|The Winter's Spring", 12x24" mixed media on wood panel.|
I will have this with me at Arts on the Credit in April.
See my website for details.
I drive an old truck. It’s been a good truck… but it’s 16 years old and has over 250,000 km on it, and honestly, it’s turning into a bit of a money pit. Every time it goes in for service there’s something new wrong with it, costing us another pile of cash. Such is the way of an old vehicle.
Before I started driving the truck, I drove a Saturn sedan. I loved my Saturn. Decent gas milage for the time, and a surprising amount of cargo space. I was driving my Saturn when I bought my the display gear I use for shows. Before I bought it I got out my measuring tape and made sure everything would fit in my car without issue. It was a comfortable fit. No problems.
When my car died I took over driving my husband’s truck. He didn’t need it for work… we live close enough he started riding his bike back and forth. We even invested in one of those fat tire winter bikes so we could share the vehicle. The display racks didn’t fit in the truck bed, but we could open the back cab window and slide them through. Not an ideal solution, but it worked, and I only did a couple shows a year that required me to use them, so we managed. (We also own a small Mazda hatchback that my son drives. I can fit a lot of paintings into that car, but my display gear doesn’t fit. So I really didn’t have many options).
We have now decided it’s time to get a new (to us) vehicle. We did some research on the SUV category, narrowed down the choices to 6, and started shopping.
I’m not going to get into how I was completely invisible to the mostly male sales force at the dealerships. They just assumed the decision would be made by my husband. It wasn’t until I got out the tape measure and started crawling around in the back that they figured maybe I should be part of the conversation. The first company to figure out that women have some buying power these days and starts treating them like they exist will make a fortune. Just saying.
I thought I would share my thoughts on fitting display gear into a compact SUV, because when I was searching online for info, there was nothing available. Most websites don’t list dimensions of the cargo bed, it’s listed by volume. How do you know if your gear will fit? I know some people who go the trailer route, and someone who puts a lot of the big stuff on a roof rack. That’s an option… but I want to be able to get everything packed and unpacked on my own, as Mr. M isn’t always around to help.
So… I have display grid walls that are 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide. They make them taller, and shorter, but given the size of the average canopy used in a outdoor art fair, it seemed to make sense when I bought them. Given they could fit in my average sized car, it didn’t occur to me I would ever have an issue. But cars have gotten smaller, and even SUVs are not as big as they used to be. While that might be awesome when trying to park the thing (have parking spots gotten smaller too? It feels like it…), it’s a pain trying to fit in large gear.
Of the 6 models we checked out, we have narrowed it down to 3. I loved driving the Honda CRX, but because of the way the back seats split, there is no way I could fit the racks in. The narrower of the two sides is on the passenger side… only about 18” wide. I'd have to put both sides down, and then if I'm lucky enough to have help, where would they sit? The front seat had to be as far forward as it would go, not leaving any space for someone with... you know... legs. The Hyundai Santa Fe and the Ford Edge felt more like driving a truck than the others we tested, so while they felt ok and were spacious, we struck them both off the list. I’m not a huge fan of driving a truck. I’m not that tall, and it makes me feel like I’m steering a tank.
My top pick: pretty sure it’s the Hyundai Tucson. Nice to drive… it feels like driving a car, not a big vehicle. Gets great milage, the reliability rating is the highest in its class, and I could both back into a tight spot and parallel park easily. The back seats have the wider section of the split on the passenger side, so I can put the front seat all the way up, and the racks easily fit. Bonus, I can fit in a passenger at the same time.
The Mazda CX5 is also really nice to drive. The gas milage is a bit better than the Tucson, but the reliability rating is not as high. The base model has the backseat split the same as the Honda, so we thought this would eliminate it from our choices, even though I liked it a lot. We discovered that the next level trim package has a centre console in the back seat that gives more flexibility. Given that we were looking for a used car, if we can find one that has that option it will still be a possibility.
Lastly, the Toyota RAV4 is my final option. My husband didn’t like it as much, as it is a bit bigger than the other two, but there is enough cargo space that I can fit the racks in with still enough room to sit in the front passenger seat. Parking is still easy… the backup camera seems to be a standard feature now, thank goodness. I backed into a very tight spot I wouldn’t have even attempted without the camera. I didn’t try parallel parking it… that would be necessary if we were to buy it, as a lot of downtown galleries use street parking for loading and unloading. As much as I hate doing it, I have to sometimes.
I considered selling my current display gear and replacing it with 5 foot high racks… this would give us more flexibility and allow us to get whatever we wanted. It’s still an option, but I’d rather not go through the hassle of doing that if I don’t have to. And given what I’ve seen at the art fairs I’ve done, the 6 footers are pretty standard.
I hope this helps out anyone looking for information. I think putting dimensions on the vehicle websites would make things so much easier… surely it’s not just artists that have specific needs for transport. But I don’t imagine asking for it would change anything… a couple dealers couldn’t even dig up a tape measure when I asked. And they had no clue what the dimensions were. All I can suggest is that if you are going shopping for a car, don’t forget your tape measure. It’ll save you a lot of hassle later on.