Picking the right new car for your family starts with, well, your family. How many people do you have? How often do you need to fit more people than just your own brood? Are there any issues of physical access, such as an elderly family member who may not want to climb into a large SUV?
The next topic to consider is your family’s stuff. Most people probably only need enough space for the weekly grocery shopping or some small sports equipment. However, if your family camps, tailgates or needs to carry excess cargo frequently, take that into consideration.
Once you have considered these factors, you will know how mush interior space you need. After all, finding a car that fits the family budget is no good if it doesn’t fit the family. Whatever class of car you pick, there is an affordable choice that will suit your needs.
Among compact sedans, the Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Accent, and Chevy Cruze are among the most affordable four-door, “five-passenger” vehicles. They really only fit five rather petite passengers, though. They are appropriate for smaller families, unless you need extra cargo space or need to accommodate a rear-facing child safety seat.
In the category of family-seized sedans, Consumer Reports’ top pick is the Nissan Altima, beating out the popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord for about the same price. Family-sized sedans will offer a little more legroom than the compact cars. They can also be a bit taller, offering more head room if you have any particularly tall family members.
Small and mid-sized SUV’s
The Subaru Forrester is the perennial winner for best small SUV in Consumer Reports’ rankings. It also has a slightly lower MSRP than the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, which also sit near the top of the rankings in this category. The real bargain from the top 10 in Consumer Reports’ rankings, though, is the Hyundai Tucson. It averages about $2000 less than the Forrester while offering similar passenger and cargo capacity and better gas mileage. The Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander both offer three rows, seating up to seven passengers.
If you really need to carry a lot of people (especially children) at a good price, several models of minivans offer a better option than the large seven-passenger SUV’s. The price is better and the options are endless. Minivans are the real living-rooms-on-wheels of the road. DVD players, cup holders, under-floor cargo space and fold-flat seats give a large family all the flexibility they could want for hauling people, pets and all their stuff for long or short trips. The Dodge Grand Caravan offers the best price, but the Toyota Sienna has the highest ratings and best fuel economy.
If you need a vehicle that really does double-duty, don’t overlook the potential of a pickup truck. The Toyota Tacoma, for example, offers an extended four-door cab that seat up to five. It’s even available with LATCH anchors for child safety seats. Don’t forget, though, that these vehicles are higher to climb into.
Matching the size of your family with the size of your budget is never easy when shopping for a new car. However, if you take the time to consider what you need your new vehicle to do, you are sure to pick the right car to suit your needs.