Features to look for by family type
If you’re planning on keeping the family small, you can shop the entire car market, including affordable and fuel-efficient compacts. The most important things to look for if you’re buying a small car are safety features and crash test scores. Before purchasing any car, look up the vehicle’s crash test rating on the IIHS website. The IIHS performs independent crash tests that are different from, and arguably more stringent than, the NHSTA’s. To make the most out of the small car’s space, look for clever storage compartments in the cabin.
Space and seating will be the most important factors when shopping for a new car. Shoppers will be mostly looking at minivans that seat between 6 and 8 passengers and three-row SUVs that typically seat 7 (though some seat up to 8). In all likelihood, you will also be doing a lot of carpooling, so look for vehicles with advanced navigation features to help you pick up and drop off kids in unfamiliar areas and consider taking advantage of Bluetooth connectivity to help you stay in touch hands-free while on the go.
If you know you will be growing your brood, look for vehicles that primarily seat five, but have a third row available for extra seats. These vehicles are often called “5+2″ because the third row, the “+2 ” part, isn’t designed for adult passengers. Also look for multiple LATCH anchors to give you the most flexibility for placing car seats.
Family with babies:
If your car seat is equipped with LATCH straps, exposed LATCH anchors in the vehicle will make it a lot easier to get car seats in and out. The size and position of your car seats will influence your ability to fit three car seats across, but vehicles with the most hip room will make that tough task a lot easier. If you want to keep your baby within arm’s reach, look for a vehicle with a second row that slides forward. Also, some vehicles have seats that fold forward and can double as changing tables.
Family with teens:
Teens will be concerned more with style than anything else. But if you plan on handing over the keys of the family hauler to teen drivers, consider a vehicle that offers a valet key that electronically limits the top speed. (Yes, it exists!) Despite vehicles becoming safer over the years, automotive fatalities remain the #1 reason for teenage deaths. Since speeding is the biggest factor in automobile accidents, vehicles with less horsepower will help curb the speed demon in your young drivers. Sedans or vehicles with a low center of gravity will reduce the risk of rollover accidents.