Buying the Perfect Family Car

When shopping for a family car, there are many things to consider. Comfort, safety, and fun are just a few of these. Take along this handy checklist of things to consider when shopping for that new family car and avoid costly mistakes.

Comfort

-- How many passengers will you be driving regularly?

If you are involved with carpools to and from school and children's activities, be sure you will have room for the maximum number of passengers and that seating is safe and comfortable.

-- How old are your passengers?

Do you need special seating arrangements? What is the size of your passengers? Let your children test out the seating and see if the seats are comfortable for their size.

-- How many car seats are needed?

If you need one or more car seats, are you able to arrange them in a comfortable and reasonable manner that you can reach. Check installation of anchors and tethers for car seat safety. Installed incorrectly, car seats are worthless. Built in anchors and tethers are a huge help.

-- Is the car comfortable for all passengers?

In the best family car, everyone is comfortable. If there is a wide range of age and size among your children or the children you car pool, this can be an issue. Be sure the car is a good fit for everyone.

Safety

-- Does the airbag have a manual on/off feature?

Sometimes, it just isn't possible to fit all the children in the back passenger seats. In the event a child must sit in the front seat, you need to be able to turn the air bag off on the passenger side.

--Are there built-in safety seats?

Built-in safety seats are a big help. Many times car seats and booster seats are compatible with a particular model of car. Built-ins takes care of compatibility worries.

-- Is there a shoulder/lap belt for back/center passengers?

For the safety of all passengers, each one needs not only a lap belt but also a shoulder harness. Top family cars have this feature built-in.

-- Are the seatbelts adjustable for passengers of various heights and sizes?

Shoulder straps that don't adjust for height can cause serious injuries in car wrecks. Check to see if the shoulder straps adjust to your child's height.

-- Is there an interior emergency trunk release?

All new models of cars are required to have an emergency trunk release in the trunk. Check to be sure there is one.

Fun & convenience

You might forget the "fun" aspect of a new car, but you can be sure your children will not. Here is what you need to look for:

-- Are there enough cup holders?

This is an essential to avoiding messy spills when you have small children.

-- Are there storage compartments for all your children's "stuff"?

It's a given...children require "stuff". Make sure there is storage in seat pockets and compartments for books and small toys that your children can easily reach.

Entertainment

Ports for DVD players and games are high on the priority list for kids.

-- Are there power ports for electronics?

-- Is there a good sound system?

Music or books on tape can be a lifesaver during those long trips.

As you begin the researching and shopping stage of buying a new car, keep this list handy. It will help remind you of each of the features that are so important in buying the right family car.

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