Purchasing a new car is one of the biggest expenses people make, second to buying a house. When you have a family, the decision becomes even more complex—you have to consider seating, safety and storage, along with insurance, maintenance, repairs and fuel costs. To put it plainly, finding the perfect car is like playing a game of chess—you must make the right move.
To assist you in finding the ideal family car, we tapped financial expert Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez and Renee Valdes, advice editor for Kelley Blue Book. They provided us with a breakdown of what makes an ideal family car, the features to look for and the different types of vehicles (and their benefits) that are currently available.
From minivans to station wagons to SUVs, there are many types of vehicles on the market today. Regardless of the model, selecting the right family car always comes down to a few key factors— seating, safety features, space (both interior and cargo), reliability, budget, fuel efficiency and maintenance requirements.
Weather and climate are important factors to consider when purchasing a family car, as they can impact the upkeep required for your car. "Weather and type of driving [city or rural] are important to consider when purchasing a family car as these factors contribute to the upkeep required for your car," explains Rodriguez.
"For example, living in cold climates increases the risk for additional repairs, and being in a rural area means spending more money on gas each month. Planning ahead for these costs and having dedicated savings to leverage when needed is essential."
Safety ratings for cars, car seats and tires are equally as important because they provide customers with valuable information about the safety of these products. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), (NHTSA) offers a website where customers can view model reports and get information at a glance. In addition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) website rates and evaluates cars based on a high level of crash protection and essential safety features.
From heated seats to rearview cameras and built-in infotainment systems, cars are equipped with a range of features. Choose a family car that has all the features you need to make your life easier. This includes safety features to keep your family protected, plenty of space for everyone and everything, easy-to-clean surfaces and reliable performance.
Of course, you want a car whose fuel costs won't break the bank. Fortunately, the 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has these features and more, making it a safe, reliable and fuel-efficient family SUV.
From impressive safety features to spacious seats to fuel efficiency, the 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the ultimate family car. This vehicle has three rows of seats, with bench seats in the second and third rows, providing space for up to eight passengers. Two full LATCH connectors for the second-row outboard seats make it easy to install child car seats. Plus, with heated and ventilated front seats and heated second-row outboard seats, everyone will be comfortable no matter where they sit.
These elements are why this hybrid car is a winner. According to a 2023 U.S. News & World Report, the car is equipped with all the essential safety features, including driver assistance features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and automatic high beams.
There's also an infotainment system (with a 12.3-inch touchscreen) to keep kids entertained during long car rides.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, reported the 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a fuel economy of 35 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway, even with all-wheel drive. This makes it a fuel-efficient car choice, especially for a car of this size.
When choosing a family car for five, Valdes says it's important to consider safety features like airbags, seat belts, and all-around visibility cameras as well as seating, safety ratings, storage and space. The 2023 Honda CR-V is a top choice for families of five thanks to its spaciousness, comfort, fuel efficiency and safety ratings.
This SUV is perfect for families, with comfortable seating, top-notch safety features, and ample room for all your gear. The cabin is spacious and can seat up to five passengers, and there is a large cargo area at the back. Additionally, there are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats, making it easy to install car seats.
According to a 2023 U.S. News & World Report, this car has a range of safety features, including a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking. It also features an infotainment system with a four-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, and a USB port to keep passengers entertained and devices charged up. Better yet, the IIHS named this vehicle a Top Safety Pick+ 2023 and gave it good ratings in every category, including crashworthiness, crash avoidance and mitigation, seat belt usage, and child restraints.
It's important to note that the MPG varies (29 combined city/highway-40 combined city/highway) depending on the trim model, according to the EPA. There are currently four trim models available for this car, and the annual fuel cost of each varies.
While cars can vary in price, the best affordable family car always includes built-in safety features, space and fuel efficiency—say hello to the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV. It's an electric vehicle, yes, but it's also less expensive than most others (Kelley Blue Book data indicates that it's currently the least expensive EV in the US), and the Chevrolet website states that it may qualify for a $7,500 tax credit under the Clean Vehicle Federal Tax Credit.
The 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV is a good option for a family vehicle, even after considering price and tax credit benefits. According to a 2023 U.S. News & World Report, it has several safety technology features, including Chevy Safe Assist, HD surround vision, and blind spot monitoring, and can comfortably seat up to five people. A tether anchor and two full LATCH connector kits are also included, which help anchor the top of the car seat to the vehicle to prevent it from pitching forward in an accident.
In addition to safety features, this electric car also comes with other features including an infotainment system, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto as standard, and an option for heated/leather-wrapped steering wheels. The more costly trim level, of which there are two in total, does, however, include some of these features.
According to the Kelley Blue Book, this car can travel 259 miles on a single charge thanks to its 65 kWh lithium-ion battery. If safety ratings are a concern, the IHHS rated this car well in crashworthiness categories but only marginally in the seatbelt and child restraint categories. In contrast, the NHTSA gave this vehicle a five-star overall safety rating, according to the U. S. World Report and News.
Although electric vehicles tend to have a higher upfront cost than gas-fueled vehicles, Valdes says they can ultimately save you money on fuel and maintenance costs in the long run. "EVs save owners money," she tells Today's Parent. "There’s less maintenance and lower energy costs, so there's a cost advantage of owning an EV, compared with a gas-fueled car."
Another perk of EVs? Valdes adds that some families may qualify for federal and local tax incentives on electric cars, making them a cost-effective option for families looking to save money on a family car.
If you're in the market for an electric vehicle, Valdes suggests checking out this Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award-winning car. It has a spacious interior that can comfortably seat five people and comes with two LATCH connectors on the rear outboard seats.
The back seats can also be reclined to provide extra storage space, and all seats are upholstered in cloth for added comfort and convenience.
As per a 2023 U.S. News & World Report, this electric SUV boasts an array of features, including a 12.3-inch touch screen and a 2-point 3-inch digital gauge cluster. It also has a push-button start for simple ignition, proximity keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, and five USB ports. Bear in mind that there are a total of seven trims, with the more expensive ones providing drivers with more features.
Regardless of the trim chosen, this car's electric battery wows with its strong 800-volt technology, allowing for quicker charging times, says the U.S. News & World Report. Compared to earlier models, the battery greatly extends the range, allowing it to run longer between charges.
If you're not ready to go all-in on electric, hybrids can be a great way to reduce emissions and get a feel for alternative-energy vehicles, says Valdes. "These offer great fuel economy, and they are a great stepping stone for any family interested in alternative fuel options, but not quite ready to take the step into fully electric vehicles," she explains. Hybrids also have everything you need for a family vehicle, from safety features to plenty of seating and space.
The 2023 Toyota Sienna is a practical and versatile option for family-oriented travel. It is a fuel-efficient hybrid that can accommodate up to eight people with comfortable and supportive seats. The third row of seats can be folded down to create additional storage space, and the second-row seats can be removed entirely to create even more space.
There is also ample cargo and trunk space behind the third row of seats. It's ideal for storing gear and luggage. There are four to five complete sets of LATCH connectors, so you can put more than one car seat in the car.
According to a 2023 U.S. News & World Report, this hybrid car has a variety of interior features such as remote keyless entry, tri-zone automatic climate control and a push-start button. It also has a rear-seat entertainment system and eight 12-speaker stereos. It's also fuel-efficient with an EPA estimate of 36 mpg in the city and on the highway, and has received a five-star rating from the IIHS.
According to Valdes, families with multiple members can benefit from the increased seating and cargo space provided by three-row vehicle options. "These cars are great for families fitting gear for their extracurricular activities, often a stroller, diaper bags, additional friends/extended family members and so much more," she says.
When choosing a row SUV with three rows of seating, it is important to evaluate the vehicle carefully. Consider legroom, car seats and size, recommends Valdes. "Evaluate the legroom for adults, the ease of children getting into the back and buckled, or if your car seat will fit well and is easy to access to help small kids in and out," she adds. "When the third row is up, consider if you still have enough space for your belongings in the back of the vehicle."
Depending on the trim you select, the 2023 Ford Expedition has the capacity to seat between five to eight individuals comfortably. The is a three-row SUV, with five complete sets of LATCH connectors, making it easy to attach car seats. Additionally, there's plenty of legroom for all passengers to enjoy, ensuring that no one feels cramped.
According to a 2023 U.S. News & World Report, this car comes equipped with a variety of safety features, including blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert and rear parking sensors. It also boasts wireless device charging, a power liftgate, a panoramic roof, and a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system to keep the kids entertained. However, this vehicle is available in 19 trim levels, and some of the higher-end features might only be available on the more expensive trims.
This car has powerful twin-turbocharged engines and good gas mileage for its class. According to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, this vehicle also has an MPG of 19, with a city MPG of 17 and a highway MPG of 23.
Although the IIHS has yet to rate it, The NHTSA gave it five stars in the overall, frontal crash, and side crash categories, as reported by U.S. News & World Report.
In conclusion, finding the right family car is possible if you take into account important factors such as seating, safety features, space (both interior and cargo), reliability, budget, fuel efficiency and maintenance requirements. Safety ratings and MPG are helpful key considerations, as are seating, weather and type of driving.
Our top tip? Always keep your own needs and driving experience in mind when choosing a car.
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