One of the big changes we needed to make before we get on the road is trading in my car, a 2005 Ford Freestyle, for a newer family car. Our plan is to have a truck to pull the travel trailer or fifth wheel and then a family car to transport the kids. It’s not a real common set up among people who live and travel full time in RVs, but it’s the best option for us. There are trucks that will seat all of us, though one kid would have to ride in the front seat. The problem is the pets. With a medium sized dog and three cats, we would never all fit in one truck. I’m not willing to have the pets travel in the RV – for both safety and comfort reasons. Since the Freestyle’s AC is out, we decided to trade my car in first, before getting the truck. Enter Toyota of Clermont!
My top two choices of minivan were a Toyota Sienna and a Honda Odyssey. As I started doing more extensive research, especially into specific model years, the Toyota pulled ahead as the best choice. After doing searches on websites like AutoTrader and CarGurus, we found a 2008 Toyota Sienna with low mileage at Toyota of Clermont, just 30 minutes away. We went up there on a Tuesday (my birthday, actually!) and I have to say, I was pretty impressed with the staff there. We were met promptly in the lot by a gentleman who, when we told him what vehicle we were interested in, pulled the Sienna around to the side of the building. We spent a bit of time climbing around inside, checking out the features, then took it for a test drive.
After that, it was several hours of going through the application and negotiation process. We had Fiona and Niall with us, who thankfully had their tablets, otherwise they would have gone nuts. The sales guy was very friendly-yet-professional, didn’t pressure us, and genuinely seemed interested in making sure he understood our needs and that the Sienna (and the attached loan) would be a good choice for us. Finally everything was signed, and the Sienna was ours!
The littles were ridiculously excited, as you can see! We honestly were not expecting to be able to bring the car home today – every time we bought cars in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, it was always a day or two after. So we had to hurriedly empty out my car while they put our new plates on (shhh.. my car was still registered in Maine). I was really impressed that they were able to take care of everything for us and even had the actual, metal license plates ready to go (the last time we got a car, we had temporary plates until the real ones came in). I had some mixed feelings as we drove away.. for one, I was a little grouchy about the interest rate we got, though not surprised – our credit isn’t the best. But I was also really sad to leave our Freestyle.. we had that car for ten years, since before Niall and even Fiona was born.
But the Sienna is really nice! It’s wonderful having air conditioning again.. I gotta tell you, not having proper AC in Florida sucks! And the biggest surprise was the next day, when the dealership called me in the afternoon and said that their Auto Club guy had the day off when we bought the car, but that when he came in that morning, he checked over our paperwork (like he does for every sale that’s done when he’s off), and found us a better deal! We went in that night, spent about 10 minutes signing paperwork, and we were done – with an interest rate almost half of what we’d originally agreed to, a term almost half as long, and payments about $30 less a month. I thought that was really nice – after all, the sale was already made, it’s not like they had to check to see if they could get us a better deal. But it’s easy to see why they do.. if there’s any way we can buy our truck through them, we definitely will.
One of the first things I had to do was put Daryl, Scully, and Carol back up on the dashboard. I used putty in our old car, but that was messy and didn’t work well in the heat. This time I tried Command Strips, and they’re working well so far!
Since our Freestyle had three rows and sat seven, I got into the habit of thinking it was just as big as a minivan. Well, nope, it’s not! The Sienna is way roomier. There’s plenty of space for Luna to sit (and even lie) on the floor in the middle row, and even room to sit on the bench seating in the third row between Fiona and Niall. There are cup holders on the sliding doors (which have windows that open halfway). There are secret storage compartments everywhere – the littles have taken to calling the cubbies their “Secret Agent Storage.” The older boys love that there isn’t a console between the captain’s chairs, making it much easier to move between rows.
In the third row, each side has two cup holders in addition to the extra storage compartment. Since Fiona’s and Niall’s car seats each have two cup holders on them, each of the littles has a total of four cup holders to do with as they please. I find this inordinately funny.
Check out this space in the trunk! There’s tons of room for skateboards, scooters, you name it. An extra cool feature is that the seats fold flat, so, as Lachlann says, “One of us could totally sleep in here if we got sick of the others!” One of the big benefits of having two cars is that we’ll be able to carry a bit more stuff with us. We’ll have the room inside the car and the trunk, and we also have a roof top cargo bag that we can use (which we’ll probably fill with stuff we use infrequently, since it is a bit of a pain to access).
All in all, we’re really happy with our car purchase. We did give up a few luxuries that the Freestyle had – built in DVD player for one, rear sensors that beeped when I backed up too close to something for another.. but we can adjust to life without those. I actually don’t mind having cloth seats instead of leather.. they’re way more comfortable in the heat. I just need to remember to put some sort of mat down under the kids’ car seats.. so far, they haven’t eaten in the car, but I’m sure we’ll loosen up on that rule over time. We always do.
And lastly, we enjoyed our experience with Toyota of Clermont. Not only was everyone there super friendly and helpful, they even went above and beyond to get us a great deal. So glad we found a great dealership!