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Tips for buying a family car

Tips for buying a family car
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Splashing out on a family car is a big deal, whatever your budget. A new vehicle is probably the biggest expense you’ll make in your life apart from your home. So it’s important to get it right. It can be exciting to choose a new car, but overwhelming too. Having just replaced our own family vehicle this is a subject close to my heart! Here are some top tips for success.

Understand your Needs

Before you even begin looking, it’s vital you assess your family needs. Most family cars are multi-functional modes of transport used for moving kids and pets around, going on holidays, perhaps with space for sporting or other hobby equipment. In our case, we also needed a car that was big enough to accommodate my husband’s work equipment. Throw all these things into the mix before you fall in love with a car that’s completely inappropriate for your needs.

Consider a Hatchback or Estate

A traditional boot can create more space in the interior of the car. For this improved travel comfort, you trade ease of access to storage space. High boot lids and narrow openings can make wedging small-child paraphernalia into the boot of a saloon car a significant challenge. By contrast, a hatchback generally offers more boot space that is easier to get to. They also have the flexibility of a removable back-shelf, making them ideal for carrying extra kit on longer journeys, also for transporting pets.

Make Sure Doors are Wide

Tips for buying a family carIf your budget is very tight you may be limited to a three-door vehicle. These work just fine, but the practicalities of car seats can make day-to-day use a headache. If you have the option go for a five-door model. But beware – not all such cars are created equal. Some cars have narrow back doors that require you to be a contortionist when strapping in the kids. Sliding rear doors can be a godsend, especially as the little kids become bigger; they are extremely practical in a car park. Take your car seats along when you are viewing cars; this will give you a feel for how they will work for you in practice.

Consider Raised Rear Seats

Also known as ‘Stadium Seating’. Back seats that are higher up than normal make fitting car seats easier, they keep the kids at a level where they can more easily see out of the front window – great news if your little ones suffer from carsickness. Stadium seating is most commonly found in MPVs and 4x4s. If you do take this option, make sure the rear headrests can be removed with ease – this can be necessary for the safe fitment of some car seats.

Look at the Passenger Airbag

If you can imagine a time when you will need to fix a rear-facing car seat onto the front passenger seat, then your vehicle of choice MUST have an option to switch off the passenger airbag. Not doing so can result in death or serious injury for your child in the event of an accident.

Storage is Good

The more slots, nooks, crannies and cubbyholes you have in your vehicle the less likely it is to get cluttered. Of course, you do need to remember to empty some of these periodically – they are a haven for apple cores, lolly sticks and decomposing banana skins. Not nice. Trust me on this.

Think Child Friendly Features

When the kids arrived in your world, you begin to realise that most major purchases from that point on are going to revolve largely around them. So it is with your family car, at least it is if you value a (relatively) quiet travel life. Here are just a few of the in-car child-friendly features on the market that may be of interest:

  • Integrated sun blinds
  • Tinted rear windows
  • Leather interior (wipe able!)
  • Dual colour scheme – MUCH more forgiving
  • DVD screens – mounted on the roof or seat back
  • Plentiful 12v and USB sockets – for all those family gadgets

Budget Considerations

You’ll obviously buy the best car you can afford, but certain makes and models are more expensive than others. A VW or Mercedes will set you back more than a Skoda or a Fiat, for example. But unless image is your prime consideration – and let’s face it, when you have kids you rarely have time to think about how you look – don’t rule out the cheaper options. You can often get a lot more car for your money, they can be cheaper to service and run as well.

Similarly, odd coloured cars are often lower in price. Orange may not be your first choice, but if it gets you a vehicle that’s of considerably higher spec than you could otherwise afford, it may be worth considering. Work out your priorities and be prepared to compromise a little.

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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