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Discussion Starter #1
My wife and I have 4 kids and twins on the way. We finally conceded that there is no minivan or SUV that will work well for our family as we will have two infant seats, one convertible car seat, and two booster seats. Everything but a full size van requires that the second row be able to fold forward to access the third row. That doesn't work well with car seats installed there.

When it comes to full size passenger vans, it seems like the options are really the Ford Econoline/Transit, the Chevy/GMC versions, the Mercedes/Dodge Sprinter, or the Nissan NV (from what I can tell the Dodge Promaster doesn't yet have a passenger version).

Given that we are very new to this class of vehicle we would greatly appreciate knowing the pros and cons of these different vehicles. So far, all we know really know is that we appreciate things like backup sensors/cameras, headrests, airbags, reliability and gas mileage (although it will likely be driven about 10k per year). We are trying to determine the differences in costs as well (cost of vehicle, maintenance, etc).

Finally, we need to determine the vehicle before the twins arrive this summer.

Can you please help us determine the best vehicle for our family? Thanks.
 

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I owned a Sprinter from when it was new in '08 until 12-30-13 when it was totaled.
I'm currently deciding on what to replace it with.
I'd say that for the stuff you want on it if you live close to a MB dealer that services Sprinters it would be your best choice, but be prepared to shell out over $50,000 even at invoice and expect some expensive repairs over the years.
I'm holding out to see and drive the Transit, but I've narrowed it down to one of those two since the Nissan and Promaster seem to me to be sub par for a family vehicle (I go with the cargo and have it up-fitted as a family travel van, but your needs are better suited to the passenger version)
The Ford may turn out to be just as nice at a lower cost of ownership and purchase, but nobody really knows...it really has not much in common with past European Transits.
I wouldn't even consider the old style E150 which will be dropped next year or the Chevy, once you get spoiled by a tall van it's hard to go low again.
Messing around with your child seats and kids and gear while standing up will save you $ on physical therapy or Chiropractic care!
 

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I've sat in the Ford Transit at my local auto show and I was impressed by it. It seemed comfortable, not super ugly, and functional. It is the industry leader so I think that tells you something about how good it is as well.

I'd stay away from the Promaster at the moment, although I think they are coming out with a passenger one soon.

The others are worth a look though.

Congrats on the twins on the way!
 

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I've sat in the Ford Transit at my local auto show and I was impressed by it. It seemed comfortable, not super ugly, and functional. It is the industry leader so I think that tells you something about how good it is as well.

I'd stay away from the Promaster at the moment, although I think they are coming out with a passenger one soon.

The others are worth a look though.

Congrats on the twins on the way!
Quesiton, why stay away from the ProMaster?
I was interested in it and seen they already had it selling in the eastern part of the world as a Fiat and so far there's been nothing but positive things to be said about it.
 

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Congrats on the twins, my dad was a twin! A full size van is the way to go. I would stay away from a conversion van because they plummet in value right after you buy one. I have had three full sized passenger vans and loved them except the gas mileage. Mine were all used and I saved a ton of dough by buying them that way. Todd
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I owned a Sprinter from when it was new in '08 until 12-30-13 when it was totaled.
I'm currently deciding on what to replace it with.
I'd say that for the stuff you want on it if you live close to a MB dealer that services Sprinters it would be your best choice, but be prepared to shell out over $50,000 even at invoice and expect some expensive repairs over the years.
I'm holding out to see and drive the Transit, but I've narrowed it down to one of those two since the Nissan and Promaster seem to me to be sub par for a family vehicle (I go with the cargo and have it up-fitted as a family travel van, but your needs are better suited to the passenger version)
The Ford may turn out to be just as nice at a lower cost of ownership and purchase, but nobody really knows...it really has not much in common with past European Transits.
I wouldn't even consider the old style E150 which will be dropped next year or the Chevy, once you get spoiled by a tall van it's hard to go low again.
Messing around with your child seats and kids and gear while standing up will save you $ on physical therapy or Chiropractic care!
What kind of repairs are we talking with a Sprinter?

Really curious why you think the Nissan and Promaster have sub par family experiences. I have yet to look at the Promaster but the Nissan seems to be more of a SUV-like experience with a car-like dash, headrests, airbags, etc.

By tall van, do you mean a high roof? I hadn't even thought about the height being an advantage when loading kids in car seats. I really appreciate that insight.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I've sat in the Ford Transit at my local auto show and I was impressed by it. It seemed comfortable, not super ugly, and functional. It is the industry leader so I think that tells you something about how good it is as well.

I'd stay away from the Promaster at the moment, although I think they are coming out with a passenger one soon.

The others are worth a look though.

Congrats on the twins on the way!
I did see the Transit briefly at the auto show but it was before we fully realized we would have to go to a full size van and it was completely roped off. Do you have any pics of the interior or remember the set up for the rear? Did it have headrests in the rear? I'm thinking they have made it more passenger friendly than the old bench seats of the Econoline?
 

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Congrats on the twins, my dad was a twin! A full size van is the way to go. I would stay away from a conversion van because they plummet in value right after you buy one. I have had three full sized passenger vans and loved them except the gas mileage. Mine were all used and I saved a ton of dough by buying them that way. Todd
Thank you and everyone else for the congrats on the twins! We are excited but it has definitely made the vehicle options a lot more challenging.

What do you mean by conversion vans? Is that a cargo van when someone puts rear seats in? If so, I think I would agree with you that I would prefer a vehicle designed to carry my kids.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I have had three full sized passenger vans and loved them except the gas mileage. Mine were all used and I saved a ton of dough by buying them that way. Todd
It seems like the only way to get anything decent on the cost of fuel in these vans is by going diesel (which some debate really makes a difference when you add in the other costs) or going CNG. Do you believe these options make a difference?

I agree that going used often helps with depreciation but it looks like if I go that route, that I really don't save a ton unless I go with a really old and high miles Econoline, Chevy or Sprinter. Do you mind me asking what you have bought and how much it saved?
 

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I did see the Transit briefly at the auto show but it was before we fully realized we would have to go to a full size van and it was completely roped off. Do you have any pics of the interior or remember the set up for the rear? Did it have headrests in the rear? I'm thinking they have made it more passenger friendly than the old bench seats of the Econoline?
It was roped off at the Detroit show as well, but it was labled "prototype" and was an obvious one-off conversion. I'm guessing that the one tmillar sat in also had rear seating that was nothing like the real wagon will have.
 

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What kind of repairs are we talking with a Sprinter?

Really curious why you think the Nissan and Promaster have sub par family experiences.

By tall van, do you mean a high roof?

To make modern clean burning diesels fuel efficient and compliant with emission standards a bunch of things are added to the engine both mechanical and electronic. Very few independent mechanics are able to read the codes or willing to work on them, so you're at the mercy of the less than 200 MB dealers
that service Sprinters. That combined with the high cost of parts make these expensive engines to maintain, and for most people wipes out any fuel savings.
The Promaster I examined pretty closely at the Detroit show and at a dealership was like a cheap knock-off of a Sprinter. My impression was that for a fleet it would save money, but at the expense of the comfort of the driver. Also the slider felt like a cheap toy, with the sheet metal "oil-canning" as I open and shut it. The steering wheel position is weird, and does not tilt.
Yes, I mean tall in the caser of the Sprinter, and medium or tall for the Transit.
HUGE difference standing upright while lifting and doing things. Even peeing into the porta potty is like pi$$ing at home when you can stand up straight!
In your case diaper changes can be accomplished with ease.
 

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large family + econoline

Darren,

We have a family of eight as well ranging from 10 years old down to one year old. I feel your pain. We fought back and forth for six months before number six came along and rendering our mini-van useless. Simply put, there is nothing better for the money than an E350 for this kind of work. We even managed to get through snowmaggeddon this year with the stock tires that were six years old.

To be honest, we just looked around on CraigsList, cars.com, autotrader.com, etc to find a used 2008-2010 E350 with the V8 and around 50k-75k miles. If you are going to put only 10k miles a year on your van, lower miles are better, but the later models of the V8 can go a long time before giving significant problems. That is what my research dictated to me anyways. We found a 2008 E350 XLT on CL for 13500 with 36k miles on it. You just can't argue with that. If anything, the value of the van has increased some according to KBB.

Now, if you plan on towing a travel trailer to take your family camping, then there are two things you need to consider: 1) Get the V10...Period. 2) Tow a trailer that 7-8k pounds loaded with that V10 or else get a hybrid camper like a Rockwood Roo.

I wait patiently for the Transit to be released so that I can put my family in a more modern van, but for now, the E350 is just where its at.

Scott
 

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It seems like the only way to get anything decent on the cost of fuel in these vans is by going diesel (which some debate really makes a difference when you add in the other costs) or going CNG. Do you believe these options make a difference?

I agree that going used often helps with depreciation but it looks like if I go that route, that I really don't save a ton unless I go with a really old and high miles Econoline, Chevy or Sprinter. Do you mind me asking what you have bought and how much it saved?
In general, I don't think CNG is a viable option for the average consumer. However, if your are running a commercial delivery service or shuttle vans it makes a lot of sense. Here are some issues limiting consumer adoption:


1. Certified conversions are expensive - $10K - $15K. CNG tanks are expensive.

2. There are only about 600 public CNG stations. Very difficult to take road trips.

3. You can do home fueling but CNG compressors are expensive ($7K) plus installation ($1-2K). Also, they require a lot of maintenance. You need to filter out the moisture in the natural gas (NG). Home NG has way too much moisture.

4. The tanks really cut down on usable space.
5. Converted gas engines do not run on CNG efficiently. CNG requires a compression ratio around 12.5 to extract energy efficiently and gas engines have a compression ratio around 9. You'll see a loss of horsepower around 15% and a loss of MPGs around 7% hwy and 12% city.
6. The added weight cuts down MPGs.




Now if you drive 70,000 miles per year in a region that has CNG readily available it really pays. CNG is cheaper and has real price stability compared to gas or diesel. Keep in mind that NG cost is a small % of CNG. The avg cost of CNG is around $2.10 today and NG is at $3.70/MMCF. So only 33 cents make up the $2.10. The rest is distribution, compression and profit. Even at $10/MMCF the average CNG price would be $2.65.


I don't have exact numbers but there around 165,000 gasoline public fueling stations and around 30,000 diesel stations. Diesel became a viable fuel with around 19,000 stations. It is speculated that CNG can be a viable fuel with 19,000 public stations. A CNG fuel station is very expensive to install due to high cost of the compressors/tanks (>$1,000,000). Also, it requires a large area.

Diesel, has similar issues. There is the added fuel costs and $6,000+ engine premium. Also diesel really im proves highway MPGs (20%+) but doesn't do a lot for city MPGs.
 

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I did see the Transit briefly at the auto show but it was before we fully realized we would have to go to a full size van and it was completely roped off. Do you have any pics of the interior or remember the set up for the rear? Did it have headrests in the rear? I'm thinking they have made it more passenger friendly than the old bench seats of the Econoline?
I don't have pictures but i remember being quite impressed by the amount of space that there was to get around in the van even with having three full rows of seats. If you are thinking about putting kids in car seats, then with the Ford Transit you won't have a problem.

As far as why I said to stay away from the ProMaster: for one there is no passenger van offered right now in NA, and secondly there have been complaints about the front seat especially for tall folks. This is mainly due to the steering wheel not being telescopic and adjustable. The interior of the Transit just looks better than the ProMaster's as well.

Hope this helps you out.
 

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keep us posted on what you decide on.

dont think i'll ever have 6 kids to drive around but at least i know if i ever manage that situation there are some options out there
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Instead of quoting everybody, I will just try and respond to all the questions and commentary.

Curious about CNG as there is a CNG station only a block farther than the closest gas station to my house. Also, CNG is about $2.50 per gallon equivalent here in California vs. gas just went over $4.00.

Sounds like diesel is probably not a great option for us.

I'm over 6' and my guess is that eventually my kids will be tall too. Guessing that rules out the Promaster especially given the fact that no one seems to know when the passenger version will launch.

That brings me to the Transit launch. What are the best guesses for when they will hit dealers? Twins will likely be here in early summer. At that point we will need two infant seats, on convertible car seat (normal car seat) and 1-2 booster seats based on how the kids fit in the seats.

It kind of seems that at this point my best options are probably the Ford Transit, Nissan NV or a used Econoline (no reason to buy a new on with the tons of used ones and the Transit coming out). I'm a bit worried about buying a Transit when it first comes out as it could have new model issues and I might pay too much. It is definitely in the running but love to hear thoughts about what it's value would do in the coming years. Not really sure what to make of the Nissan.
 

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Darren


I bought a NV 2500 High Roof Cargo a month ago. I'm very pleased with it.


Check out the "Tubby Nissan" thread in the general discussion forum.


Go drive one.
 

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Heres a link for a conversion van. I'm not endorsing them just found a link.
Van Conversions Chevrolet Custom Explorer conversion vans
I bought my last E150 in 2004 with 36,000 miles and it was a 2004 that was 8 passengers for $12,500. Original invoice was like $28,000. Drove it until some guy slid into me and totaled it. It only got 14 mpg so I didn't need the space since I only have one at home and I bought a pick up. Which I have not been happy with since the second tank of gas.
I looked at the used econolines and decided to wait until the Transit comes out.
I don't like to buy new but will probably take the deprecation hit because I think I can make it up in fuel savings. Todd
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Heres a link for a conversion van. I'm not endorsing them just found a link.
Van Conversions Chevrolet Custom Explorer conversion vans
I bought my last E150 in 2004 with 36,000 miles and it was a 2004 that was 8 passengers for $12,500. Original invoice was like $28,000. Drove it until some guy slid into me and totaled it. It only got 14 mpg so I didn't need the space since I only have one at home and I bought a pick up. Which I have not been happy with since the second tank of gas.
I looked at the used econolines and decided to wait until the Transit comes out.
I don't like to buy new but will probably take the deprecation hit because I think I can make it up in fuel savings. Todd
I like your pricing a lot better than the ones on this site. Where is the best place to find used ones like yours?
 
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