Family cars need to be multitasking ninjas. Whether it’s transporting children and all their sporting gear to school, or taking everybody on a weekend getaway or driving the dogs to the vet, it’s the family car that gets used for all sort of miscellaneous tasks — which is why the vehicle has to be chosen carefully with every family member’s needs being taken into consideration.
If you’re in the market right now for a family car, here are 15 tips that will make the appraisal and buying experience a whole lot easier:
# 1: Visit The Dealership On A Weekday
Buying a car for the whole family means you’re not the only person you have to please. The vehicle should be suitable for your collective lifestyle, and that means spending more time weighing the pros and cons. Do not schedule a trip to the car dealership on a weekend for this reason. Even if it means taking time off work, dealerships usually have less customers on a weekday, which means you will have more face time with the salespeople, get better customer service and have all your questions answered.
# 2: Call Ahead
A lot of dealerships do not update their online inventory as often as they should, so there is always a chance that the particular vehicle you want to test drive is not currently available at the lot. It is always a good idea to call ahead, just so you don’t waste a journey and come back disappointed. Another advantage of letting the dealership know which car you’re interested in is they can save you time by bringing the car in front if they know in advance. (In case the vehicle is parked off-site.) Nothing spoils a car-shopping experience more than restless, hungry children who are bored by the waiting time and now just want to go home.
# 3: Bring Paperwork
Just in case the deal works out that very day, and you buy the car of your choice on the spot, bring all necessary documents – such as proof of insurance, loan approval, driving license etc. – with you. And photocopies as well.
# 4: Bring Your Must-Have List
No doubt you have already written up a list of must-have/good-to-have features in the family car you finally choose. Remember to bring that list with you, even if you think you know them all. Once you’re at the dealership, there will be so much new information to take in, you could easily forget a few on that list.
# 5: Safety Is A Prime Consideration
# 6: Space, Space, Space
Look for a shape that is tall and boxy — ideally with 5 doors and a high commanding driving position – because accessibility is a key concern when choosing a family car. Check how wide the doors can open – enough for you to stand or bend comfortably as you lift fidgety children and strap them into their booster seats? Boots also need to have a wide opening and a low loading lip, so baby strollers, dogs and big, unwieldy luggage can be loaded and unloaded with minimum effort.
# 7: How Big Is Your Family?
A new car will stay with you for a few years – during which time, new family members can arrive. It is advisable to “overbuy” (space-wise, not price-wise) if your family is still not complete, so the vehicle does not become a problem later on.
# 8: Sit In Every Seat
Even if you’re the principal driver, check out every seat in the vehicle and see how the family will feel when they are travelling with you. For example, if the vehicle has three rows of seating, check to see how comfortable the legroom is in each. And what about ventilation at the back? Will children sitting in the back be well-supplied with optimum airflow?
# 9: Is It Easy To Install Child Seats?
Check the LATCH attachment to make sure your child booster seats will fit easily in the vehicle you are considering. It is a good idea to bring the child seat along so you can test it on the spot.
# 10: Evaluate Cargo Space
When sales people say “plenty of cargo space”, we automatically take that statement to be true under all conditions, and do not stop to evaluate our unique needs that the design may not actually allow for. If you carry certain kinds of sporting equipment for example, make sure there is room for that. If you have large dogs that sit in the cargo area when going for a drive, consider their comfort. If you shop in bulk at Costco, visualize all your purchases fitting in, and the children too. Match your storage needs to the car, and not the other way around.
# 11: Is There A Spare Tire?
All cars don’t come with spare tires. Sometimes manufacturers include an inflator and tire repair kit or a doughnut instead of a full tire to keep the weight down. How do you feel about this? Imagine a scenario where the tire has a puncture on a lonely stretch of road, and the kids are on board.
# 12: Easy To Clean?
When traveling with children and pets you can always expect spills and stains to mess up your car. So consider the upholstery from a practical point of view. Would leather/vinyl upholstery and rubber floor mats make more sense than fabric upholstery and carpet mats?
# 13: Is The Car Road-Trip Friendly?
Typically, you will want to use the family car when going away for the weekend or on a road trip. Will the model you’re looking at still seem comfortable for everyone – pets included – after 8 or 9 hours on the road?
# 14: Enough Kid-Friendly Features?
All kids don’t travel well, and for the sanity of some parents, entertainment is a must so they can concentrate on driving the family safely.
# 15: What About Automatic Car Starter/Keyless Entry?
A lot of parents love the convenience of being able to unlock the car from a distance, just by pressing a button, when they’re hands are full with groceries and kids. In fact, once introduced to all the joys of automatic car starters, especially in winter when the car can be warmed up before the family arrives, parents wonder how they ever managed without it!