Historically, we’re minimalists when it comes to our vehicles. We’ve never owned a new car, and traditionally our cars are a) inherited from family members and b) the most basic editions of Japanese sedans. We also hate mini-vans. However, with the advent of our third (and one might say “late in life”) child, there was no getting around it – to keep the kiddies safe, we needed a vehicle with three rows of seats. The mini-van seemed to be the lesser of two evils, when compared to the Canyonero-esque array of SUVs on the market (“Smells like a steak and seats 35!”).
We weren’t too picky about brand, model or year. My only deal breaker was color (couldn’t be white or red), Michael’s only deal breaker was he wanted it to be free. After that didn’t work out, we became the proud owners of a 2001 Chevy Venture Minivan (Warner Brothers Edition).
The price was right, the inner workings checked out, the color was acceptable, and besides the annoying metal Bugs Bunny/WB logo on the side, it seemed ok.
Our children were flabbergasted we would choose such a wondrous vehicle. It had at least eight thousand buttons, power everything, leather seats, and most amazing of all – a theatre/entertainment system, complete with wireless headphones for the kids! We were overwhelmed. One son kept asking when we had to return this amazing van.
I know a lot of these features are now standard on most minivans, but remember, our last family vehicle was a 1997 Nissan Sentra.
After signing the loan paperwork, trying to avoid too much eye contact with the creepy sales guy, shrewdly (we thought) purchasing the optional one-year “bumper-to-bumper” warranty, we proudly piled into “Vannie” and took a little spin to grandma’s house.
This is the last time I remember a problem-free ride in this vehicle.
You know it’s a bad sign when your mechanic rolls his eyes when you mention the make and model of your vehicle and says “Oh God, I had one of those once.”
Here’s a (probably incomplete) list of everything that’s gone wrong with Vannie since the summer of ’04.
1) Gas gauge inoperable. Estimate to repair - $700. This still isn’t fixed, so we reset the on-board computer thingy to keep track of gas consumption, sometimes with disastrous results – sorry Kelly!
2) Gas tank dicked up, as in, we couldn’t put any gas in the tank. Gas is sorta critical for an internal combustion engine. Repaired to the tune of $600. This problem occurred within two weeks of purchase but was not covered by our “bumper-to-bumper” warranty. I guess the gas tank is somehow outside of the range encompassed by the front and back bumpers. Who knew?
3) Viewing screen for entertainment system breaks. Children inconsolable. Parents gleeful. Seriously, that thing was more trouble than it was worth. We had to create all kinds of weird rules like, “No movies on a trip less than 45 minutes long.”
4) Head gasket replaced. I’m not going to pretend I know what a head gasket is or what it does, but I do know it is critical and costs $1,200 to fix. This was the repair that caused our mechanic to regretfully admit he thought the ’01 Ventures were “lemons.” Excellent.
5) Heating and air conditioning system completely malfunctions. No heat, no air, no defrost, no blower. $600 to get the heat going (it was winter), air conditioning still inoperable (actually, worse than inoperable, it blows a gentle stream of heated air if the blower is on at all).
6) Car overheats and ceases to run. I can’t remember the reason why, but it cost $500 to get it going again. It took the mechanics a while to diagnose this problem, partially because when taking it out for a test drive, they ran out of gas (see #1, above).
Other than that, no complaints!
So, if you want a car your kids will love (until the entertainment system breaks) and that will strip you of most of your expendable income, you could do worse than the 2001 Chevrolet Venture Van (Warner Brothers Edition).