Do you know how to choose the best family car?

Photo by CC user notbrucelee on Flickr

With so much choice on the market, it can be difficult to know which car is best suited to the needs of your family. Do you go for space over looks? Safety over space? Or perhaps economy is your chief consideration? There are many elements to consider when choosing the best family car for you and yours.

Fools rush in

With cars, it is easy to be seduced by sleek bodywork and celebrity-endorsed commercials, but if you want to make the right choice concerning your next family car, you need to delve a little deeper and do your homework. You need to establish your essential elements before you decide on a make and model.

Once you have identified the cars you are interested in because they appear to match your requirements and your lifestyle, you should take a test drive. Some cars may look great and have all the features you wish, but once you get behind the wheel, you may find they are no pleasure to drive. They may handle heavily or too lightly, or the steering wheel may be too high or too low, for example. To take a test drive, you will need to visit a reputable dealership and make a booking.

The essentials

It is likely that if you have a family, then you are constantly looking for ways to make good but economical purchases, and this is just as relevant to your car as any household item. The essential elements of a family car, therefore, are that it is reasonably priced, that it is economical to run and that it is big enough to hold your family and belongings on your travels.

Choosing a body style

When it comes to body styles for family cars, there are usually four choices: estate, hatchback, people carrier and saloon. Let us look at the estate first. Estate cars manage to combine practicality with relatively low running costs, but they often have flashy exteriors and extensive interior features, which can sometimes result in them not being the best value for money. Hatchback models usually have lower running costs and often feature quite impressive interior features, but they are not as roomy as you might wish. The people carrier describes its practicality very well, and is often the first choice for people with families. They have all the bells and whistles you could want, such as big trunk space, tray tables and jacks for DVD players and other devices, but they are often not the best-looking cars, so you may have to trade practicality for plainness. Lastly, the saloon. Saloon cars generally offer more trunk space but a relatively narrow opening, while the interior is often more roomy.

Specifications

Many of the features that a few years ago would have been optional extras now come as standard in family cars. Features such as Bluetooth are often standard – a welcome addition for a family that likes to be entertained while on the move, and essential for families who travel a great deal. Air conditioning is also usually standard, but it is worth checking on this before buying, as long journeys may be unbearable without it.

Upgraded features that are worth considering if your budget allows, include satnav. A basic version does sometimes come as standard in some models, but more often than not, you will have to consider this a desirable extra if you do travel a lot. There is nothing worse than being lost in unfamiliar territory with your kids needing facilities, or simply looking to get some rest and having no idea where the nearest motel is. You should also look for cars that have connectivity in the rear seating area, so that your children can plug in their digital devices.

Interiors

There are a few extra elements you may want to consider before choosing a model. These include the way the seating is arranged, as well as the doors. Wide doors, especially in the rear, are easy to overlook but they can be a real help when you have to struggle with fitting child seats and suchlike. Tiered seating, also called stadium seating, can be a bonus, although it is usually only found in 4x4s and people carriers. Again, stadium seating simply makes the process of fitting child seats and placing a child in them that much easier.

Getting bigger?

It may seem a bit premature, but you should also consider just how big your family is going to get, and by the way, when we are talking about family, this does not necessarily mean just you and your kids. It may mean, for example, elderly parents who need a lot of legroom to be comfortable, or even need wheelchair access. But let us just stick with children for the moment and recognize that a people carrier may be the best choice, with its five-plus seating and additional fold-up seating towards the very rear, if you are planning on having a big family. Remember too, if you have a baby and want to fit a rear-facing child seat in the front passenger seat, you need to buy a car that has the option to disable this airbag.

Upholstery

When it comes to the interior, you may want to carefully consider the fabrics or upholstery, and the color. Kids are messy creatures and it is unlikely your new car will stay looking pristine for long. This is why it is a good idea to opt for dark upholstery on your seating and mats, as it will hide any spills and stains that occur. Surprisingly, although often thought of as a premium feature, leather is a good choice for family cars as it can be easily wiped clean.

Choosing a new family car is a big step, so make sure you carefully research what is on the market, and establish what your particular needs are and how the car needs to serve your lifestyle, before you make your choice.