What to Look For When Buying a Family Car

Knowing what to look for when buying a family car means determining your budget and focusing on your family’s size, lifestyle, and safety.
Written by Nicholas Wilson
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Purchasing a family car is a big step in matching your car to your family’s needs. If you need a new car, have recently outgrown a smaller sedan, or just want to have the extra space know you’ll need, it is important to know what to look for when buying a family car. All too often, buyers don’t take a complete look at all their needs before jumping into a purchase. If you take the added time to look into your future car, you’ll be rewarded handsomely down the line.
In this article, Part 1 takes a look at your financial situation, and Part 2 focuses in on some details surrounding your needs in the car itself.

Part 1 of 2: Getting a sense of your finances

Unfortunately, finances must be a major part of your decision no matter what your fiscal state. This means that you should look into your finances before picking a car; otherwise, you’ll end up dissatisfied and constantly feeling like you’ve settled.
Step 1: Determine your budget. Realistically determine how much you can afford to pay each month on a car loan.
Car loans can vary in their duration, which means you’ll generally pay less per month over the life of a longer loan. If your budget is tight, you can consider paying less per month in this way. Remember, though, that even though you’ll pay less per month, you’ll pay more over the long term due to interest.
Also, you should keep in mind the possibility of a down payment on the car as this will eat up some of your free cash. Be sure to budget for this in advance.
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Part 2 of 2: How to pick out a car

Factor 1: How big is your family? A family car can come in a lot of shapes and sizes, and picking yours out depends on the size of your family.
If you only have one child, then a family car for you could be a sedan with extra storage. If, on the other hand, you have a larger family, then you may want the extra seating and space that comes with a minivan.
If you are looking for something with the best of both worlds, then you may want to consider an SUV. This may be a little higher on the "style" side of things, and you’ll still have a more room than a sedan.
Factor 2: How active is your family? Everyone’s family is different, and this certainly applies to the sorts of activities you are involved in.
If you have two kids who play sports, say hockey and lacrosse, then you’ll probably need extra room for equipment. If your family is not into sports with lots of gear, then you might be able to get a smaller vehicle. Also, if your family does a lot of driving, you might want to get a sedan that gets better gas mileage. At the same time, you could want extra room to store supplies for a long journey.
In short, you have to consider what sorts of activities your family engages in and decide what kind of car fits your lifestyle.
Factor 3: Think about safety ratings. If safety is a priority in your family car, then you should take a look at the safety ratings on common family vehicles and any others you are considering.
In general, minivans tend to be some of the safest vehicles. This is because they have a low center of gravity and are constructed to absorb impact so as to protect passengers. SUVs are less safe because their center of gravity is higher, but they are still safer than sedans. Smaller cars are, as you’d expect, more prone to suffer damage in an accident than larger vehicles.
This does not mean sedans are unsafe but only that they are not as safe as a minivan. With that said, look into the specific crash test ratings for any vehicles you are considering to make sure you are looking out for your precious cargo.
Knowing what to look for when buying a family car involves keeping a few simple ideas in mind, and above attending to your true needs. This ensures you get a car that fits your family and is a wise use of your money.
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