I still remember all the relentless ‘advice’ we had before we started a family. “Your life is going to change, so be prepared!” The truth is, you can prepare all you like, but when the young bundles of joy arrive, your life changes in such weird and wonderful ways that can only really be properly understood once the time comes.
Of course, that isn’t true of everything, and there are certain things you can – and should – start planning ahead for. One is that the days of whizzing around in your little run-around of a vehicle that you love so much are probably coming to an end. Sadly, your treasure will likely have to make way for something a bit more family sized, and – dare I say it – practical.
So off you go to the dealer. But what are the most important things to consider? Here’s a little step-by-step guide to seven of them…
1) Body style
Should you go hatchback? Saloon? Estate? Or even bigger? Perhaps it depends on both the size of your family, and the age of your children. But it’s worth noting that saloons can often be deceptive in that they aren’t always more spacious than a hatchback. Besides, if space is your absolute priority, then an estate or a people carrier is probably the best place to start looking.
2) Euro NCAP
The Euro NCAP is a rating reflecting the car’s crash safety and child protection, so it’s definitely something you’ll want to take seriously when you make your purchase. You’ll probably also want to consider the score for pedestrian protection. If you’re doing the school run often, it may be a needless risk to have a big old SUV or 4×4.
3) Child-friendly features
Think beyond normal things like suitability for car seats or child lock. Perhaps you could look for something with UV-filtering tinted windows to limit sun exposure for your children? Maybe you’ll want something with power sockets to keep them entertained on long journeys with gadgets? Or, at a simpler level, you might want to consider things like having a dark-coloured interior to protect against mess and stains. Or even opting for leather – which is a surprisingly practical option.
Even when doing a trade in, most of us don’t have enough in savings to cover the cost of upsizing. But don’t just accept the arrangement offered by the dealer – or, worse still, lump it on your credit card. Car finance comes in all shapes and sizes, and in such a competitive market, there are good interest rates to be found.
5) Sliding rear seats
It’s becoming more and more common, but these can be a real winner and save you from having to buy a big vehicle. Allowing your kids to be able to slide back to create leg room, or slide forward if boot space is needed on the day is a real winner. It’s not a necessity by any means, but certainly a (very) nice to have.
6) Isofix Child car seats can be a pain, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Isofix seats and their clip-in mounting points make the world of difference though – both in terms of convenience and safety. So when looking at vehicles, take your car seat along with you, and see how easy it is to fit, and whether the mounting points are easily accessible.
7) Wide doors
It would be hugely ill advised to have anything less than a 5-door car. But it doesn’t end there. How wide do the doors open? Remember, this could be a huge help if you’re constantly taking car seats in and out – not to mention easier for your kids too. If you’re in the market for MPVs or something bigger, you’ll probably want to consider sliding doors too, especially if you tend to find yourself in tight car parks a lot of the time.
These seven points above only scratch the surface of course, and there’s a lot of thought that goes into ensuring that the first family car you purchase is a keeper. Hopefully the above will set you on the right path though, and here’s hoping that your new set of wheels helps to bring a lot of comfort and pleasure to your lives for many years to come.
This is a collaborative post.