Whether you’re expecting your first child or looking for better transport for kids that seem to be getting bigger with every passing moment, buying a new family car can be stressful. We’re here to assist, with these five top tips to help you make the right decision for your family.
1. Get your priorities right
The first thing you need to do is work out what’s most important to you in your new family car. If comfort is a key priority you should avoid sporty models, but if you’re a keen driver, performance and how the car feels in the corners will play a larger part. Is image important? If so you’ll want a new family car from a brand that matches you aspirations.
Modern SUVs can bridge many of these categories. As higher-riding vehicles they often deal better with bumpy surfaces than regular cars, and many would now consider them a more prestigious choice. Take the Jaguar F-Pace, for example. These are good fun to drive, comfy (as long as you avoid the biggest alloy wheels) and come with a premium British badge.
Jaguar F-Pace (2016-on)
Used price: from £23,000
2. Work out your budget and check you’re getting a good deal.
If you’ve got a family then you already know that life can be expensive. The last thing you want is commit yourself to paying for a new car that you can only just afford – especially in the current climate of rising energy prices. So take a good look at your finances and carefully work out how much you’ve really got to spend, and once you know, stick to that figure.
Don’t be disheartened by this. If you’re planning to use finance, you might be amazed to see just how much new car you get for £300 per month, for example. Prefer to buy outright? There are some very affordable new and nearly new cars well suited to family life. Take the Dacia Duster, a rugged SUV available to buy new from just £13,995. There are online tools to help you answer the key questions such as ‘How much is my car worth?’ and ‘What can I afford? to help you understand you initial budget (and evaluate the prices you should be paying for the car you buy) and work out what you can afford so you can get the best out of your cash.
Dacia Duster (2013-2018)
Used price: from £3,995
3. Make sure you all fit
Whether you’re looking for a little run-around or a family car for longer journeys, it’s critical that everyone who needs to fit in the car can comfortably do so. Considerations here range from making sure there’s plenty of head and leg room in the back for growing teens to being certain than you can get your baby into the car without difficulty – which might include checking your baby carrier can fit around the doors and seats. And that the buggy will fit in the boot.
Speaking of seats, be realistic about the number you need. Even if you don’t have a large family, are you going to be regularly transporting your children’s friends? If so, a seven-seater SUV such as the SEAT Tarraco or Skoda Kodiaq could be worth seriously considering. The rear most row will carry a couple of teenagers in reasonable comfort, while the way they easily fold into the floor makes for a lot of boot space when the extra seats aren’t needed.
Skoda Kodiaq (2017-on)
Used price: from £22,990
4. Make sure it’s safe enough
There is nothing more precious in the world than family, so safety is surely one of the biggest priorities when buying a new family car. Things to look for here include the number and location of airbags, additional active safety aids such as autonomous emergency braking and blindspot monitors, and whether there are Isofix mounting points for child seats if you need them.
This can be confusing, so don’t forget that you can also look up any car’s safety rating on the Euro NCAP website, making sure you check the year of the test as more recent testing is tougher and newer cars safer as a result. Euro NCAP even maintains a list of the safest family cars. Among the stand out performers on this is the latest Subaru Outback, which has one of the very best active safety systems on the market.
Subaru Outback (2021-on)
Used price: from £30,999
5. Running costs and reliability
Buying your new car is one thing – you also need to be certain that the running costs aren’t going to cripple you. Though diesel may not be as popular as it once was, it is still the best choice of fuel for long-distance economy, so if you do lots of lengthy trips don’t overlook this. For shorter journeys, petrol is usually better bet, while electric power is becoming increasingly accessible.
Along similar lines, it’s worth checking out the reliability record of any new car you’re considering. You don’t want to be forking out for expensive repairs, nor find yourself without your family transport because it’s in the garage being fixed all the time. Forums and Facebook groups are a goldmine for real-world experience – as are owners reviews. Two top picks for reliability and running cost from us would be the Honda CR-V and the Toyota C-HR, both of which are available with petrol-electric hybrid powertrains.
Toyota C-HR (2017-on)
Used price: from £16,498