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From 3 to family of 5... What to buy?

Currently own:
2006 Chevy Suburban (140,000 miles).
2000 Saab 95 wagon (120,000 miles).
Commercial vehicle: 2001 Econoline 350 with utilimaster tool body (48,000 miles)
No payments, all are current on inspection and I’d say “good” condition for age. Well cared for.

QUESTION: We now have a family of 5.
Do we run the Suburban into the ground? Or, do we somehow leverage these three assets to purchase one family vehicle? If so, what do we buy?
Needs to do well in snow/salt, have ample cargo space, will only be used for majority around town driving younger children. Prefer minimal payment, if necessary.
Buy? Lease? Not opposed to lease, and dare I say not entirely opposed to mini-van option. (Did I really say that!?) Would love any suggestions (mini-van and non mini-van route, please!). Thanks in advance!

Keep the Suburban, sell the others. Put the money in the bank and add to that account, a new car monthly payment. Use money from the account to make necessary repairs to the Suburban. When something major happens to the Suburban, or a whole lot of little things are needed all at once, then trade it in on a mid sized sedan. By then, you should have enough money in the account to cover most or all the cost of a new vehicle.

Am I correct in thinking that the Econoline is being used for your business? Am I correct in assuming that it’s an “asset” in the business and you claim its operating expenses as business expenses? Does the “asset” improve your access to sufficient operating capital loans? Are you depreciating the Econoline IAW accepted accounting practices?

If my assumptions are correct, and if the Subrurban is in decent shape, maintained, and affordable as a family vehicle, you may want to dump the Saab, save whatever you get for it (it won’t be millions) and use it to maintain the Suburban. If my assumptions are correct, getting rid of the Econoline is IMHO not a good idea.

It’s time for the infamous minivan. A used one with 50k are reasonable and serve multiple purpose filled by the gas hog and SAAB.

You said that it needs to do well in the snow and that you prefer a minimal payment. Given that, I would just keep the Suburban. If you keep up with maintenance/basic care and deal with wear & tear work as needed, 140K miles is not all that many these days.

Otherwise, you do want a minivan. With 5 kids, nothing else will compete with it, even a little bit. If you do have to deal with a lot of snow look to end up with a second set of wheels for winter tires and look for AWD versions.

Keep the Suburban…sell the Saab. The Suburban still has years of reliable life left as long as the preventative maintenance is done.

Aside from fuel economy, the Suburban is pretty much ideal for what you need. Do as @missileman says.

A Suburban can be fixed almost indefintely, while the Saab is a liability in that respect. I agree with others; gey rid of the Saab and maintain the Suburban until it costs to much to keep. You’ll know when that occurs. Then trade.

"Aside from the economy"
This is a big difference. The Suburban makes sense from a size point of view, it certainly doesn’t make sense from an efficiency and convenience point of view. Minivans are so much more practical for loading and unloading families and their gear then a raised truck, there is no comparison . All recent vans have traction control and with snow tires go any where, any time on paved roads and do so with 20 to 30% better gas mileage. Unless you tow, go off road camping and have stock in Exxon, I would do what many other families of five do, Odessey or Sienna and one in awd for more security. Guys like trucks so many will disagree, but trucks are only practical if you actually use them as a truck. Daughter picked up a used Sienna with 60 k, it’s still purring at 110k.

But dagosa, they already own the Suburban, and know its service history. It costs them nothing to keep it (other than its thirst for fuel). Buying any used vehicle comes with some risks.
If they currenty owned neither, and were asking which would be a better choice, I’d agree with you.
As for their buy verses lease question: buy. Always.

I the “minimal payment” preference wasn’t in there then I would have just said minivan. But if money is an issue it’s almost always cheaper to keep whatever devil you have - so long as you haven’t let it go to heck.

Since the vehicle will be used mostly around town, the annual mileage should be low. Gasoline costs are not as big an issue under those circumstances. Keep the Suburban for family drives. Eventually, a minivan will be the best vehicle. You can’t move between rows in an SUV easily, but you can in a minivan. That can be important when you take care of small children on the road.

For each 10,000 miles drive, gasoline will cost $975 more for the Suburban compared to a new Odyssey. If it is strictly a money decision, the Suburban wins. But the Odyssey does make sense when the Suburban must be replaced.


I agree, they know the service history and they own the truck. Personally, I don’t put a lot of stock in that line of reasoning as we are assuming it has had good service and was driven correctly. In our opinions, we don’t know the service history. A 130k Suburban, regardless is not cheap to run. You don’t think driving a 130K suburban doesn’t come without risk vs a used Toyota van with 60k ( for example) ? I think of one deadly expense, now regardless of the maintenance…gasoline. Significant difference in monthly costs and guaranteed ! Give me one of these vans every time that I can research myself before I buy. I have supreme confidence in one of my choice ( there are many off lease out there) over a 130k Suburban for yearly expense.

We are also talking about moving two, possibly three cars (one a SAAB, not highly regarded either by most here) into this one family vehicle. I have never been “taken” on any used vehicle bought. All have been quite serviceable and no different then if I had been the previous owner. In 40 years of car ownership I bought just two new vehicles for myself, the rest have been used. It can be done by any knowledgable person.

Lastly, it’s a primary mover of children around town. It is much safer and more conveient and cheaper on gas for a parent to move several young kids around town, in a minivan. A no brainer IMHO. Btw, get one with a backup camera ! I think it will last longer from this point on and well worth any initial added expense.

Last observation. Assume city mileage only, and just for comparison over a set distance, there is a conservative comparison of $60 vs $100 spent on gasoline for the Suburban Per week. Considering city mileage (17 or 19 vs 10 or 12)only and considering I am very bias to begin, my numbers could be suspect…but not by much. .

A per week difference of $40 then is not out of line. . 52 times $40 is a difference $2080 per year in gasoline alone. In just a few years, you have more then made up the additional cost and you have now a newer vehicle worth more in trade in on another minivan at that time…instead of another Suburban. :wink: I believe my figures are closer then JT’s as we are considering city mileage only. I use a more economical Sienna and I am buying used.

I used average gas mileage figures. I recalculated using city gas mileage. The savings per 10,000 miles is $910. Btw, the city mileage for the Odyssey is 19 and 18 for the Sienna. I stuck with the Odyssey since it caused the greatest difference in cost.


Mileage difference…
the reason our numbers apoear to differ is, I use the comparison in dollar terms which means the actual miles driven will be 20 k per year on the car. I did that because they have a 8 year old Suburban with 140kmiles. They are putting then about 20k per year. I used the estimate of that number of miles which means yours are for 10k miles, mine are for 20k…our figures are very close !!! I assume the van will replace it for 20k miles per year while yours are restricted to 10000 miles. So, it isn’t just the city mileage which is all I did mentioned but miles driven per year. I also used 2010 model comparisons. The Sienna was better then, as that’s my recomended purchase.
Plus, the higher the gas prices go, the bigger the savings. They are going up as we speak.
Purchasing a used Sienna Van2010 with 60k miles is well worth the investment !!

@dagosa, I focused on the claim that the family ride would mostly be used around town. I think 10,000 miles per year is more likely that 20,000 miles per year if that is correct. But even at $2000 more for gas each year, it takes a very long time to pay off the purchase price of a used minivan unless it, too, has over 100,000 miles.

A used Sienna. 2010 base (my suggestion) is about $6k retail more then a used 2006 base Suburban. An Odessey will be similar. That’s why I said a “few” (3) years to recover the price difference in gas alone. We are selling the Suburban as OP suggested, as maintenance other then gas will be greater for a 130k monster as well.

I am obviously bias but those numbers are from NADA book values. I will go the other way on use and say, because the Suburban was used a little less then 20k per year, a more economical, more convenient, more reliable IMHO Toyota van with half the mileage will be used over 20k miles per year. But that’s just me; I always take the more comfy and economical car myself.

The difference in the advantage of gas mileage in the Van increases with every penny increase in price of gas. And, you have a more valuable car to trade at the end of three years, thus actually saving money…

2 adults so I assume 2 cars are needed for daily use? Mom/dad have jobs? Need to be in 2 places? Is final tally 2 different cars? Sell 3, buy 2 different? 5 separate sales transactions is no fun

What about a Sienna/Odessey and a great set of winter tires on rims for the snow/ice driving. Depending on how much snow they get it might not be a need for 4WD/AWD. You can find a Sienna with AWD or there’s always the Highlander/Pilot or similar midsize crossover with a 3rd row. It would be nice to get a response from the OP so we know more.