4 Tips for Choosing a Family Car

My husband has always been crazy about cars. So when he wanted to buy a sleek two-door sports car to celebrate a big promotion a few years ago—I gave him the green light. Though it’s somewhat impractical, I have to admit that I fell in love with the car, too.

But now that having kids is on our horizon, we’re on the hunt for a vehicle that’s a bit more car-seat friendly. While skimming websites and visiting local dealerships, we’ve learned what’s important when it comes to purchasing a car for our family—and, unfortunately, that wind-in-my-hair feeling isn’t one of them. Living through that process allows us to make some solid, family-friendlyrecommendations:

Set a Vehicle Budget

From doctor visits to college funds, planning for a baby is expensive. Though looking at flashier cars has been tempting, we decided to stick with vehicles slightly below our budget limit. We never mention our target price until required.

When we do finally talk numbers, we stay focused on the total cost of the vehicle—not the amount of monthly payments. This strategy makes it easier for us to stick to the number we landed on, as opposed to stretching out the loan-payback period so we can buy a more expensive car.

Don’t Fall in Love with a Single Model

Try not to let emotions rule such an important investment. By focusing on only one car, no matter how much you love it, you may deter yourself from vehicles that better suit your needs. You could also miss out on alternative vehicles with better ratings, reviews and reliability.

Compare several different models and assess your real wants and needs. (Looking into reviews from Consumer Reports can be a great place to start.) This is also a perfect opportunity to test drive a variety of cars. My husband’s favorite part of buying a car, the test drive is your best chance to see how a vehicle measures up to your expectations and whether it’s a fit for your family.

Think Everyday and Long-term Use

Families are always changing, so it’s hard to determine what will be important to you a few years down the road. Still, buying a new car whenever your life changes doesn’t make a lot of financial sense. Before deciding on a car, think about the changes you expect your family to go through during the car’s lifespan.

Your daily routine is important, too. If that includes dropping children off at day care or sitting in traffic as you head to the office, good fuel economy and city maneuverability may matter more than having a surplus of storage space.

Make Car Safety a Priority

With the precious cargo we plan to add to our lives, safety is our number-one priority. Car safety features have evolved through the years, so if you’re juggling work and family, consider vehicles with special safety features like voice command or hands-free calling. You may also want to think about high-tech models that have rearview cameras, blind spot monitoring and antilock breaks. As a bonus, some safety features could save you money on car insurance.

Just because you’re starting a family doesn’t mean you have to settle for a mom-mobile. With a little research and careful planning, you can find a vehicle that’s both practical for your family and perfect for you.