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Choosing a Family Car

When choosing a car to transport your family, you need one that ticks all the normal boxes but one that also meets your needs as a parent. Naturally, safety in the event of an accident is key to protect your precious cargo!

Follow our quick guide to choosing a family car and you won't go far wrong:

Don't forget...

Set an affordable budget - and stick to it!

  • Don't forget to think about running costs like servicing and car insurance.
  • Always negotiate - you might be surprised by the discount you get.
  • Check the documentation is in order and if applicable, that the car has a valid MOT.

Safety Features - Euro NCAP

  • The Euro NCAP safety assessment programme for cars has been running for 10 years now. It grades all car models for safety so you judge which ones offer the most protection for you and your family.
  • It's a simple system using stars - five stars the safest and one star the least. When you're buying your car, just ask the dealer what the Euro NCAP rating is for the model you're looking at.
  • You may even find that a higher rated car means a lower car insurance premium too. 

Safety features - airbag off switch

  • Airbags can save your life in an accident, but front or side passenger airbags are designed for adults and can injure a child under 12 years old.
  • If you intend to travel with children in the front seat, make sure the car you're considering has a switch to turn off the front or side airbags.
  • If it doesn't, ask your dealer to fit one. It'll be an extra costs but worth it.

Safety features - lap belts in the back

  • Check that middle safety belt in the back - many cars will just have a minimum requirement lap belt only.
  • A child in a car seat with an internal harness will be fine but a child under 12 in a booster seat needs a shoulder harness to avoid serious abdominal injuries in an accident.
  • If you can, choose a car with a shoulder harness for each of the three rear seats - for instance, Subaru fit these as standard on its Impreza, Legacy and Outback estates.

Safety features - Anti-lock brakes

  • An Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) prevents the car's brakes and wheels locking in a skid if you have to stop suddenly and let you keep steering as you slow down.
  • ABS is standard on new cars but may not be fitted to older cars.
  • Check that ABS is fitted to the car you're looking at - it may save your life.

Other things to consider...

  • The bigger your family, the bigger the estate car or people mover you will need. You may also need a big boot if you have pets too.
  • Make sure the rear doors have a child lock switch - the same goes for an isolation switch to stop your kids opening the rear windows.
  • If you live in the countryside where snow, ice, mud and bad weather make driving more hazardous, you may want to think about a car with four wheel drive.
  • It doesn't have to be a big off-roader - several estate cars come with four wheel drive now.
  • If you do a lot of long-distance driving with the family, you may want handy creature comforts like cruise control, climate control and a good audio system.
  • Bigger cars can be trickier to park: make sure the visibility out of the rear window is good.
  • Don't forget to check that a bigger, taller car will fit in your garage before you buy it.
  • Different cars attract different car insurance premiums - check that the one you want doesn't blow your budget.

The test drive - children are important too!

The test drive is always an important part of buying a car. It helps you identify any obvious faults - and whether or not the car drives as well as it looks! Make sure the car works for your children too and ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Can you get the kids in and out easily? There's nothing worse on the school run than an awkward design that ends up giving you backache.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for a child seat demonstration. Better still, take one along and check it yourself!
  • If your children are older, can they get themselves in and out easily? Are they comfortable when strapped in?

And most important of all? Remember to enjoy the experience of hunting for a family car!


Adapted from:

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