel efficient smaller car and then a family sized car that may not be as great, but can at least fit your whole family if you need to lug everyone around.

  12. We are in the exact same situation. Ours are 6, 5, &4. We have a Mercury Sable Wagon. We can fit all three in it. We average about 27mpg. Since the first two were 10 months apart, we need a car that could accommodate the double stroller and the grocery shopping at the same time. This fit the bill.
    We are now at our next obstacle, the 4yo is about 40lbs and about to surpass the weight limit on the five point harnesses. Our center seat is a lap belt, which can’t be used with a booster.

    Since spacewise the wagon works, I took the rear hip dimensions and have been comparing them with every car on the market. In New Hampshire, the law has changed that boosters are required until 4’9″ tall, that took effect recently so we are back to the drawing board.

  13. For God’s sake, do not buy those cars driving on bio-diesel. Bio-diesel may be eco-friendly, but it is disasterous for the hungry poor inhabitants of this earth that experience rising food prizes because the cropland is used to produce fuel.

  14. Commenting usually isnt my thing, but ive spent an hour on the site, so thanks for the info

  15. Kristen,

    Follow up a year later. Sorry for the delayed response.

    Did you ever make a choice on a safe, high MPG vehicle for your family?

    I nearly forgot to reply about long-term repair costs concerns.

    I ask after making a hard change in our families vehicle after 10 years.

    Should we share stories here? Your bloggers may find it exciting to see what Enviro pros did in the ‘cash for junk’ during the hardest economic times our nations has faced in generations.

    Why is was our families best and worst choice…

  16. It has been found that the vitamin B5 known as the UV protector and grapeseed oil which is a good moisturizer.

  17. I think that the SUV you pictured above is a great choice. I personally drive a minivan but I would so much rather have an ECO friendly SUV.


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