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Top things to consider when buying a family car

By Elise Elliott, 26 Feb 2020 Car Advice

Top things to consider when buying a family car

Moving to a family car is a big commitment, here are the things to look for when making the switch

There are a few things one must sacrifice when one becomes a parent: Sunday sleep-ins, sleeping in general, date nights — and, most reluctantly of all, the two-door sports convertible. Yep, it’s time to consider the best family car for your growing brood. Here are a few things to consider when making the transition.

SAFETY RATING

You have probably heard of an ANCAP rating, but what does it mean? It stands for the Australasian New Car Assessment Program. It’s a car safety performance test that crash tests vehicles sold in Australia. It then publishes these results for the benefit of consumers. Vehicles are awarded an ANCAP rating of between 0 to 5 stars indicating the level of safety they provide in the event of a collision.

We crash test a 2019 Subaru Forester with ANCAP

The more stars, the safer your vehicle. To achieve the maximum 5 star ANCAP safety rating, a vehicle must achieve the highest standards in all tests and feature advanced safety assist technologies. Obviously safety is paramount when it comes to your kids. When looking for a family car go for a vehicle with 5 stars.

Read next: These are the safest cars to have a crash in

CARGO AND STORAGE SPACE

Gone are the days when storage space was where you placed your sunnies and water bottle. Family life means you’ll spend many years lugging around prams, baby bags, car restraints, school bags, musical instruments and sporting equipment. For this reason it’s important to look for ample storage. This is usually expressed in litres. Also ask: Do the rear seats fold down to improve cargo space? Most importantly, does the boot accommodate a pram?

CONSIDER AN SUV OR PEOPLE MOVER

There is a reason SUVs are the weapon of choice at the school drop off/pick up war zone. Their upright driving position offers better visibility over traffic. Their height means they are easier to get in and out of with kids and groceries; you’ll do your back twisting and lowering a snoozing baby into a low car. SUVs generally hold more stuff.

Also consider people movers. While decidedly uncool, they offer practical motoring at its best. Their sliding doors are brilliant when it comes to ushering kids into the car. Not to mention eliminating dinged doors in the car park.

Honda Odyssey VTi-L review

Read next: People Mover Buyers Guide

Don’t forget, it’s not just your own kids you’ll be ferrying around. You’ll also play taxi driver to all their friends and sporting groups, so consider whether you need a 5, 7 or even an 8 seater model.

GO FOR TOP-SHELF TECH

Children = distraction. Ever tried to reverse park with three screaming kids in the back and prams and groceries obscuring your view? Chuck in sleep deprivation and you have a recipe for a bingle. For this reason, top-shelf tech is all important. While I am yet to trust auto park, always invest in a vehicle with quality reversing cameras, sensors, radar cruise control and lane assist.

New Apple CarPlay reviewed

Smartphone mirroring, heads-up display for freeway driving, voice control that works well and good Bluetooth are also useful. Connectivity is important and will reduce any chance you’ll fiddle with your phone — which is of course illegal but still tempting for busy parents.

Read next: Technology you can expect in your next new car

DON’T IGNORE CONVENIENCE AND COMFORT IN THE BACK

Consider a vehicle that has multiple USB charging ports. Everyone has a device now, and the last thing you want is a flat iPad on a long car trip. Rear seat climate control is also a bonus for littlies trapped in the back. And make sure there are plenty of cup holders for rear passengers.

FUEL TYPE AND EFFICIENCY

Petrol, hybrid, electric – they're all a bit different in terms of fuel consumption. Make sure you get the one that best suits your needs.

Manufacturers will always have an official fuel consumption expressed as litres per 100 km. But this is usually a combination of “urban” and “extra-urban” aka freeway conditions. The manner and usage in which you drive your car could make that quite different. For example, if you do lots of school runs and stop-start city driving your fuel usage will be higher.

Read: Does premium petrol give you better fuel efficiency?

EXTENDED FACTORY WARRANTY

The warranty is usually buried in the fine print. Go for five years with unlimited kilometres - it shouldn't be particularly hard as most manufacturers offer five years now. Some manufacturers even offer seven!

Bigger, better, faster: Get ready for WhichCar TV season two

DO YOUR RESEARCH

This is a massive asset you’re buying so do your homework. A site like WhichCar.com.au provides plenty of reviews and car comparisons.

Book in test drives and make sure they occur back-to-back because it’s really easy to forget the feel of a car. Take a notepad to compare notes. 

Visit a number of different dealers and ask each for their best deal. Some might give you a low interest rate when it comes to financing, but they won't budge on the price of the car.

Woman signing car contract

Drag along your partner. This is a family team decision. And don’t be afraid to take the pram and car seats to the test drives. No use getting the new family wagon home, only to discover the damn pram doesn’t fit!