Not a week goes by on the CarPro Show that we don't hear from expectant parents who need a new or larger car due to a new addition to the family. Making this decision can be stressful, but at the same time, this is one of the most important decisions you can make because you are carrying precious cargo inside. Let's look at some of the important aspects of buying the right vehicle with some car buying tips for new families.
Obviously, you can't know for sure, but how many total kids do you plan to have? Making a vehicle purchase for a new child or one additional baby can cause you to do this all over again if more kids come along. Discuss the total number of people you plan to have in your family and purchase accordingly or lease a vehicle to be able to get out of it sooner if needed.
Look At Safety Ratings
All new cars are safe these days, but it is still a good idea to take a look at which ones have the best safety ratings. Many people look at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ratings, but I prefer the government's NHTSA ratings. IIHS is a lobby group for the insurance industry, and while I think they do some good work, their primary goal is to reduce the amount of insurance claims cost. You can check the government test scores here.
Buy Your Car Seat Before Car Shopping
Unfortunately, 46% of car seats and booster seats are used incorrectly according to NHTSA. Experts say when properly installed a car seat should have no more than one inch of movement. It is wise to try installing the seat in the car you are considering purchasing. See how easy it is to get the seat in and out; you can even add some weight to simulate a child. Ask your sales professional to show you where the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system is. You can check out LATCH and Seat Belt installation demonstration videos on the NHTSA website here.
Visit the NHTSA's comprehensive Car Seats and Booster Seats Guide here for information on finding the right car seat and installing it correctly.
Toyota has a car seat online installation guide which initially launched for the 2021 Toyota Sienna hybrid. It's part of Toyota for Families, accessible through the Toyota Owners App and ToyotaOwners.com. App download is available for iPhone® or Android™ smartphones.
Rear Seat Reminder Is A Must
Rear seat reminder is a must-have feature for me, especially when it comes to family vehicles. This feature reminds you to check the back seat for kids or pets. More and more vehicles that I review offer a rear seat reminder safety system as standard equipment, but it's important to check with your dealer to find out if it's standard or available on the vehicle you are considering. It could be a life saver.
Check For Proper Storage Area
It is a good idea to know how much space you'll need for child cargo. Measure strollers, diaper bags, portable playpens, etc. and know how many cubic feet of cargo area you need at minimum, this can prevent you making a mistake by purchasing a vehicle that is too small.
Anticipate Other Passengers
Once you have the car seat anchored in the vehicle you are looking at, sit in the back seat to see how much room is left over. If Grandma and Grandpa want to go with you, can they? If this vehicle is purchased to keep a long time, is carpooling in your future? This is the time to consider such things.
Types of Vehicles
Most people planning little ones look at sedans, station wagons, SUVs, or minivans. While many ladies and most men hate the thought of a van, they are among the most useful for getting kids in and out of a vehicle. The sliding side doors, often electric, give you a wide opening especially when parking next to other cars or objects. There is no way to make a minivan cool, but they make things much easier than the cars and SUVs.
Options to Help You
There are options that really help people transporting kids, and to keep them safe. Make sure the car you are looking at has childproof locks and windows that you can lock closed. Keyless entry is wonderful when walking up to a car with your arms full, and a power liftgate can be a Godsend. Push-button start is terrific so you don't have to fumble for your keys to get the air conditioning or heat going. Finally, some SUVs have 40/20/40 configuration in the second row of seats, and the middle section will slide right up against the front seat, which is especially nice when there is a dropped bottle or pacifier.
Take Your Time
Don't rush the decision on which vehicle to purchase. If you have an auto show coming to your area, that is an excellent place to check out all the possibilities under one roof. Talk to other parents about the pros and cons of the vehicle they chose.Photo Credit Kzenon/Shutterstock.com.