Family Car Checklist

  • Our guide to choosing your next family car
  • What should you watch out for? 
  • Use Parkers reviews to help make your decision

If you’re on the hunt for a new car for family duties, there’s a huge amount to choose from. Thanks to the recent influx of SUV-type models into the marketplace there are probably more out there than ever before.

So how do you go about picking one? In this article we explain how we’d find the right one for us.

Scores on the doors

You might not immediately consider this, but take a good look at the rear doors. They’re very important features if you want to fit a child seat or get your little ones strapped in when you’ve got an armful of shopping.

A number of the best family cars boast rear doors which open very wide indeed – in some cases close to perpendicular to the car – to make loading easier.

It’s wise to bring a child seat with you if test-driving a car for the real acid test on whether it’ll meet your requirements. Better still: bring the kids too.

Ford also has a clever optional feature called Door Edge Protectors which pop out when the door opens to prevent damaging your paint or other cars when the door is pushed open a little too enthusiastically.


Sitting comfortably

There’s a little bit more here than meets the eye too. While the seats themselves might be big enough for your children, what else might you need? Are there enough cup-holders or cubbies, for example? Are there flimsy looking fixtures and fittings which are likely to be snapped off?

Do the rear seats have ISOFIX child seat lashing points installed? If so, which seats? Most cars have them on the outer two rear seats, but it’s worth confirming exactly where they are.

Many family cars have sliding rear seats too, which allows you to vary rear seat space and boot space as required.

Another consideration you might not have thought of is visibility. Children, as we know, are naturally inquisitive and like to explore their surroundings. For that reason it’s worth finding a family car where the rear passengers are sat fairly high, giving them a great view of the world whizzing by.


Seating seven

Adding another row of seats to a large family car means a total of seven people can be transported, but make sure you’re familiar with how they work.

Not only could the system for folding them down be a little cumbersome or complex, but access to the seats once they’re up might be difficult too thanks to poor door opening or seats and trims getting in the way. Make sure it’s a realistic proposition for your tribe.

Many cars will have sliding or reclining seats to maximise the use of the final row by creating slightly more room. If you’re going to use the rear-most seats regularly this is a feature which might appeal.


Boot shapes and sizes

It stands to reason you’re going to want to transport a certain amount of stuff in the boot of your family car. Be it the weekly shop, a couple of buggies or a year’s supply of nappies, ensure you’ve got the room you’ll need but also that the loading lip is a good height to lift over and the boot opening a practical shape for your larger objects.

In terms of size, each manufacturer quotes a size in litres and that’s reflected in our reviews too. See the Practicality section to see how it fares compared to its rivals.


Safety first

You’re buying a family car, so it stands to reason you want the occupants to be as safe as can be. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure anything you look at has a favourable safety rating from the Parkers review on the car.

While a five-star EuroNCAP crash test rating is a good start, these days there’s far more to it than that. There are many safety systems which aren’t covered at all by such tests, and it’s entirely possible to have a four-star car which performs better in some aspects than most five-star cars.

We’ve got the inside line on the latest safety kit, so check out our rating too. It’ll add perspective the manufacturer or dealership won’t provide.


The driving test

A family car should be pretty easy to park, or you’ll end up with so many dents and dings it’ll become difficult to sell afterwards.

Make sure the driving position is high enough to see all around the car, and the controls are simple to operate.

You may want to consider a car with parking sensors too – they’re a relatively cheap option these days and standard on many cars – or even an automatic parking system, which will steer the car into a space for you. See it in action in the following video:

It should be comfortable too, but not just in the front. Some cars are harder-sprung at the rear in order to carry more weight, so it might be worth trying out the back seats while the salesperson drives for a few minutes just to make sure your little ones are as comfy as you are.

There are certain models which are set up very much with families in mind, and some even have mirrors which allow you to see what’s happening in the back as you drive.


Petrol or diesel?

While it’s commonly accepted that diesel cars are cheaper to run than petrols, that isn’t necessarily the case and for a lot of family users, the opposite is true.

Petrol will work out cheaper to run and cheaper to buy if you’re only doing short journeys or not covering over around 12,000 miles per year.

Should you consider a hybrid? Well, some of the plug-in solutions like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV can offer incredibly low day-to-day costs. Just make sure you can have a charge point installed at your home to make the best of it.

Remember, to find out what a particular car can offer the family, check out the full Parkers review

Don’t forget to check out our Cars for Sale section for the latest deals on new and used cars. And when you come to sell your current car, make sure you get a free car valuation with us to ensure you get the right price.

If you’re considering buying your new car on finance, make sure you visit our finance section for a quote – we work with over 21 lenders to give our customers access to over 100 different lending options.