Chicago Sun-Times

Families don't fit sedans anymore

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This article notes how sedans are no longer big enough to haul around the "bevy of sports gear, pets, and offspring that now make up many American families."

I would disagree that American family's "gear" is bigger, and that's why they went to SUVs. Families are actually smaller than they were in the '60s or '70. I suspect families left sedans because of the enormous size of car seats, and the need to have a car seat or booster seat even for six-year-olds.

Back when I was a kid, in the old days of striped polyester tops, a sedan easily held four or five kids across the bench-like backseat. Everyone pile into Mrs. Willer's car and we can go to the pool!

These days, every kid needs a safety seat, and these big padded pods take up a lot of room. If you have more than two kids, or if you ever want to transport someone else's kid along with your own, you're forced into either having an SUV or a crossover, or else breaking the law by not having everyone in a required safety seat. This makes things tough for parents who want to be green or even economical. Is there anyway to make car seats safe but more space-efficient?

I have three kids -- two teenagers and a toddler who needs a car seat. After a lifetime of having small, fuel-efficient cars, I switched to a Subaru Forester, which is a small SUV. I never thought I'd go in this direction, but there it is. Anyone else had to face this problem?

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4 Comments

When we were kids, the cars didn't come with cupholders. That didn't mean they weren't needed. My dad would go to the hardware store and get these flimsy plastic cupholders you hooked on to the inside of your door. Hit the brakes too hard and your drink went flying. Auto makers still don't have cupholders mastered. They're now built-in so I guess that's progress, but they're either flimsy, don't hold big enough cups and there are never enough of them. The reality is people go through drive-throughs all the time and if you don't have a safe place for everyone in the car to put that cup, you're taking your eyes off the road to re-adjust it or clean up a spill.

And, Mary, I agree. Detroit needs to figure out a way to make a fuel-efficient car that you can put 2 or 3 car seats into and still have some space. Car seats are bulky and such a pain to get your kid in and out of. There must be a way to make car seats safe but more compact.

Families may be smaller but I would bet we, as individuals, are bigger. I would also bet that we are in our vehicles a lot more now than we were in the 60's or 70's. Personally, I love my minivan. I have two kids, 6 and 3, who have giant booster seats but I definitely feel they are safer than I was rolling around a back seat. I also love having the ability to cart extra friends, family or stuff when necessary. My van is old and I do sometimes wish for a newer model with seats that fold into the floor or a smaller crossover but since mine is still running well with minimum maintenance, I figure it's easier on the planet if I just keep the car I have. As for cupholders, since we do spend way more time in our cars than ever, I do think we need them. But they need a revamp for the giant cups we have. Mine always tumble out when I accelerate.

What about vans? They're not fashionable these days, but they work very well.

I agree, things have changed, When i was a kid we brought a pillow and mad libs on a road trip, now you need strollers, car seats (huge and expensive ones btw), Nintendo DS's, ipods, chargers, dvd players. I have a dodge durango and i cannot even sit 3 of my 5 YO's car seats in the second row? If i could let them sit on the seat and just jump in the back, i could fit 10-12 easy. Think about it, cars didn't even come with cup holders back then, because we didn't know we needed them, and we didn't.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on September 16, 2009 11:46 AM.

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