This article was written by Ty Artfitch. Ty is an avid car enthusiast that loves buying and selling vehicles of all kinds. He’s also my husband 🙂
The time has come. You have a baby on the way and you feel at least 73% qualified to care for this tiny human of your own. If you’re like me, one of the first things to pop into your head is “buying a family car”. On the other hand, maybe you’ve been building your family over the last few years and the old family sedan just isn’t cutting it anymore.
Whatever your situation may be, I’m here to help!
I’m a little bit of what some people may call a car enthusiast. My wife would probably describe it as something different being as though we’ve owned almost 15 vehicles within the last five years. The point is, I like anything with four wheels and an engine…and sometimes that means I go a little overboard in the car buying and selling game. Whether that makes me more or less qualified to write this article is up to you, but I can tell you I have spent many, many, MANY hours researching and comparing all types of cars, trucks, and SUVs.
So let’s get into it.
When Erin and I first found out that we would be welcoming a little girl to our family, I had been shopping for a V8 muscle car. After Erin’s announcement, I knew I should probably look for something a little more practical.
So what did I do? I bought an Audi S4, a supercharged 4-door family car. Fast? Oh yeah. 4-doors? Check. Practical for a family with a baby and 65-pound dog? Not so much. After our daughter’s birth, we quickly realized we were going to need something with more usable space.
Thus began our search for a family SUV.
Let’s take a look at five critical considerations you need to look at when buying a family car. Every family is going to be different, but hopefully this post will get you a little bit of a jump start on figuring out what will be right for your’s.
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5 Things You Need to Look at Before Buying a Family Car
At the time we were looking for an SUV, we were living in Washington state. That being said, it was important to us that we had a four-wheel-drive (4WD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) SUV that was capable of handling rain, snow, minor off-roading (for rare circumstance), or any sort of weather that we may encounter.
What kind of conditions does your region face?
Now, you may be perfectly fine with a vehicle that is front-wheel-drive (FWD) or rear-wheel-drive (RWD) only, but that is very dependent on you location and perhaps even driving ability. For instance, I would never own a RWD family SUV if I lived in the snowy mountains of Colorado. If I lived in dry and hot climate of Phoenix, AZ then RWD would be no issue at all. FWD is typically considered more safe and capable in wet, snowy, or muddy terrain, but it is still a step behind vehicles powered by all four wheels.
AWD or 4WD really offer that extra peace of mind from a safety perspective that I’m a big proponent of; when my wife and daughter are out on the road in some foul weather, I want to be confident that the vehicle they’re in is going to get them where they’re going safety.
Space was the main reason we even started looking for a family SUV.
We wanted something that could hold my wife and I, our daughter, our 65-pound dog, the necessary baby items (stroller, diaper bag, toys, etc) and an extra passenger or two.
Everyone’s size requirements are going to be different, but if this sounds close to yours, most large SUVs will meet this requirement pretty easily. However, smaller SUVs may not deliver the space you need. Make sure you take the time to really look at the cargo area when you’re looking at SUVs. That may be the most boring “feature” of a new car, but it certainly is one of the most important.
One of the things we realized later on is that you need more space than you think you do.
At some point, you will make a road trip, and when you do you will find out just how well you can fit all your normal items, plus luggage for a few days, into your SUV. It might surprise you, so be sure to really think through this one or you may find yourself searching for a larger SUV a year or two down the road.
When you’re considering how to buy the best family car, make a list of all of the automotive features essential to your daily life.
I’d separate this list into tech features and functionality features.
When buying a family car, here are a few of current top tech features you might want to consider:
- Blind Spot Monitoring
- Parking Sensors and Cameras
- Driver’s Heads-up Displays (reflects vehicle information on the windshield for easy visibility by the driver)
- Touch screen displays
- Heated and ventilated seats
- And much more
You will also want to consider functionality features, or how you need the car to function inside and out. Technology is an important aspect, but if you don’t consider the functionality, you’re more likely to trade this family car in much more quickly.
A few of the most prominent functionality features we considered were:
- Efficient storage solutions
- Folding rear seats
- Third row seats
- Leather vs. Fabric
My wife and I looked at a number of SUVs and each one tended to have their own “package” of features. For us, we wanted a third row (just in case our family came to visit and we needed more space), easily folding rear seats, a large nav display, heated seats, backup camera (at minimum), and ample storage space for the front seat passengers.
When you hone in on which features are necessary for your family, the vehicle search tends to take longer. Having said that, finding the right car is incredibly important, so take the extra time needed. It’ll save you stress and money in the long run (trading in a vehicle you don’t like later can cost you thousands of dollars).
Performance and Power
Alright, so not everyone will care about power…but they should.
Like I mentioned earlier, I have owned a number of different vehicles in the last decade and I’ve come to realize that more power not only adds to the fun factor of a vehicle, but it can also add to the safety of the vehicle.
My wife (a reformed Mustang-enthusiast) wanted something that wouldn’t have trouble getting up to speed to merge into and thru traffic. We had owned vehicles that were nice, but did not have very much get-up, and she never felt entirely safe in those.
You may not have to deal with horrid Seattle traffic, but horsepower is still certainly something to consider. There are a lot of SUVs with great features, but some of them just can’t deliver the performance that your family may desire or require.
Then there’s the elephant in the room. Some guys just need raw horsepower.
Aside from the safety aspect, I wanted something that could appease my inner speed demon when needed. If you can identify, you’ll be happy to know that there are a number of SUVs on the market that will make you smile whenever you mash the gas pedal.
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Chances are, you’ll be spending a good portion of time in your family car.
Maybe you’re one of those folks that want the base model SUV and don’t need any extra comfort features, and that’s great (it’ll save you some money)…unfortunately for our bank account, that’s not me.
We wanted something with leather, heated seats, a great sound system, and a nice ride. Yes, these features may add some cost to a vehicle, but the good news is that a lot of SUVs come with some serious comfort features without a serious price tag.
Heated seats are almost standard these days (ventilated seats are getting more and more common), leather is by no means hard to come by, even some base model vehicles are getting some pretty strong sound systems, and rear entertainment is readily available as technology becomes more and more a part of everyday life.
Resources for Buying a Family Car
There are so many resources available on the internet these days to look at and compare vehicles that you can easily become an expert on any particular vehicle without even leaving your couch.
Here are some of my favorite resources for buying a family car:
Searching for cars:
- Cars.com: My favorite site and app. or searching for vehicles for sale. The filter and sort options are great, and there are millions of cars listed on this site.
- AutoTempest.com: brings together vehicles that are for sale on several different platforms and puts them in one spot for easy searching.
- YouTube: you’d be surprised how many in-depth reviews there are on YouTube. Check out some channels like Saabkyle04 (super in-depth video reviews), Matt Maran Motoring (shorter reviews and test drives), AutoMotoTube (video reviews for interior and exterior, no talking), and Doug Demuro (quirks and features of many vehicles, but typically higher-end cars)
- Motor Trend
- Car and Driver
- Road and Track
- U.S. News and World Report
At the end of the day, this is your family and your SUV. Make sure to really take some time to think about the different criteria I mentioned in this article to ensure that you are buying a family car that is not just satisfactory, but that you and your family will love.
My wife (who runs this blog) is pretty passionate about helping new parents. If you’re looking for more baby and family tips, below are a few articles you’ll love.
If you have any questions about our experiences buying an family car, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to share our experiences.
Ty (AKA Car Enthusiast Turned Dad)