Your life changes drastically when you have kids; your home’s stylish minimalist decoration must be switched to a functional and safe layout, including a never-ending supply of products to child-proof every living space of the house. Every aspect of your life will be changed to accommodate your growing family – including your car. When you are making your list of must-haves and wants to help you narrow down your future car, you will find the content of your list centering around safety and functionality instead of aesthetics and speed.
Why choosing a good family car is important
When you hear the phrase “family car”, what immediately comes to your mind? If you are like most, you may see images of cars that are built around functionality with little care to how powerful or aesthetically pleasing they are. Like most of your life, you feel that you must sacrifice your stylish, fast, and powerful car to buy an incredibly dull, but safe, and functional minivan or SUV.
You may be surprised to realize that a good family car doesn’t have to sacrifice your desire for speed and style; and your search doesn’t have to be narrowed down to just minivans! To find your perfect family car, you should keep the following information in mind when searching through car listings to ensure that you will find the best car (or safest SUV) that will satisfy both your family’s needs and your own personal desires.
Things to keep in mind when looking for the perfect family car
One of the most important steps you can make towards finding the best family car easily is to make a list of the features that you want and categorize them into three sections, the “must-haves”, the “wants”, and the “desires”.
Much like its name, the “must-have” category contains all features that the car must have for you to even look at the car. Some examples of features that would fit into this section would be important safety features (like an automated driving assistant system), lots of cargo space and rear seat legroom (for easier installation of car seats), and an adequate entertainment system.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the “desires” category includes the features that you would love to have but can live without. Essentially, this section would consist of the features that would be nice to have but are not deciding factors in choosing the vehicle. Features that fit into this category would be on-board Wi-Fi, 10-inch television screens on the back of the passenger’s and driver’s seat so those sitting in the back could watch a movie and automatic heated and/or cooling backseats.
Finally, the “wants” section would be reserved for those features that you sincerely need in a car but can live without if you absolutely must. The “wants” category is the true middle ground between the “must have” and “desire” categories.
The following information is a short list of important features that you should look for while browsing the safest cars to find your perfect family vehicle. Remember that this car must fit both your current needs and any needs in your foreseeable future. A car is a huge investment and should be able to grow along with your family.
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Finding a car with features the whole family will love
Features that parents will love
To be the best family vehicle, a car must have a lot of sitting space. To fit a growing family, a car needs to have enough backseat space to accommodate the various stages of safety seats for babies, toddlers, and kids — including a rear-facing car seat. A truly family-friendly vehicle would have ample room to comfortably accommodate any car seat; and would have a standard latch system to properly anchor the car seat to the back row.
“Easy install” car seat capabilities
Parents should examine their prospective new family SUV to analyze how easy it will be to properly install a rear-facing, forward-facing, and regular booster, car seat. Statistics produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) describe that car accidents were the number one cause of death in children ages 4-12, and the second cause of death for kids between the ages of 1-4. On average, 46% of car seats are incorrectly installed in vehicles; with 49% of rear-facing car seats being misused, 61% of forward-facing car seats and 20% of booster seats are improperly installed on average. From these statistics it is easy to understand why finding a safe vehicle that makes installing car seats easy is so important.
On-board vacuum cleaner
Newer cars are beginning to come with an on-board vacuum cleaner to help keep the car’s interior mess-free. Chevrolet, for example, has partnered with “Shop Vac” to design their own on-board vacuum cleaner that has a changeable filter and bag, along with a removable cannister that allows the vacuum cleaner to reach everywhere in the car. This vacuum cleaner comes with three attachments and can run indefinitely when the car is on, and for 10 minutes when the car is turned off.
Phone and/or watch connection
Some family vehicles currently on the market come equipped with the capability to connect and sync with your phone and watch. When your car is synced with your device, you will be able to lock/unlock your vehicle, start it, check your fuel level, and find your vehicle’s current location all remotely from your phone or watch. You should also check to be sure any prospective cars have Bluetooth capability to provide hands-free text or phone call management to create the safest car possible.
A few of the newer family cars take parental controls to a whole new level. The “curfew” setting, when enabled, allows parents to set controls that will alert them when their car is used outside of a predetermined time frame, and when it travels outside a predefined area.
Related: How to Get the Best Sound Quality in Your Car
Features that the kids will love
When you are looking for an incredibly safe vehicle for your kids, you often focus on the features that will protect your growing family and not on the features that will make car trips enjoyable for them. You may be surprised to find that the safest car can also be the “coolest”. A large variety of family-friendly vehicles are the safest cars and SUVs available and come equipped with some of the coolest features a kid could ask for.
Yes, you read that right, some cars have a built-in refrigerator in the center console. For example, Lincoln’s newest MKT crossover is an extremely safe vehicle that also comes equipped with a built-in refrigerator in its center console. This small refrigerator can conveniently hold up to seven 12 oz. cans, four ½ liter bottles, or two 20 oz. bottles. This can help cut rest stop durations and help your family make great time on the next road trip.
Luxury back seats
Kids will love taking road trips when they are sitting in comfortable back seats. Some car manufacturers are designing the back seat of their vehicles with reclining captain chairs and folded foot rests, and first-class lounge seats.
Built in Wi-Fi
Newer cars can also come with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot that works in the same way as the Wi-Fi in your house: you log in with your password, and you will be connected to the car’s built-in connection. Surprisingly, this is actually a relatively old feature, as GM first started offering the built-in Wi-Fi, 4G LTE hotspot in their cars in 2015. Even cooler is the fact that this hotspot is powerful, as its connection is boosted by an antenna on top of the car – its fast enough to stream movies from most locations.
Wireless charging stations
Your kids will love having wireless charging stations. As wireless charging continues to grow more and more popular within the general population, car manufacturing companies are beginning to add docking stations in their cars to free their passengers from short cords and less reliable cigarette lighter charging ports.
Expansive entertainment system
Even more impressive is that most of the safest SUVS are able to be upgraded from entry level – some even come with new rear-seat entertainment systems that may include 10-inch touchscreens mounted to the back of the driver and passenger’s seats, along with HDMI, USB, and Auxiliary ports, and even wireless remote controls and headphones.
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Important safety features and designs
Since we have already been over how crucial it is to have a car that can easily accommodate and install any car seats and booster seats, we should also focus on a few other invaluable safety features that you should look for when browsing for your next family vehicle.
Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)
The safest SUVs on the market come equipped with ADAS that can help drivers stay aware while driving. ADAS can, and should, include adaptive light control (headlights that are designed to move with the vehicle to allow the driver to see better at night), blind spot detection systems which warn drivers if there is another car in the blind spot of their vehicle, collision avoidance systems that can warn the driver if they are about to collide with something, automatic braking, and even a system that can detect drowsy driving.
Safe front airbags and side airbags
The safest cars should also come equipped with good airbags and side airbags that have a high-performance rating from crash tests.
When it comes to driving the safest car possible, you must find a vehicle equipped with back-up cameras that allow the driver to see the space directly behind their vehicle to prevent any accidents.
Some luxury cars have ADAS that go far beyond normal standards. Volvo, for example, have designed their own ADAS, named “pilot assist” that has an adaptive cruise control setting that will maintain or decrease the speed needed to keep the car a safe distance away from the vehicle in front of your car. This system will also gently steer the vehicle to keep it within its designated lane.
Remote parking capabilities
Extending beyond parking assistance systems, manufacturers have began equipping their cars with remote parking abilities. When used, the driver will be able to step out of the vehicle and remotely direct their car’s parking through a touchscreen on their key.
Related: How to Safely Drive Through a Tire Blowout
The best family car of 2018
The website Digital Trends released their own list of the best family cars of 2018 that perfectly combine practicality, cool features, and drivability. Digital Trends’ experts found the best family car of 2018 through thoroughly examining the interior and exterior qualities of each vehicle and compared them to cars within the same category (i.e., “family car”, “sports car”, etc.) and price range. They also tested all entertainment systems in the car and tested safety features in carefully created and controlled environments. Finally, Digital Trends’ experts drove each car on a highway, on backroads, and in off-road environments, paying close attention to how the cars drove on each specific road.
Digital Trends crowned the 2018 Subaru Outback as the best family car currently on the market; and tagged it for “anyone who needs a car that can do it all”. They praised the Outback’s affordability as a family SUV, and its durability to withstand the normal wear and tear accumulated from long, daily commutes. The Subaru Outback has a lower center of gravity than most SUVs that compliments its all-wheel drive, improving its drivability. It also has a ton of cargo space both with the rear seats folded (73.3 ft3) and without (35.5 ft3), along with a passenger volume of about 108.1 ft3, equating to a five-seater vehicle.
The Outback comes standard with an entertainment system compatible with both “Apple Car Play”, and the “Android Auto” applications; along with Subaru’s own “Eye sight driver-aid”. The driver-aid has desirable safety features such as adaptive cruise control and lights; automatic emergency and reverse braking, and a lane departure warning that is designed to keep families safe. Other perks associated with Subaru’s driving aid include blind spot monitoring that alerts the driver to vehicles currently in its blind spot with rear cross traffic monitoring.
Subaru’s Outback bested its competition for family SUVs and was picked over four of the leading family cars that were also listed in Digital Trends’ article for the best family cars. If you want to check out the other three cars detailed in their article, including short reviews of why they were chosen over their competitors, then follow this that will direct you straight to the article from Digital Trends.