Finding the right car for your family’s needs can be a challenge, not least because there is quite a lot of choice on the market. If you are thinking of a used car, then take a read of our helpful guide from Show Plates Express, to help you sort out the right vehicle from the bewildering array of SUVs, MPVs, hatchbacks, and estates.
The great news is that this sector of the car market is very well served and highly competitive, so there are some great buys out there for around the £10,000 mark. All you need to do is work out which features are essential for your busy lifestyle, and we take a look at some of the main options to help you choose.
Storage and flexibility
• Magic seats – these are seats that fold up or rather down like the seats in a cinema. They are quick and easy and great if you need to transport something large occasionally like a bike but mostly want people carrying capacity in the vehicle. Some seats are completely removable, and there is always the option of sliding seats, which are great for mini passengers who don’t need a lot of legroom maximizing boot space but can be adjusted for taller users. Always check out the seat options in a vehicle and consider an average monthly driver diary and also annual holidays to see whether seating versus boot storage capacity works for you and your tribe. If you are choosing a seven-seat option, then make sure the layout works for your family and that the seats are easy to adjust and work with.
• Boot storage – make sure the loading lip isn’t too high, and if you regularly travel rigid items, take them with you when you go to view the car and see how well they fit into the boot and how much space they take up.
• Auto parking – sensors which tell you where you can park and takes all the aggravation out of maneuvering into a small space in town, so helpful if you have small children and don’t want to walk too far. Auto parking takes all the stress out of parking a car full of noisy little ones.
• Rear door opening – some cars offer extra-wide door opening capacity, which makes it much easier when placing children in car seats or loading in lots of large bulky items. Sliding doors can make this a whole heap easier if it is a regular problem.
• Cupholders and Cubby holes – does the car have enough handy pockets and containers for all those bits and pieces? You want to be able to tuck things away from little fingers but have them close enough to hand when you need them.
• Integrated sunshades – absolute joy after you have spent years wrestling with ones that attach with suction pads and never seem to cover enough of the window.
• Entertainment systems – think connections for tablets, smartphones, and now, even subscription satellite programming. Headrest screens are also popular, as are wireless headphones.
• The Honda Odyssey has an Android-based infotainment system with DVD, BluRay, and HDMI and can stream content from all sorts of providers, the perfect answer to the age-old question, “are we nearly there yet?”.
• Social Playlist – like a virtual jukebox that lets numerous users queue up songs from their own personal playlists, finally an end to the arguments about whose music to listen to.
• Door Edge Protectors – some manufacturers feature these clever little devices which pop out automatically to prevent enthusiastic passengers from damaging adjacent cars and their own in tight car parking spaces
• Rearview mirrors – some cars have mirrors that allow you to view the rear occupants whilst you are driving so you can check out what’s going on without having to flip the rearview mirror away from the traffic.
Your family is your most precious cargo, and most purchasers are keen to take advantage of the latest technology in order to keep their passengers as safe as possible.
• FCW and LDW – Forward Collision Warning – the clue is in the name – and Lane Departure Warning, which sets off an alarm every time you drift out of the lane. Most FCW systems have automatic braking, which will stop the car if you get too close to the vehicle in front, ideal if you have a car full of fighting infants with maximum distraction levels. Once the prerogative of only high-end luxury cars, this technology is beginning to filter down to the more middle of the road family car market
• Reversing cameras – a godsend if you do have small children, they offer just an extra layer of protection and peace of mind
• Driver fatigue – this system senses changes in the driver’s eyes and facial movements and can alert a driver if they are showing signs of fatigue and before they fall asleep
• Isofix technology – these are pre-fixed securing points for child seats, forget the days of wrestling with the seatbelt, Isofix securing points are much easier and quicker to use and far safer
Reliability and economy
Two really key features for the modern motoring family. You might fancy that SUV with its chunky 4×4 image and look, but you may find that there is a more economical version that fits your budget better.
Always take a look at your potential purchase’s ratings with Euro NCAP and don’t assume that a five-star rating is superior to a car with a four-star rating. The star rating system is complex and covers all sorts of different features. Once you have chosen a vehicle and test-driven it, subject it to the toughest test of all, and that is reviews from other parents, so easy to find on social media or dedicated sites like Mumsnet. There is nothing like the experience of other users to point out all those little details and glitches you haven’t thought of. One thing you can be sure of is plenty of choice with a range of vehicle sizes and types to suit all budgets and lifestyles.