Joanne Gallacher
By Joanne Gallacher

Buying a family car

Buying a family car: How to find the best one

buying a family carIt's fair to say, that when you have a family, your priorities change – and that you may have to change your car as well. So, unless you can afford to buy a car out-right you may want to start looking into car loans as not only will you have to carry your offspring around safely and comfortably, but issues such as fuel economy and reliability become major factor in the purchase of your new car.

Your household budget will become more stretched, and you’ll surely not want to risk being stranded by the side of the motorway with a screaming baby or a toddler in a tantrum. Yes, sad though it may sound, thats 2-seater Toyota MR2, or  other small car may need trading in. At least until your children have grown up and left home.

Take a seat

Can your car safely accommodate a child seat or booster cushion? If not, it may be time to see if there are any suitable bank loans to enable you to buy a car that does. By law in the UK, children must be restrained in a seat appropriate to their age or size until they reach 12 years old or 135cm tall, which means a rear-facing carrier for babies, child car seats or booster cushions which raise them to a height whereby they can safely use an adult seatbelt.

Children are safest in the back seat of a car, but if you really must carry them up front, you will need to be able to disable the passenger-side airbags (but take advice on this first). There is a variety of useful online advice on choosing and correctly fitting child car seats, with comprehensive video guides from organisations such as Which? and road safety charities.

Crash protection

So, you’ve done your research about secured loans and now have the funds to pay for your new set of wheels. So, what should you be looking for? Say the words ‘safe family transport’, and invariably a solid, tank-like Volvo estate springs to mind.

Ever-more stringent legislative requirements have urged all manufacturers to improve the protection their cars offer, however, so Volvo no longer has a monopoly on this score; check out the results from the Euro NCAP crash test programme for detailed rundowns of the impact performance of most mainstream vehicles sold in Europe. Plus, make sure that you’re choosing a car that will offer the optimum protection to your precious cargo. (Your family)

Raising the roof

You may have ruled out that racy roadster, and many parents reluctantly reassess their needs and shell out for a high-roofed MPV (multi-purpose vehicle), but you don’t necessarily have to drive around in a utilitarian van with seats – MPVs such as the Ford S-MAX, Renault Scenic and Seat Altea are increasingly sporty-looking and fun to drive too.

So-called ‘crossovers’ blend the practicality of an MPV with the chunkiness of a 4x4 and car-like driveability, while traditional estate cars or station wagons continue to be popular too.

And while your children are still small, you can get away with a small hatchback – even the tiniest city cars often have clever folding and sometimes sliding seats, wide-opening doors for easy access to the interior, and a surprising amount of load-space. Make sure that huge off-roading buggy you’ve set your heart on fits in the boot, however. Compact MPVs like the new Ford B-MAX and the Vauxhall Meriva combine very modest exterior dimensions with huge sliding rear doors, making it easy to lift your children and their seats in and out.

Calculate the costs

Once you’ve drawn up a shortlist of likely models within your budget, research their running costs. Although they may seem ideal, running them could prove too expensive. Look at insurance grouping and tax banding for annual Vehicle Excise Duty (determined, in newer cars, by carbon dioxide emissions) and check out fuel economy, servicing costs and potential depreciation. 

Websites such as ,  and  will help you to find valuable data. Work out how you are going to make your purchase; it’s worth considering instant loans, car loans or secured loans to help you spread the cost of the car, or by calculating the monthly repayments using a loan calculator.

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