9 checks when you buy a family car
Here's what to look out for when you're looking to buy a new car.

When you become a parent, or upsize your family, your thoughts will soon turn to your family car. Is it big enough for a pram or three car seats or two bicycles?

Many of the more affordable cars now come with a few nice-to-have features. Whether you’ve got cash to burn or live on a strict budget, read here before you sign the papers.

1. Safety features

Most new cars are well designed to help prevent and withstand impact, with features like ABS or AEB brakes, traction control, a safety cage construction, crumple zones, air bags and “intelligent” safety belts. Remember, the safest car can’t protect you much if you don’t wear a seat belt or strap your kids into their car seats.

Importantly, if a child is sitting in the front passenger seat – whether in a car seat or just strapped in (safely over the chest and not across the neck) – ensure you know where to switch off the front passenger air bag. The impact of the air bag can cause serious damage to the fragile frame of a child.

Some new cars have dedicated warning lights indicating whether that seat’s air bag is on or off.

Also find out how much it would be to add safety/tinted film on the windows.

2. Boot space

That first hatchback you bought when you started working may or may not be able to accommodate the surprisingly big kit and caboodle you’ll be travelling with. You’ll need a whole extra suitcase for baby, plus the pram, camp cot, toy bag, changing bag… when they’re older, you’d have to try and fit a tricycle in there too.

When doing your research, compare the boot size in volume (litres) of unopened boot, as that’s how you will likely be driving around most of the time.

3. Petrol consumption & C02 emissions

You’ll be driving around more than ever. School runs, extramural lifts, play dates, classmate birthday parties, doctor’s appointments. The last thing you need is a thirsty car. Note however that the fuel consumption in the brochures are often understated as the prototype car would have been tested in a controlled environment. Real-life conditions, the way you drive, and uphill roads on route will increase consumption, sometimes considerably.

4. Cup holders

Enough said.

Seat covers

Not everyone can afford leather seats, but not everyone wants to drive around with a blanket over the back seat either (although we did as children and we turned out fine). You can look for fake leather or fabric seats that have been treated against stains. This makes a melted chocolate ice cream much easier to wipe off. Or, if that’s your thing, you could splash on actual seat covers that are removable and machine washable.

6. Ground clearance
You don’t need an SUV, but high ground clearance comes in handy. So you can park on curbs at children’s parties, navigate gravel roads when you’re taking the kids plus heavily loaded boot on vacation, and manage the speed humps outside the school.

7. Tinted windows or window shades

You don’t have to go Batman dark, but adding a tinted safety film to the windows really helps to minimise the glare in your children’s eyes.

8. A sound system with balance

When you’re listening to the Frozen soundtrack (again), you’ll be grateful if you can send most of the sound to the back speakers.

9. Leg room

Space in the back may not be an issue with toddlers (although it’s not that pleasant when little legs kick the back of your chair), but once your pre-teens start sprouting, they may complain on long journeys if there’s not enough leg room.

What do you look out for when buying a family car? Tell us at chatback@parent24.com and we could publish.

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