What to Look for in a Family Vehicle

Every day I hear from numerous agencies and associations about resourceful tips for my readers, and while many of them are not a fit, many are actually very useful! Decisions about what I share and what I do not often come down to time crunches, but I am making a more concerted effort to find the time and space to share those ideas and resources that I believe will be most useful to my fellow parents…you!

Here’s my car confession: I have never purchased a car. This is not to say that I have never owned a car, but I have not gone to dealerships, shopped around, researched online, and the made a car purchasing decision. Instead, I have driven various hand-me-downs or soon-to-be sold again used cars from my father who loves to buy and sell used cars, sometimes for fun, sometimes for profit. While I did not get the chance to drive the 1960;s Corvette that he beautifully restored, I did have an experience with a 1970’s pick-up truck, complete with gun rack and rusted off tailgate…

So how does a parent decide what car is safest and best fits the needs of their family?
The folks at AutoTrader have put together tips including pros and cons about each type of vehicle. Let’s begin with SUVs-

SUVs – This is a very popular beast in our local parking lots, but while there are many pros, there are also cons to consider…
high seating offers better visibility
– four-wheel and all-wheel drive handle multiple terrains and conditions
– often come with family friendly bonuses such as DVD players and extra cup holders
– they are often gas guzzlers
– more likely than other vehicles to roll over in a crash
– the high seating that is great for visibility in turn becomes a challenge when loading children into carseats

Minivans- I would venture that minivans are the most popular choice among families, based solely on the minivan parade driving in and out of my son’s preschool every day.
less likely than an SUV to roll over in a crash
– roomy for passengers plus large cargo areas
– often come with automatic sliding doors that are great for children
– easy for children to climb in and out without assistance
– Cons:
– generally have a lower resale value than an SUV

Family Sedans – many families are looking to sedans to beat the gas cost crunch
– all family members within reach
– affordable and nimble
– often offer better gas mileage than SUVs and Minivans
– Cons:
– storage space often very limited

The bottom line when choosing a vehicle is really determining the needs of your family. I drove an SUV until shortly after the birth of my second child. Suddenly it became necessary for my two and a half year old to be able to climb in and out of the car on her own. We magically transformed into a minivan family, and I do not see a day in the near future when that will change. On the other hand, my husband has always driven affordable sedans because his short daily commute to and from the local train station warrants nothing else. Parents should also keep in mind the following:

– Size and activity level of the family: A large dog, two children, and soccer equipment will never fit into a sedan, no matter how hard you try!

– Safety: Be sure to check out crash test ratings, carseat installation guides, and airbag availability.

– Convenience: Dark upholstery, keyless entry, and cargo size are just some of the features that many moms (and dads!) define as essential. Make your list of essentials before you prepare for your purchase.

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