Ask the Moms, Part 13 – the twinmobile

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Of the many, many things that you must have double of when your twins arrive, one non-negotiable is rear-facing carseats. Immediately, a lesson in: how can two such tiny people require such large… stuff? All of this stuff, in particular those carseats, often lead twin parents-to-be to contemplate the purchase of a new car. Oh, but what to do? Cave in to the call of the minivan? Rage against the dying of the light and get a small SUV? Get creative and find a way to keep the sedan? All of these things are possible, and everyone finds their own way to make it work. The HDYDI moms are no exception. We run the gamut from Toyota Corolla to Chrysler Town & Country and back again.

First, you have to think about how much driving you actually do. If you live in a more urban environment that lends itself to a lot of walking, or maybe you telecommute or live close to work and daycare. In that case, you can probably make a smaller car work just fine about 95% of the time. Though the infant carseats take up a lot of space, remember that they’re only rear-facing (the biggest space hog) for the first year or so. Once they’re forward-facing in those convertible carseats, they won’t jam into the driver’s seat quite as badly (of course, then they’ll start kicking you, but that’s another story). On the other hand, if you know that you do a lot of driving, you’re really going to have to make sure you can comfortably fit yourself, your kids, and all of their stuff into that car. Remember there is, at the very least, a double stroller to contend with. Forget about the times you have to bring two pack & plays with you… or luggage… or the dogs…

The truth of the matter is that there’s lots of good options to be had, and everyone has a different set of priorities. Here’s some options, with a few pros and cons:

The Minivan

I know, I know. You’re still in your 20s, a first-time mom. Way too cool for a minivan. You just can’t bring yourself to do it. Believe me when I say there are a number of converts amongst the HDYDI moms. Myself, included (yes, that’s me at 34 weeks pregnant with my new van…). Oh, how I love my dual power sliding doors and power rear liftgate. I call it robo-car, as I walk towards it and hit all of the buttons on my remote. Those doors are really great, especially when you have an infant carrier in each arm, and the people who parked on either side of you have gotten a bit cozy. You can configure the seats a bunch of different ways, as most models have the third row that folds down flat, or the captain’s chairs that disappear into the floor or are easily removed. Tons of space for carseats, strollers, luggage, groceries, and a dog or two (not that my mini schnauzer takes up much space, but still). Yes, it’s a big honkin’ car, and you’ll feel uber-suburban when you first drive it. But you’ll never go back…

On the downside, they are generally not great on gas mileage, and I don’t know of any hybrid minivans on the market. Only one (the Toyota Sienna) has available AWD. They are fairly big, though some are a little more compact (the Mazda, in particular). And even in a minivan, if you have two rear-facing carseats, you will not be able to get in the sliding door and into the 3rd row of seats. My solution? I always have at least one side of the 60/40 third row folded down. I take advantage of my fancy power liftgate and my own mother will get in through the back and sit in the 3rd row so she can talk to the kids on the way home from the airport. 😉

And if you already have another child or are thinking of having another one in the lifetime of this car purchase, the minivan is really the way to go. It gets VERY hard to put a 3rd carseat in any other type of car.

The SUV

Most twin moms I know, who can’t bear to go the minivan route, go with the SUV. The smaller SUVs are generally better on gas mileage, obviously, but check to see the size of that back seat and how cramped you’ll be sitting in front. The full-sized SUVs will not have that problem as much. The nice part is that you still have the large trunk for plenty of storage space. Everyone can sit pretty comfortably, and there are tons of bells and whistles to be had. You can likely get 4WD/AWD for those who live in climates where winter is an issue. There are also a number of hybrid SUVs coming on the market, including Ford and Toyota. Some of the larger SUVs also have the option for a third row of seating, but know that the third row may never be used while you have kids in carseats. Check the configuration, but it may be nearly impossible to get back there. Still, though, some have a 3rd row that folds flat, so you have a larger trunk space, but the row is there if you really needed it.

Cons include the fact that some SUVs are quite high off the ground, so you have to really lift that carseat up high to get it into the base, not to mention get the stroller into the back. And, obviously, gas mileage can be a real issue with some of them. This is less of a problem with the small SUVs, or something like the Subaru Forester, but there’s of course a tradeoff with less space.

The Sedan

There’s nothing that says you can’t put two carseats in a mid-sized or large sedan. Models vary widely, so definitely check to see how big the backseat is. But since nearly all cars since 2001 are required to have LATCH connectors for carseats, you don’t necessarily need to ditch the car you already have. Just because you have two babies on the way doesn’t mean you’re required to have a big car! Many sedans have nice, roomy backseats, and even a respectably-sized trunk that can fit most double strollers (though perhaps consider some of the ones that fold up particularly compactly). If you have a sedan that will fit those carseats without having your knees above the steering wheel, and it has a good trunk, there’s no reason you can’t take the kids all over, and even make a trip to the grocery store. You can also consider getting a hatchback or wagon, which doesn’t much change the seating configuration, but does make for a little more trunk space.

On the other hand, in many sedans, space will be very tight, especially for people over about 5’6″. You won’t be able to haul as much stuff around (maybe that’s not such a bad thing?), and the dog is going to stay home. And, as LauraC said, “riding in the back between the two Roundabouts is the ULTIMATE bitch seat.” :-)

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9 thoughts on “Ask the Moms, Part 13 – the twinmobile”

  1. before we started trying we decided to purchase a new(ish) car. we went with a subaru outback because we love subis and we love AWD for our trips to the sierras. I git rid of a huge honking toyota 4runner with no real safety features and we were really pleased with the subi. then we found out about the twins. I still love my subi but it is sometimes a tad tight in there. the great thing is tim and i are short people so we are really comfortable when we drive places. the rough part was the first few months when one of us rode in the back with them to check/entertain/ etc.

    for trips we have a yakima box for the top and we really use it. especially when our 60 pound german shepherd comes along (another before twins’ decision, but she is great, no worries there). we also have bikes racks for top and a hitch thingy for future hauling of things , what things i do not know.

    fairly good gas mileage, awesome handling and safety feautures, would not change it except for a wee bit more room which the newer ones may have been designed to give.

    but man, automatic sliding doors and a rear lift sound heavenly when contemplating the loading unloading of babies and BOB. go with your bad self, minivan momma.

  2. Great roundup! I’m sure we’ll eventually move out of our sedan (like when we move up to the Regents or get a dog) so I love hearing about our future car.

  3. Yep, that’s me “raging against the dying of the light”! I have to say, the Toyota Highlander (with 3rd row of seats) is not a bad compromise. That said, if we had a third child anytime soon, we’d have to move up again.

  4. How timely – Husband and I were just discussing in the way into the office this morning. We have a small driveway with retaining walls so I think a minivan with a sliding door is more practical. He’s starting to bend – but only if I drive it. :) I expect I would have won anyway once the twins were born and he tried to pack them up into our Accord for a trip to Grandma’s.

  5. Our twin “family car” vehicular transition tree is as follows:

    Born into (not in!) a Mercury Sable

    Segued to a used Volvo 240 (’93) station wagon (which I LOVED) when the Sable was dying a slow death (Babies age: 3)

    Dragged kicking and screaming into the world of the minivan (which admittedly, I now LOVE) used 2002 Honda Odyssey (Big kids age: 6 1/2) We’ve had it a little less than 3 months and it IS very nice to be able to seat other folks in it!

    Hubby’s ’91 Honda Civic has always had a second set of booster seats, and we’ve had no problems with him driving them around in his car as need has arisen…but we DO feel much safer with them (and hubby too, for that matter) in a bigger car!

  6. Thats me! 25, first babies, and first car.
    I fought tooth and nail against a minivan. I proposed a boxy stationwagon, anything else….But after some practical talk. I am the proud owner of a Toyota Sienna. The auto sliding were such a help with two newborn infant carriers in the freezing cold. I love this darned car.

    I just feel like a sucker, who knew there was a power hatch option?

  7. Thats me! 25, first babies, and first car.
    I fought tooth and nail against a minivan. I proposed a boxy stationwagon, anything else….But after some practical talk. I am the proud owner of a Toyota Sienna. The auto sliding doors were such a help with two newborn infant carriers in the freezing cold. I love this darned car.

    I just feel like a sucker, who knew there was a power hatch option?

  8. I had to trade in my beautiful Toyota Prius for a minivan last year. I had one child and two on the way. There was no way 2 car seats and a 3rd child were fitting in that back seat. I still mourn the loss of my non-gas-guzzling baby. And now with the price of gas, I’m really crying at the pump. But…I do love my Toyota Sienna. And those dual sliding doors are, indeed, a life saver when you’re carrying 2 infant car seats. Plus you can control them by the remote which is awesome.

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