A breed unto themselves, family cars must be capable of enduring.
Yes, every type of car should be reliable, but family cars must endure the stresses and strains imposed by children. We’re talking juice boxes, cookie crumbs, peanut butter stains, muddy footprints, ad infinitum.
So. while you may have chosen cars in the past for the way they made you feel, you must choose a car for its ability to survive the onslaughts children will impose upon it once you have kids to consider.
However, ease of cleaning is just one of a number of things to look for in a family car. Here are some others.
Kids are expensive — period. The budget you had when it was just your spouse and you will be insufficient to support children too. This is something you’ll really need to take into consideration when you’re shopping for a family car.
Children will also require you to go more, so fuel economy should be a consideration as well. In other words, you’re going to have to spend more money all the way around. Make sure the vehicle you choose fits comfortably within your new budget.
This might also be a good time to look into how leasing a car works to gain access to more vehicle for the cash you have on hand.
Certain needs in this category will vary according to the age of your children. You’ll want easy access to the back seats if you’re still strapping them into car seats. You’ll also want the seatbelt buckles to be easily accessible, as well as the upper and lower car seat tethers.
As kids grow up, the ease of clambering into the car on their own becomes an issue as well. Tall SUVs might have the people and cargo capacity you need, but you’ll also be helping your toddlers in and out every time you go someplace.
Minivans (admittedly a dying breed) are best in this regard.
Ease of Parking and Responsive Handling
Again, your temptation might be to gravitate toward the largest vehicle you can comfortably afford, but you have to take what living with it will be like into consideration too.
The bigger the vehicle the fewer the places you’ll be able to park. What’s more, if you’re going to events where a lot of other parents bring children, parking will be difficult because everybody’s going to be driving something sizable.
The other thing that comes along with the exaggerated size is compromised handling. Children are a source of distraction, as their needs continue to be an issue even when they’re in the car and on the go. A moment’s inattention could require a precise emergency maneuver when your attention returns to the road ahead. You want something that will respond to an urgent call for a change of direction or an emergency stop.
It’s amazing how the youngest and smallest people among us require so much ancillary gear. Diaper bags, strollers, car seats, water and snacks — the list goes on and on. Moreover, as they get older, you’ll be transporting bicycles, skis, snowboards and various other types of sporting equipment. These demands mean you’ll need significant cargo capacity to go along with your passenger capacity.
The last thing you need is to pile the family into the car on a rainy evening a hundred miles away from home only to discover it won’t start.
Or, to find various bits of the interior strewn about the back seat after the kids have wiggled this door latch, or jiggled that window button, or snapped the sunshade open and closed a hundred times — even though you’ve told them to stop. Children are hard on cars, you want something with a reputation for standing up to that punishment.
These are some of the key things for which to look in a family car. Of course, you’ll be driving it too, so make it a point to take your own needs and desires into consideration as well — after you’re sure it will survive your kids.