Like it or not, modern family life revolves around the motor vehicle. The car is at the centre of all your planning, whether you’re taking a trip to the shops or going on a day out. It’s even more complicated if members of your family have a disability – something that many of us have to consider.
Knowing which car to choose, though, isn’t always the easiest of tasks. As an average parent, you probably don’t know a great deal about which cars are the best on the market, or which you should choose for getting around. They all seem pretty good these days. And manufacturers wouldn’t try to sell you junk, right?
Choosing a car in 2020 is much easier than at any other time in history, mainly because quality control has improved so much over the years. No brand new vehicle you buy will be a rust bucket in five years. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen anymore. With that said, quality and maintenance costs do vary from brand to brand. Range Rovers and BMWs are notoriously expensive to keep on the road. Kias are much cheaper.
Here are some of the things you’ll need to consider before purchasing your next family vehicle. Please note, this isn’t an exhaustive list – just a few ideas to get you started.
Seek Out Child-Friendly Features
Choosing a family vehicle when you have kids is a considerable challenge. Children aren’t like adults. They make a lot of mess and noise all the time, not just on special occasions.
Because of this, you need a car that you can clean easily, just in case they spill something or make a mess.
Some manufacturers sell vehicles with specially-treated upholstery that makes it easy to remove stains. But mainly, you want to avoid ultra-premium materials, like Alcantara, since it is almost impossible to clean these without professional help (and even then, you might not get the result you want).
You can buy aftermarket plastic seat covers for the back seats to help protect against all manner of horrors your kids might inflict on them. Vomit, drinks, and spaghetti are all no match for thick and durable polyurethane.
Long journeys and children don’t mix very well. Things usually start okay, but eventually, they get bored and begin looking for something to amuse themselves. It’s their natural way. Some manufacturers, however, have your back. Vehicles with entertainment systems built into the rear seats are ideal for keeping them occupied. Many of these connect to smartphones, providing all the functionality of the internet. So you get all the streaming services that they could ever possibly consume.
Remember, the more you can keep them entertained, the more you can concentrate on the road ahead.
Look For Family Vehicles With Plenty Of Storage Space
Kids rarely come for journeys alone. Instead, they bring a load of stuff with them, like buggies, school bags, and sports equipment. For that reason, any car you buy needs to have an abundance of storage space.
Fortunately, in today’s market, you’re spoiled for choice. Modern SUVs are purpose-built to provide a practical solution, no matter how much stuff you need to take from one place to another. Just be careful to choose a vehicle that provides storage space when children occupy the seats. Some manufacturers claim enormous luggage capacities, but only when specific seats are down – not much use.
You can avoid this problem by choosing a car with an entirely separate boot compartment, like the Jaguar XE. This way, you get a saloon car with five doors, plus a luggage area independent of how many people are in the vehicle at any given time.
When looking for a family vehicle with large boot capacity, don’t merely choose one according to the manufacturer’s luggage volume statistics. They can be misleading. Some boots appear large on paper, but because of their shape, they lack practicality. Others seem smaller, yet provide ample storage for all your needs, because they’re tall and deep enough.
Look For Vehicles With Flexibility
When you have kids, you never quite know how you’ll need to use your vehicle next. One minute you’ve got three children and dogs in the back – the next you’re on the way to the tip with a car full of bin bags.
Some cars offer layout flexibility from the get-go. Look for models that allow you to put down the rear seats so you can fit larger objects in the back. When choosing an SUV, pay attention to models where the seats hide into the floor or come out completely. Solutions like these allow your car to double up as a van – great for work or holidays.
Make sure that everything is easy to move and doesn’t require tools. Most manufacturers use a combination of handles and hooks to create the perfect layout.
Choose A Car With A High Safety Rating And Good Features
While most modern family vehicles hit all the basics just fine, there are still variations in vehicle safety. Some manufacturers compromise on aspects of safety to give their cars higher performance or better looks. As a parent, though, you’re not interested in making trade-offs like these. Instead, you’re just looking for a car that will protect your kids.
Generally speaking, more recent models have the best safety features. Practically every vehicle on sale today comes with excellent collision mitigation technology and airbags, helping to protect both front-seat and rear occupants. A lot of cars also have the maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. This means that they protect passengers from the forces of impact while also maintaining the integrity of the cabin.
You also want to consider additional electronics-based systems to keep people inside the vehicle safe. These features help to prevent accidents from occurring in the first place, again protecting everyone inside.
Here are some of the most powerful features:
- Collision avoidance. Collision avoidance systems are highly sophisticated in modern cars. Vehicles use onboard software to detect whether a crash is likely. These systems are so impressive that they can tell the difference between an oncoming car on the other side of the road, and a stopped vehicle one hundred yards ahead. Computers will activate the brakes on your behalf if the software believes a collision is imminent without its intervention.
- Blind-spot assist. Blind-spot assist is another potent technology designed to prevent crashes when you change lanes on the motorway. Most vehicles have a blind spot, simply because of the way that mirrors work (and poorly thought-through industry regulations). Blind-spot assist, therefore, is a system that uses a camera mounted to the side of the vehicle to detect traffic on the near side. If it senses something is there; it’ll stop you from moving out. Again, the system is extremely sophisticated and can discern between situations where a collision is likely, and when it isn’t.
- Lane warning systems. Lane warning systems are another feature you might want to consider. Veering out of your lane and into another is dangerous. Many cars come with computers that can recognise lane markings on the road ahead and warn you when you stray outside of them. Again, helpful when you have screaming kids in the back who might take your attention off the road.
Choose A Car With Lots Of Doors
Three-door cars are great for young drivers, just getting started with their life on the road. They’re not ideal, though, for large families. You don’t want kids clambering in and out of the back through the front doors. It’s just an extra hassle and makes life difficult, especially if you have young children.
At the very least, you’ll want five doors so that people can get out of the front and the back of the vehicle separately. If you’re going for an MPV, look for an option with a sliding door, as this allows everyone to exit the car quickly, while providing good access for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
Just remember that larger vehicles are more difficult to park and drive around congested cities, so there’s always a trade-off. If you increase the size, you limit the ease with which you can collect the shopping.
Think Outside The Box
A family car needs to be something that does it all. It’s a good idea, therefore, to think a little outside the box. If you’re looking for a vehicle marketed as a family car, you want to check that it fits your lifestyle. Think about how you’ll use it. Don’t just go with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If you spend a lot of time in the city and need your family vehicle for commuting, you might want to choose an executive saloon. It might not have the space of an SUV, but it offers superior comfort for all your day to day activities. Likewise, if you live in the country, it might not suffice to buy a low-powered vehicle. Something akin to a Jeep or 4×4 might be more suitable if you have to drive across rough tracks.
So, are you any closer to deciding after reading this post?