Mom Life

Shopping for Your First Family Car

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Once upon a time, I drove a Miata. A beautiful, tiny little convertible with tan leather interior and a stick shift. Then we bought a house, got two dogs and decided to start a family. And that’s when I turned in my cute little sports car for a nice roomy GMC Acadia SUV.

We didn’t have kids yet when we went car shopping, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to look for. I just knew I needed more space. After almost three years, I know exactly what I’ll be looking for in my next car! So here’s my top tips for choosing a family-friendly vehicle.

  1. You’re going to want space – There’s a reason moms drive minivans. They are the obvious choice. You’re going to be hauling around a lot of stuff, plus a child. But if you shudder at the thought (like me) then look at your SUV and crossover options.
  2. Get that third row – If you want to be able to fit more than two people and a child comfortably in the car, go for third row seating that can easily be put down for more space in the back.
  3. Do your research on safety – at, you can plug in any make and model and get a report on all the specs, reliability and safety. When you’re transporting precious cargo, these things become incredibly important.
  4. Easy to clean seats – I went with leather seats because they’re easy to wipe down. Kids like to eat in the car. Kids also like to throw food and wipe it Everywhere. It’s easier to grab a baby wipe and clean a leather seat than it is to scrub pureed bananas out of cloth.
  5. The Latch system – This is a good reason to go for a newer car. Cars manufactured after Sept. 1, 2002, are required by the federal government to have a Latch system. These are the little metal anchors that snap into the car seat and make it more secure than putting it in using just seat belts.
  6. Decide where you want the car seat to go – I went for captain’s chairs because it makes getting to the third row easier. What I didn’t realize is it also makes the baby farther away. The usual spot is in the middle back seat. With captain’s chairs the car seat goes behind the passenger seat. When you are driving and you need to reach your child, that seat seems like a million miles away.
  7. Spring for the DVD player – If you can, I would totally recommend getting that fancy upgrade with the screens on the back of the seat. I didn’t think I’d need that and then found myself getting a portable DVD player on Amazon along with a stretchy contraption to strap it to the headrest. Elmo’s World saved me many times in a traffic jam or road trip.
  8. Think about doors – this is where the minivan starts looking really appealing. Getting a child in and out of a car seat in a crowded parking lot can be a real pain. If you have regular doors, just expect to get used to banging them into cars that insist on squeezing in next to you. You don’t have to worry about that with doors that slide open.
  9. Places for things to get stuck – This is one thing about my car that drives me crazy. The tracks for moving the seat back are wide open and everything goes in there. It’s filled with Cheerios, tiny toys and various small food stuffs. Most of the time I can’t move the seat forward without doing some major extraction work.
  10. Make sure you feel good about it – This was a big one for me. Safety and function are important, but you also want to feel good about driving your car. It took me a while to find a larger car I thought still had some sporty appeal. I went for bigger tires and fancy rims to dress it up.

My car is five years old now, but my child is only three. I am looking forward to the day I get to shop for a new one, but am waiting until he’s old enough to stop making a complete wreck of the one we have now. So when you look at that prospective new car, just try and picture it covered in baby food with various toys and trash strewn about. Then you’ll have a more accurate vision of what it will be like when you get it home.



The great Cheerios explosion of ’17. It happens. Pick a car that can handle it!




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