Hubs came back from an extended work assignment to be greeted by a extra child. I briefly mentioned previously, while he was gone, we had a new baby. I told him how we lived like sardines in our Grand Jeep Cherokee and he assured me we were fine. Two weeks after his return, numerous kicking from the back seat and we have been looking at new cars for the past week. Guess sardine life isn’t for him. Nevertheless, it hasn’t been as exciting as it seems. With one failed negotiation and the realization that palm trees and island paradise life makes the dealerships feel inclined to add a additional $10,000 markup on new cars; we have yet to be driving off the lot with new keys in hand.

Don’t reread that last part- $10,000 markup on a new car is the truth. The dealerships claim its destination fees; however, when researching which make and model, I ran across numerous information which states the destination fee is the same for all 50 states, and further more, Hawaii is the only state with such a outrageous markup. However, in doing so much research and finding such little on personal reviews; I thought I’d share my findings.

I’ve done so much research; too much research. I have looked at stats, took photos and complied a nice little article on about 5 different SUV third row models in our price range. But hearing personal reviews is the best research.

If you read online the new 2013 Dodge Durango has a different engine than past models, and get she same gas mileage as most of the SUVs. Better than some actually. If you choose captains seats, you lose a seat since the third row bench only has two across. The seating configuration consists of 2-2-2 (with captains seats) or 2-3-2 (with two benches in place). The cargo area is second in its class with 17.2 cu ft to the Chevy Traverse’s 24.4 cu ft. Considering the passengers in the back, the dual heat/air and ceiling mounted vents make it ideal for keeping everyone comfortable. With all the added features, a nice Crew edition with leather seats, blue tooth, and nice media features (usb outlet, in-dash dvd, and additional speakers) will run you a MSRP of $34,500. Adding in that “nice” $4000 stick-it-to-the-buyer up-charge and you can quickly see how it puts this and other vehicles in a entirely different price bracket. Two additional notes- I would like to comment on the upgraded in-dash media center. Dodge boasts a dvd player, however, it can only be watched while the car is in park for safety reasons. As this is understandable, they are rarely found with the traditional ceiling mounted dvd system. So don’t get too excited with the fancy titling of “dvd” on the pricing sheet. Fitting three car seats acroos the second row bench seems achievable, and with the latch system mounts in the second bench doable since no seat belts would be prohibiting a passenger from entering the third row like the GMC Acadia.

Now while the Traverse has three across in the third row, we have personally had a shoty record with Chevy and Hubs thought it was too big (men!). However, it is leading in its class for cargo with third row in place with 24.4 cu ft. Very impressive. Also, with ceiling mounted vents and fancy dash-mounted media upgrades, this SUV was perfect. But it all comes down to personal preference.

Toyota literally has a palm sized width amount of cargo room with the third row up, and as we are looking for a road trip warrior, cargo is key. And with only 10 cu ft. in both the Highlander and 4 Runner, I doubt I could even carry a umbrella stroller without have to lay one of the 60/40 seats down for extra room.

The Honda was overpriced for amenities and lacked eye appeal. With only 16 cu ft in the Pathfinder, you can tell that even one extra foot of cargo room can make a difference. The drivers cockpit seemed crammed and confined and the lack of ceiling air vents would make some passengers sweat and feel claustrophobic.

And while the Mazda cx9 was sleek, roomy and has amazing resale and safety ratings (we previously owned a Mazda and wanted a cx9 with a passion) once we got into it, it just wasn’t for us.

As for gas mileage, we are coming from a Jeep Grand Cherokee and after talking with a few people who own a durango and other larger SUV’s, the gas is the same for both vehicles; nothing that would shock us out of buying. I have talked to Hubs several times about a van, but he’d rather pay more for a suv than be seen driving a van.

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