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Large family vehicles in Europe

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I wasn't sure whether to make this a part of my other post or not.  My husband is wondering what do large families do in Europe, in terms of a family vehicle.  We know that family size tends to be smaller in Europe, but there still must be *some* larger families.  Our impression is that cars tend to be smallers and minivans aren't really heard of, so what do people do?  We have 4 kids and we could possibly have a 5th, and we're considering getting stationed in the UK at RAF Menwith Hill.  He's wondering, if it did happen, if we'd bring the minivan or if we'd store it here and get something there... and if we got something there, what options are there?

We were stationed at RAF Molesworth/Alconbury until a year ago.   

You can get UK spec minivans (often referred to as People Movers); however, they are quite expensive.  For example, Renault makes a model called the 'Trafic' that comes either as a passenger or a utility van.   Most of us who needed minivans either shipped ours, bought new through military car sales, or bought used from someone PCSing.  Driving on the opposite side of the road isn't too hard once  you get the hang of it.  If shipping a vehicle you will have to have a light conversion kit installed (fog lights and side indicators... not expensive, but required to make the vehicle road legal). 

When driving an American vehicle overseas you do need to make sure to keep up on your scheduled maintenance as garages qualified to work on US models are often hard to find (particularly if you need to keep a warranty valid).  I used to drive over an hour to a garage that was authorized to work on my Dodge Caravan.   Parts for US models often have to be ordered from the States so you have to factor in time for repairs.    On the upside, most bases have good hobby shops that employ mechanics that can do basic work, help you do the work, or provide space for you to do repairs.   

In general cars are smaller in the UK.  Almost everything is smaller.  But in the vicinity of a US base, there are a lot of larger vehicles.    You learn to "think skinny" on narrow roads and park in tight spaces.  It's part of the adventure!   ;D

There are plenty of people carriers, which tend to seat 7, we have a Toyota verso (have 4 kids) if all 7 seats are up there isn't a huge amount of boot space, but I don't want a huge car which costs me a fortune to run when the majority of the time we aren't all in the car (if it's me and the kids I don't use the two back seats, it's only when we all go out as a family)

Most European car brands make big cars, Audi, BMW, Merc etc so they are around. I noticed last time I went to the UK there were a lot more big cars on the road than there was on my previous trip 10 years earlier. When my my parents lived there everyone in their fairly posh village has station wagons that were either 5 or 7 seaters (my folks had a cheap Volvo, most people had pricey German cars)

Little cars are easier to park, they aren't very generous with the parking spots over there. There was a massive Australian built shopping centre near my parents which we loved because it had Aussie sized parking spots!

I'm not an expert on bringing cars. All I know about cars in the UK is what I have learned from watching Top Gear. You can get a minivan or MPV in the UK. You can get an even get a Chrysler Minivan. Filling it with gas will kill you. You could get an MPV like this Ford: http://www.topgear.com/uk/ford/galaxy/verdict.  You could also get a SUV with 3 rows of seats like the Volvo XC90. There are many more diesels available so that can help you will the fuel bill.

You can look around that Top Gear site to see what is available.


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