Miss Lori wants to know if there is a fuel efficient car to fit her family

I need to go on a diet. No not a food diet, a gasoline diet. I am consuming way too much gasoline these days in my old minivan. It’s only averaging 14.5 miles per gallon. Even during a slow month I’m burning a tank and a half a week. At an average of $72.25 a tank, ($4.25 a gallon), the only thing getting skinny around here is my bank account. There doesn’t seem to be a gas price bailout coming anytime soon so I need to bail myself out. But in order to trim the gasoline fat out of my budget I will have to resize my vehicle and my life. I have been driving Chrysler minivans for 9 years now. I’m on my third. (All used, because that’s the category I live in.)

Last year I had the great fortune to test drive and demo over 14 cars. Yes, SUVs and minivans, but also sedans and compact cars. I was worried when the smaler cars arrived because, let’s face it, I don’t have a small family. I may only have three children but my son equals at least two people given that he is already 6’4″…today. And I’m not a dainty flower either at 5’8″ with a 33 inch inseam. My eldest daughter almost has as long of legs as I do and she is just 5’4″. Give her a year and I will be looking up her nose like I am her brother’s. And the baby. Well, she’s more like a baby giraffe. You get the picture, we are TALL! Compact is not a word in our descriptive vocabulary. But at the moment compact is where it’s at with fuel efficient cars. (Seems anti-family if you ask me, but that’s another post.) I’ve tried a couple of fuel friendly cars already, like the Buick Regal Turbo:

the Chevy Cruze:

and the Chevy Spark:

I’ve also been introduced to the Dodge Dart.

The Regal is too regal for my budget. The Spark and the Cruze, though in a great price bracket, with only 4 seats would require my giving up a child to make them work in my life. I’m not ready for a Sophie’s choice. The Dart, with a starting MSRP around $16,000, is in a price range that my used car budget might be able to handle. But in my google search a couple of other cars have popped up on my radar that fit the same criteria; the Hyundai Accent, the Kia Soul, the Chevrolet Sonic Hatchback, and the Nissan Versa Hatchback. I wonder if I can fold my children into the back seat of one of these comfortably enough that they won’t try to eat each other just to get out of the car. Because if I were driving one of these fuel efficient cars I could afford to feed them even more and better. (Wait, maybe that’s not such a good idea after all.)

It’s not just my children who could be healthier if I were to get a budget friendly car, it could do a lot for my emotional health as well. I realize that a great deal of the stress in my everyday life can be traced to my car. Constantly having malfunction lights pop on, driving on meer fumes in search of the lowest gas prices, having to dig deeper into my pockets for dollars to cover unexpected maintenance costs. There is simply nothing relaxing about my long drives, of which I have to take many. If that stress were to disappear by driving a fuel efficient car, I wonder how much more efficient I would be too. Plus, I’ve got a 14 1/2 year old in my house. That means that the car in my garage next year is the car he will learn to drive on, and most likely inherit. (Shhh, don’t tell him that.)

I could pay off my dusty minivan this month. I have stashed enough quarters to do so. There are other things that need paying off, but my car, it seems, is what needs to be my primary focus because it is central to all things in my present life, my kids and my work,  but it is also central to my future, having more money to support my kids, less stress in my heart , a clearer head, a safe car to pass along to my son, and to leave a smaller carbon footprint in this World. (Oh yes, you think I hadn’t thought about that too. HA! Nothing gets past me.)

So, first things first. I need to go and check out cars:

  • Dodge Dart
  • Chevy Sonic Hatchback
  • Hyundai Accent
  • Kia Soul
  • Nissan Versa Hatchback

Is my list complete? Can you think of any others under $16,000 that I should consider. Speak up, please. I need all of the help I can get. This adult stuff is hard, but it’s a much more bearable journey when you can traverse it with a supportive community. Glad to have you on my team. Next up, insurance evaluation, to lease or not lease, and loan financing. So much to look forward to. Let’s get to it.

SMILE  (and DRIVE) On!


Miss Lori can be found Musing from her Minivan at MissLori.TVWearetherealdeal.comYoungChicagonista, and TheChicagoMoms.com. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on YoutubeFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramTOUT and LinkedIn.


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  1. Oh Brandie, I won’t lie to you, I am very nervous. Now that Amtrak isn’t allowing unaccompanied minors to ride the train I wonder how I will get all of my kids, gifts and the dog to Milwaukee for the holidays without a minivan. Or when I have a concert and I have to transport the CAMPUS Kids and my sound equipment, like I have to do tis weekend for my North Riverside Park Mall Halloween concert, what will I do? But as gas prices keeping gouging my bank account I have to find a way to stop the bleeding somehow. I promise to carry you with me every step of the way, but you may have to ride on the roof!



  2. We are in a similar spot … 3 kids, 2 adults … a minivan is really a must to keep us comfy, but they are not cheap to drive around. It will need to be replaced sooner rather than later and I don’t know what we will do! Good luck picking your next car and I’ll be watching to see what you get and how it works for you!

  3. Oh Sarah, how I wish I could afford to stay a minivan mom. I love it! but sadly this economy is forcing my hand, and my foot on the gas pedal. Hopefully I can find something that fits my budget and my children’s long limbs. Thanks for following me on my journey.



  4. I’ve got a growing family so we have a minivan. I love it, but I do look forward to the day I can downsize to something more fuel efficient! Good luck in your search; I can’t wait to hear what you find.