Whether it be our electronics, pets, or loved ones, death is inevitable. While not all the same, today, I am mourning my 2009 Toyota RAV4. Yesterday while on the way to work, my car exhausted its final fumes. As my vehicle stalled and stranded me on the side of the highway, I could not help but think “REALLY? NOW? THERE’S STILL NO EV THAT FIT’S MY NEEDS!”

Throughout the last twelve years, my Toyota RAV4 was part of my family. I bought the car new off the dealership in 2008 and literally drove it across the globe.

Nearly a lifetime ago I bought this vehicle as a newly married mother of two. As my family and I embarked on our journey of life, the RAV4 fit our needs perfectly. With my husband’s military orders set in Germany, we got the opportunity to transport the car over and road trip across Europe. Once back, we did the same stateside, putting more travel miles on our family SUV than most ever see.

Three kids later, a lot has happened since our initial purchase. In hindsight, we outgrew the 3-row RAV4 quickly and it was just about time to go car shopping. Only we knew we wanted to go electric, even with the limited options out there. We waited and waited, hoping automakers would pick up the pace in this EV revolution. Driving the vehicle to its last breath, we ran out of time and had to make a decision quickly.

What I need in a New Family Car

As much as I loved that Toyota, it’s time to move on and find another great family car. So how has the car industry changed in the last 12 years? The answer is a lot. We now have options like hybrids that actually save money on gas and electric cars with ranges exceeding what was previously thought possible. A Tesla Model S can now go 0 to 60 mph in just 2.4 seconds, that’s ludicrous!

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You may be asking, why don’t you just go and buy another Toyota RAV4? After all, there’s a hybrid version now available. Well, the Toyota RAV4 discontinued third-row seating so that is no longer an option for my family of seven. For smaller families, the new Toyota RAV4 hybrid would be a great option, it just doesn’t fit my personal needs today.

For my family, I’m looking for a car that is safe, comfortable, and affordable. With five kids, we need something large enough to prevent hair pulling.

My top five most important Features in a new car

  1. Safety
  2. Affordable
  3. Comfortable for a big family
  4. Reliability
  5. Fuel-Efficient/ Hybrid/ Electric

What I Can’t Have

The truth is that I would like to buy an electric car that is comfortable, safe, reliable, and affordable. Most electric vehicles on the market do not cater to large families like my own. There is a small number of cars that would fit my whole family and even less which are comfortable and just as important, affordable.

I researched and researched. Interestingly enough, in most lists of family cars, electric cars were excluded completely. I scavenged online seeking the perfect electric car with third-row seating. After excluding all BEV’s, I was down to just plug-in hybrids.

So what cars come up for large families?

Just two cars made the cut, the Toyota Highlander and the Chrysler Pacifica.

The Toyota Highlander is a mid-size SUV with an EPA of 35 mpg combined. A major pro, it’s available in All Wheel Drive. The hybrid SUV starts at $38,200 which is the cheapest hybrid that would fit my family.

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The Chrysler Pacifica was named Family Car of the year in 2019 by Car.com and Best Buy by Consumers Digest. The Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In hybrid has a combined 82 MPGe. Meanwhile, the standard gasoline version of the Chrysler Pacifica only gets 30 MPG.

Sadly, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid starts at over $6,000 more than its base model. This rids of most, if not all, gas savings. However, with the $7,500 federal rebate for EV’s, it’s a great buy.

Both the Highlander and the Pacifica are more affordable than other family electric cars on the market but they aren’t the only ones available. All of these have a third-row seating option:

Acura MDX Sport Hybrid $53,000
Toyota Highlander Hybrid $38,200
Lexus RX 450hL $50,510
Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine E-AWD $48,350
Tesla Model X $89.990

What Did I Choose?

Whether due to size or price, many on the list were quickly excluded. At face value, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the perfect car for my family. However, I came across a major hurdle, availability. With my car dead, I needed a vehicle ASAP. No dealerships within 500 miles of me had one available, not even used. If I just had more time I would be driving an electric car today.

Even so, a new Pacifica Hybrid hit the top of our budget. The electric family SUV options are limited with inventory basically nonexistent. I can walk into any car dealership and buy a gas car within a couple of hours, buying an EV should be no different.

I still want an electric car and as such, I made the option to buy a used gas car instead. With a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica I can save some money and relook into purchasing an electric family SUV in a few years, hopefully when more are available.

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The list of upcoming electric SUVs is growing with this drastic shift in industry standards. Tesla is expected to begin deliveries of their Model Y this month. While it will have a third-row option, I’m skeptical of how comfortable it’ll be with each seat filled. Rivian is expected to release their full-sized electric SUV within a year but it begins on the pricey side. In the middle, Chrysler is actually expected to remake their Pacifica as a fully electric car soon enough.

Stooping down to looking at plug-in hybrid’s was actually a compromise on my end due to a lack of options. With the time I’m buying, I’d expect to purchase a fully electric car next time around. Manufacturers need to pick up the pace as I’m sure there are many out there with a big interest in going electric with no currently available options.



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