Buying a car that ticks all the boxes can be tricky at the best of times. And, when you add a family into the mix, the deciding factors become significantly more magnified. As well as your preferences, you have to think about the other passengers, both big and small, who’ll be riding along with you.
Finding a car that’s reliable, affordable and hardworking is important, but there are other things to consider that will help you reach a decision. Here, we take a look at 9 of the most important things to look out for when you’re shopping around for your next family car.
While you might have some makes, models and even a ballpark figure of how much you want to pay, we’d advise getting a sensible, realistic budget on paper in as much detail as possible. This should include an estimate of how much your current car is worth (and how much you’re likely to get by trading it in), as well as what you’re willing to pay for the overall purchase price. However, it’s important to remember that you’ll get less for a car on trade-in than if you sold it privately.
Be sure to factor in the annual cost of road tax too, and get a few insurance quotes to work out how economical the car is likely to be in the long term. Additionally, calculate potential fuel costs based on your average mileage, as well as any scheduled servicing that will need doing.
Ultimately, you’ll have a family budget to keep an eye on. If you can’t afford to keep to it, there’s very little point in buying a shiny new car. Keep that in mind when reaching a decision.
How and what will you be using your family car for? If you’re mainly using it for the school run, driving at low speeds in an urban environment, then a diesel isn’t advisable. They’re not suited to these kinds of low-mileage drives since they come with rather large maintenance bills over time.
A modest petrol-powered car, or even a hybrid, would better suit this scenario. However, if you’ll be using your family car for commuting purposes, especially on long-distance journeys on motorways, then a diesel will keep your fuel bills down.
The size of your family will dictate the size of the car you purchase. If you’re a family of three then it isn’t as much of a problem, although you might want to look for something other than a small city car since they don’t have much rear seat or boot space for things like buggies and child seats.
If you have three or more kids, then you might want to look at people carriers, and there are plenty of five and seven-seat cars that can do the job. Once you know what you’ll be using your car for exactly, as we mentioned above, then it’ll become easier to decide how many seats you’ll need for carrying the whole family around.
Whether you’re buying new or used, your family’s safety is of the utmost importance. If you’re going for a new car, then be sure to check the list of standard safety equipment and take note of anything featured on the options list. It’s important to invest in the things that will help to keep your family as safe as possible, such as systems that can mitigate collisions.
If you’re unsure, head to the Euro NCAP website to check the safety rating of the potential make and model you’re thinking of buying. You’ll find plenty of further safety-related information to check up on too.
Part of your budgeting will take into consideration how you’ll finance your family car. There are lots of different means you can use, but PCP (Personal Contract Plan) is the one that may best suit families.
It’s a form of hire purchase where you pay a deposit, followed by fixed monthly sums for an agreed-upon period. At the end of the agreement, you either pay a lump sum to own the car, give the car back or use equity remaining in the car to roll over to a new car on another PCP.
This approach is good for families that may need space for younger kids, but then want to move onto something less expensive or smaller later down the line in a relatively seamless fashion.
Obviously, this step only applies to you if you’re going down the used car route, but it’s still an important part of the process. Vigilance will serve you well here especially with regards to the car’s history and condition; be sure to ask a seller for receipts and, if possible, proof of a complete service history. Anything that can help to verify what you’re seeing is important; see if the seller is still in possession of the car’s previous NCT certificates as this can help to verify its mileage. You can also check for any irregularities through the DVLA, which also clarifies whether or not there is no outstanding finance on the car either.
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when buying a car, but the interior trim of the vehicle is an important consideration, particularly if your children are given to making a bit of a mess! With all sorts of potential for spilt drinks, upset tummies and crayon drawing on any given journey, keep in mind how a car is upholstered. If you’re worried about clean ups and how things might look afterwards, then go for something dark. Leather trim may be a good idea too since it’s easier to clean up.
This applies to new cars only, but your choice of optional extras means you can purchase a car that’s exactly to the needs of you and your family. This might mean a longer wait for it to be delivered, but the peace of mind it can bring makes it well worth it. Items like parking sensors and model-specific child seats help to optimise safety, while things like family bike racks and roof rails can be fitted too, which is always a plus for families who like to go on holiday.
How the car feels from the driver’s seat is important too. You want to be comfortable and have an optimal view of what’s around you. Not only is this helpful for parking, it’s important in terms of safety, especially if you’re in an environment with lots of other families and children nearby. Additionally, you may need to consider the view your passengers have too – especially if any of them are prone to car sickness.
If your clan’s on the smaller side, then there’s plenty of great options, whether it’s just the three (or four) of you. Here’s our pick of the best…
Eleven generations in and still a family favourite, the latest Honda Civic keeps things refreshingly simple: one engine option, one body style and just the two trims. But it’s absolutely mastered the basics, perfecting just about everything you need to deal with a busy family life.
It may be for smaller families, but they haven’t skimped on space, with head and leg room to spare and wide interior for an even roomier experience. Plus, there’s a bevy of safety features, from the eleven airbags and automatic emergency braking to lane-keeping assistance and blind-spot monitoring, so everyone who’s along for the ride is in safe hands.
With wide opening doors and space in the back for little ones, the Mazda 2 more than accommodates smaller families. Fitted with ISOFIX child seat mounts in the back to keep toddlers and babies comfy, the interior has also uses sound-dampening materials to its advantage, delivering a noticeably quiet driving experience that’ll have them nodding off when you need them.
With their roomy interiors, reliability and ample safety features, SUVs and families make the perfect pairing. Here’s what we recommend…
Safe, reliable and loaded with space, the Kia Sorento can comfortably (emphasis on that word) seat up to seven passengers, so it’s perfect for families with a bigger headcount. Cabin space is big enough that it’ll accommodate four adults, and with growth spurts on the way, you’ll definitely need it.
There’s lots of storage space in the back too, so there’s more than enough room for monthly shops, road trip luggage and holiday holdalls without having to squeeze everything in.
Named ‘Best Family Car’ by none other than Top Gear, the Hyundai Tucson arrives with some strong praise attached to it. But how exactly did it garner the title? Well for one thing, big families are well and truly catered to, with gargantuan amounts of space in the front and back. Even if they grow up to be six foot, they’ll still have space to spare – head and legroom included. The back seats can even recline, so tired toddlers can get their 40 winks. No more “are we nearly there yet?” during those long family drives.
Another seven seater, the XC90 caters to families with lots of kids (and a furry friend too). A hybrid that’s on the huge side, it’s powerful, safe and quiet too, making light work of big drives without turning up the volume – so your passengers can stay glued to the onboard entertainment options without distractions.
Unsurprisingly, the XC90 goes big on space, with the second row’s three seats all moving independently of each other, while the back row even features in-built boosters for the smallest of passengers. The five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, meanwhile, keeps the family free from hazards wherever it is you’re heading.
For the more environmentally conscious family, there’s no shortage of electric options, but here’s three of our favourites…
MG ZS EV
Does it get any better than being named ‘Best Family Electric Car?’ at the 2023 Carbuyer Awards? It’s hard to argue with a plaudit like that. And as it’s another SUV, you’ll find plenty of space for your family on the inside, seating up to five members easily. Soft and plush seating keeps everyone comfortable on long journeys, plus there’s plenty in the way of door pockets and cubby holes to store snacks, maps and tablets in without creating a mess. Legroom, headroom and passenger space are all on the roomy side too, so we doubt you’ll hear any complaints whether it’s a supermarket trip or a longer distance drive the kids are accompanying you on.
Kia Niro EV
One of the most efficient EVs in its class, the Kia Niro also makes a convincing case as one of the best family cars going right now. Along with looking the part, it’s got plenty in the way of infotainment options, while the roomy cabin means space for both passengers and whatever they’re bring along for the journey too.
In the back, there’s some really handy design features to make family drives easier. Seat backs double as coat hooks, while charging ports are mounted to the sides of the front seats for easy access. Plus, air vents to the rear seats keep anyone riding in the back cool on hot, muggy days. And since it’s a Kia, you’ll get that seven-year warranty they’ve made a name for themselves with – that few manufacturers have managed to beat.
On a budget? Check out these wallet-friendly options if you’re in the market for something the whole family will love.
With prices starting at £13,795 the MG3 won’t leave much of a dent in your bank account, and for frugal families, that’s definitely going to be good news. And while it looks to be on the small size, it’s actually pretty roomy inside, so there’s no need to worry about cramped journeys with the whole clan in tow. Even the boot is nice and spacious too – and it has a seven-year warranty to rival Kia’s too. For the price, you can’t say fairer than that.
Just under £28000, the Kia Sportage is pricier than the MG3, but it’s still an affordable family car, and it’s said that it’ll retain its value just as well as more premium options. Another family car with ISOFIX points for your children’s booster seats, it also features easily accessible USB sockets and bag hooks to the front seats. There’s lots in the way of space as well, so even as they enter their teen years, you’ll never have to deal with cramped journeys.
Got lots to stow away before you hit the road? These family cars are among the best when it comes to room for your road trip essentials.
With 401 litres of boot space, the Bayon has plenty of room in the back for a small SUV. What’s more, the height of the boot floor is adjustable, which makes getting big bags in and out of the car a lot easier. And with the rear seats folded down, that space grows to an impressive 1205 litres.
At 448 litres of space, the MG ZS’s room in the boot isn’t in short supply. It even out does the Bayon in terms of seat-down space, increasing the capacity to 1375 litres, while again, the adjustable boot floor makes heaving big bags out of the car once you’ve reached your destination much easier.
Longer than the Kia’s Ceed model, it makes sense that the Kia Xceed, well, exceeds its predecessor when it comes to boot space. At 426 litres of space, it beats out others in its class. Even when the boot floor has been raised, there’s still enough space for a few big suitcases, and even a large pushchair too. As for seat-down capacity, that comes in at 1378 litres, which makes it the most spacious boot out of the three we’re recommending here.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Looking for more from Brindley Garages? Head here to check out more news from the motoring world, or whether you’re in the market for a new car, see how we can help at our homepage.