Family and city friendly work vehicle

I am looking for a van, truck or something else that I can carry my 3 yr old and/or plywood and lumber. I drive in manhattan on occasion so I need good handling and okay gas mileage to get the 90 miles there. The other problem is we don’t have a lot to spend. I dont really care how it looks if it fits the criteria. Anyone have any recommendations for a family work vehicle?

How big will the plywood and lumber pieces be?

Any 4-cylinder stick-shift pick-up truck…

The Baby! The baby! eeeEEEEKKKk, those trucks are not SAFE!!!

Yeah, I know…Nothing is “safe”…leave the kid at home…

4ft x 8ft plywood. And no longer than 10ft long lumber

A Honda Element might fill the bill for you. I don’t think the Honda makes the Element model any more, so this might drive down the prices of used models. However, the engine, suspension and drivetrain parts interchange with other Honda models. The interior is rugged and designed for hauling, but there are reasonably comfortable seats for passengers. The Element also came in rather funky colors. I happen to like these colors, but apparently many people didn’t. This helps drive down the resale value.

Here is another possibility if you want utility at a good price–a Pontiac Aztek. These cars are no longer made and were considered by most people as being quite ugly. However, if you can find a good one, the price should be reasonable.

From experience, a minivan with the seats folded into the floor (if available) or removed can haul plywood and lumber easily. The roof rack is handy for 2x4’s as well. It’s a good, comfortable family hauler with okay gas mileage the rest of the time. The only problem is if you need to simultaneously transport your child and large plywood sheets at the same time it’s not going to happen–on those occasions I have traveled solo. Minivan prices depreciate fairly quickly so a used one shouldn’t set you back too far–but always have potential purchases looked over by a mechanic of your choosing. We bought a used Chrysler Town & Country and have been happy with it these past 7 years.

A Tacoma double cab or something like it?
Expect a ‘truck’ ride, though. It definitely is a compromise. They definitely do not handle like a regular car but it is great to go to home depot, buy something and not wonder how you’re gonna get it home. I love, while doing a home project, being able to toss whatever you want to get rid of in the back and stop by the dump on your way to work.

Any long wheel base 4 cylinder pick up should work fine for your needs if the only passenger is your 3 year old. I use to own a Mazda pickup and often used it for the type hauling you’re talking about. I even hauled 13 square of shingles (2500-3000 pounds) on my Mazda one time when I was going to roof my house. I had to drive slowly though since the front wheels were barely touching the road. A short wheel base model would probably work, but the long wheel base model would be better especially if you ever wanted to haul longer material. Those smaller trucks are more rugged than some people want to give them credit for.

Fordman talking about short beds made me think of these hitch bed extender attachments that enable you to hang stuff outside of the bed such that you can still carry long stuff home.
It basically supports whatever you’re carrying so it doesn’t fall off the truck. No doubt it works for pieces of plywood and some lumber.
You could get one of those trucks that have really short beds and yet still be able to carry stuff back from home depot.

WRT small pickups, you should check local laws about young children and front seats.

The Aztek doesn’t have all that much interior room. If you can carry the wood on the roof, it might be worth a look. On second thought, don’t look at it. You’ll turn into a pillar of stone.

Seriously, it would help to know haw much you want to spend, or what the top end is. Not a lot to you could be oodles to someone else. Numbers aren’t subject to interpretation.

I hear ya JT. Lookin no more than $7000.
Thank you all for your help and advice!
Looked at aztek today, i dont mind how it looks. it’s 6’ to the back door with the seats down. Plywood would fit w the door down though.
I also looked at a 2001 VW Eurovan. Perfect compromise for a kid and lumber, but I’m worried about how many miles it has on it - 144000
Anyone had experience with these?

The Eurovan has a very poor reliability and repair record, so I would stay away friom it. The Aztek is butt ugly, but practical. However, since Pontiac is out of business, some parts that are unique to the car (mostly body and trim) may not be available if and when you need them.

Pleople who buy orphan cars develop a good rapport with the local “automotive recycling” yards!

Eurovan is probably the worst of the worst for VW reliability. And that is really bad as VW does not have a good reputation.

A close friend had a timing chain issue(common) with 2002 Eurovan that resulted in $4500 in repairs. They also have early transmission failures often and the repair place wanted to tack another $3000 for a new transmission since they were pulling it to remove the motor anyway.


“However, since Pontiac is out of business, some parts that are unique to the car (mostly body and trim) may not be available if and when you need them.”

The Buick Rendezvous is the less ugly sister of the Aztek. While the nose and tail are different, they are essentially the same vehicles.