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Patch Drives: Help This Van-Driving Mama Find Her Next Ride

Angela Youngblood is a mom of four whose full-size van is in need of a savvy replacement. Her journey starts with you: What should she test drive?

Angela Youngblood never thought she would drive a minivan. And never in her wildest busy-mom-gotta-get-four-kids-ready dreams did she think she would be behind the wheel of a full-size van.

You know the type. They kind of look like a box and can be easily mistaken for the "bus" that transports the students — or the senior citizens — around town.

The van was handed down to the Youngblood family from her husband Tim's parents a few years ago. For awhile, it worked for her lifestyle: transporting four kids under age 10 to football practices, school events, playdates and the grocery store.

And Angela admits it helps fulfill a fantasy.

"When I was little I used to love Charlie's Angels and they used to go undercover and in one episode they were truck drivers," said the Rochester mom and writer of the hilariously candid Jumping With My Fingers Crossed blog.

"I always had that in the back of my head. So every once in a while, when I'm in my van, I feel pretty cool."

But the van has seen better days. One of the seatbelts isn't working. The last time she filled up with gas, it cost more than $100. And speaking of gas, she has to guess when she needs some, because the gauge isn't working.

It's time for something new.

New series: Patch Drives

Starting today and continuing over the next few months, Angela is on a mission to find her new ride.

In a new series we're calling Patch Drives, Angela will let Patch readers be her co-pilots as she visits local dealerships, takes new vehicles for test drives and tells us what works. She'll rate their maneuverability in the carpool dropoff line, the ease of getting kids in and out, and, of course, the "cool" factor.

You can learn more about Angela's mission in this video that she produced.

But first, she needs your help.

The van is all that Angela and her family have known, so she needs a place to start. Her kids were – let's be honest – not a whole lot of help in their suggestions: One said he wants his mama to drive a monster truck. Another suggested a Ferrari.

Angela wants to hear from you: What should she test drive? Keep in mind, hers is a family of six, so she'll need something that accommodates that extra row. Tell us, in the comments, about a vehicle she might like to try.

She'll take your suggestions and put them into a list, which we'll have readers vote on next week. After that, the real fun begins: Angela will compile a list of vehicles to drive based on your suggestions and tell you what she really thinks.

We're looking forward to riding along on her shopping journey.

Patch Drives is ; the cars Angela choose to test will be at her discretion and not affiiated with any advertising relationships.

Laura Cassar April 20, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I'm on my third Town and Country mini-van. I think that pretty much says it all! ;-)
Erin April 20, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Barbara - yes, I remember all the things I said I'd never do before I became a parent. LOL!
Beth April 20, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I LOVE MT CHRYSLER TOWN AND COUNTRY!!! I LOVE THE STOW AND GO! BEST CAR FOR TRAVELING WITH KIDS.
Stef April 20, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I think a Yukon looks fun!!! And functional. : ) Oh...and cool.
Karen April 20, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Knowing how much Angela enjoys her childhood flashbacks, how about a replica A-Team van? While they don't make the G-Series vans anymore, I think she may enjoy a black Ford E-Series Van.
Jesse Williams April 20, 2012 at 05:16 PM
The Ford Flex isn't bad, but we're not a fan of the design. The Kia Sorrento is a seven-seater that starts at $23k and looks pretty decent.
randysmith April 20, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Honda Odyssey - space for kids and luggage too!
Patty Luplow April 20, 2012 at 11:34 PM
My vote is for a Jeep Wrangler! I have 3 boys myself and who in the world wants them all in one car anyway!
Marty Rosalik April 21, 2012 at 12:34 AM
GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid!! All the bells and whistles and good fuel economy. I get 21 to 23 mpg when driven easy city or highway driven below 70 mph loaded. The Denali has a roof rack like the Excalade but for less $. Tows 6000 lbs when you need to. Optional power running boards. Power remote tail gate.
Sherry April 21, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Minivan all the way. Can't believe I am saying it, but I am on #4, with #5 on order, and we can't go back. VW Routan or Chrysler T&C-- you can't beat them in "Bang for the Buck", creature comforts, and space when all 3 rows are up. For it's size, gas mileage is not bad either.
Kevin April 21, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Domestic: Try the Traverse. Looks good, decent gas. Compact. Foreign: Try the Honda Pilot. Runs smooth, 4x4 ability, has some muscle.
David April 21, 2012 at 11:13 AM
I think she should drive a Yukon. If she is used to driving this van, it should be no problem for her.
Susan in the Boonies April 21, 2012 at 02:11 PM
We've had two Hondas for forever, because they are great cars!. I love our Honda pilot. If my family were as large as yours, I'd look at an Odyssey. Well done on your video! Very cute!
Dana April 21, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I went from a Malibu to a minivan then to a suburban and believe it or not I miss my van. Push a button and the doors open, they were fabulous on a rainy day with all 3 boys. Cant wait to experience Angela's journey.
Denise Elliott April 21, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I'd recommend the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. It comfortably seats a family of six, has a large cargo area to carry around all the stuff a family of six needs, is a Super Low Emission Vehicle, has a V6 engine and still gets 28 mpg. My best friend has had one for years and years and it's hands down the most comfortable vehicle I know.
Maddie Kertay - April 21, 2012 at 02:44 PM
I am not much help.. I am driving a Suburban which I can say is great for my very tall boys since it has LOTS of legroom. Remember your children will be getting MUCH bigger in this car.. look for room for ADULT sized bodies in the back not room for kid sized.
Amanda Kirksey April 21, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Angela, whatever you get, make sure is has Stow and Go. Especially with your travels!
Greta Funk April 21, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I love my Suburban for our four kids. Sometimes I don't think I need something quite so big, but with all of us on trips or grocery runs, we definitely need the space. And I feel pretty cool in it. :D
Jean Ross April 21, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I reluctantly test drove a Ford Flex when my Windstar bit the dust and I fell in love. My daughter said cars must be like shoes - the uglier they are the more comfortable the fit. I have transported six adults in comfort and style. Even the mature members of our group could get in and out of the third row seating with ease, It is the best car ever for hauling large groups of people and/or excessive amounts of stuff! Give it a try.
Chris Zimmel April 21, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Toyota Sienna - good mileage, very easily configurable, comfortable, and not as high of the ground as an SUV.
Mike April 22, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Lotsa great suggestions, But if I could just make one small one.......Please make it something we make here in MI. ;)
Donna Williams April 22, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I like the look of the Dodge Journey ... if only there were other non-minivan choices back when my two (now college age) children were little. I think Angela will be able to have both "style" and "function"!
Aimee Jones April 22, 2012 at 07:10 PM
We just purchased our 4th Chevy Suburban. We went to a shorter Lincoln Nav last time and only kept it a year. We have four kids and that extra cargo room is a must!
Susan Heholt April 23, 2012 at 12:09 PM
You should definately go up to Huntington Ford and check out their line-up of eco-boost engines. You can get a lot of room in your vehicle, and have the advantage of getting exceptional gas mileage. Ford has several vehicles that get the best gas mileage in their respective classes, so worth a trip to the dealership to try on a few for size, comfort, and what feels right for you! Good luck!
Tiffany April 23, 2012 at 01:33 PM
I need a vehicle with sliding doors or the kids will wreck whatever is in their path when they open "normal" doors. Also I don't have the room in the garage to accommodate the wingspan of normal doors. See, gotta love a minivan.
Jennifer MacDonald April 23, 2012 at 01:39 PM
As a mother of 5, I also use to own a full size conversion van for 10 years. I am now on my 3rd Ford Flex! went to the Ford Exlorer for a year, but not enough room for growing kids. You will be amazed at the amount of room in the Flex.
Kara Q April 23, 2012 at 01:51 PM
I am a former large SUV driver, and lover. After being hit on the side by a teenage driver, causing my SUV (higher center or gravity than vehicles with a lower profile, such as crossovers built on car chassis, or minivan) to roll over three times, I stay away from larger SUV's.... I vote for the Chrysler Town and Country! Second and third row DVD players, with the capability of playing two different movies, so no arguments about which movie they will be watching! The new 6 cylinder Pentastar engine with the 6spd. transmission drives wonderfully, and gets super gas mileage, even around town. The Town and Country also gives you a lot of bang-for-your-buck. For the money, you just cannot beat the features and refinements, and the safety features! The new Dodge Durango with the 6cylinder engine also has quite a few nice standard features, and gets great gas mileage. We had a 6 cylinder Durango for a loaner one weekend while my parents were in town, and the second row was roomy and comfy for the adults, and the third row was perfect for two large high-back booster seats, for the kids. We got excellent gas mileage, the ride was smooth and comfortable, and it was easy to get in and out of the second and third rows. I also like the size of the back up camera in the dash, which is a great feature to have when you have little kids with bikes and scooters in the driveway. The blind-spot monitoring, and cross path detection are also nice safety features.
Christopher April 23, 2012 at 01:51 PM
We second the Acadia. These three vehicles are very similar, a lot of it comes down to the styling you like, and some of the amenities. I think the Acadia might have a tiny bit more space in the back because of the roofline, but probably not a lot. It's definitely not a van, and can certainly handle the snow and ice.
Derek Tellinghuisen April 23, 2012 at 07:18 PM
You should go test drive a Ford Flex or if you want a little bigger more SUV type get a Ford Explorer! They both have a bunch of room in them, seat 7, and can get a DVD players in the back for the kids!
Jessica Story May 14, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Thanks Susan! - Jessica at Huntington Ford

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