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Safest SUVs and Minivans with Three Rows of Seating for 2015

Safest Vehicles with a 3rd Row of Seating for 2015

Are safety and seating more than a couple kids your top considerations in selecting a new vehicle?  You aren’t alone!  Our last winners, the 2011-2012 Honda Odyssey and 2010-2012 Buick Enclave (Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia) are very safe vehicles, but the landscape has changed a bit.

In particular, the IIHS has added a new crash test, the small overlap front crash test.  In addition, they now give credit for vehicles that have available frontal collision warning systems.  These systems are not all created equally, some are only basic warnings, while advanced ones can actually brake in emergency situations and possibly avoid a crash.

There are plenty of very safe vehicles.  Most midsize crossover SUVs and minivans provide excellent protection for occupants, likely better than anything on the road 10 years ago.  Side curtain airbags and stability control are now standard features.  In addition to frontal crash protection systems, advanced safety features like emergency crash notification, lane departure warning, cross traffic warning and blind spot warning systems are becoming more common on non-luxury models.

So how do we filter the list of so many family vehicles that have earned safety awards?  It’s pretty easy:

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+
  • Must have an NHTSA 5-star overall rating
  • No  individual NHTSA crash test results of 3-stars or less
  • Must have at least 6 passenger seats

The qualifiers?  At the time of this writing, It’s a pretty exclusive list.

  1. 2014-2015 Acura MDX
  2. 2014-2015 Toyota Highlander
  3. 2014-2015 Honda Odyssey
  4. 2014-2015 Mitsubishi Outlander
  5. 2015 Toyota Sienna (refreshed)

And the winner is?

2014-2015 Acura MDX.  What’s not to like?  It not only received an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ with the optional Advance Package, but it also received a “Good” result in every single IIHS test AND sub-category of each test.  Extremely impressive, and the only 3-row vehicle to do so.  Its frontal crash mitigation system earned an “Advanced” frontal crash protection rating from the IIHS as well, but you must opt for the pricey MDX Advance Package to get a full set of advanced safety features.   In every trim are four full LATCH seating positions for carseats, plus a 5th top tether anchor, an area where many SUVs and minivans skimp.

In the NHTSA testing, it not only received a 5-star overall rating, but also received 5-stars in each of the five individual crash tests at Safercar.gov.  Also very impressive!  At 4,300 lbs., the MDX is going to have an advantage over many vehicles in a frontal crash.  Despite the weight, it is among the better handling midsize SUVs on the market and has received high praise from many automobile and consumer publications.  Perhaps the main drawback is the price tag near $55,000 with the Advance Package.  Premium fuel is required, but thankfully fuel economy increased considerably, from 16 city, 21 highway in 2013 up to 18 city, 27 highway for AWD trim in 2014-2015.

Runner Up:

2014-2015 Honda Odyssey.  For those not willing to spend over $50K on a vehicle, there’s actually one that is just as outstanding in terms of safety, but is also roomier for passengers, has more cargo space, better fuel economy and costs under $30,000.  It’s tough to beat a minivan!  Starting at $29,000, it offers a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS and a “Good” rating in each test starting in 2014.  It also received a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA and also earned 5-stars in each of the five crash tests.  It’s 4-star rollover rating was the same as the MDX, but Odyssey has a relatively low rollover risk of 12.7%.

Unfortunately, to get the forward collision warning system, you must step up to the $36,000 EX-L trim that received a Top Safety Pick+ rating, but only a “Basic” frontal crash prevention rating.  You also get lane departure warning at this trim level as well as LaneWatch (wide angle right-side mirror camera).  Bluetooth hands-free and a backup camera are standard on all trims. Fuel economy is quite good for an 8-passenger vehicle at 19 city, 28 highway.  But where the Odyssey really stands out from this pack  is space.

For fitting three carseats or passengers across the second row, the Odyssey is a hands-down winner for any minivan or SUV.  Combine that with a reasonably wide third row seat that is comfortable enough for adults and you have a winner in terms of seating flexibility.  Add the power sliding doors and cargo space that is far superior to any midsize SUV and you have a family hauler with interior and cargo space not matched by anything but the very largest monster truck-based SUVs.

Maybe you already have a minivan, or just want something smaller and easier to fit into a parking spot or garage?  Or with one or two kids, you simply don’t need the extra row of seating.  There are also some excellent 5-passenger SUVs on the market in our next segment coming soon.


Provide an Honest Service? Beware Selling it With Paypal!

I’ve been scammed a couple times on eBay.  Ultimately, I cancelled my eBay sellers account and haven’t sold anything there in years.  I continued to use Paypal for its convenience, despite the heavy fees.  I wrongly assumed this paid for their service in the event of a dispute.  I was very, very wrong.  Paypal’s own community clearly demonstrates the thousands of scams, many seemingly perpetrated with Paypal’s defacto support.

If you provide any service to a buyer, be wary of using Paypal to accept payments, especially using automatic renewals with their pre-approved payments system.   This system is nothing more than a way for buyers to use your services for free.  As I discovered recently, Paypal doesn’t even adhere to its own User Agreement for disputes of this type.  A dishonest buyer can claim any or all of their previous subscription payments were “unauthorized”.  They simply say the seller took the funds from their account without their knowledge (which isn’t even possible in general), or someone hacked their account, or whatever.

The worst part is that Paypal doesn’t let the seller provide any proof to the contrary or investigate at all.  I had proof in my recent case.  Their Resolution Center says it gives you an option to upload files and comments when you Respond to the case, but in my case, it only gave me options to refund or ship.  They refuse to accept such information by email or phone support.  Their email support is dismal, anyway.  The representatives apparently cannot read or understand English, and can only respond to you with generic pre-made responses.

In my case, the dispute was for a transaction that didn’t qualify for a dispute according to Paypal’s own terms.  I was finally able to call and get a fax number where I sent my response, twice.  They ignored it.  At the end of the response period, they sent me an email claiming I had failed to respond in the given time.  One minute later, they sent another email saying they had completed their “investigation” and deducted the funds from my account.

Fortunately, it was a trivial amount.  In fact, I had already refunded one of the two disputed preapproved payments as a one-time exception to the clearly stated no-refund policy.  I was going to refund the other one too, just for goodwill.   Perhaps the buyer didn’t notice that they had chosen the automatically renewing option.  Maybe they didn’t see the renewal email notices or forgot to cancel it.  Maybe they were just a basic thief and wanted to use a paid service for free.  It doesn’t really matter when you are the seller and have honestly provided your service for a fee.

But Paypal’s involvement (or lack thereof) was a good lesson in all of this.  Even for transactions over 6 months old, they will freeze your funds and not allow you to provide evidence.  If you are accepting a large sum for a service, BE VERY WARY OF PAYPAL.  There are plenty of other reputable payment systems today.  Based on my experience, if it’s not a tangible item, Paypal will apparently automatically refund your fairly earned money, even if it means ignoring their own User Agreement.

I will no longer pay the big Paypal fees on larger sums.  I am curtailing my use of Paypal to avoid any sales on non-tangible items like services, if at all possible.  I suppose it’s pretty safe to use Paypal as a buyer if you are cautious, especially on items that qualify for buyer protection.  That is my opinion based on recent experience, anyway.  Let the seller beware!

Holiday Cooking with CarseatBlog

You may remember our previous edition of Cooking with CarseatBlog.  That was certainly a tough recipe to follow, but this year we’ve outdone ourselves!  He ate them up, and one of mine, too.  Enjoy.



Editors note: Don’t buy this cheap imitation cookie “iron“.  It’s not even an Iron, it’s an Aluminum.  Seriously!

2015 Toyota Camry Video Preview

2015ToyotaCamry1The 2015 Toyota Camry isn’t “All-New”, but it is heavily refreshed.  It is one of the most comprehensive mid-cycle model refreshes in Toyota history.  Toyota claims about 1/3 of the vehicles’ parts are new and from the outside, only the roof remains unchanged from the 2014 model.  This major refresh is made necessary in part by strong competition from the all-new Hyundai Sonata and Subaru Legacy that are both vying for best-in-class honors this year.

The new gaping maw treatment  up-front on SE models is a more aggressive look than before, and the new XSE trim (photo, right) adds an upscale sport version that the Camry previously lacked.  Perhaps the black grill is a bit large and devoid of much detail other than mesh, but the treatment is definitely an improvement overall.  The LE and XLE versions are less aggressive, but more stylish and less bland than before.  Hybrid models (photo, below) are also carried over and offer exceptional fuel economy.



You can check out all the fine details at Toyota’s Camry webpage, but I want to focus on safety, carseats and kids in back.  One major drawback of this popular family sedan is that the full array advanced safety features is only available in the Advanced Technology Package on the XSE V6 and XLE V6 trim levels.  That boosts the price to nearly $35,ooo, a full $10,000 more than the least expensive 2015 Subaru Legacy with the top-rated Eyesight system of advanced safety features.  That’s really a shame, because the 4-cylinder LE model is otherwise quite competitive; great value, good fuel economy and a nicer front grille treatment than the SE/XSE trims.

On the plus side, the 2015 Camry has already secured a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, with top results in all their crash tests.  With the optional Technology Package, it earns a Top Safety Pick+ rating, though it has only a Basic frontal crash warning system.  It lacks an autobrake feature found on some competitive systems.  At this time, the government has not completed side impact testing on the 2015 Camry.  The NHTSA did complete the frontal crash testing and the new model earned 4-stars for the driver and 5-stars for the front passenger.

As for carseats, here’s a quick overview:

Thank you to Toyota USA for the preview of the Camry, Sienna and Yaris.