shopping for next family car

Things to Know When Shopping For Your Next Family Vehicle

Things to Know When Shopping For Your Next Family Vehicle

David Stone
Updated November 24, 2021 by David Stone

Table of Contents

    shopping for next family car

    Shopping for a family car can be tough. You might have kids that fight that you want to keep separated, or maybe you need to take a large number of children to activities a few times a week.

    If your family is tall, or if you have more than one child that needs to be in a car seat at the same time, you might struggle to find a car that accommodates all of your needs. Add to these considerations, gas mileage concerns and parking issues and you might be feeling stressed just thinking about this purchase!

    Thankfully, there are some great ways to make sure that you think of all of the factors and features related to your next family car buying process. If you have been able to narrow down all of the important items that are must-haves for your next family car, you will not experience nearly as much stress when you are shopping for the car itself.

    If you are ready to learn more about things to know when shopping for your next family vehicle, read on!

    What is a Family Car?

    Family cars are defined by Kelly Blue Book as cars that are able to carry multiple passengers and perform the necessary functions to be used for daily family life. This means that things like SUVs, vans, and other larger vehicles will be on the list as well as station wagon-style cars. The size of your family might impact the overall size of your family car, but most people think of family cars as being large enough to handle a lot of passengers and to carry backpacks, coolers, and other gear.

    Large families will need a lot of rows of seats for kids and friends of their kids, and you might find that you want to have a storage space in the back as well. This means that hatchbacks can serve this function for small families in the same way that a van can serve this need for a much larger family.

    At the end of the day, a family car is any car that can carry around your number of children and other family members as well as any items that these passengers will need at the planned destination.

    looking for your next family car

    Things to Know When Shopping For Your Next Family Vehicle

    These are the basic considerations that you will need to take into account when you are shopping for your next family car. Make sure that you consider at least a portion of these factors before you make a decision to buy. Being sure that you want the car that you have picked and that it will take care of your family’s needs is an important part of the buying process.

    1. Headcount

    This is the single most important feature of a family car purchase. You need to have the minimum number of seats required to haul around your own family in the car that you select. You cannot compromise on this factor by thinking that you will not always have all of your kids or family with you when you go places. As soon as you try to plan a vacation or a road trip, you will be sorry that you do not have enough seats for all of you in your current family car.

    Make sure that you also consider if you will need to haul around family friends or your children’s sports teams as well. You want to be sure that you do not pass on the third row of seats only to find out that you will need them many times a week! It is always better to be able to fit everyone into the same car rather than trying to bring two cars to every sporting function.

    2. When Looking for a Family Car, Consider Space for Everyone

    This can be one of the big pitfalls for buying a smaller vehicle to help you with your ability to park and to save on gas. Many families have instantly regretted buying a smaller car that has enough seats for everyone but not enough space. While your kids might all fit into the car that you have selected when they are small, they will eventually be adult-sized people and you might find that everyone is very uncomfortable in your car.

    The other issue that can come up related to space is that kids that are in tight quarters tend to bicker and fight. It can be worth the extra money to pick a family car that will allow everyone to have some elbow room and a bit of their own space during long trips.

    3. Safety

    This is a big item on the list and you will need to be sure that your family’s safety is covered by the features of the car that you are interested in buying. Older cars are inherently much less safe than new cars, and you might want to look into features that are offered in some larger cars like curtain airbags and other items that can prevent trauma during a car accident.

    You can pick a large cargo van for your family car, but these kinds of vans are often not equipped with all of the necessary safety features that you would ideally want to have in your family car. Make sure that your family is safe above almost everything else that you consider on this list.

    shopping for a family vehicle

    4. Auto Transport for Your New Family Car

    If you have found the perfect car online but it is not in your local area, you will need to think about auto transport to get the car to your location. This can be tough when you are considering shipping a large vehicle across the country or even across a few states.

    When working with an auto transport company for this kind of task, make sure that they are insured properly in case something happens to your car during its trip across the country to your home. You should also make sure that they are prepared to haul a large vehicle. Many smaller companies will not have the right trucks or trailers to haul a large SUV or van for you.

    A quality auto transport company will be willing and able to give you all of the details about your car’s transport upfront. Never work with an auto transport company that is not transparent about their insurance coverage, their quotes, or the delivery dates and arrangements related to the trip.

    5. Added Entertainment

    While it might seem like an unnecessary frill to offer your passengers and your kids, entertainment features can be a really big help when you take your children on long road trips. Anyone who has struggled to keep bored kids happy on long road trips will be able to vouch for the tiring nature of this kind of challenge.

    While it might add some expense to your overall purchase, TV screens that allow your kids to watch movies can be a very big help to you and your kids when a long trip is on the calendar. You will struggle with less fighting and less whining and your kids will have a lot more fun when they need to hang out in the car for a long time.

    6. Shop for a Family Car That’s Easy to Clean

    How easy is it to clean the car that you are considering buying? This can be a factor that many people do not consider when they are looking into a new family car purchase. You might be surprised at how hard it can be to clean some kinds of surfaces and you know you will be shocked at the kinds of messes that your kids can make despite your words of advice about eating in the car and spilling drinks in the backseat.

    Make sure that you prioritize leather seats over cloth and look for cars that offer neat built-in vacuum options. You will probably want to get rubber floor mats no matter what kind of car you invest in as well. You might find that this feature is the most important argument in favor of one vehicle over another.

    7. Storage Space

    One of the common regrets for those who have purchased a family car is a lack of trunk or storage space in the vehicle. For many people with kids, there is no limit to the surprises about how much stuff is needed for kids to go to sporting events or to go on a road trip. You should consider the ultimate maximum level of packing that you need to be able to do when you look at each kind of car for your family vehicle.

    Vans shine the brightest when storage is a major consideration for your family and you will probably find that large SUVs come in a close second. There is really no way to travel in comfort with lots of bags or gear if you do not have the right size storage space in your car.

    shopping for a family-friendly car

    8. Car Seat Functionality is Important When Looking For Your Family’s Vehicle

    One of the most commonly overlooked factors when shopping for a new family vehicle is car seat latch options. Some cars only have car seat latch options in a few seats. This might be fine if you have just one kid that is in a car seat, but if you have more than one, it can be a really big issue for your family.

    Always make sure that you inquire about the car seat latch functionality of any vehicle that you are considering for your family vehicle. This is one area where being safe rather than sorry is well worth the added effort. Imagine having to take two cars everywhere because you need to be able to use more than one car seat!

    9. Budget

    Whether you want to have all of the fun features and additions to your new family car’s total build, you might need to stick to a budget. Cars have never been more expensive, so you will need to create a budget so that you can keep yourself from buying a car that is outside of your comfortable price point. You would be shocked at how easy it is to end up with a car that will cost you $500 or more a month!

    Sticking to a budget can help you to prioritize features and additions to your total build for a new car, and it can help you to shop with more accuracy if you are looking at cars online. There are many ways to customize a car that you are buying from the manufacturer and you can use the same logic to weed out cars that do not fit your needs when you are shopping online as well.

    10. Look for Reliability in Your Family’s Next Car

    Many family cars are known to be reliable, but you should always make sure that you do the research before you buy anything. Honda and manufacturers that are well-known for reliability are often the best choices to make for your family car as there is nothing worse than being stranded on the side of the road with a group of kids to keep out of trouble!

    If you want to be sure that you are getting a car that will hold up to your daily driving miles, do some research via Kelly Blue Book and car magazine blogs to find out which cars are the most reliable choices. There are also many side-by-side comparison tests that are done by YouTubers and car experts writing for car magazines and other publications. You will be really glad that you do not have to worry about your car being reliable every time that you hit the road for an away game that is out of town.

    11. Cost of Ownership

    This is a factor that is often overlooked when people buy a new car. It can be easy to look at many of the other features of the vehicle as well as the total purchase price and not think about the cost of maintenance or repairs. There are some makes and models of cars that are notoriously expensive to maintain and you probably do not want to pick any of these for your family car.

    Always look into the cost of tires as well as basic repairs and maintenance before you buy a car. You will want to be prepared for your annual costs just like you are prepared for the total monthly payment that you are going to be making. This can be a major factor for the overall enjoyment that you have for your new family car.

    shop for a family car

    12. Consider the Location When Shopping for Your Family’s Next Vehicle

    It is definitely possible to buy a car online and have it sent to your home these days. You might feel confident that you will love the car and feel that you do not need to do a test drive. However, if you have never driven a van or an SUV, you might want to consider shopping locally rather than looking out of state.

    It is very common to be sure that you will love a car and then when you go on a test drive, you find out that you hate it. You want to be sure that your kids will be comfortable as well, so it can be a big help to bring them along with you on your test drive. Even if you do not buy locally, make sure that you can test out a similar make and model of car before you buy something sight unseen.

    13. Parking and Mileage

    These may not rank high on the list for everyone, but if you live in a city or any area where parking is limited, you might need to consider this factor as a bigger part of your overall checklist. The same applies to the mileage that your new car will get. Buying bigger cars means that both of these items will be harder to manage and you should carefully consider if you can afford to drive this size vehicle and if you can park it in town or near your home.

    SUVs will almost always get worse gas mileage than other large vehicles, and you will find that parking a van can be just as hard as parking a large SUV in most cases. If you do not have a driveway at your home and have to park in a garage, make sure your large new vehicle will fit in your parking lot.

    All cars are required to display their gas mileage for city and highway driving on the stickers, and you can find out a lot of information about the average mileage of all cars when you do some looking around online. Make sure that you think about both of these factors carefully before you end up with a car that is too expensive to take on long trips or that does not fit in your parking slot.

    browsing for a family car

    14. Access and Door Arrangement

    This can be a big factor that many people do not consider when they are buying a family car. You want to be sure that everyone can get into and out of the car without much muss or fuss and you need to look at the ways that cargo or storage access is offered as well. You want to be able to use your car for all of the purposes that you need it to accomplish without having to struggle to do so.

    There is nothing that is more frustrating than finding out that the access for your hatch or backseat storage is cumbersome to use or narrow. There is also nothing that will cause more conflict than the scrabbling of kids over one another as they get in and out of your vehicle. Make sure that you test out some common access points for your car before you determine if it is the one for you.

    15. Leg Room

    Last but definitely not least, legroom can greatly impact the comfort of your family vehicle. This is less of an issue when your kids are little, but it will matter more over time as they grow up. Being able to actually have room for your knees and your feet can make a big difference to the overall comfort of a car.

    You will also find that you need to look into the spacing between the driver’s seat and the row of seats behind it. Many parents have found out after a car purchase that their kid can kick their seat relentlessly for an entire drive. This is where vans tend to shine the brightest, but you will find that there are other family cars out there with great legroom as well.

    This is one of the instances where being able to shop locally and bring your kids along for the test drive can be a big help. You will be able to see right off how well your selected car works for your whole family when you take a test drive with them.

    Buying the Right Family Car Doesn’t Have to Be a Struggle

    purchasing a family vehicle

    If you are looking for a new family car, you might be feeling very defeated by the whole process. There are many factors to think of and features to choose from, and you might not be sure about what is the best choice for your family’s needs. Thankfully, if you sit down and consider all of your must-haves for any car that you buy, you will help narrow down your choices to a manageable list.

    Once you know what you will not be able to compromise about, you will be able to shop much more effectively. Thinking about overall comfort and affordability can be a big help to your overall shopping process. You will see how much easier it can be to shop for a family car when you are able to rule out fancy features and hone in on the essentials.

    Shopping for the perfect family car can be a lot of fun if you are armed with the right list of requirements and features for your family’s unique needs.


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