Friday, April 6, 2012

Van go, or Van no?

C-son moved in last night.  I now have 7 children.  Wow.  Three of them have wisely flown the coop.  Four of them are on the premises.

The last time we had four children living at home, we bought a 15-passenger van.  Now we have four children at home once more.  We've been seriously talking "van" again.

Believe it or not, this was my idea.

There are various pro's and con's.  You might think, just six people.  Sounds like a mini-van would do.  But you probably haven't factored in this:
Some of our bicycles.   Only part of the collection.
Bikes are a huge part of our family life.  So are bicycle races.  If you have 6 people in a mini-van, there's no room for one bike, much less for 4 bikes for the 4 racers in our family.

Friends are another part of our family life.  If you have 6 people in a mini-van, you can't let two friends come along, also.  No, I argued back in the year 2000, as long as we were springing for a bigger vehicle, we were going to do it right; get something big enough that our family could actually use it. And we did.  We loved that van, for all of its gas-guzzling ways.

Should we do this again?  Pro's and con's are everywhere.

The money issue:  Could we get a van without going into debt now?  The answer is yes, sort of.   We actually have some money coming our way that happens to be about the size of a van-expense.  But the no-car-debt scenario would really be a shell game for us.   A year or so ago, we managed to pay off our mortgage by rolling the last bit of it into our existing home-equity loan.  Any money we put to a van payment really just delays the time to pay off our home loan, so it would translate to debt under a different name.

The money issue from another angle:  Now that K-daughter is a driver, what would another vehicle mean for our insurance rates?  The great unknown.  Certainly not reduce them.

The neighborhood assistance issue:   When we owned a behemoth of a van, we felt obligated to share it.  I mean this in a good way.  Missionaries arriving from the airport.  Our college rugby team.  People moving into new houses.  When we had much more vehicle than we needed, it was good to put it to common use.

The family trips issue:  Ten years ago, the van meant comfort and quiet on long trips.  The noisy kids at the back of the van could hardly be heard by the serene adults at the front of the van.  Most kids got their own bench seat and could sleep on the trips.  This kind of comfort was worth a lot to us.  On the other hand, we don't take as many long trips as we used to.  And when we do go places, business/army schedules often mean my husband and I need separate cars anyway.

Back to the bike races.  Four guys and four bikes.  And a mom who cheers.  And maybe a sister who cheers, too.  And two five-seater cars.  This was the crux of the discussion.  What will our family time be like if we stick at this scenario?

My husband and I, we walked and we talked.  We speculated.  We imagined.  And finally, we decided, a bike rack is cheaper.  And do-able.  We can survive with our two tiny cars.  A van might allow our family to be more comfortable a few times a year, but paying off the home loan earlier would allow my husband to be around his kids 7 days a week instead of just 2.

Van go?  Van, no.  And this is why:


  1. I had a similar problem (though not quite to your extent). My solution was to change up the bikes - now I've got a folding bike, and the kids bikes are small enough for now to fit in the car without too much trouble. I like not having something off the back of the car, and that the bikes fit inside, but I understand not wanting a massive vehicle either.

    1. My husband has a folding bike, too! He uses it for commuting, because he can fold it up and take it on Amtrak. It's one of (I'm guessing) 6 bikes he personally owns. But it's no good at a bike race. And the boys are also on real racing bikes. We can fit at most one of these bikes in the trunk of our current car. So sticking out, on the back of the car, that looks like the current option. - MM

  2. Aww, the loving expression on your son in the back of the picture's face as he rests his head on the shoulder of your new son is precious! Too cute.