Buying a Family Car: 9 Things You Need to Look out for and Consider

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.

1. Budget

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.

2. Functionality

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.

3. Seating

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.

4. Safety

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.

5. Finance

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.

6. Prior usage

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.  

7. Interior

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.

8. Optional extras

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.

9. Visibility

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.

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.

Added: 30 September 2019

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