I’ve been to Southern California three times.
The first time, I was in third grade on a family vacation. The second time was for a wedding around 2005, during which I drove a rented PT Cruiser convertible. The third time was two weeks ago, when I visited Irvine, CA as a guest of Kelley Blue Book. Not only was this my first official “dad blogger” trip, it was my first opportunity to have In-n-Out in about a decade. I couldn’t NOT go.
Thankfully, this trip did not involve a PT Cruiser. Because Kelley Blue Book has standards.
I was invited out to test drive Kelley recently selected top five family cars of 2016, whittled down from a list of sixteen by their staff’s incredibly knowledgeable and occasionally off-puttingly passionate staff and I cannot stress that last part enough.
The first day was spend listening to that staff talk about their jobs and the cars, and by the time I left I knew a lot more about what they do at KBB and was also a little bit frightened by how much they enjoy it. I mean, one guy literally* said that if the world ended, he’d save his Subaru Outback first and then go back for this kids! (*I may have paraphrased a bit.)
That Outback was one of the five cars we test-drove on our second day in Irvine (where KBB has their headquarters), along with a Toyota Siena minivan (my first time driving a minivan!), a Honda Civic, a Kia Optima, and a Chevy Tahoe, the largest vehicle I’ve driven since I took an RV to South Bend for a college road-trip.
Those five cars we drove were the top five family cars of 2016, which themselves were pulled from more than 300 cars they reviewed in order to make their list. Their top cars are chosen on a set of criteria that identify overall vehicle quality and value (including parking, cargo space, safety, infotainment system, etc.) in twelve different categories.
If you’re anything like me, you probably thought Kelley Blue Book was a good place source for finding out how much your car would fetch if you were to sell it, or how much a car you’re craving might cost you. And you’re not wrong. But over the course of my visit, I found out they do a lot more than that. Their website is robust, to say the least. Kelley is the trusted resource for new and used car buyers, but it’s also chock full of reviews and information to help people make the best possible buying decisions. Judging by the 20+ million unique visitors their site gets every month, I’m the only one who didn’t know that already.
I went into the visit knowing a few things:
- I live in Brooklyn, and exclusively use street-parking, so there was no way the Chevy Tahoe was for me.
- I have two kids, one who will be in a booster seat for a few more years and another who sits in a full-on car seat and requires the constant use of a stroller, so the Optima and the Civic weren’t practical for my lifestyle.
- I hate minivans.
Only one of those opinions changed.
On day two, the KBB team set us up with test-driving routes, making sure we all had a chance to drive each car in a variety of settings. We drove on the 405 freeway, we drove through Santiago Canyon, on city streets, along the coast in Laguna Beach. We got a little taste of everything. My driving buddy and I (Daddy’s In Charge) even got a little taste of In-N-Out Burger, because there was no way I was going to visit the west coast without stopping there, even if it was way off the route and by doing so we delayed everyone else. (Sorry guys, but it was totally worth it.)
Even before getting behind the wheel, I’d already ruled out three of the cars, and the driving did nothing to change my mind. I liked things about every car but some of them just weren’t going to be in the cards for me anytime soon (The Tahoe was surprisingly quiet and could fit both my Buried family and my secret family they don’t know about, and it was fun driving a couple of sedans – it’s been a while since I’ve been that low to the ground, and both the Kia and the Civic handled well. But there’s no way those two could fit my other wife and kids.) Which left the Subaru Outback and the Toyota Sienna.
After our long day of test driving, we were treated to an Angels game, and, as luck would have it, they were playing my Red Sox and Angel Stadium has Firestone Walker on tap. As unluck would have it, the Sox wasted a gem of a performance from David Price and lost on a walk-off throwing error, after which I was heckled by one of my new Kelley Blue Book friends. That would have been the most humiliating thing that happened to me… if it weren’t for the shocking realization that of all the cars we drove, I liked the Toyota Sienna best.
The thought of driving a minivan makes me hate everything about myself, and yet I actually liked the Sienna best.
I guess you could say, like so many before me, I found myself in Southern California, and it turns out I’m a person who kind of likes minivans. I’m not about to buy one – I still prefer the slightly cooler crossover SUV I currently own and will probably look for something similar, using the Kelley Blue Book website, no doubt – but I could see it happening at some point.
Maybe after my vasectomy? (BURN!)
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Life of Dad and Kelley Blue Book. I have received compensation for this post; however, all opinions stated are my own.