Author Topic: Large family vehicles in Europe  (Read 2308 times)

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MommyPenguin

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Large family vehicles in Europe
« on: June 26, 2013, 04:52:59 PM »
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?

MummySweet

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2013, 05:18:07 PM »
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

ClaireC79

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2013, 05:53:49 PM »
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)

Bluenomi

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2013, 09:20:16 PM »
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!

BigBadBetty

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2013, 09:47:38 PM »
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.

MummySweet

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2013, 10:02:34 PM »
An additional thing about shipping a vehicle to the UK, you usually have to go to the port to get it.   I've only known them to come into Portsmouth , and that's a long, long way from Menwith Hill.

veryfluffy

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2013, 12:22:54 AM »
There are quite a lot of vehicles which seat up to 7, although I am sure they are smaller than you are used to.

But I'd think that trying to manoeuvre a left-hand drive American-sized van around UK roads and car-parks wouldn't be a good idea anyway, if you want to keep your stress levels down.
   

Bashful

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2013, 09:07:01 AM »
My family had a Renault station wagon with 3 rows of seats and could bring up to 8 people. It was quite long but had the same width of every other car. I suggest too that you get a UK car. I saw some US cars in Europe and often they where so wide they couldn't fit properly in parking spots or garages.

DaisyG

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2013, 09:24:16 AM »
I'm in London. My friend an old Seat Alhambra and my uncle has an old Renault Espace, which are both virtually the same 7-seater. There are plenty of second-hand and new 7-seaters available as far as I know. I would recommend the Autotrader site if you're looking for a car.

DH is currently involved in importing a motorbike which is a total headache so I suggest it would be much easier to buy a UK car if you get here.

The thing I would flag up to you is the new law that says that children under 12 or under 135cm tall have to use car seats or booster seats

MommyPenguin

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2013, 11:11:59 AM »
Thanks, everybody, that helps a lot to know what the choices would be!  My husband pulled up some photos of the cars that you all mentioned, and it does look workable.  We'd have to look into how much we'd lose by buying when we arrived and selling just two years later, but it might be worth it versus the hassle of having to import a vehicle, especially when dealing with narrow roads and the driver's seat being on the wrong side.

Thanks for mentioning the car seat law, Daisy!  My kids are young enough that they legally have to have car seats here as well, anyway (my oldest is 6, and while some states only require them until age 8, she's on the small side and I'll probably stick with the more conservative use of the booster until at least age 10 or so, depending on how she grows and stuff).  12 is definitely a lot higher than here!  I think even the most conservative states here only require them until 10, and many only until age 8.

mechtilde

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2013, 02:33:23 PM »
You would lose a lot in depreciation if you bought new, but you can get a good used people carrier for a fairly reasonable price.

As you're going to be here for a while it might be an idea to get a UK style car because it will be much easier in terms of visibility, especially when driving on dual carriageways and motorways- they are fast, and very busy. That said if you really really don't like it you still have the option of buying a used car from someone else on the base or importing from Europe.

I'd second veryfluffy's comments about the difficulties of driving a large vehicle on our narrow roads and add that petrol (gas) is very very expensive here, so go for good fuel economy. Also parking spaces are not big- I have a smaller size Citroen Xsara Picasso and sometimes have trouble finding a space wide enough.

As a final thought, if a people carrier is not enough, consider a buying a vehicle designed to be a taxi, or minibus.
NE England

Margo

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2013, 03:00:17 PM »
POD to others saying there are lots of people carriers available - a lot more than there used to be. When we were all living at home (I'm one of 4) my parents had a VW Caravelle, which had 2 rows of 3 seats so carried 8 people (Including the driver) and had boot (trunk) space as well. At the time, the only other options were estate cars like Volvos, where the extra seats meant you got no boot, but there's more choice now.

It's unusual to find anything much bigger as if you want to drive anything with 8+ passenger seats you have to have a minibus licence, you can't drive one on a standard drivers licence (and I think you will have to get a UK licence if you are here for more than 12 months)

You might find this handy - What Car? best People carriers review http://www.whatcar.com/car-news/best-mpvs-and-people-carriers-of-2013/265776

MummySweet

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2013, 03:33:28 PM »
It's unusual to find anything much bigger as if you want to drive anything with 8+ passenger seats you have to have a minibus licence, you can't drive one on a standard drivers licence (and I think you will have to get a UK licence if you are here for more than 12 months)

Margo is correct about the license for most expats to the UK.  But OP, you would be under SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement). Military and their dependents are not required to get a UK license.  However they must get an Air Force driver's license and maintain a current US license and be able to produce both upon request.     I bring this up only because you might hear about both how expensive it is to get a UK license and the difficulty of the test. (In my opinion is quite difficult compared to the tests in the US.) 

Snooks

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2013, 04:28:41 PM »
Someone I run girl scouts with has a seven seater car and she can fit seven girls and their 60L rucksacs in there so I think you'd be ok for space if you got a UK car.

MommyPenguin

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Re: Large family vehicles in Europe
« Reply #14 on: July 04, 2013, 04:14:33 PM »
Thanks, everyone.  It's good to know what the options are.  I think my husband leans towards bringing our minivan, but at least we know that it would be worth looking into the costs for having the minivan shipped versus buying/reselling or renting a car there, etc., and that there *are* cars that would work for us.  Really good to know!