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What to look for when upgrading the family car

This post is brought to you by People’s Choice Credit Union.

It seems to be a common story – couple falls pregnant and buys a new car to accommodate a growing family. It was certainly the case for me when I upgraded my 1995 Holden Nova, previously owned by my Grandma, as soon as I found out I was expecting a baby. While my Nova had served me well throughout my late 20’s as a reliable car that got me from A to B, now I had other concerns and priorities.

But as with anything, you don’t know what you don’t know. We researched extensively as to what we were looking for in a car. Asked friends with kids what features were most used in their cars and went on online forums to see what the chatter around family cars was. To save you a little time in your search, I have compiled the key considerations for families when buying a family car.

The list is by no means exhaustive and you will of course need to take into account your own personal situation. Are you city dwellers needing to squeeze your car into tight parking spaces? Do you have 1 child or 5? Are you planning to take a year off work and drive the kids around Australia?

Boot space

When traveling pre-kids you throw an overnight bag in the back of the car and away you go. When traveling post-kids you spend an hour packing the porta-cot, suitcase for the kids, toys, bikes, pram and then somehow squeeze your own bag somewhere in the back.

Boot space is such an important consideration when buying a family car. Can you fold down the back seats if you need to transport bigger items? Like cubby houses or other bulky toys you might purchase for Christmas presents? Is there enough room to be packing lots of items? If you are a camping family or like to do long driving adventures, can you fit roof racks to the car? Or easily add a tow bar?

The final thing to consider with boot space is whether the boot is flat and suitable for changing a baby. If you will have a newborn in the car then there will be more than one occasion that you will need to change a nappy in the car. Having a flat, easily accessible boot space makes this a much easier process.

Price

Buying a new car is a big investment. Set yourself a budget and stick to it. You can pick up a great second hand car at a much reduced price (compared to a new car) if you are happy to spend some time shopping around.

If you don’t have the cash in the bank to pay for the car up front, a personal loan is a good option to consider. Make sure you have your finance sorted before you go shopping so you know what you can afford. People’s Choice Credit Union offer competitive rate personal loans and also offer a personal loan calculator to help you determine your borrowing capacity and repayment terms.

Back seat size

If you plan on having, or already have, more than one child, then back seat size is a vital consideration. If you already have child car seats, will they fit along the back seat of the car you are looking at? Or if you haven’t yet purchased car seats, are you limited in the choice of the ones you can buy that will fit? There are some great compact car seat choices on the market but they might not be for you so do your car seat research at the same time as your car shopping.

If you are planning to use an extended rear facing car seat you might also want to check the distance between the front seats. Rear facing seats can take up quite a bit of room and the last thing you want is your front passenger with their knees up around their neck!

Safety

This is probably the first thing parents think about when buying a car for their family. It’s hard to know just from looking at a car how safe it is so it’s best to go to the experts and do your research. The ANCAP website has a wealth of knowledge on car safety as well as independent safety test results for thousands of different car makes and models.

Seat fabric

I remember one particular day when I was driving my daughter home from day care. She was begging me for biscuits but I didn’t have any – her little world was crumbling just like the biscuits she so desperately wanted. But then I watched as my resourceful child reached around behind her car seat and took out a biscuit that she had obviously been hiding for such an event.

Needless to say my car is often covered in crumbs and scraps of food, toys and other interesting objects my daughter collects. A vacuum cleaner can remove most of them but look into the fabric of the seats you are choosing to see how sturdy it is.

My final word on seat fabric is not pretty. If you have never been on the clean up end of a child vomiting in the car then you can’t truly appreciate the value of easy clean car seats. Nothing further to say!

Other considerations

  • Car height – If you have a newborn or younger child who will need help getting in and out of a car seat, make sure to check the height of the car and test bending in and out of the car before making the decision to purchase. Your back will thank you for it in the long run.
  • Fuel consumption – I thought this was a consideration for anyone buying a car but my husband assures me that if he was single he would be driving around in a sports car with the roof down without too much thought about the economy of his car. Apparently having a family changes that!
  • Comfort – I cannot tell you the number of times that I have sat in the car in my driveway while my daughter slept in her car seat. Anything to get a little peace and quiet. Car trips can take longer with kids, there is lots of sitting and waiting at sports matches and acting as a taxi driver for the kids. Comfort is King.
  • Entertainment – Does the car have iPod connectivity? Or a CD player? In built DVD player for the kids? Your entertainment needs will vary but think about how you use the car and what you value.
  • Longevity – Cars aren’t disposable items so make sure you think about your future needs as well as current. No one can predict the future but think about possible scenarios and how you can choose a car to meet those.

People’s Choice Credit Union is one of Australia’s largest credit unions. They have competitive personal loans that can help you achieve your car and other family life goals.

Have you recently purchased a new family car? Any considerations that you would add to the list?

 

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