Originally Posted by dolphingirl
Well, we are a family of 8 (6 kids ages 3 months to 12 years), and we drive a Town and Country (same thing as a Dodge Caravan). We really didn't want to drive a 12 passenger van and so we were looking to buy a used 8 passenger Odyseey or Sienna. The prices that they go for used just seemed so high to us, especially when we knew we could get an equivalent Caravan or Town and Country for way less. So, I came across a few big families online who said that they took their two captain's seats out of their Caravans and replace it with another three person bench seat. I was skeptical at first, especially with the kids getting in and out, but my parents didn't really want their 3 person bench from their Caravan anyways and said we could have it, so we gave it a try. It works out beautifully! It is actually way easier for the kids to slip into the back seat through the sides than when they had to go in between the two captain's seats. 5 yo ds is in a Nautilus in the middle back, and myy 12 year old and almost 10 year old are no longer in boosters on either side of him. (In the past, though, we have had a few combinations of car seats and boosters, including an Evenflo Big Kid Booster and 2 Radians, and also we've done a booster, a Radian, and a Britax Marathon. Marathons and Radians "puzzle" really well together when they're both facing the same direction.)
Then in the middle row, we have 2 yo dd rear-facing in a Radian, 7 yo dd forward facing in a Radian, and 3 mo ds in a SnugRide. I have petite kids, so it helps that they can stay in car seats longer and thus the lap belts aren't an issue. Dd 7 is almost too tall for the Radian, and then I'll have to switch her and the baby's position so that she will have a shoulder belt for a booster. I can fit 2 rear facing Radians next to each other just fine, though.
Anyways, would we prefer more space? Sure, but to us the financial strain of getting a larger/different vehicle just wasn't worth it. I was all worried about it working out, but now that we're doing it and it's a part of our daily life, it's totally fine. We've gone on weekend trips, etc. without a problem. The only issue would be if we're going on a longer trip with more luggage, more coolers, etc., but we have a car-top carrier which is really handy.
Obviously this won't work once we have more than four kids who are not in car seats since I won't let them ride in just a lap belt. However, by that time, the newer vans that come equipped with all shoulder belts will be older and selling for more reasonable used prices. Also, by then we may decide we need a bigger van because all of the kids are bigger and it's too crowded. But for now, this works just fine.