Minivan or BUST? Consumer Review from a Mom

I said I would NEVER buy a minivan. And I’m STILL not buying one! On New Year’s Eve I toasted the arrival of 2013 by purchasing a brand spanking new Toyota Highlander. It’s seriously like a minivan BUT it’s not. I have two kids and the potential in the future for a third. Oh boy, I can hear my phone ringing now! I stress the word “potential.” It has second row captain seats and a third row so I’m thinking by the time we would need to add another car seat my three-year-old son would sit in a booster in the third row. The third row also is split so half of it could be folded down to accommodate a stroller or other gear that would safely ride without shifting. I added all of the bells and whistles in my Highlander minus the DVD player. I decided I didn’t want to battle my kids on watching a movie when we were only driving 15 minutes. Instead, I have portable DVD players I only use on long road trips.

I am so happy with my purchase. The ride is solid and it has so many perks of what a luxury SUV would have but not the cost. I originally went in to buy a used, low mileage SUV and quickly realized that you rarely find a used Highlander with low miles on the lot! Why? Because Toyota’s last forever! So of course, I ended up buying a brand new one which I was secretly hoping for anyway!

My kids snoozing soundly on our most recent road trip.
My kids snoozing soundly on our most recent road trip. The third row is folded down to make room for all of our gear!

In my opinion, it was the best in it’s class. I test drove or considered other makes and models like the Acura MDX, Buick Enclave, Ford Explorer and the Chevy Traverse. The MDX was too pricey and smaller than the Highlander plus it didn’t have the captain chairs in the second row. I really liked the Enclave but after reviewing some numbers the Highlander kept it’s value better. The Explorer did not carry it’s weight in Consumer Reports and the Traverse’s exterior wasn’t what I was looking for so in the end the Highlander just kept making it to the top of my list.

In my opinion, here are the pros and cons of the Highlander:


  • All of the modern tech gadgets like satellite radio, GPS and Bluetooth.
  • Heated seats
  • Rear vents to cool or warm up your kiddos fast.
  • Sunroof
  • Tons of nooks to store mom things!
  • Retains it’s value better than most SUV’s on the market
  • Second row captain chairs


  • Small third row
  • Will not charge your devices when engine is not on. More annoying than a con.
  • No fancy sliding doors
  • Cargo space is small- I would suggest buying a car top carrier for road trips.

So to all the moms out there looking for all of the perks of a minivan (minus the fancy sliding doors) this is your official mom consumer report. I heart my Highlander!

Tiffany never dreamed she would be mom material let alone a SAHM! Leaving her full-time job as a marketing manager/graphic designer, Tiffany set out to explore the world of spit-up, Sesame Street and sleep deprivation. Managing her two little ones has definitely proven to be a challenge of patience and will but at the end of the day those sweet faces make each day fulfilling. Married to her husband of ten years, the couple takes every opportunity to explore new places even if it means being out of their comfort zone. Outside of her children and spouse, Tiffany truly enjoys vintage stores, photography with her beloved Nikon, a good facial, wine and chick flicks. Her role at Jacksonville Moms Blog will be to take her readers through the journey of living greener. Itโ€™s sure to be a great resource for using easy-to-create household cleaners to what to do with all of that food your toddler just wasted!


  1. I am not a minivan mom either! I bought a new Enclave a couple of years ago for all the same reasons you listed! I did choose it over a Highlander at the time based on looks (just personal preference) and room in the back seat. Just wanted to put a “plug” in for the Enclave because I love mine!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I swore I would never drive a mini van but I LOVE my Honda Odyssey. It seats 8, all seats fold flat to the floor and it has tons of hidden storage space and cup holders. I do have the DVD player which is a life saver. In my van all your stuff would have fit without needing to fold down the third row. I have 4 kids so I definately need the space.

    • We have a Lincoln navigator extended which works well for us. With 5 kids all still in a booster or car seat it is hard to find anything that is perfect. However in the middle row I put the two toddler car seats and the base for the infant car seat. I then have the two boosters in the way back and have my older kids hop in the rear and buckle themselves in so all I have to do is press the button for the trunk to close. The back row folds down automatically and has a single seat which separates from the other two which is pretty much permanently down. Also, by having the extended there is plenty if room for bob double stroller, groceries, suitcases… We looked at the escalade, but the rear seats were manual fold and back row less roomy. I wouldn’t be opposed to a minivan and am interested in hearing what works well, but for the moment feel blessed with what we have!

  3. I swore I’d never drive a minivan either! But now that I have one, I can’t imagine having anything else. I LOVE my Honda Odyssey! At this point in my life it’s all about convenience. Nothing beats being able to start it, have the A/C blasting, and all the doors open automatically with the single push of a button! I also love that it’s low enough for both kids (1 & 3) to climb in unassisted, and get into their car seats. I may look like a dork, but it’s made my life a little easier ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. I drive the Chevy Traverse which I love for an SUV. We test drove all the others including Highlander and went with the Traverse because it has the most cargo space of all the mid size SUV’s. We travel a lot and have never had to put anything on top. However I would like to make the switch the minivan, just have to get my hipster husband on board.

  5. Thanks, Tiffany! I was hoping to make the HIghlander my next car anyway, so thank you for helping confirm my future decision!

  6. I drove a highlander for a year and loved it… But we needed more space! I agree with everything you said about the highlander. We just needed more space and I now could not live without my magic doors!!! ๐Ÿ™‚


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