Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How We Fit Eight in Our {Older} Minivan ~ Big Family Idea Bonanza Series


When we discovered I was pregnant with our sixth child, we had a bit of a panic attack. We owned a Chrysler Town & Country, a minivan that seats seven. We were about to have eight, but we weren’t prepared financially to buy another van. What to do?

We shopped around, new and used, and discussed to no end the logistics of driving two vehicles whenever we eight traveled together. All the options just cost too much money, either with the purchase of a new(er) vehicle or the increased use of gas.

Then, lightning struck. Why not eliminate the two bucket seats in the middle and get a second bench for the van? My initial thought was to bolt it down if necessary to make it fit. But once we removed the bucket seats we discovered that the back bench would slide forward and clip into the very place where the bucket seats had been. We then began to hope that we might find a bench from another Town & Country (or a Dodge Caravan) that would also clip in. But where could we get one?

You know, some junk yards aren’t really that junky. Of course, you can get a lot of …well, junk. But you can also find a lot of treasure if you pick and choose carefully. We found a rather large yard in our greater metropolitan area with a semi-polite staff. Within a half hour of searching, my husband located a bench in excellent condition.

Our cost was $30.

The success of this plan depends to some extent upon your number of children’s car seats. I'm not sure that three car seats will fit across a bench seat. However, with two bench seats, we were able to fit four car seats in, one on the end of each bench.

As far as children getting into the back bench, we found that there was plenty of room for a child to fit in the space between the door and the bench, especially when the child on the outside seat of the middle bench waited to fasten the seat belt until all were in the back bench. I was pleased to discover another opportunity to teach politeness and consideration. J


At the time, we thought it was a revolutionary idea. Now you can buy a new minivan with two bench seats. But if you can only afford a used van or you are trying to make your current minivan stretch, this might be a solution.








Note: To be sure that your car seats fit properly, you may wish to stop by your police department for a car seat check.

How well do you fit in your current vehicle? If / when you look for something else, what might it be?

Be sure you don’t miss a post in the Big Family Idea Bonanza Series. Sign up for an email subscription, follow this blog, or friend me on Facebook, all on the sidebar.

Other posts in this series ~
Intro
How to Fit Multiple Children in a Bedroom
Giving Our Children Private Spaces
Where Does a New Baby Go?



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This post may be linked up, with much gratitude, to these blog hops.

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48 comments:

  1. We have an older Honda Pilot with one row that's bench seating and two pop-up seats in the very back. Our three children fit very very snugly in that row with 2 car seats and a booster (we have yet to move the oldest to the back because we will lose cargo space.) If/when we have another child, it will be snug, but we'll still have the room I think.

    I appreciate that you didn't go into debt to buy a bigger vehicle. Most people I know immediately rush out and buy a minivan when they're pregnant with child #2! Crazy!

    Blessings to you,
    Keri
    http://www.growinginhisglory.com

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    1. We were crazy, Keri! This is the same minivan we bought when our first child, now 13, was six months old. At that time, I was driving a Sundance hatchback, and it was so difficult to get that car seat into and out of the middle of the back seat. We got a pretty good deal on the van; it had been a rental for six months, so it didn't have many miles but the price was lower than new. Looking back on it, we should have just made do for at least one more child. Sounds like your vehicle is doing just fine!

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  2. Hi! I don't comment much on blogs but I had to say we're about to add baby #6 to the family in a couple of weeks now. We also drive a mini van and did the same thing you did. We will also be able to fit eight! (If anyone's looking for a great wrecking yard in Eastern S. Dakota area look up Nordstrom's. When my husband told me we were getting a van seat from them I thought 'why would a department store have van seats?!' It's actually the biggest junk yard you'll ever see and they have great customer service too.)

    Meghan, you're blog is such a blessing to those who read it. Thanks for sharing your wit and wisdom with us.

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    1. Hi Amanda! Thanks so much for sharing such specific information. I hope it's helpful to another reader. I'm impressed, too - a van seat from Nordstrom! :) Thanks for your kind words as well. A little encouragement goes a long way.

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  3. A junk yard with semi-polite staff is a treasure indeed! My husband is always complaining about the way he's treated at salvage yards. Then again, I know some brothers in Christ who own a salvage yard with excellent service, so most places pale in comparison to theirs.

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    1. Businesses run by Christians typically have the best customer service, don't they? That's a good witness. Thanks so much for your comment.

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  4. Great solution! Have a great day!

    Mrs. Sarah Coller

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  5. What a resourceful solution and a wonderful way to save money. ~Alexis on behalf of everyone at a Moment with M.O.M.

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    1. Thanks, Alexis. We're going to have to get a new(er) van soon, but this allows us a bit more time to save for it. So glad you commented!

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  6. This is exactly what we did too. Then two years later our 7th was born and that is a wonderful story.

    I am glad you didn't go into debt, very good!

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    1. We haven't quite figured out how we could get nine into that van, if the need ever arose. :) I'm sure another vehicle would be needed. Thanks so much for reading!

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  7. I love it!!! We only have 3 kiddos at the moment and we drive a 2001 Honda Civic. It took some research to find carseats that were narrow enough to fit 3 in the back seat, but it was certainly worth the time it took to find them. We get comments from others all the time about how we should buy a bigger vehicle. I always tell them politely that we enjoy getting 38-40 miles per gallon out of a car that is ours free and clear. We even took a trip to Florida in the car with all 5 of us this past summer. We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies with things packed in every crack and crevice, but our trip was just as enjoyable as anyone else who had traveled there in a larger vehicle. :) Love your blog!!

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    1. We have driven many, many miles in our van, packed to the hilt. I never thought about looking like the Beverly Hillbillies, but we do joke from time to time about strapping someone to the roof! (Isn't that what they did with Granny?) Thanks so much for sharing, Michelle!

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  8. Oh that's Amazing! God knew you'd need a car that would seat 8 back when you bought it. I wonder if most mini-vans do this.

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    1. I would think it just depends on whether or not a bench seat will fasten in where the two bucket seats are in the middle. Thanks for commenting!

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  9. I loved our mini van and was sad to see it go, but with 8 kiddos and number 9 on the way we needed bigger! We now drive a 15 passenger van so that all the carseats fit and we still have room. Our oldest isn't quite 8 yet so all of the kids are still in carseats.

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    1. Wow! You are SuperWoman! Sounds like your big van is just the thing. So glad you're here, Erin! I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.

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  10. Oh how I wanted to keep our minivan I really loved driving it but when two came at once we had no choice but to sell the mini van and buy a passenger van. We found an old one from a church and that's what we now use. I'm praying for a new one for the summer. Our van is pretty old and doesn't cool well among other things.

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    1. Twins -- how fun! I'll be praying as well that the Lord blesses you with a spectacular deal! Thanks for sharing, Jenifer.

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  11. Thanks for the useful info! I have a 2002 Chrysler T&C (which I love so much even though it's old and squeaky), and we only have six in our family. However, we would sometimes love to be able to squeeze my parents, or my two nieces who are in car seats, in with us. As soon as I read your post, I called my husband (he delivers to several junkyards) and told him to start looking. This might be our solution! :-)

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    1. It might be tight with adults, Stephanie, but I hope it works for you. Thanks for suggesting another reason to add an extra seat!

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  12. We had a car for seven persons. The car dealer made an extra seat in the back. In the Netherlands belts are required, so he also made a seatbelt.

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    1. Isn't it wonderful when those "extras" work out so well? Seat belts are required here as well, so we made sure that the belts came with, and were attached to, the bench seat. I did wonder if we could have purchased just a bench from the car maker, but I'm sure it would have been more expensive than the junk yard. (And not as much of an adventure for my husband!)

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  13. What a great idea! We actually just purchased a Town & Country to accommodate our growing family and I'm thoroughly enjoying it!

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    1. When we bought ours used over 12 years ago, they were "The Cadillac of Minivans." I'm not sure they are that any longer, but they are a very reliable and comfortable vehicle. Our maintenance has been minimal. Thanks for stopping in, and thanks for the link-up!

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  14. I'm so glad that you linked this up with me over at WholeHearted Home this week. I love this post!!!! How familiar this sounded!! I am not sure that the mini vans were on the market yet back when our children were little because we had a 12 passenger that had been used as sort of a conversion van. It had a bench seat across the back which sat 3 and two bucket seats behind the driver's bucket seats. It was supposed to seat 7. We put all seven children with us making nine. We had 5 in child seats (or booster seats) at the time and then for awhile two children were belted together into one seat belt. Where there's a will there's a way!!

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    1. Definitely, Judith! Make do or go without! It's funny to think about how vehicles and the laws governing them have changed in the not-too-distant past. Thanks for sharing!

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  15. You are a budget/family minded genius! Way to go mama- and thank you for sharing on Photo Friday- I think other families might need to see that almost anything is possible and it doesn't have to set ya back $20,000!

    Hope to see you on the hop next week :)

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    1. I think the word you wanted to use was penny-pincher! :) Thanks for hosting the hop!

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  16. A new seat is a great idea! We are currently expecting our third, so we just upgraded from a Jeep TJ (which seats only four) to a Dodge Durango (seats seven). We talked about what vehicle would work for quite a while, and even measured quite a few seats. :)

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    1. Great research, Bonnie. When you're spending that much money, it only makes sense to be sure. So glad you shared!

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  17. You will have to call my husband and convince him to get a van! I want one so bad because 3 car seats across one row in our trailblazer is not fun! Thanks for sharing at Mom's Library.

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    1. Three car seats in a row is tough! Keep praying, Janine, and thanks for the link-up! :)

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  18. When we were pregnant with our 5th child, last year, I did a lot of homework! We would soon have 4 kids in carseats so we, like you, HAD to have the bench seat in the middle. We decided a Toyota Sienna was the right minivan for us. It took 6 months to find one in our budget, we drove 3 hours to Chicago to get it! We had the baby 4 days later! Whew, that was a close one! It's an exact science loading in and out, that's for sure! Lol!

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    1. Wow! Talk about perfect timing! I've seen some deals online, though, that would be worth driving for. So glad it worked out for you, Tiffany!

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  19. Thank you for sharing this at Thrifty Thursday! I love how you used the opportunity to teach politeness with your kids :)

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    1. Thanks, Jenn, and thanks for the link-up!

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  20. Last year in anticipation of a long road trip and not feeling very safe with 5 carseats strapped to the older tahoe we owned we decided to upgrade to a used 12 passenger van. It works well for us and on our trip we found out we were expecting #6. We're glad we don't have to be looking for a new vehicle right now and we hope to pay off the van this year if possible. It does use a lot of gas, but I don't go out very often anyway, so gas mileage isn't really a problem for now.

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    1. Congratulations on #6, Suanna! I have a friend who bought a used 15-passenger van when she was expecting her fifth because she couldn't fit three car seats across the back bench. Now you'll need to fill up the 12-passenger van. :)

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  21. Great idea! I love when people make do with what they have instead of always thinking they have to go into debt for something better. For anyone who technically has enough seats in their vehicle, but just cant get the car seats to fit, here's what we did.

    We had 2 & 3 year olds and huge convertible car seats in our '98 Ford Explorer. We found out we were expecting a third and couldn't afford a minivan (as much as I would have loved one), but we couldn't find any car seats that would fit in the middle of the two we already had.

    So we did some research and found out the Radian car seats should be narrow enough to fit three across. And they were! In fact, they ended up being so narrow that we could just use the infant carrier (bought when the oldest was born), between two Radians, for the new baby until she outgrew it. People looked at us like we were crazy spending $700+ for three car seats, but we certainly couldn't get a minivan for that price!

    Fast forward, now our kids are 5, 4, & 1 1/2 and our SUV broke down last fall. After several months of my husband trying to fix it, we finally decided to get a minivan. Praise the Lord we found one in our price range and only one year older then the exact one I was dreaming of back then! I love it! Now I know if we end up filling it up, we can fit as many as 6 car seats with those lovely Radians.

    I may not have gotten the car I wanted when I wanted it, but God always provides what we need, when we need it!

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    1. Great story, Christina! I've never heard of Radian carseats, but I totally see your reasoning in spending the money on those. It's like when you keep spending to repair a vehicle because the expense of the repair is far less than a monthly payment or you need a bit more time to save up. Thanks so much for sharing your circumstances!

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  22. I wonder if anyone has any ideas for vans with stow-in-go seating? We are so needing extra seats in our van. Also, how are you all managing as the girls "develop"? My girls are all getting very shapely, and we are finding that just squishing in is getting harder!

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    1. It is starting to get a bit tight, Val, and we'll need something bigger eventually. They're not big enough yet that we can't squeeze for trips around town, but come vacation time, I'm sure they'll want to spread out. We're hoping to get something bigger next year, so for now, we'll squeeze.

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  23. That's awesome story of how you found a bench seat to fit your needs! My family has an 8 seater car...which at one point wasn't enough room for all 9 of us but as we grow up it seems to be emptying out!

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  24. We have bought many car parts at salvage yards! We have two blue vehicles (I should say had - one now belongs to our oldest son, the other to our pastor) with red doors bought at salvage yards. One of those was a 1990 15 passenger van. We also have six children. We just recently parted with our 15 passenger van since 3 of our children are grown. The larger van was necessary for our camping and other excursions because, though you can fit 8 people in a mini-van or Honda Pilot there isn't much room left for 8 sleeping bags and backpacks, a tent etc : ) We now own a 2004 Honda Odyssey. We may still need the bench seat as we currently still have 7 people living at home...but it becomes 8 when they come home from college in the summer. Thanks for the great idea!

    Valentine's Day: A Change in Perspective

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