There aren’t many purchases bigger than buying a car! With the exception of purchasing a home, it’s probably the most expensive thing any of us will buy.
There are so many things to consider: safety, reliability, finances and more. And if you have a family, there are lots of additional practical considerations, such as car seats and space for the pram – not to mention ease of cleaning!
It was recently reported that people are keeping cars for longer and longer. People now tend to keep the same car for over 12 years! So even if you have little kids now, you need to think about how your car will accommodate your family as they grow up.
Here are my top 5 points to consider when choosing a family car:
Safety always comes first as a parent. You absolutely need to make sure that your precious cargo will be as protected as possible if the worst happens and you’re involved in a crash.
If you’re buying a new car, you should be fine because manufacturers are held to very high standards and regulations these days. But if you are buying second hand, be sure to check whether it still meets modern regulations.
An easy way to check the safety of any car you’re interested in buying is the Euro NCAP website, or The European New Car Assessment Programme. You can look up any car by make, model and year to see how it ranks in safety assessments for child occupants, adults and more, and they even have a section on safest family cars.
While safety is paramount, affordability is also a very important factor to consider when choosing your new car! It’s not much fun driving your dream car if the monthly repayments become a source of stress for you.
Will you buy your new car with cash savings, or pay for it in instalments with a finance plan? If you choose the latter, make sure you know the interest rates, the length of the plan and any other terms of the contract.
It can be so complicated to know what you’ll actually have to pay when you factor in interest rates, part exchange on your old car, sales taxes and so on, but there are websites that can help you figure it out. This site even lets you calculate a maximum car price that fits your ideal monthly payment amount and loan term in years, which means you can really narrow down your car search from the start!
If you don’t already have a household budget, now is the time to make one. Look at your incomings and outgoings each month and see how much you can realistically afford to spend on car repayments without affecting your grocery budget and other essentials.
Also, too many people just focus on the price on the car itself, but make sure you leave room in the budget for all those additional costs of car ownership. Here are some additional expenses you need to consider:
- car insurance
- breakdown cover
- Annual MOT
- Annual/twice yearly service
- Oil changes
- New tyres
- Savings for anything else that inevitably needs fixing!
I recommend setting up a sinking fund for these occasional but predictable costs.
This links into the previous two points. If your car is always breaking down, it’s not so safe to drive. And it’s going to cost you a lot more if you have to keep fixing it!
So how do you know if you’re buying a reliable car? Well, firstly I would recommend researching some of the most reliable brands. Most of the big car magazines or websites put out yearly lists of the most reliable cars, such as this one.
If you’re buying a second hand car, you should ask the previous owner to see its service log book. That will let you know if it’s been well maintained. And you can look up any car’s MOT history on the government website. This will tell you any fails or advisories that the car has had.
As any parent knows, kids come with a LOT of stuff! Whether you have younger kids with buggies and nappy bags, or older teens with sports kits, make sure you have a functional boot.
The biggest concern here is fitting in your buggy. Buggies and prams can vary hugely in size, as do boot spaces! Make sure you measure everything up so you’re not kicking yourself when you just can’t wedge the pushchair in with taking off the wheels each time (as we have to do with my mum’s car!).
Our buggy is an Uppababy Vista, which is excellent but on the clunky side even when folded, and it won’t fit into some of the cars we’ve tried. Now we have a Honda Jazz which is small but amazing for space! The boot comfortably takes even our large pram. And as a bonus, you can fold the back seats flat to make even more space for large objects, which is handy for the occasional IKEA run!
Car seat fixtures
So you’ve thought about safety, reliability, finance and space. But wait a minute – have you left space for your kids in the car?!
Most smaller cars can only fit two car seats in the back, so if you have more than two children (or you are planning on another!) you will need to research carefully to make sure you find a car big enough!
There are different kinds of car seat fixtures now such as Isofix, top tether, or simply fastening in with a seatbelt. If you already have car seats, check to make sure they’re compatible. If you don’t already have car seats, make sure you read up on best practices before buying.