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Tips for Choosing the Right Family-Friendly Vehicle

by Sheri Reed on October 19, 2009 at 11:00 AM
boy bumper car

Photo by amybuddy45

An SUV, a minivan, or a family sedan — which family car is better for your crew?

The folks at are here today to help you weigh the pros and cons of each type of family vehicle.

Family Car-Buying Tips from experts at 

Every parent makes tough decisions that affect 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.  

Parents have to consider safety, reliability, handling, economy and a range of personal preferences when choosing a family car. Experts from 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 very 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 and before SUVs took the stage, minivans were the ultimate family vehicle choice – and are making a comeback. 


  • 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.
  • Less likely than SUVs to roll over in a crash. Built-in crumple zones help to absorb the impact and protect passengers.
  • 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? These are important factors to think of when looking at different vehicles.
  • 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’re 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’re juggling kids and other items) and a LATCH system, which makes installing car seats easier and safer.

Thanks, These tips give parents in the car-buying market plenty to think about and consider.

What kind of car does your family use? What kind of family vehicle would you like to have?


Related posts:

Family Car: SUV vs Sedan?

Child Safety: Do You Leave Your Child in the Car?

Unsupervised in the Car?


Filed Under: home finances, home life, safety


  • RanaA...


    October 19, 2009 at 11:46 AM

    We have a 1999 Toyota Corolla.  The reason I give the year is because that was before they made the interior larger.  Our backseat is small enough, with so little legroom that both our kids' carseats have to be on the outside, and the rearfacing seat pushes the passanger seat forward.  I hate how small it is, but our car has good gas mileage, has been incredibly reliable, accelerates quickly and easily, has a pretty good turn radius,  we have a HUGE trunk ... it's a good car... just not really for families.

    My husband and I fought about his choice (we don't have another vehicle yet, but will eventually).  He wanted a pick-up, but would NOT get an extended cab.  I thought it was ridiculous to get a vehicle we couldn't actually put our kids in.  He changed his mind (those says it's not because of my complaining) to a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.  Part SUV, part pick-up. 

    I want a hybrid minivan.  My first car was a minivan and I enjoyed driving it, and the space inside was so darn nice.  I generally trust Toyota to be the absolute safest vehicles, but I'll have to do lots of research when the time comes to buy.

    Oh, and all vehicles made after 2002 have LATCH. ;)

  • jgal29


    October 19, 2009 at 1:09 PM

    We have a Dodge Nitro which I like because it's not huge but it's perfect for our family & better on gas then a SUV, then hubby has a Jeep Wrangler 4dr which he loves but we don't usually use this with the family much.

  • Pollymom


    October 19, 2009 at 7:02 PM

    We drive a smaller SUV right now with our two kids, but we want one more child so we'll probably get a mini-van when we get a new car. I was considering a crossover vehicle but imagining three car seats in that small of a vehicle was impossible. I don't want to drive a Suburban or something that large, so it'll probably be a mini-van.

  • navyma23


    October 19, 2009 at 9:03 PM

    We have a Mazda CX7 and I love my suv/crossover!!! We loved Mazda so much we bought a second! Once our plan for a new baby comes along we are upgrading to a CX9 with more room!

  • Summe...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Summer Scheifer

    July 20, 2012 at 1:54 AM
    thanks for the tips on how to choose the right vehicle for my family. this one is a big help. i really want to buy one and see more bumpers for dodge (our old car) for us to use that still with our soon to be car.
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