Car Stuff

Need a Kid-Friendly Car? Ask This First.

Six Things To Know Before Getting Your 'New Parent' Ride

BY Carly MilneNovember 21, 2019

So you’ve had a baby—congratulations! But is your car ready for your new addition?

If you’re still clinging to your sporty two-seater, the answer is probably no. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you pick the right vehicle for your newly expanded family (and, no, you’re not limited to minivans).

Here’s what you should be thinking about as you upgrade your wheels to accommodate your new bundle of love.

Is Your New Vehicle Good for Car Seats?

When it comes to vehicular child safety, it’s all about the child car seat.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and American Academy of Pediatrics say that your child will need to ride in a rear-facing or convertible car seat for the first two years of their life.

So when you’re looking for your new ride, the first thing you’ll want to ensure is that you can securely install a car seat in it, said Jen Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. Popular sedans that can easily accommodate a car seat include the Honda Accord and Chevrolet Malibu, according to Consumer Reports.

And if you’re in for a deeper dive into the best car seats, here’s their review of some of the more popular models.

Does Your New Vehicle Allow for Easy Access?

Getting your child in and out of a car seat, stowing and stashing everything you need for a day out, and being able to get your hands on things as needed while on the road are all things you’re going to want to be thinking about when you’re shopping for a car that suits you and your children.

A more compact car might seem like a good idea—until a trip to Grandma’s house necessitates a baby bag that’s bigger than one of those blue, plastic Ikea totes.

Similarly, you don’t want a vehicle that’s going to make it a struggle to get your little one out of their seat—or one that could make it difficult to get to them in an emergency situation.

Some dealers recommend looking for models with extra-wide doors and hatchbacks to make life easier, and considering more recent models that let you open the trunk by waving your foot under the bumper, which are great when you have armloads of stuff and can’t get to your keys.

Does Your Vehicle Have Good Cargo Space?

Remember that massive baby bag we just mentioned? Yeah, well, get ready to lug a lot more stuff than you ever thought necessary for your comparatively tiny human.

However, it’s not just trunk or cargo space you need to look for. Experts think of smaller added features that can help lighten the load as well, such as door pockets, underfloor compartments, and seatback pockets. Other options include foldable rear seats, or a third-row seat that can be removed to make more space for things you need to lug (and then put back into place for when you’re transporting the entire soccer team after a big win.)

Does Your Vehicle Have Family-Friendly Features?

They say it’s all in the details, and nowhere is that more true than when you’re getting a car for your family.

For example, would you think to pick a car based on its interior or exterior color? You should, because as The Bump points out, a black car sitting in the sun can end up 20 degrees hotter on the inside than a white car in the same conditions—and that can make a lot of difference when you have wee ones in the back seat.

They also recommend looking for cars that have windows with good sightlines for your kids (to help keep them entertained on trips), and electronic capabilities that allow them to stream their favorite shows. They even point out some models—such as the Honda Odyssey or Chrysler Pacifica—that come with an internal vacuum system that helps clean up errant Cheerios. These might seem like little things, but when it counts they can make a big difference.

Does Your Vehicle Have to Be a Minivan?

Short answer: No. Not to shame all the minivan enthusiasts out there, but let’s face it—the minivan has a reputation that doesn’t register a blip on the excitement scale. Of course, there are countless benefits to having a minivan—the cargo space and access being just two of them. But if that’s not your jam, don’t worry; you have other great options. For example, Edmunds analyzed the latest safety and nav/tech of the top 2019 family cars, and made recommendations such as the Honda CRV, the Kia Telluride, the Volvo XC60, as well as the luxurious Lincoln Navigator and city-sized Honda Accord. U.S. News and World Report agreed with some of those suggestions in their list of 2019 Best Cars for Families, adding others like the Chevy Traverse, Subaru Forrester, and even the BMW 5 Series. So while you shouldn’t discount the minivan just because it’s, you know, a minivan, please know that you have plenty of vehicles to choose from that stand to do a lot less damage to your street cred.

Does Your New Vehicle Have Stellar Safety Features?

Because you can’t safeguard your car in endless layers of bubble wrap—or, you know, just not drive—Autotrader recommends looking into car safety features that are bigger and better in the bells-and-whistles department to make sure you and your precious cargo are well taken care of.

Certainly this means anti-lock brakes and side-curtain airbags, but you should also consider going the extra mile with features such as back-up cameras, forward collision alert, and adaptive cruise control. These features can help in the unfortunate event of an accident—and give you some peace of mind while you’re on the road.

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