Car Shopping (or: Station wagons and SUVs and limo’s, oh my!)

I got up on my high horse last week. We’re car shopping, you know, and Christian and I were having a disagreement about how expensive a price range to pursue. For once, I was being the cheapskate. “I want it to be big enough for the kids,” he said.

“None of these cars are big enough to hold four kids,” I said. “It doesn’t matter if you buy a Civic or an Accord—either way it’s only going to seat five people. We’re never going to be able to put our whole family in a car.”

“Maybe we should buy another van,” Christian fretted.

“No way,” I said. “I love my van, but the whole point of the car is to have something that gets decent gas mileage!”

And that’s when I got irritated with the industry. Four kids may not be the typical size family anymore, but it’s hardly gargantuan; lots of people have four kids. How dare the car manufacturers force us into gas guzzling monsters for simple trips around town?

In past generations, they made cars—not vans, not SUVs—to fit large families. I mean, my parents had a Plymouth Volare station wagon that seated us all, and my grandparents…

1957 Chevy; thanks to Uncle Greg for emailing me the files
Oh, yeah. My grandparents.

My grandparents had ten children. And nobody has ever made a car that fit ten kids. Thus was born a family legend: When my grandparents outgrew their car, they didn’t buy a van, they bought an old airport stretch limousine…and a funeral home limousine.

(That's my mom in the center, wearing the plaid shorts)
“It would fit twelve people in it,” Grandma says of the airport limo, “and it had a ladder that went over the top. I don’t think it had a trunk. You had to put stuff on top. I don’t think I drove the big one. We must’ve had two at one time. I drove the black Cadillac around town. I had curlers in my hair, and I’d just go. Oh, I must’ve been quite a sight to behold!”

File:GMC-Suburban.jpgEventually, Grandma and Grandpa graduated to a GMC Suburban. Not like the ones you buy today, with DVD players and leather seats and heated seats. No, this sucker had three vinyl bench seats and a hard floor. (Like this one, only in green and white.) In 1984, I rode from Kansas City to Denver in that vehicle.

Then I realized that my parents’ Volare seated six for one reason, and one reason only: my baby sister sat in the front seat between Mom and Dad. And you know that’s not happening in this day and age. Once Cecelia got too big, they bought…you guessed it. A van.

So I had to get off my high horse. It’s the nature of the beast: cars are not meant to seat more than five. I can gripe and grump to my heart’s (mal)content, but that’s the breaks. Even Grandma and Grandpa, with their limos, sometimes had to take two cars to get the family where they were going.

In case you’re wondering, Christian eventually prevailed in our disagreement: we’ll be buying a midsized car, not a compact. We don’t turn our cars around in three or four years; we run them into the ground. (Christian’s truck is a 1993 Ford Ranger compact, and has itself reached legendary status in our families.) So we’ll be buying in anticipation of teenage boys with long legs, who need a roomy back seat.

Uncles and aunts, would you care to share your airport/funeral home limo stories? Any other big-family people who have great stories about trying to get everyone from point A to point B? 🙂