5 Tips to Help You Decide Your Family's Next Car Purchase


You have decided to get a new family car, and now you have a lot of questions on your mind. Among them, you might be wondering what to look for in the vehicle itself.

1. What Are Your Short- and Long-Term Costs?

Being able to afford the vehicle you choose is probably among your top concerns. While affordability includes purchase price and what auto loan rates you can get, other costs can be equally important. For example, will you be driving a lot? If so, you may want a vehicle with good gas mileage.

One big expense can be maintenance. Several things might increase your car upkeep costs:

  • If the model is known to have a lot of faulty parts
  • If it requires a specialist to work on it
  • If its parts are hard to come by
  • If it’s an older used vehicle, or simply wasn’t maintained well

Answers for many of these things, like part failure rates, can be found online. Taking a little bit of time to research the history of the model you’re looking at could save you a lot of grief.

2. How Safe Is the Vehicle?

One of the most critical aspects of a vehicle is how safe it will be. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a yearly list of vehicles they’ve tested, in a searchable database, for reviewing safety ratings. Through the NHTSA’s website, you can learn about crash tests and roll-over risks, recalls and more.

Vehicles have long been equipped with certain types of safety equipment, like air bags and seat belts. As technology expands, though, more features are emerging. For example, sensors can tell you when you’re nearing objects or drifting from your lane, and let you know if your tires need pressure adjustments. Depending on how you’re feeling and road conditions on any given day, having extra sensors might be a literal life-saver.

3. What Comforts Will You Need?

Comfort means different things for different people. If you’re tall, you might want extra leg and head room. If you’re easily chilled or overheated, independently adjustable temperature settings might be useful, such as driver vs. passenger or front vs. rear. If you burn easily, dark window tint could be necessary.

Whatever your comfort needs are, make a list of categories from “can’t live without it” to “I’d like it, but I’ll survive if I can’t have it.” Not all vehicles will have every comfort you want or need, so taking an honest look and prioritizing your most important features is a great way to strike a balance.

4. Which Non-Standard Convenience Features Do You Want?

When you’re approaching your car with one arm full of groceries and the other holding a toddler, the convenience of automatic doors really pays off. If your child frequently decides to dump juice cups, leather seats might be better for a quick recovery on the go.

The list of convenience features has grown over time. With features such as power door locks, windows and mirrors, cruise control and others becoming standard in most new vehicles, shoppers have a great foundation from which to add on other desirable options.

5. What Are Your Favorite Entertainment Options?

For some people, entertainment in a family vehicle ranks right up at the top of the priorities. Keeping the kids occupied during a car ride with videos, games and interactive stories, especially if they provide educational benefits, has significant appeal for many parents. When kids are engaged with healthy activities, they may be less likely to fight or stir up trouble. Not only is this less frustrating, it’s also safer because it reduces distraction risks for the driver.

These days, your options for in-car entertainment are pretty broad. You could go for built-in video systems, or just verify there will be plenty of charging ports for everyone’s individual handheld devices. With so much choice at your disposal, everyone could even pick their own favorites.

Whatever priorities you discover as you think about what your next car needs to have, be sure to make it a fun process. Big decisions can be stressful, but a little extra planning will arm you to make the right selection with greater ease.