Becoming a parent changes everything in your life. From not being able to go out when you feel like it, to stocking up on fish fingers when your fridge once contained only gourmet food, to how you upholster your couch, to the car that you drive. The car that was suitable when you were single, or part of a couple, might not be suitable and if you want to buy a family friendly model, there are a few things you need to look at.
First on most parent’s list of priorities is safety. You want a car that you know will stand up well in a collision, that’s safe and reliable. You will have to look at testing statistics to find the safest model in your price range, but when you do, there are a few things to look for. First is crash test statistics. To evaluate stability on the road, you will need to look at rollover statistics too. You probably also want to find a model that has a LATCH system for installing car seats, airbags that can be switched on and off, and one with various settings for airbags. Side impact protection, including airbags, is another safety must and you want a model that has lap and seat belts on all of the seats. ABS which helps to prevent your brakes from locking is another must have safety feature. Finally, check that your car seat is compatible with the car and that there is an interior release for the boot of the car. Avoid cars that have humped back seats and those with deep bucket seats, as both make it almost impossible to fit a car seat properly.
What you need will depend on what you will use the car for. A smaller car may be fine for a small family with no pets but if you have more than one child (or are expecting twins or triplets) and you transport pets as well, you’re going to need something a lot bigger. Where you drive will also play a role. A large SUV is not that practical in the city where you’ll struggle to find parking, while a small hatch won’t stand up well to rough country roads. The climate you live in will also impact on the car you choose. If you drive on rough roads then a 4 x 4 or all wheel drive choice is a good idea. Boot space is another priority for parents, who will need to transport buggies, toys and all kinds of other things, and you’ll also want to consider whether you’ll be towing something regularly, in which case a larger, more powerful car is a priority.
Test drive tips
Most people take a car for a test drive and while learning how the car drives is good, it’s not all you can do. Take your children along for the test drive. Check whether it’s easy to get car seats in and out, whether older children can get in and out by themselves and that there’s enough room for everyone. Drive along a route that suits your daily commute or errands. Knowing how the car will work for your lifestyle is the best thing you can get from a test drive.
Once you’ve narrowed down a few potential cars, it’s time to decide on what optional features you need and what you can live without. Childproof locks and window overrides are important and keyless entry can be a big benefit when your hands are full. A DVD system fitted in the car will keep your kids busy, but is expensive, while fabric protection on the seats is practical, since driving with children almost always results in some sort of mess. Even something as simple as rear cup holders can make all the difference. Choose what’s essential for your family, decide what to get as an optional extra and look into after market options.
Decide on your budget
This step really should be first on the list. Even though you know what you’re budget for a car is, there are still a few things you need to think about. First is insurance, which can vary wildly from model to model, and the second is mileage and repair costs. It’s often the hidden costs of a particular car that makes it more expensive, so consider all of the costs.