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To DVD or Not to DVD

You’ve decided that it’s time to shop for a new family car, and this time around, you’re looking at vehicles that can add some serenity to your drive by keeping the kids entertained. Luckily, many minivans and SUVs are available with rear-seat DVD systems that will ease your commute and maintain your child’s attention.

However, be forewarned that many of these systems aren’t available on base models, so you’ll end up spending significantly more than the low price that got you into the showroom. Generally, the best deals on DVD systems are often on affordable compact SUVs. Minivans may entice shoppers with base prices that are generally less than midsize SUVs, but their bottom lines can escalate quickly as you move up the trim levels.

If your kids are old enough to handle electronics, you’ll save a significant amount of money by skipping costly rear-seat entertainment options. Instead, consider purchasing a tablet such as an iPad or a portable DVD player. While a DVD system in the car will allow your kids to watch movies, an iPad, or similar tablet, will also allow them to listen to music, surf the web and play games.

Additionally, a portable device means that you can keep your children entertained anywhere. An iPad can be used in the house or on a plane, and since movies, music and games can be stored on the hard drive, you can pack lighter and not worry about hunting for that favorite movie or game disc.

Minivans

DVD systems generally add big bucks to a minivan’s sticker. However, if your kids aren’t happy unless “The Backyardigans” are on TV, the Toyota Sienna LE is currently the cheapest game in town. And although the Chrysler Town & Country has the highest base price of the lot, don’t let it scare you away. The Town & Country is the only minivan that allows shoppers to add a DVD system to the base model. The $1,300 price tag on Chrysler’s base DVD system is also the lowest in the pack.

Make/Model

Base Price

Price with DVD System

DVD System Price

System Type

Option Price Compared with 16 GB iPad 2 ($499)

Option Price Compared With Nintendo DSi ($150)

Toyota Sienna

$25,060

$31,199

$1,999

Dual headrest-mounted screens

$1,500 more

$1,849 more

Chrysler Town & Country

$30,260

$31,560

$1,300

Roof-mounted single screen (dual screens available on upper trims)

$801 more

$1,150 more

Kia Sedona

$24,900

$33,590

$1,900

Roof-mounted single screen

$1,401 more

$1,750 more

Honda Odyssey

$28,075

$36,325

$1,600

Roof-mounted widescreen display with split views

$1,101 more

$1,450 more

Nissan Quest

$27,750

$36,450

$2,100

Roof-mounted widescreen display

$1,601 more

$1,950 more

Numbers in bold denote the lowest price.

Affordable Midsize SUVs

Many affordable midsize SUVs bundle their DVD systems with other options, which can make the price jump quicker than you might think. Ford requires that you purchase a convenience package on the Flex, which includes a power liftgate, power-adjustable pedals, heated mirrors and memory settings for the driver’s seat. Rivals such as the Dodge Durango and the Mazda CX-9 require you to add navigation and other expensive options.

Despite bundling options, the Flex’s price with a rear-seat DVD system is still less than the Dodge or the Mazda, but not quite as low as the Chevrolet Traverse. It also features an additional screen, which should come in handy during those heated debates over whether to watch “Curious George” or “Phineas and Ferb.”

Make/Model

Base Price

Price with DVD System

DVD System Price

System Type

Option Price Compared with 16 GB iPad 2 ($499)

Option Price Compared With Nintendo DSi ($150)

Chevrolet Traverse

$29,370

$34,020

$2,010

Dual headrest-mounted screens

$1,511 more

$1,860 more

Ford Flex

$29,355

$35,080

$1,995

Dual headrest-mounted screens

$1,496 more

$1,845 more

Honda Pilot

$28,320

$35,870

$1,600

Roof-mounted single screen

$1,101 more

$1,450 more

Dodge Durango

$29,195

$36,660

$1,695

Roof-mounted single screen

$1,196 more

$1,545 more

Mazda CX-9

$29,135

$38,365

$3,055

Roof-mounted single screen

$2,556 more

$2,905 more

Numbers in bold denote the lowest price.

Affordable Compact SUVs

The Mazda CX-7 and the Mitsubishi Outlander stand out as affordable compact SUVs that should appeal to budget-minded parents. Both the CX-7 and the Outlander will let your kids watch “Thomas the Tank Engine” by adding rear-seat DVD systems to base models. The systems are priced fairly low as well, but lack the additional screen that comes on more expensive rivals.

Choosing the CX-7 or Outlander allows you to save thousands compared with rival SUVs like the Ford Escape and Chevrolet Equinox, and although the Equinox’s DVD option is reasonably priced, it’s bundled with a leather seating option that ultimately makes it more costly to attain.

Make/Model

Base Price

Price with DVD System

DVD System Price

System Type

Option Price Compared with 16 GB iPad 2 ($499)

Option Price Compared With Nintendo DSi ($150)

Mazda CX-7

$21,990

$23,190

$1,200

Roof-mounted single screen

$701 more

$1,050 more

Mitsubishi Outlander

$21,995

$23,690

$1,695

Roof-mounted single screen

$1,196 more

$1,545 more

Ford Escape

$21,240

$26,165

$1,995

Dual headrest-mounted screens

$1,496 more

$1,845 more

Chevrolet Equinox

$22,995

$28,315

$1,295

Dual headrest-mounted screens

$796 more

$1,145 more

Numbers in bold denote the lowest price.

Affordable Large SUVs

If you need an affordable large SUV with rear-seat entertainment, but don’t want to dip into your children’s college fund by adding costly options, the Ford Expedition is worth a look. Unlike its closest rivals, kids can watch “Dora the Explorer” in the Expedition without you forking over big bucks for expensive trim levels.

The Nissan Armada, for example, requires you to select not only a higher trim, but also bundles its DVD system with a moonroof, while the Toyota Sequoia requires you to spend nearly $13,500 more than base MSRP. Sequoia buyers who want a DVD system will be pushed to the up-market Limited trim, which adds handsomely to the bottom line.

Make/Model

Base Price

Price with DVD System

DVD System Price

System Type

Option Price Compared with 16 GB iPad 2 ($499)

Option Price Compared With Nintendo DSi ($150)

Ford Expedition

$37,275

$39,270

$1,995

Dual headrest-mounted screens

$1,496 more

$1,845 more

Chevrolet Tahoe

$37,980

$44,125

$1,295

Single roof-mounted screen

$796 more

$1,145 more

Nissan Armada

$38,490

$46,240

$1,600

Single roof-mounted screen

$1,101 more

$1,450 more

Toyota Sequoia

$40,930

$55,395

$1,670

Dual headrest-mounted screens

$1,171 more

$1,520 more

Numbers in bold denote the lowest price.

A DVD system may be a valuable tool because it keeps kids entertained while you keep your eyes on the road. However, the cost to add a DVD system can add significantly to the bottom line. If you want to give your children something to watch and keep the sticker price low, be sure to shop around for the best deal on your next minivan or SUV, but also consider portable options that will keep the kids happy wherever they are.