Five things to consider when choosing a family vehicle

If you’re starting a family or several years into raising kids, the day may have finally come that your fast and sporty two seater no longer fits the bill for all your driving needs.

You may cringe at the thought of carpooling with a minivan. Luckily, however, these days there are more options than that exhausted parenting stereotype. Putting budget aside, here are five things to consider when looking for your perfect family vehicle.

Safety ratings

When it comes to driving your family around safety is arguably one of the most important things to consider. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS is an independent and non-profit U.S. organization that crash tests new vehicles.

The results of their testing is open to the public. With the IIHS, making an informed decision on vehicle safety doesn’t have to rely on anecdotal information. Using their own rating scale for the tests, vehicles can achieve a Top Safety Pick rating. The highly coveted Top Safety Pick+ is given to vehicles that pass all tests with the highest ratings. Visit their website to view results for current vehicles and ones from the recent past.

Number of passengers

It may be obvious to consider how many adults and children will be regular riders in your car; but it is all too easy to forget about less frequent visitors. For instance, will the grandparents be taking rides with you when they come visit, or will you be shuttling other kids for playdates? Having to use two cars for the same outing can be bothersome and, if done regularly, will add to your fuel expenses.

Car seat placement and fit 

This list wouldn’t properly address a family’s needs if it ignored their child restraints. When looking at cars on the lot try installing all of your car seats. Not only to see if they all safely fit but also their ease of installation in each vehicle.

Consider what seats the kids will be in as they get older as well. Until the age of two, and more ideally closer to four, all kids should be riding in rear facing seats. Once turned forward in the appropriate seat, the seats must be top tethered to a suitable tethering anchor. Consider the placement and quantity of the anchors.

Cargo space

The kids may all fit, but what about the playpen, stroller and suitcases?

If you plan to road trip or go camping and don’t want to attach an extra trailer, you had better make sure there’s enough space to fit all the diapers and every last teddy bear in the rear of the vehicle. Please keep in mind that in the event of an accident, all unrestrained items pose the risk of becoming dangerous projectiles.

Special features

Will the base model serve your needs or should you pay more for in-car navigation, entertainment systems, heated and leather seats? These options come down to cost and convenience.

While it is safer to have a hard wired entertainment system, it does cost a bit more than more portable options. Leather seats may be sleek but kids are inevitably messy in the car. These decisions are personal to each family but ultimately have to be made. 

With all the sedans, vans, SUVs, crossovers and more, the task of picking out a new family vehicle may seem like a daunting one. In the end when everyone and everything fits safely and comfortably, you will know that you have arrived at your destination.


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