I am in the market for a 15 pass van.
I noticed that some vans have a longer wheel base (wheel is closer to the rear of the van) tand others that seem to look like it has a shorter wheel base. Is one safer than the other? Better or worse?
Look up each van on Edmunds.com or just Google each one individually for safety ratings, from professional reviewers,and the NHTSA Gov't tests. They are all public information and posted, and make a decision, Personally I don't think there is much if any difference in safety..roll over, handling, or anything. They all must meet strict safety standards set by the DOT and NHTSA to be sold in the US
http://www.safercar.gov/Safety+Ratings .................http://www.safercar.gov/ http://www.nhtsa.gov/ .... http://www.nhtsa.gov/Vehicle+Safety
I drove an 18 passenger Dodge Ram 1500 for a theatre group. I was basically a SWB 1500 with a big butt welded on (you could even see where it was tacked on) and it presented a few challenges. First off, it was dreadful in the ice/snow and it even got stuck in a flat parking lot with just a glaze of ice on it. That being said, most vehicles of that type are light in the rear, and no AWD models were offered. Once it was loaded with 18 kids and driver, things improved, and also it WAS equipped with the best winter tires one could get. The same was true for it's summer shoes. Keep in mind these are NOT sports cars, or even cars for that matter. They handle very differently than regular vehicles. The first thing you'll notice is the very high center of gravity. They are tippy, really sensitive to winds cross or otherwise and braking and turning these things require completely different techniques, and really none of them are particularly instinctive. Because of the sheer size of them, braking takes longer, and is not nearly as predictable or smooth as you might be used to. Quick sharp turns are not recommended and should be avoided. Thinking way ahead is paramount in driving one of these things. Make sure you order the heavy duty braking package, cooling package, and suspension components. They aren't much wider than a large car, so you can fit in a normal lane, but the bigger and wider mirrors need to be taken into account. Parking can pose a problem in the SWB versions with the tacked on butt, because your wheels aren't at the end, and the overhang can be a real issue when trying to park in less than wide open spaces. If you have one with the wheels near the back of the van, it's easier to judge (not park per se) where everything is. You really have to watch the SWB extended body van when parallel parking because if you use the mirrors to gauge where the wheels are in relationship to the curb, the overhang can easily smack into a tree or an unnoticed parked car. These are just some of the things I'd want to make people aware of, because they are a very different experience than the norm. Also, both SWB and LWB are quite difficult to back up and turn around so make sure you have enough room. Also, make sure all passengers are belted. Don't let anyone walk around, because movement will upset the delicate balance. Hope this helps. John
Thanks John- I have a large family and we are adding another member. The 8 pass escalade is too small now. I am worried about the SWB with the extended back. I have never driven one, so your insight was very helpful. I would think that the SWB with extended back would seem bouncy. I think I want to get the LWB because it just seems to me that it would be a little more stable. The plan is to get a 15 pass van and take the back seat out to fit all of the stuff a big family can have. Tires and brakes are good advice.
Hi Adino, Just a couple of quick additions before I forget. Whether you get the SWB extended or the LWB neither of them are going to provide a cloud like controlled ride. Both are going to be choppy over expansion joints, and really harsh over poor roads in general. I use a car service a fair amount, and the Escalade seems to be the vehicle of choice. Trust me, you won't get the same feeling as you do in your Escalade. I think in this day and age things should be at least more palatable; back in the day all the 'passenger' vans were commercial vans with seats stuck in them. I haven't driven the newer ones, but most of what I said before is still true. I think if you go the LWB and take out the back seat, the ride will improve dramatically, especially if you put the heaviest stuff there. However, make sure the weight is fairly equally distributed throughout, that way you'll avoid the nausea producing 'pitch pole' effect that can reduce the fun of the trip. Now that you've told me what the primary purpose of use is going to be, have just a couple of more 'tips' for you. I would definitely get the biggest engine you can that just exceeds what you think you might need. My reasoning is this. If you get too little engine and too much vehicle, you won't have the power you'll need, and oddly enough the smaller engine will use more gas as it will be working harder to achieve the same thing. Also, confidence levels erode if you don't have that extra grunt when you need it. Either way though, don't expect stellar MPG; remember you are driving and oversized refrigerator box filled with people and stuff. Your sales person can advise you on engine and gearing choices; there are a ton of them. If they seem over whelming, write me back and I'll help sort them out for you. Sometimes the 'numbers' mean squat, it's the seat of the pants feeling that really matters most. My previous suggestions about the heavier cooling, suspention, brake still apply. As for reliability; I don't have total knowledge of who is better, but I've never had ANY luck with Dodge or Chrysler products. However, a thought came to me. You might look into the Sprinter (Mercedes) passenger van as well as the Nissan NV (Nissan Van) and see how those match up. Don't confuse the NV with the Quest, while good, they are too small for what you need. Any more questions, van or car wise, you know where I am. BTW congrats on the new arrival, and for voting me Best Answer!. John
John- Again thanks! I have looked a the NV3500 and love it. But man....35 to 40K! It is out of my reach at this time. I am sure when we start to see more used ones in the future I will invest on one of those. I have not looked at the Sprinter....I will check it out. The vans I have been interested in is the Ford. I just like the look better. Lets face it....I have a big change from an Escalade to a home school van. We are a little spoiled. I simply need more seats. I have thought about adding another seat in the back of the Escalade. It is an ESV so it has the room. But then I lose the ability have a "trunk". You did bring up a good point about the way a van will handle. My wife gets car sick really easily, a van will really do her in. It is something else we will have to consider. Might just have to bite the bullet and pay for the Nissan. I use Adino as my internet name....My name is Rick. Good to meet you sir, and thanks again for the help.
manufacturers went to the longer wheelbase to improve ride,handling and safety and it accomplisehes all three.
I think you'll get a better roi on either the NV or the sprinter. They are modern and don't sound inside like you are sitting in a dryer. Cost wise I think the Escalade and the NV would be close, so I would buy what you can comfortably afford keeping in mind it's an investment in your family's enjoyment down the road. Also get a wide view back up camera without question for anything you get. The other thing about these two choices is you can take them to the supermarket or convenience store without feeling you are taxiing a Dc10. Best, John
To JohnTheCarNut, on behalf of Adino and myself for the elaboration and support of my post I would like to Thank You for the excellent information, from somebody that obviously knows what you are talking about. Thanks to John and wlogan also. There is only one small item I might respectfully disagree with. A big engine yes, absolutely, and proper final gear ratio. But getting that information from the salesman, what gear ratios for certain applications is best discussed with a mechanic or transmission specialist. It has been my experience salesmen don't know squat about these kinds of things. Most salesmen have never laid a wrench on a vehicle. When car shopping, and I see a car and ask "What engine is in this car?" He will say "V6" or something, so I ask what horsepower?"and he didn't even know that. Find somebody that knows about final drive ratios, maybe a mechanic in the shop, the one that gets assigned transmission jobs. You will get better, accurate answers from a guy that has no stake in the sale (or not) of the van. And one more thing, check with your State DMV for driver's license requirements for 15, 16 and 18 passenger vans, Some States require a Commercial license with passenger endorsement for 16 passenger vans, for example California does not unless you are driving passengers for hire, but not you family. Other States, no endorsement needed at all, and still yet others passenger endorsement is required for 16 for hire or not, but not 15. Every State is different. This is a 2009 Ford 15 passenger, ...138" wheelbase, and a TMV of about $15,000 according to Edmunds.com
David, Thanks for those added insights. especially the gear and final drive ratios. A commercial place that caters to trucks and towing/torque numbers. I want aware of a special license requirement but it would make sense to check. In my state there was no special requirement(or we were unaware. .) Things change all the time though. I think if you drive your family around you're okay. For hire and real school bus duty there are license requirements. You don't need anything different as long as the vehicle has passenger tags on it.
over the years i've owned lots of vans. the extended offered the most versatility. the short, the easiest handling. had all size engines and gear ratio rear axels. gas mileage wasn't alot different in any but my old vw.lol. i personally like some torque when i'm carrying weight. my 5L chevy with a high ratio axel only got about 2 more mpg than my 7.5L ford with a 4.11 gear.i, personally, would consider a 5.3L the minm.engine. a good all around gear for a modern van with overdrive would be between a 3.70 and a 4.11 in my opinion.
Rick, the Ford in the pic looks pretty good I did notice some overhang. As you can probably tell I'm not a huge fan of overhang,but if it's usable storage space I would and could get used to it in no time. Let's face it, no two vehicles drive the same anyway. Wlogan has a lot more rear end savvy than I do but still stand by my original statement of getting more powerful engine than you think you need. A bigger diesel might be a consideration as they have more torque. Also they have come a long way since the days of stinky black smoke and the sounds of rocks rattling in a coffee can. Hope this helps! John
Dodge: Personally not a fan of any Chrysler product. Both from my own experience and the disproportionate number of questions we get here about them and their troubles. But the Dodge is a little 3.0 diesel 154hp/ 208ft/lbs torque slug. And this photo is captioned as 170" WB..but there is no perspective to convince me of that, 170? Dunno bout that
Pasted from Edmunds RE: Dodge: That first-generation had been sold around the world as a Mercedes-Benz since 1995, yet it was already a revolutionary step beyond its aged General Motors and Ford competition. The second-generation Sprinter increased that disparity even more until Mercedes repossessed it after the 2009 model year, dooming Dodge's van to an untimely demise.
Nissan> 146" WB 5.6 Gas 317 hp 385ft.lb torque
Seating in Nissan
OK The Chevy 135" WB beats them all with 6.0 Gas engine with 373HP and 373 ft.lbs torque, and a 6.6 Diesel option with get this: 525 ft.lbs torque. Nobody else come close on that. 2700lb payload. 6 speed automatic, and Electronic Stability Control. This is listed as 12 passenger but has floor mountings standard for a 4th row to make it a 15, but still with room for a lot of luggage, like your mother-in-law. 2009: About $16k New 1013: $30k I like this one and I am a Ford man when it comes to trucks/vans
I absolutely love the interior of NY. Looks more like a well done twin turboprop. Is that standard lighting. The other thing I like about it is that the last row of seats seem to be able to be individually folded down to give more room and eliminate the "She's on my side" or "He's breathing my air." I hate any Dodge product. They are built to last...6 months, and the dealers are horrible to deal with. As everyone here has made some excellent points, suggestions, and knowledgeable answers, it really boils down to personal preference at this this point. Personally, I love the NV because it seems so versatile and Nissan really does stand behind what they make, but any of the suggestions made here won't steer you wrong. I just thought about one more caveat about the LWB vans. Because the wheel base is so much longer than normal, you have to remember to turn PAST where you normally might otherwise the rear wheels will jump the curb and you'll be making your turn on the sidewalk, knocking out palm trees or innocent people sitting on the bus bench. Also HD AC is a must, and make sure there's one for the back too. Other than that my work here is done, unless of course anyone has any more questions. Thanks all, it's been great fun chatting and sharing with you. MY vote, the NV with the diesel.
I was not thinking diesel...I like that thought too....I do have to admit, I really did find the right place to get information for my question. I still have not decided what to do. I don't need to buy till the first of the year, so I have some time to sort it out. My wife and I will take all this information into consideration. We adopt kids with special needs from around the world, its crazy I know, but we see the need and go for it. Having the bigger car is just where we are at now. It's hard to decide what is best...live in our means and get a regular extended van...or figure out how to get the NV with a safer rating. What is family worth? What are the memories of your kids worth, and how does it relate to your vehicle? What can you really affort in these harder times? I really have to face the facts in all these question, it really comes down to money. So I really appreciate your inputs as I navigate the posiblities. I loved reading the posts. This is a very helpful group!
We have two adopted special needs boys and I congratulate both you and you wife for your service and work. Until one has parented a child with special needs no one knows what a huge amount of time money and sheer exhaustion it takes to do with it correctly. That being said even with just two boys I would go as big as possible. We have a 2012 Sentra but would prefer something bigger. I would get the best you can get without strapping yourselves too much as we both know that unexpected$$$ arise. With the 2 boys we are looking into a Murano or Pathfinder but that is a ways down the road. I'm so glad the info that I and others gave was so helpful. John