Green Home Improvement Ride

January 29, 2008


What is the most fuel efficient cargo van out there for DIY home improvement buffs? That looks cool? Is inexpensive? And is easy to drive and park on NYC streets?

A few years ago my husband bought a pick up truck. I said “You’ll regret it. A van will be more useful.” But he didn’t listen to me and as always, I was right. To make matters worse, he wanted the best fuel efficiency. No, that’s not a bad thing! But he bought a small 2WD manual transmission.

1. Small= Too small to fit many items. Even if he throws a few pieces of 2×4′s in the back, they hang over the tailgate and he has to bungee them down. Forget fitting more than one large piece of furniture.

2. 2WD= Rear wheels. A pick up doesn’t have much weight in the back. He has to weigh it down with sandbags if it’s snowy. There goes the good fuel efficiency!

3. I can’t drive stick. He tried to teach me but I freaked out. So I have to rely on him for picking up big items.

4. We’re not about to throw the dogs in the back of the truck. On weekends when we go down to Brooklyn and we need to pick up large materials, guess what? We have to take 2 cars! That’s 2x the gas mileage.

I’ll cut him some slack. When he bought the truck a few years ago we were in a different situation. Now I’ll be needing a larger vehicle than my RAV4 since I’ve started this salvage/antique business. My car fits my dogs, small pieces of furniture and any camera equipment I need to schlepp (not all at once). The gas mileage is not bad, so I’m not giving that up. He has a little Scion that he uses every day that gets awesome gas mileage, so that’s a keeper.

We need to lose the pick up.

Here’s the search criteria:

  • I can’t be scared to drive it.
  • Fits dogs plus…
  • Not too big, but big enough for a 4×8 piece of sheetrock.
  • Good gas mileage (or as good as a van can get)
  • Not too expensive. We’re looking at used.

This is what I’ve come up with so far:


Here’s what I really want. An old VW Bus that I can paint any color! I’d love to pimp this thing out! The husband works in heavy construction and has to maintain a semi macho image, so I’m “not allowed” to go with something like this. (Yeah, I know. Scion?) I’m sure the gas mileage is horrendous anyway, even if the engine is new.


The Chevy Astro is probably the most realistic option. It’s among the highest rated for fuel efficiency in vans and we can get a newer model at a price we can afford. Plus, there are many used Astros to choose from. The down side is that a 4WD is less efficient and the 2WD seems to be rear wheel.


The VW Eurovan gets about the same mileage as the Astro. The big plus here is that this is a front wheel drive vehicle. The downside is that we’ll be paying more money for an older van. But look how cute it is!

Whaddya think? Any other options we’re missing? I’d rent one as needed, but I’ll be using it every weekend come April when I start doing the Brooklyn Flea.