What you should think about when buying a family car

How do you choose the perfect people mover?

5 minutes

Need a good set of wheels to transport the kids? Here's our handy guide to finding the best domestic wagon.

  • Space and practicality are hugely important
  • Check the NCAP safety rating of your vehicle
  • Select the right fuel for your needs

Space, safety and savings are just some of the things to think about.

Which car is safest?

As well as improving your safety, a car with a high Euro NCAP rating may also save you money on your car insurance if it has the latest safety technology.

Euro NCAP, which stands for New Car Assessment Programme, is a Europe-wide safety standard most new vehicles are subject to. The simple star rating reflects how well the vehicle performs overall and in specific safety tests. 

The Euro NCAP website has a tool to search for the family cars that scored particularly highly in child occupant protection. The standard 2018 models of the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus both achieved exceptional child safety results this year.

'Many manufacturers now offer advanced safety features that come on top of the standard equipment,' says Dr Michiel van Ratingen, Euro NCAP secretary general. 
'This is why we now offer two different star ratings, one with the standard features and one with the additional equipment. It shows the consumer what the benefit of this extra safety technology could be.'

Exploring space

Kids got loads of stuff? Consider whether your new car can fit buggies, car seats, toys and bags in the boot.

Large estate vehicles, such as the Skoda Superb Estate, Volvo V90 and VW Passat Estate, are popular choices if you require copious boot space. However, smaller hatchbacks, such as the new Honda Civic, feature ingenious rear seating systems that can be folded flat when transporting cargo.

'Consider the boot space when buying a family car,' says Leon Poultney, a motoring journalist and dad of one. 'Car manufacturers tend to measure boot space in litres, but buggy dimensions are typically in centimetres. If in doubt, take your buggy along to the test drive to make sure you can easily slot it in and out of the boot.

'Also, be wary of SUVs and other high-riding 'faux-by-fours'. Cars like the Nissan Juke and Fiat 500X might look rough and ready, but boot space is poor and difficult to access,' he continues.

Being practical

A surplus of storage space may seem like a win, but it's no good if you're lumbered with a car too large or unwieldy for the roads you regularly use. 

It's also worth making sure all doors provide ample room to carry car seats in and out, while seats should be large enough to fit standard child seats.

'The popular Mini five-door hatch features a fairly slim rear bench,' says Nick Francis (@nick_thesun), motoring editor at The Sun on Sunday. 'This means those sitting in front of rear-facing baby seats don't have much leg room. It’s little niggles like this that could well grate a few months down the line.' 

The presence of ISOFIX will also make life easier. These special fastenings connect with a bespoke base that holds many popular child seats, meaning you don't have to constantly wrestle with a seatbelt.

A is for affordability

Children have a tendency to slow your efforts at saving, thanks to their constant growing out of clothes, ferocious appetites and thirst for entertainment, so choosing an affordable car is imperative – but there are other costs to take into account.

'Consider the amount of CO2 a car produces, as this directly affects the amount of annual Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) you will pay,' says Leon Poultney.

There is a big jump in VED cost for petrol and many diesel cars that produce more that 75g/km of CO2 – owners with fossil fuel cars producing 51-75 g/km normally have to pay £25, which jumps up to £105 for those whose cars produce 76-90 g/km.

Fuel economy and insurance costs are also key considerations, as these are recurring costs that can impact budgets.

Fuel for thought

Choosing the right fuel type not only helps you keep running costs down, but also reduces the wear on mechanical components so they last the life of the car. 

Families with regular short journeys to schools, sports clubs and supermarkets should consider petrol, hybrid or electric cars, as these are likely to be better value for money in the long run.

In conclusion; good family car should be safe, practical, spacious and reliable. Above all else, ensure it's not only affordable to buy, but economical and cheap to run on a daily basis. For this, you should check its insurance group, CO2 emissions figures and fuel economy.