3 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Family Car

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Two years ago I FINALLY traded in my 2003 Honda Accord for the new Buick Encore. I loved the style and new features and it was perfect for all the driving around I had to do with two little ones. The Encore is pretty small, but it was perfect for me and two kids. Then, 4 months after I got the Encore, we found out that I was pregnant with Harrison. Suddenly, my backseat seemed awfully small and what was perfect for me and two kids was NOT perfect for me and three kids.

For almost a year, I managed to make it work. I found the narrowest profile carseats and booster seat that I could find and just barely fit all three of them into the tiny backseat. And because they were so close and so squished, they did what all kids do in the backseat – they fought. My daily drives became a constant struggle complete with tears, meltdowns, pushing, taking things from each other. Finally I decided it was necessary: I needed a different car!

All summer I researched and took test drives. I had a very specific list:

  1. I wanted a car with third row seating that was easy to get to.
  2. I wanted captain’s chairs in the middle row.
  3. I wanted enough storage space for a stroller and groceries at the same time.
  4. I wanted a kid friendly vehicle.

After a few test drives, I knew it was time. It was time to become a Minivan Mom.

Crazy right? I mean, I actually said to my husband, “I really just want a mom car.” Minivans are great! The kids can’t slam the doors open into someone else’s car, there’s plenty of space and they are easy to get in and out of. While they aren’t the most stylish choice available, I will 100% sacrifice a little bit of style for functionality and being able to separate my kids. In the end, I chose the Chrysler Pacifica. It met all of my needs and then some and was quite reasonably priced.

So how do you know where to get the best deal once you have an idea of what you want? Cars.com is a great starting point. You can research different vehicles and their features, do side-by-side comparisons, check out the reviews, watch videos, and find where the closest dealer with the best deal is. One incredibly helpful tool for moms is that they have a whole section devoted to car seats and review the different vehicles based on how easy they are to use car seats with. Seriously! Check out how your vehicle ranks here.

So if you are shopping for the perfect family vehicle, here are some things to consider.

  1. What are your minimum requirements?

    Mine were all about space. I wanted the space to separate my kids so they couldn’t bother each other AND space for storage. This is the car we will take on all of our family vacations, so we need to be able to fill it with five people’s belongings and still be comfortable.

  2. What is your price range?

    Obviously you need to shop within your price range. It does you no good to find the perfect vehicle and then find out that the payment is double what you can actually afford. When I was looking, it was the end of August and I hadn’t received a paycheck since June (yay teacher life). I knew a down payment was out of the question, but I also knew what I could afford per month. Cars.com has a great calculator tool to help you figure out what kind of vehicle you can actually afford by adjusting for taxes, apr, trade in value and length of the loan.

  3. What Are Your Family’s Needs Now and in the Future

    My mistake in getting the Buick in 2015 was not considering our future needs. A third child was nowhere on my radar at that point, but it immediately became a problem. What I love about my Chrysler Pacifica is that it will meet our needs now (space and lots of LATCH placements for car seats) and it will continue to meet our needs in the next 5-10 years as we travel more, go to kids activities and maybe even give rides to their friends.

I LOVE my new Chrysler Pacifica. It was a great choice for my family and has made our car rides infinitely more pleasant. And you know what, being a minivan mom is actually pretty cool. What things are important for your family vehicle? Let us know in the comments.

If you’re in the market for a new family car, check out all of the resources and tools available at Cars.com today.


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