Guide to Buying Your First Family Car

April 28, 2016

Got a little one on the way? Don’t even think about cramming a car seat into your Camaro (although we’re told it can be done.) It’s time to buy a vehicle that will fit your growing family. Here’s a quick guide to some things to consider when you’re buying your first family car.

Safety’s the number one consideration for your first family car.

Family PortraitLuckily, almost every new vehicle now comes with advanced safety features such as front and side airbags and sophisticated braking systems. You’ll be surprised by how many new models also include hi-tech safety features such as:

  • Rear-view cameras
  • Low-speed collision avoidance systems that automatically apply the brakes
  • Lane keep assist (which warns the driver when the car begins to drift out of its lane)
  • Automatic emergency notification

Overwhelmed by the options? There’s a shortcut to choosing a safe family car. Just look to see if the model has been named a Top Safety Pick (or Top Safety Pick Plus) by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which conducts its own rigorous crash tests. Also look for a four- or five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Buying a safer car may also save you money on car insurance.

Your first family car can be sporty

It doesn’t have to be a minivan or a station wagon. There are so many more options that combine style with family-friendly features. The Mazda CX-5, for instance, is a sleek crossover that gets great gas mileage. The recently redesigned Ford Escape features an efficient EcoBoost engine and an optional hands-free power liftgate, perfect for parents with a babe in one arm and grocery bags in the other.  The Kia Soul, despite its fun-ride image, offers versatile seating and 53.4 cubic feet of cargo space (with the rear seats lowered).

The best family cars strike a balance between interior space and gas mileage

car metal silverYou see a lot of parents driving lumbering Chevy Suburbans with enough space for half a hockey team. But when you’re buying your first family car, you really don’t need a vehicle that seats nine. The Toyota Prius v is a larger, hatchback version of the popular hybrid with plenty of trunk space that gets 44 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway. The Volkswagen Golf, while small and sporty, feels surprisingly spacious on the inside.

Buy a family car that your kids can grow into

Just like a crib that converts into a big-kid bed, a good family car can accommodate your kids’ needs from infancy through elementary school and beyond. Does the vehicle have space in the rear for a larger car seat? Multiple car seats? Could you take it on a road trip to Yellowstone? Is there enough room for the family dog — once your kids talk you into getting a dog?

Your first family car should have a great warranty and/or maintenance plan

When you’re paying for diapers and daycare, the last thing you need is an unexpected bill for major car repair. Hyundai offers a five-year basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty. Kia has a similar program. Volvo offers free factory-scheduled maintenance as well as a four-year/50,000-mile warranty. Toyota also offers free maintenance services for the first two years or 25,000 miles.

Don’t forget to review your car insurance coverage

If you’ve had the same car insurance policy since you were a college grad driving a beat-up Honda Civic, it’s time for an upgrade. When you buy your first family car, review your limits and consider increasing your coverage. Shopping for a new insurance company? Get multiple auto insurance quotes for free on compare.com.


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