What to Look for in a Family Vehicle

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Once you become a mom or dad, your tastes sure change, don’t they?

From how you dress and what your living room looks like on any given day, to where you shop and how you spend your free time, it seems like parenthood is often the great divider for people in their 20s and 30s.

One thing you’ll almost certainly be changing is the car you drive. Car seat adaptability, safety locks, cupholders, and air circulation suddenly become huge factors in what you’re looking for — or at least they should.

If you’re shopping around for a brand-new car for you and your family but you have no idea of the difference between LATCH vs belt systems, climate control vs manual AC, or Telluride vs Traverse, you’re in the right place. The following is a list of key factors to look for in order to purchase the safest, most comfortable drive when you have kids in tow.

1. LATCH Tether Points

When it comes to using car seats, you’ll want to have a LATCH system in the back seat. LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, and the system involves extremely strong, fixed brackets, which your child’s seat will anchor to.

Some LATCH brackets are better than others. For instance, some seem to be very difficult to access as they get stuck underneath the seat. Moreover, sometimes you’ll have limited options as to where you can place your child’s car seats because there will only be a few brackets. In the best-case scenario, you’ll have multiple LATCH tether points to choose from, and they will be easy to access.

2. Tinted Windows and/or Sunshades

If you live in an area of the world where summers get quite hot (or they’re hot year-round), you’ll want to look for tinted windows or sunshades.

Cars get hot when they sit outside in the sun, and the back seats where your kids are will always be hotter than the front seats because most of the vents are up near the driver. Tinted windows and sunshades can block out sunlight and keep the back seats cooler.

3. The Perfect Height

Taking kids with you to the grocery store, the post office, or on other errands usually demands about 130% of the time you used to spend doing the same things. In other words, everything takes longer with kids.

And it’s totally worth it.

Still … you might as well make the process as easy as possible on yourself.

So, if you have a choice, don’t choose a car where you have to bend way down and lean way inside the back seat in order to get your kid in and out. Instead, choose one that’s a bit higher. A lot of SUVs and minivans sit at exactly the right height so that the top of the back seat is more at the top of your legs or waist level instead of down by your knees.

4. Easy-Clean Upholstery

Kids make messes. And just because you’re in the car doesn’t mean they won’t make messes there — often the same types of messes they make in your house (dirt, spit, crushed cereal, peanut butter).

Therefore, having upholstery that’s easy and quick to clean is your best option for maintaining a relatively decent-looking car most of the time. As a side note, be sure to keep some microfiber cloths and quick-clean moistened car cloths on standby to clean up small messes as soon as they happen!

5. Convenient Storage

Finally, look for cars that have great storage options. Again, with kids, you’re going to be hauling around a lot more than you’re used to. Going on an overnight trip, for example, usually necessitates taking along a pack-and-play and maybe even a high chair, stroller, and other equipment.

Be sure that you have ample room for these items in the back of your car. In the front and back seats, you’ll also want storage for little things like snacks, diapers, cleaning wipes, toys, books, etc.

To be sure, not all vehicles are family-friendly. Still, as you shop around, you’ll probably see more than one that catches your eye and shouts “cool.” Almost certainly, these cars won’t meet the strict criteria you’ve set for your desired purchase.

That’s worth thinking about.

While having a “cool” car is definitely desirable in your late teens and early 20s, as you move into your 30s and 40s, it’s natural to shift your focus to safety. Try not to lament this change. It means you’re growing and becoming more mature.

Also, remember that there are definitely cars that are safe and comfortable without being ugly and dorky. Of course, the more important point is that ugly and dorky shouldn’t really matter when it comes to the safety, security, and comfort of your family.

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