Last Tuesday night I finished rolling the Rust-o-leum epoxy paint all over the garage floor and began waiting the necessary seven days for it to fully dry. Although I didn’t have to, I chose to sprinkle little multi-colored speckles all over the floor, figuring that it improved the look over just a flat blue/gray paint. (These speckles make no performance difference; it’s all cosmetic.) At this juncture, I’m prepared to call the project a success if only because I’ve put so much work into the whole thing that to label it otherwise would send an unrecoverable blow to my psyche. Everyone who’s looked at the floor has been complimentary which is nice. It means I don’t have to strangle them.

That task accomplished, I again set out to look at minivans, specifically something in the Honda Odyssey 2002/2003 branch since Honda won’t have a hybrid minivan until at least the 2009 model year. We’d been close to purchasing one a month or two ago, but the specific vehicle I’d found on—a site I highly recommend, by the way—sold two days after it was listed and before I could get up to Portland to look at it.

Well, I found three Honda Odysseys of varying prices ($16,000-$18,000), features, and mileage via AutoTrader, and started calling this morning. Turns out my favorite of the three was a available, so we headed up to Portland’s Janzen Beach area to take a look.

The vehicle I was interested in was a “Starlight Silver Metallic” 2002 Honda Odyssey EX-L Sports Van with all the options. (Another review here.) Like the Lexus, I could do without all the bells and whistles, but I’m also not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. You want to give me bells and whistles, I’ll take your bells and whistles. More on the options in a minute.

The van seems mechanically sound—it’s been inspected and given the green light—and it has only 46,000 miles on it, which is pretty good. The Odysseys of this vintage have transmission problems if they have any problems at all (showing up, if what I’m reading is correct, in about 2-3 percent of all these Honda minivans). This problem manifests itself by a horrible clunking from first to second gear and gets progressively worse (again, based on what I’ve read). Today’s test drive was smooth as silk—shifted even better than the Lexus, in my opinion, and that’s saying something. The turning radius is also better than the Lexus, though I don’t know if that’s a feather in the cap for the Odyssey or a black eye for the Lexus. Anyway, the test drive went great.

The biggest issues with the car are cosmetic. The front and rear bumpers have both been scratched and the front is dinged on the passenger corner. Not to give away the ending, but these will all be repaired by the time I take possession of the vehicle on Friday. Because I can handle minor cosmetic defects, especially if they will be fixed for me. (God knows I’ve at the Lexus into the body shop a time or two, and it’s always been for a cosmetic fix.) So that net result is that we purchased the Odyssey for roughly $16k, a couple thousand less than what considers its “True Market Value (TMV).”

Here’s what I really like about the vehicle: It’s a minivan. I know that they get derided as the wimpy, but honestly, there is no better people mover out there. I can haul seven people (comfortably) versus a sort of squished five in the Lexus and get the same gas mileage, except that the van will take regular unleaded and the Lexus takes premium. You can also haul a ton of stuff with you, far more than the standard passenger car. I like the sliding door a lot. Getting in and out is loads easier, something that one can really appreciate in the rain.

I mentioned this particular van being loaded to the gills, and here it is: Four captains chairs, keyless entry system, overhead console, rear window defroster, third row seat (stows flat), automatic two-zone (front and rear) climate control, 3.5L 240 hp V6 engine, clock, alloy wheels, 4-wheel antilock brakes, front side impact airbags, seven passenger seating, power driver seat, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, power windows, rear window wiper, power exterior mirrors, AM/FM/CD audio system, lighted entry system, power brakes, dual power sliding side doors, traction control, driver and passenger front airbags, anti-theft alarm system, audio steering wheel controls, power steering, privacy glass, power door locks, LATCH system for child seats, and a roof rack.

And that’s just the list of standard features for the EX-L. This one also has the leather package (leather seats throughout, heated leather front seats), the DVD entertainment system (DVD player, fold-down LCD screen, wireless headphones, remote control), and DVD-based GPS navigation system. I have no idea how well the DVD or the GPS systems work, but back in the day, they added some $3000 to the cost of the van.

Given what we’re getting for the price we’re paying, we’re plenty happy. We’ll be selling the Lexus, a fine car in its own right, in the next week or two. I’ve enjoyed the Lexus quite a bit, but it’s really not a great family car (unless your family of three or four is older). I have no doubt that this minivan is a very good, very necessary step forward, and I’ve long looked forward to it.