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Choose the Right Car for You

In the market for a family vehicle? Whether it’s a sport-utility vehicle big enough to seat six on a summer road trip or a small electric car perfect for zipping around the city—we’ve tracked down the best tips and advice to help you choose the right type of car for you. Once you narrow down your must-haves, you can take a test drive and hit the road.

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Going electric. Choosing an all-electric ride (aka EV) is a good choice if you’ve got an environmental conscience and if you’re looking to save a few bucks on soaring gas prices. The U.S. Department of Energy says that all-electric vehicles don’t emit pollutants from their tailpipes, which means you can feel good knowing your car isn’t adding to the smog supply. Besides looking out for the environment, you’ll also be looking out for your wallet. EVs don’t need the same types of maintenance as a non-electric vehicle—that means no pricey oil changes; transmission fluids and fuel exhaust system maintenance.

Seeking more seats. If you’re seeking more seats than a station wagon, you may want to test-drive the new “family truckster” crossovers (think Chevrolet Equinox and Toyota Highlander). Many of these cars offer second- and third-row seat options that a wagon may not Look into this option if extra seats and leg room are a priority for you. The Chevrolet Equinox is a crossover with a second row that slides forward and backward, which means no one has to bicker when your teen wants more leg room. And the Toyota Highlander has reclining seats for up to eight passengers.

Safety first. If safety is your number one priority, look into vehicles with blind spot monitoring, a rearview camera and air bags. Blind Spot Monitoring systems (like those found in the Ford Fusion and Jeep Grand Cherokee) either have a light on the side mirrors or an audible alert that will sound when a vehicle is in your blind spot. Another safety feature to add to your safe-car checklist is a backup camera (found in the GMC Terrain and the Subaru Forester), which shows you exactly what’s behind you as you reverse. When searching for a safe ride, you’ll also want to inquire about the car’s airbag technology. Cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and Toyota Camry come standard with 10 air bags, and some SUVs (like the Explorer and Flex) come with air bag-like inflatable seat belts for extra protection. As a bonus, some safety features could save you money on car insurance.

Going used. With the high prices of new vehicles, a used car may be a smart decision, but you do want to be sure you’re not buying a dud. Become an online and in-person sleuth by checking out consumer and industry reviews online to catch yourself up on your potential make and model’s common problems. After a test drive, inspect the car for any leaks, from an oil leak to a leak in the transmission. To be sure you’re not buying a money pit on wheels, have a mechanic inspect the used car. Once the inspection is complete, be sure you are being charged a fair price. Compare prices for the same make, model and year by checking Blue Book values.

Looking for a family ride. Take note of your family activities before you buy a car—if you go on a lot of road trips, gas mileage may be very important. If you have a larger family, more seats and foot room may be key. And for any family vehicle, safety is always important. Check out options with hands-free calling, rearview cameras, blind spot monitoring and antilock breaks.

Best wheels for your teen. When shopping for a car for your teen driver, try to get a vehicle with Electronic Stability Control (generically called ESC). It’s a computer system that can help to prevent the car from spinning out, should the car lose control. If you’re looking to invest in a used car for your young driver, be sure the car has side-impact structure and dual front airbags.  And before you buy, check out the car’s safety rating from the U.S. government and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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