Choosing the best family car consists of every family member wanting something different. Dad wants something affordable, Mom wants something practical, the kids want something that looks cool and comes packed with technological entertainment gadgets, and the family pet wants something with washable upholstery in case he gets carsick. Granted, not every person’s opinion is going to be factored in when it comes time for the final decision to be made, but there are a few categories you may want to look at to help you choose the best family car for your needs.
This is going to be category Number 1 for all family vehicle shoppers. When it comes to protecting your family, you can never be too careful. Those crash tests you see being performed in all the car commercials on television, those are more than just some guys who were geeks in high school and are now taking out all their youthful aggression by slamming giant hunks of metal into a brick wall at high speeds. Those are actually very rigorous, and very tedious, tests. The government agency, NHTSA, has adapted stricter standards for their crash tests starting with the 2011 model year as well. So, if you check the crash test scores on www.safercar.gov, you’ll get the most reliable testing available. Every vehicle is going to perform differently, so your choice really depends on your needs, which brings us to our other categories.
Aside from safety, reliability should be a very close second when choosing a family vehicle. Nobody likes to be stranded, let alone stranded with kids. Research is the only way you can judge reliability. There is no 100% guarantee for anything mechanical to not break. All you can go by is the track record. Edmunds (www.edmunds.com), Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org), and here at iSeeCars.com, are all great resources to check out the reliability of current and the past few model-year vehicles.
How big is your family? Are you just starting out and have a little one or two? Or, are you in your declining years of adulthood (as your teenager would put it when you hit the ripe old age of 40) and now possess a stampede of children? Do you haul kids to sporting events with equipment, coolers, chairs, extra clothes, shoes, and the family pet? All of these are questions that will influence your purchase decision. Undoubtedly, two of the best current family vehicles available are minivans (sorry Dads) and SUVs. Either can seat up to eight comfortably, depending on style and trim choice, and still possess enough cargo space for all the extras you need to bring along. However, if you’re just starting out and have child car seats to deal with, a nice sedan can be just the right fit. You may find it to be easier on gas, and insurance costs, and if you opt for one with a very large trunk, you’ll have room for strollers, playpens, toys, and the family pet if he gets to be too loud (just kidding, please don’t lock animals in your trunk – that includes your kids).
The big question in this category is going to be, are you on a budget, or do you need power? Are you towing a family camper, trailer, or boat? Or are you more concerned with getting from A to B without having to get there by way of the gas station at C every other day? If you want efficient, think sedan or a minivan with an available four-cylinder engine. If you want power, a full-size SUV should be your first choice, unless you only need seating for up to five and would like to splurge on a higher-end full-size pickup.
This one also has to do with ages of your family. Obviously the younger generation is going to fall in love with a rear-DVD entertainment system. Teens will vie for the Bluetooth cell phone connectivity and upgraded stereo. Moms and Dads who need to deal with child car seats will want wide-swinging or sliding doors, and easily movable seating, not to mention power everything. Unfortunately, all of this can get to be very costly. So, where can you nip and tuck? Well, chances are portable DVD players are going to run a lot less than the rear-DVD upgrades in vehicles. And if you can get one for each kid, you don’t have to deal with, “I don’t wanna watch that movie!” Most vehicles today come with plenty of power outlets for them to be able to plug their electronics in for however long a ride you take, too.
The upgraded stereo is nice for Mom and Dad as well as the older kids, but if money is tight, get the kids an iPod and save the extra few hundred the dealer charges for the blasting sound. Where you don’t want to be too stingy is with navigation systems and comfortable seating. Getting lost with screaming kids can be a nightmare, and it gets to be even worse if you feel as though you’re sitting on a rock when you have to swallow your pride and ask for directions. Do yourself a favor and save a little extra for these added niceties.