No two families are alike, and each has different needs when it comes to vehicles. Before you hit the dealerships, take a good look at what you really need in a vehicle, so it’s functional for your family, and you don’t waste time while you’re there.
It’s time to make a list — one that contains “must-haves” and a “wishlist.” This will make it easier for you to narrow down the best vehicles for your family and pets. Your list will also make it easier for the salesperson to point you in the right direction.
We polled some real families about what they value in a vehicle. We’ll see what vehicle they choose and why, plus they’ll also share some of their regrets and wishlist items.
Cars for Families with Several Children
Jennifer Sierra of Missouri City, TX, is a full-time working mom who is also in school to complete her degree. She has four boys, ages 2 to 14 years old.
Jennifer’s family needs lots of room. This busy mom has a lot on her plate and says that a leather interior plus leather bucket seats in a vehicle are a must for easy cleaning and accessibility. Her mandatory third-row seating has to be collapsible so they have enough room for baseball equipment, groceries and a stroller or wagon.
Initially, Jennifer and her husband purchased a 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe Texas Edition. She says while they love the look of the Tahoe and it checks many of their “must-haves” boxes, they simply ran out of room for their family of six quickly.
With the additional purchase of a 2020 Chevrolet Traverse RS, Jennifer says all of their needs were met and, “We took a family road trip to Colorado with 4 kids, including an infant at the time. It was perfect!”
One piece of advice Jennifer has for families looking into new vehicles is to take the entire family on the test drive. See if everyone is comfortable. Is the storage area big enough for everyday gear such as baseball equipment, band instruments, strollers and groceries?
Jennifer says as the boys get older, they’re already thinking about their next vehicle. They’re looking at minivans and perhaps a Ford Expedition because growing boys need more legroom, and they’d like a bigger third row.
Other vehicles that might work for young, large families:
- Buick Enclave
- Kia Telluride
- Toyota Sequoia
- Honda Pilot
- INFINITI QX80
Photo Credit: Erika V. Photography. Caption: (Left to right) Gene, Jennifer, Ryan age 2 (top center), Mason age 8 (bottom center), Michael age 14 (top far right) and Camden age 9 (bottom far right).
Cars for Families with Kids Who Have Lots of Activities
Sandra Silliman of Cypress, TX, is a working mom of 5. She says when all the kids were young, the Chevrolet Tahoe was the best vehicle for their family. They absolutely needed the third-row seating and storage. Room for baseball gear, dance activities and soccer gear all had to fit. Their family was always traveling to go to the kid’s events, so technology features, such as navigation, extra USB ports, outlets and TVs, were a must. Heated seats were also non-negotiable.
Sandra says only two kids are still living at home, but their activities have grown and their needs have definitely changed. Sandra says “With my 13-year-old, we travel a lot because she’s a barrel racer. We need to have the torque to haul her horse. I also need to be comfortable because I have back issues driving for long periods. Navigation, CarPlay, heated seats, space, outlets are a must.”
Currently, Sandra drives a 2500 Dodge Ram to fit those needs.
Photo Credit: Sandra Silliman. Caption: Gamila age 13 and Belle.
Other vehicles that might work for anyone hauling a large load:
- Cadillac Escalade
- GMC Yukon
- Lincoln Navigator
- Lexus LX 570
- Chevrolet Suburban or Tahoe
Cars for Families Who Travel with Kids
Lauri Einhorn of Richmond, TX, is mom to a 16-year-old daughter. She says while she drives a 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe, her husband drives a 2022 Hyundai Elantra. Both vehicles fill different needs in her family. Her 16-year-old just got her learner’s permit and isn’t comfortable driving a larger vehicle like the Santa Fe. Driving lessons take place in the Elantra.
Lauri is a professional pet sitter and needs room to taxi her client’s dogs. Lauri says the backseat is perfect for large dogs. She also cares for clients’ horses and needs a larger vehicle for room and easy maneuverability.
A family goal is to travel to all 50 states and every summer they take off to a new destination. Lauri says their Sante Fe is perfect for long road trips. “I like all the safety features like warning indicators for lane change and Automatic Acceleration and Braking systems that help when you have cruise control on. The Santa Fe is great for road trips. It’s comfortable, roomy, has plenty of space for luggage in the back, plus it has a roof rack for extra luggage and oversize items.”
If your family is like Lauri’s, you might also consider:
- Subaru Forester
- Honda CR-V
- Nissan Rogue
- Toyota RAV4
- Jeep Cherokee
Cars for Grandparents with Grandchildren
Natalie Chargois of Sugar Land, TX, is a working grandmother of three grandchildren. Natalie needs the best of two worlds— a vehicle that she and her husband love to drive when alone and one that will also accommodate three grandchildren. Her grandchildren stay with them a lot so her vehicle must look good and be functional.
Natalie currently drives a 2022 Lincoln Aviator. She says the Aviator has what she needs, “I have to have third-row seating, second-row bucket seats with center console and a big cargo storage area. A must is air conditioned and heated seats, head-up display, comfortable leather seats, good sound system, dual exhaust, 40R22 size tires.”
She says while the Aviator is currently meeting her needs, she’d love to own a Range Rover Defender 110 V8 in the future.
Additional vehicles you might consider if you’re like Natalie:
- Audi Q7
- Porsche Cayenne
- Mercedes-Benz GLE
- Genesis GV80
- Lexus RX 350
Cars for Families With Pets
Tyler Milner of Humble, TX, and his wife, Megan, are pet parents. Tyler says, “I know for us — a family with three dogs and no children — a vehicle's capability to fold down the backseats for a more open area in the back area of the car is HUGE. Whether we're loading up the pups to head to the dog park, or we're making a road trip to the Texas hill country, the fold-down seats make for a MUCH better trip for us AND the pups.”
Photo Credit: Megan Milner. Caption: Milner Family (left to right) Tyler, Holly, Nala, Megan and Sugar.
Photo Credit: Megan Milner. Caption: Holly, 12. Known for her serious attitude issues at times. Nala, 9. Favorite activity is smelling every leaf, twig and blade of grass in the dog park. Sugar, 7. Extreme cuddler who likes to critique other dogs she sees on TV.
Tyler drives a Ford F-150 and Megan drives a BMW X1. Tyler says while both vehicles meet their need for a fold-down backseat, the dogs seem to prefer the BMW X1. Tyler thinks they like the ability to both lean out the windows and be able to watch out the BMW’s sunroof.
If this parenting situation sounds familiar to you, you might consider these vehicles as well:
- Ford Expedition
- Subaru Outback
- Mazda CX-5
- Volkswagen Atlas
- GMC Acadia
This blog author is also a fur baby parent. Though I was originally hooked on the Cadillac CT4 due to its sleek styling, luxurious interior and smooth handling, I had to admit it wouldn’t work for my lifestyle after I adopted a German Shepherd puppy.
I take my German Shepherd with me everywhere, and you just can’t squish that big of a dog in the back seat. I also have the propensity to DIY most everything. I needed room for trips to Home Depot for mulch and gardening supplies plus the occasional piece of furniture I buy at Home Goods. My current vehicle is a 2021 Cadillac XT4 and it works for my dog and the random house supplies I buy.
If you relate to my lifestyle, you might consider these cars:
- BMW X1 or X3
- Volvo XC40
- Audi Q3
- Acura RDX Sport
- Chevrolet Blazer
Buying a Car for Your Family and Pets
When considering a vehicle for your family, function should be more of a priority than form. You can’t strap a baby to a roof rack. Be realistic in what you really need. You definitely want a vehicle that works for your family and all their activities. You also want a vehicle that makes your life easier and less stressful. Technology, third-row seating, sliding doors, cargo space and legroom are all things that help you enjoy the ride.
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