Seven-step guide to choosing a new family car



Are you looking for a new car to accommodate your growing family? Want something safe and spacious that’ll meet all your ‘family’ needs? Here’s our seven-step guide to choosing a new family car.

CHOOSING A NEW CAR ISN’T EASY … you need to consider every member of your family, including four-legged ones, before shelling out for a new car. And you can’t just go off safety ratings, or drive impressions in isolation, no, you need to think about these things as a whole. What you have to have in mind at all times is: how well will this car suit my family?

Step 1: Choosing the right body

There are four main body styles to choose from: hatchback, sedan, wagon, and people mover, and we’re including two-wheel drive and four-wheel drives in these main categories. Depending on where you live (inner-city, suburbs or out in the country) and how many children, pets you have to accommodate will either rule in or out the various body styles – always take a child-seat with you when test driving.

People movers are probably best left to families with older children, meaning those that don’t need booster seats, see, most third row seats won’t take a child-seat. More than that, third-row seats are usually very short on legroom and are best left for occasional use only.

My suggestion is to always go for a four-door and make sure they’re both wide opening and offer a decent door way to allow ease of man-, or woman-handling a child into and out of the back. Makes fitting child seat easier too.

Step 2: What’s the storage like?

If you’ve ever travelled anywhere with children you’ll know that the family car fast becomes an extension of their bedroom. So, when choosing a new family car, consider the storage space available, look for water bottle holders, cup holders, glove boxes, and even under-seat storage. And, check the boot too, because, there will be times when it’ll need to double as a nappy-changing table.

Step 3: Take a good look at the safety rating

I don’t recommend you consider anything, be it for your family or not, with anything less than a four-star ANCAP crash safety rating. So, whatever you’ve got on your shortlist, you should head to ANCAP and search for the car to see how it’s rated the safety.

Step 4: Consider how you’ll use the car

This is where you need to work out whether a ‘normal’ two-wheel drive car will suffice, or whether you absolutely have to have an SUV, be it simply to keep up with your friends, or because you’ll actually need the additional clearance and all-wheel drive (permanent or part-time) or even full four-wheel drive (and we mean those with low-range) capability of an SUV.

To answer the above, you need to think about where you do most of your driving, do you live in town or the country? Because that might influence whether you go for a petrol or diesel-powered car – the longer the distance you regularly travel then the more suitable a diesel vehicle will be.

Do you regularly drive on dirt roads? Because if you do then you can probably justify the extra expense of buying a four-wheel drive, but if you’re living in the inner-city and never travel off-road then a four-wheel drive is an absolute waste of money.

Step 5: Test driving

As mentioned earlier, make sure you always have a child seat, and preferably your kids with you when you’re test driving potential purchases. That way, you’ll spot potential problems before you’ve signed on the dotted line and got the car home.

Also have a look at the windows, can the kids see out easily enough, are there rear vents to provide heating and cooling (not all cars offer rear seat vents). And, if you are testing a car with your kids in the back, ask them what they think (if, of course, they’re old enough to articulate). It might even be worth you climbing into the back seat to get a feel for their experience.

Step 6: What do you get with the car?

Most modern cars, even in their most basic trim level, are well equipped these days. But there are some absolute must-haves, I reckon. And they include, the ability to lock the rear windows, so that your kids can’t open and close them themselves, because if they can do this, they will, trust me. You also want a reversing camera, because we’ve all heard horror stories of children being run over in their own driveway…

Rear seat cupholders can be useful for long drives, although a lot of childseats have cup holders built into them. And while DVD players integrated into the headrests of the front seats can be a lifesaver on longer trips, it’s probably cheaper to buy portable DVD players. There are more, but these should get you thinking about the difference between essentials and niceties.

Step 7: What can you afford?

Budget is, obviously, all important when it comes to choosing a suitable new family car. So, work out what you can afford and start looking at the range of vehicles available in that price range. But you also need to consider the cost of running (petrol) and servicing costs, as well as insurance.

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