What to Look for in a Family Vehicle


Every parent makes tough decisions that impact the entire family, and choosing the right car is no exception. Whether driving to and from after-school activities or planning a road trip, a reliable family car is crucial. But with so many makes and models to choose from, it’s good to have a process to help make a smart and safe purchase that pleases everyone — from the auto enthusiast dad to the little ones in the backseat.

You have to consider safety, reliability, handling, economy, and a range of personal preferences when choosing a family car. Experts from AutoTrader.com offer the following overview on popular family friendly models, including minivans, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and sedans.

SUVs – Attractive, roomy, sturdy, powerful, and responsive, these vehicles have been a popular choice in recent years.


  • Often sit up higher, an ideal feature for improved all-around visibility
  • Often equipped with four-wheel or all-wheel drive to handle different terrains
  • Typically feature family-friendly bonuses, such as rear-seat DVD players and enough cup holders for the entire family


  • Can be gas guzzlers
  • More prone to rollovers, leading to safety concerns
  • High thresholds may lead to trouble loading items into some SUVs

Minivans – When they first appeared on the scene before SUVs took the stage, minivans were the ultimate family vehicle choice — and are making a comeback.


  • Less likely than SUVs to roll over in a crash
  • Often include built-in crumple zones to help absorb the impact and protect passengers
  • Roomy for passengers and allow a great deal of cargo space
  • Often equipped with automatic sliding doors, which lessens the stress of loading the car while holding a child
  • Low threshold makes it easier to remove car seats and load groceries


  • Generally have a lower resale value than an SUV

Family Sedans – As gas prices rise, so do the attractiveness and sales of sedans — especially smaller, more gas-friendly ones.


  • With a smaller size, family members can be within reach of the driver
  • Include perks like affordability and nimble handling
  • Can offer better gas mileage than most SUVs and minivans


  • Storage space can be more limited

Other Factors Parents Should Consider when Looking for a Car:

  • Size and activity level of a family. Are family members involved in extracurricular activities or sports with equipment that requires more storage space or will the car primarily be used as a means to get from Point A to Point B? Does the car need to be large enough to fit everyone and everything inside or will a more economical sedan suffice?
  • Safety. Parents should take note of important features with which a family car should come equipped, such as electronic stability control, side airbags, anti-lock braking systems, and tire pressure monitoring systems. When you are looking at specific models, if you choose an SUV for your family car, look for responsive mid-size models with excellent crash test ratings, or consider a crossover, which combines the safety of minivans with the sleek features of a traditional SUV.
  • Personal preferences and convenience. Personal preferences, such as cargo area size and ease of car seat installation, vary for each parent and absolutely important to consider when looking at different cars. Parents may also want to consider factors that make things more convenient when it comes to children, such as dark upholstery (for spills and messes), keyless entry (when you are juggling kids and other items), and a LATCH system, which makes installing car seats easier and safer.

Visit www.AutoTrader.com to learn more.

What do you look for in a family car? Any tips for families who are shopping for a new car?