So, your family is getting bigger and you need a vehicle that can carry all the car seats and soccer gear. What makes a practical family car? Which features do you need, and which can you live without? Here are some tips to finding the best family car for you and your team.
A practical family car is one that fits your budget
The first thing you need to decide is your budget. Many factors impact the value of a used car, so take these into consideration when evaluating whether a vehicle is a good buy. Think about your take-home income and what percentage of that you can comfortably devote to a vehicle purchase. Keep in mind that purchase price is only one element of what a vehicle will cost you over time. Here’s some more information about how much a car will cost to drive.
Once you’ve started looking around, make sure you use a tool that considers the numbers that matter most when calculating used car value – this is key to knowing if you’re getting a good deal. Things like a vehicle’s history (which could include accident records and registration history) make a difference, and so does the amount similar vehicles have actually sold for nearby (as opposed to just what they’re listed for). Check out CARFAX Canada’s car value calculator here.
Should you lease or buy?
Another thing to consider is whether to lease or buy. We lay out the pros and cons to both here. This decision will help determine where to start looking, as people who want to lease usually turn to a dealer or a service that helps you find another lease to buy-out like Leasebusters.
Should you buy your family car new or used?
If you’re not going to lease, it’s time to decide whether to buy new or used. If you’re looking to buy a new car, you’re likely going to start at a dealership or manufacturer’s website. Buying new is usually the easiest way to go, allowing you to customize the features you want including things like colour, wheel size etc, but it does come with a higher price-tag. Here are the pros and cons to buying new versus used.
Where to find the best family car
So, you’ve decided to buy used. Good call. Finding a used family car for sale is similar to finding any used car – most shoppers start their search on listing sites like autoTRADER or Kijiji, and others go to the websites of nearby dealerships. Most of these sites will let you filter the makes/models you’re interested in – so if you’re specifically searching for a minivan or SUV, you can enter those models into your search query. Kijiji Autos has an option to search by lifestyle – offering options like Starters, Families, City Driving and more. They’ll filter the vehicles available in your price range for you, and let you know which they consider to be good family cars.
Features that make a practical family car
There are certain things you want in a family car, and certain things you must have.
This is the first and most obvious must-have in a family car. This is the primary reason families change vehicles as they grow. Every added passenger comes with added baggage, and we all know how much stuff parents have to cart around to keep their babies and toddlers clean, fed and entertained. This doesn’t end when the children get older – it just changes. Older children have different gear – think goalie pads, soccer balls and musical instruments. It doesn’t matter which activities your children are involved in – they all require lots of stuff, and a vehicle that can accommodate it all. This means different things to different families. Maybe third-row seating is a must-have, or maybe you just need lots of trunk space.
2. Keyless entry
There are many versions of keyless entry on the market, and while each make it easier to get into your car with your hands full, some are more advanced and convenient than others. Maybe you need an SUV with a liftgate that opens automatically with a wave of your foot, maybe you’re dreaming of just hitting a button and having your minivan door magically slide open or maybe a vehicle that unlocks when it senses that you’re close-by is more up your alley. Either way, decide which of these options you prefer, and which you would settle for, and keep that in mind when you’re evaluating your short-list of practical family cars.
3. Bluetooth/Entertainment system
Distracted driving is a major safety issue. When most people hear the words distracted driving they automatically think about texting. Children and pets can be incredibly distracting to drivers, so making sure your family vehicle is equipped with features like Bluetooth so calls that come in can be answered hands-free, as well as an entertainment system like a DVD player that will keep the little ones occupied can minimize distractions and let you focus on the road. Some newer vehicles also come with in-cabin WIFI so you can set the kids up with a tablet and Netflix to keep them occupied. Don’t let this be a deal-breaker. If a DVD player or WIFI seems like a must-have feature, remember there are options available at most electronic stores that can be purchased separately and brought along on any road trip.
4. Fold-down seats
With a large family, inevitably you’ll have times when you have more stuff than others. Choosing a vehicle with back seats that fold down flat will make these situations easier and smoother.
5. Park assist/Back-up camera
Many growing families live in an area with lots of children. Having a vehicle equipped with park-assist and/or a back-up camera can help you see if one of your own children forgot to put their scooter away before you back over it, and even if another child is riding their bike on the sidewalk as you’re pulling out of your driveway. Driving with children can be hectic – these features are meant to help you see things you might otherwise miss.
For more information about buying a used car, check out this free guide.