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6 tips for buying a family car


Buying a family car is a big decision and should take careful consideration. Instead of looking at all the obvious specs like handling and performance, you need to consider if it will ensure the safety and comfort of your family.

There are numerous things to consider so remember that the entire family needs to be part of this decision. Let’s look at six points that should be kept in mind when choosing your family car.


1. Type of car

If you have (or are planning to have) three or more kids or you carpool regularly, it’s probably in your best interest to look at a minivan or large SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle). Smaller families might be happy with a sedan.


2. Wide-opening doors

Opting for five doors instead of three is a given. However, make sure the back pair open wide enough for you to install a child car seat and get younger children in and out of the car. Sliding rear doors, as found on some MPVs, offer even more convenient access – especially in cramped car-parks.


3. Safety features

Visit the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) website to find out which vehicles do best in an accident. NHTSA provides crash test results online for cars and trucks from 1990 on.

For each potential purchase, also check out the Euro NCAP scores for crash safety and child protection, the NCAP score is one of the most important factors in choosing a car for your family. It’s also worth taking into account pedestrian protection – if this is a car you’re likely to use on the school run, do you really want a car that would hurt someone seriously in the event of an accident? That 2.5 ton SUV might not be ideal… 


– Low rollover statistics

NHTSA rates most post-1997 makes and models for how well they resist rolling over during sharp turns and manoeuvres.


– An on/off switch for the front passenger airbag

Almost all vehicles without rear seats or with small rear seats, such as pickups or sports cars, now include a passenger-side airbag on-off switch as standard equipment.


– Antilock brakes 

An antilock brake system (ABS) prevents the car’s brakes from locking when you slam your foot on them in a panic situation. Locked brakes can severely limit your ability to steer. Look for a car with four-wheel ABS.


– Rear seat side-impact airbags that are safe for kids 

There’s no federal standard for rear side impact airbags, which are not required by NHTSA, but many manufacturers follow a voluntary standard to minimise potential risks, especially for children.


– An interior trunk release 

Almost all vehicles with trunks manufactured after 1 September 2001 have an interior trunk release to prevent anyone from getting trapped inside.


4. Can you switch off the passenger airbag?

If you have a very young child who may need to be transported in a rear-facing child seat fitted to the passenger seat, ensure you choose a car that allows you to deactivate the front airbag. While we don’t recommend fitting child seats in the front, if the need arises it’s much easier to turn off the airbag yourself than having to ask a main dealer to do it.


5. Isofix is easier

If you need to fit child car seats, Isofix mounting points make this easier, quicker and safer. But make sure these mounting points are easy to access, and take your child car seat along when you view a car to see how easy it is to fit.


6. How much will your car insurance be?

Some cars trigger a higher insurance premium than others because of theft or accident probability. Call your insurance agent to get an estimate before you make your final decision.


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