Am I crazy?

Hi, I just signed in with the hope that I could get some clear-headed advice. My wife thinks I’m nuts. We have a 2008 Toyota minivan as our family car (115,000 mi). I’ve had the itch to down-size our vehicle to something smaller, a wagon, more fuel efficient, etc. Here’s what I’ve really been looking at: a 2010 Volkswagen Sportwagen TDI that gets 35+ mileage. We have three kids 10, 8 & 7. Most of our driving is around town, but we have at least two long haul trips during the year (14 hour one way). I know there’s controversy about owner cost on diesels but I’m tantalized by the prospect of some savings in the long haul (consumer reports lists VW Jetta Sportwagen as excellent in this). Could my family simplify, downsize and live in this thing for a long trip? Three kids in backseat? Am I nuts for wanting to get rid of our minivan?

I’d look at the long term. In 5 years time, do you think that a Jetta sportwagon will be roomy enough for 2 adults and 3 teenagers, vs. a minivan? I don’t.


CR might say the Jetta is excellent . . .

But, as a mechanic, it has been my experience that older European vehicles are more problematic and costly to maintain than a Toyota

Not to mention that your choices for shops able to maintain the VW diesel properly are far more limited versus the toyota van

As far as diesels go . . . diesels require much better maintenance than a gasoline engine. Lax maintenance will come back to bite you in the butt. If you buy this car, I strongly advise you to follow the severe maintenance schedule.

If VW says their automatic transmission is sealed and doesn’t need to be service, that is BS. Every 30K, you should service it, if you want it to live a long and healthy life

Us the proper coolant, and service it approximately every 5 years. Some manufacturers say the initial coolant charge is good for 10 years, but that is also BS in my book

Use proper oil . . . most likely a full synthetic. I advise you to forego extended oil change intervals and change it every 5K.

That 3rd row in the Jetta will be torture . . . bad idea

BTW . . . you ARE certifiably insane for wanting to get rid of a 2008 Sienna with only 115K

You drive 20k each yr. and u have 1 vehicle? Ur kids are getting bigger and u want a smaller vehicle?

Not many people are cut out to look after a used Jetta over the long term. Generally, maintenance and repairs will run about twice that of a Toyota, so any gas savings will be rapidly wiped out by the additional care required.

A 4 year old Sportwagon will just be entering its high cost care phase; the original owner or lessor is just dumping it in time.

I can’t certify if you’re crazy, but buying any used Volkswagen is a real crapshoot. Besides, you will appreciate the additonal room of the Toyota as the kids get bigger.

Keep the Toyota and keep your excess driving to a minimum. We have several friends who own Toyota vans and they are essentially bulletproof with normal maintenance.

3 teenagers crammed in the back? If you’re not insane now, I have a prediction for you!
Either that or the family rebels on you and brings and end to the family trips. At those ages, those are precious times spent together. They will soon be going their own ways. Personally, I wouldn’t do anything to drive them away from family times together. This same topic comes up in the boating forums…

If you want one car for everything, likely best to stick with the current van. It will handle larger kids, and they will grow up pretty fast. Perhaps you should look at a small car for saving some fuel money on trips where the whole family isn’t in the car. I have an '03 Honda Civic that gets 40 mpg on trips on the interstate, and 32+ mpg for in town driving. My Civic is the 4dr. with a manual transmission and the back seat is plenty roomy for anyone 5’10" or less. A used Corolla would be fine too.

When you are carrying 5 people the Toyota Van you have works fine and is fuel efficient considering the load and number of people it is moving from point a to b. Where the van wastes fuel is trips and outings that involve only the driver or the driver and 1 passenger.

The TDI Sportswagen is not “roomy” and about the same as the Civic mentioned above. If you buy it keep the current van, and use the best car for the particular situation. A 2 hour trip for everyone in the Sportswagen might work fine, but 14 hours - not so good.

Will a second car, perhaps a Scion FRS, fit in the budget?
Hey, if you’re gonna be thought nuts, go for it!

Sorry, you’re nuts.

I’d take an Asian-make car over a European car every day of the week.
With the price of diesel fuel where it is in the US you won’t save any money overall.
I think UncleTurbo has the best idea: get a small 2nd car.

Let’s have three cheers for us crazys!!!

Crazy: definition: a word boring people use to describe fun people.

I agree with @texases and @the_same_mountainbike. Keep on scheming because with 3 kids you are going to need every creative idea you can find. This idea, however, is not going to work. You do need a second, small and efficient car for errands. The van will run for quite a while, and your kids will learn to drive with it. Keep it.

When you want to drive hundreds and hundreds of miles on a family trip, and you are worried about the old van making it, look into renting something through Costco’s website or Orbitz or something similar. I often rent cars to drive when I want to go a lot of miles in a short time, and I’m convinced it’s a money saver in the long view, because of the wear you don’t put on your own car.

You’re not crazy for wishing you could do with a smaller, more efficient car. The problem is you have three kids and they are all growing. The rear seat of a Jetta is not made for three adults (or large kids). The middle position is very uncomfortable, even for short trips, and there isn’t enough total width. They will be rubbing shoulders the whole way.

Your minivan is about the most efficient vehicle with sufficient space. Only a very large car has a rear seat wide enough for three, and the middle position is often uncomfortable even in those. Those big cars will get no better gas milage than your minivan and carry a lot less people and stuff. For long trips they might not even have enough luggage space.

When your kids eventually move out you can downsize, but in the meanwhile you’re going to need what you’ve got.

From a financial standpoint, it’s almost always more cost effective to keep what you have instead of replacing it.

From an environmental standpoint, it’s almost always better for the environment to keep what you have instead of replacing it.

Having other considerations besides financial impact and environmental impact doesn’t necessarily make you crazy.

With 3 kids, no way! A 4 year-old Volkswagon will run you into the poorhouse with maintenance and repair costs, and that back seat ain’t gonna be big enough for the kids in a couple years, if it is now. I’d keep the van.

Yep, me thinks maybe mid-life crisis. Just get a sporty second car and enjoy.

I think we found one, guys . . .

sorry, op, but you ARE wacko for wanting to trade that Sienna for the Jetta wagon

Crqzy? Maybe, maybe not… But trading the van for the VW would seem very impractical from any angle.

Trading a reliable Toyota van for a smaller VW diesel, which I suspect will be far less reliable . . .


No doubt about it

Keep the minivan. Your children are already too big to ride in the rear seat together. If you need another vehicle before your children move out, get another minivan.