We’re looking to replace our time-tested, wonderfully reliable 2003 Honda Odyssey. It’s a great van, we love it still, it took us from here to the east coast and back last month without incident, which was great! But it’s starting to get a bit old, and every trip to the dealership for an oil change ends up uncovering numerous other problems.

Here’s a shot of Old Faithful when she was just a pup, still in the lot at Space Coast Honda, Rockledge, FL, on March 17, 2003:

From HondaOdyssey

I love the Odyssey for its smooth ride, spacious bucket seating for the boys in the middle row, and the option for a 3rd row of seats when you want to carry EVERYBODY, such as my boys and my 3 nephews on a road trip with my sister to Florida in 2007:

From 2007 08 03 VollmerBabaTriptoOrmondBeachFL

Dave loved that when the 2nd and 3rd rows of seats were removed, he could transport his train layout:

From HondaOdyssey

Cool, huh?

We also like having the flexibility to tow stuff, if need be. We’ve used the van to tow trailers, including this nifty camper last September:

From HondaOdyssey

(Mind you, it was horrible not being able to see behind us for the 4-hours-each-direction drive between Omaha and North Platte.)

But I have to admit, I’m getting a bit sick of driving a minivan. It was fun for a bit, but I’m not sure I want to continue. Those newer vans are pretty nice, though — perhaps I can stick it out for one more vehicle cycle? Bottom line, the minivans can hold Dave’s layout for a train show, and that’s a very convenient thing for our family. Not to mention transporting the boys’ friends around if need be.

What if I didn’t have to get a minivan again? What do I want? THIS! The Hybrid version. I had a chance to ride in one earlier this year — thanks Louise — and it was so so so so nice!

Pros of a Highlander Hybrid:

1.) It’s a sexy SUV. I don’t have to feel quite so — um — matronly driving around town.
2.) It’s a hybrid — what can I say? We absolutely love our Prius and might be willing to invest in another Toyota hybrid.
3.) It has an option for a 3rd row of seats, many SUVs don’t have that…
4.) We can still tow stuff with this particular hybrid, up to 3500 lbs. on a Class II hitch…not all hybrids can!

Cons of a Highlander Hybrid:
1.) Price — the version I’m interested has 3 rows of seats, and it’s the “Limited” version. Of course it’s the most expensive…it’ll hover right around $40K. We haven’t had a car payment in quite a while, so we need to make sure we can sustain the payment with our budget.
2.) Having a hybrid, as great as it is for the environment and gas budget…takes a certain amount of faith. Thanks to years of watching my Dad with tinker with his ’70-something Honda Civic, I know minimal amount about automobiles. (Don’t look now, but that’s my 1989 MULLET!)

From HondaOdyssey

But with a hybrid, so much of it is computerized, you can’t merely open the hood and see/smell/hear a problem. Instead, you have to take the vehicle to the local Toyota dealer and pay for a “diagnostic” test. Where the maintenance guys merely plug in the vehicle to a computer and the computer tells him/her what the problem is. With our Prius, we would get this red exclamation point that indicates a host of problems…only this “diagnostic computer” will tell us the real problem. That type of troubleshooting isn’t necessarily for everyone.
3.) We’d get the 3rd row of seats and a towing capability with the Highlander, but we’d lose the immense cargo space. That’s something Dave and I have discussed quite a bit — how many more times does Dave intend to show his layout? He’s in the midst of expanding the layout, meaning his ability to transport the layout in the back of the van might have some problems soon…who knows?

Running a close 2nd behind the Highlander Hybrid (in my opinion) is a 2009 Odyssey. Yep. Another minivan. I think Dave is leaning more towards the Odyssey — after all, we love the one we have, why change, right?