Advice: How to Pick the Best Family Car for You

April 30, 2010
2010 Honda Accord Sedan

2010 Honda Accord Sedan

Picking the best car for you and your family may seem like an easy task. After all, it's pretty obvious how many seats you'll need, how much towing capability--if any--and how much cargo space you'll need, right?

Well, not always. Many people forget about the one constant in all our lives: Change.

In other words,  a family of four may not think it needs a third row of seating, but an unplanned addition to the family could change that. Or a family might think it doesn't need towing--until a large tax return comes due and a boat is purchased.

So, here's a few things to think about when heading to the dealership.


The key is figuring out how much space you need now--and how much you'll need in the future. Do you travel a lot? Play a lot of golf? Haul kids toys or household appliances? You'll need space. But don't forget to think about the future. Keep in mind any additions you might have in mind to your family, your household, or your business/career. If you think ahead now, you could save yourself from losing money on a trade-in later.

Knowing how much space you need will help you decide between a sedan, crossover, full-size SUV, or wagon.


Plan on buying a boat or trailer sometime in the future? Better think about that now. If so, you should likely pick out an SUV, crossover, or  wagon that is rated for towing.

You'll also need to know how much you might be towing, since some vehicles can tow more than others.

Front-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive

There aren't many rear-wheel drive cars in this segment, but there are plenty of front-wheel and all-wheel drive choices. The main thing here is, you need to choose which drivetrain will work best for you. Generally speaking, all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive will be good choices for folks who live in climates that are besieged by inclement weather.

Features And Amenities

The biggest factor here is balancing the features you want versus the amount you can afford to spend. Don't forget to take into account the needs and wants of other family members, but don't overspend, either.


Finally, this may be the most important factor. A lot of safety features are standard, either by government mandate or manufacturer choice. One feature that will soon become standard is stability control, which will become standard by government edict in 2012.

In any case, we'd opt for ABS, traction control, and stability control if they aren't already standard, and side-curtain, front-side, and driver's knee airbags are all desirable. Other safety features worth looking into: Blind-spot monitoring systems, rearview camera systems, and rear cross-traffic alert systems.

Shop Smart

The best way to get the perfect family car for you and your family is to plan ahead, do your homework, and know what you want and need. That will save you plenty of time and headaches in the long run.

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