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Finding the right family car for you: a guide

Check out our advice for knowing what to consider when it comes to picking a new car to meet all your family’s needs and budget.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Sep 12, 2023

Baby being strapped into car seat by woman

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Whether you have a growing brood or it’s time for an upgrade, there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing the best vehicle for your family. While fancy specs and powerful engines may be higher up on your list when you’re younger, a family car needs to be more functional.

With large prams, changing bags filled with nappies and bottles, as well as scooters, bikes and car seats to fit in, travelling with children means you need plenty of space. Not forgetting all-important safety features that are designed to keep your family secure and comfortable when out on the road.

To help you in your search for a new vehicle, we asked our Mumsnet users what factors they took into account when shopping for a new car. With the help of car buying experts, Lookers, we put together this handy guide for you to consult when searching for the right family car for you.

1. Assess your family’s needs

If you’re looking at cars and have no idea which is the right one for you, the first thing to do is think about your family’s lifestyle. Make a note of the most important features you’ll need from your new vehicle. For example, how big is your family? If you have two children but plan to grow your family further, you’ll need to take that into account.

Think about how often you’ll use the car for longer distances, when you may need to pack out the car boot and use up all the storage space. If you only use the pram for local journeys to school, some higher specs may not be essential so can help you to reduce costs.

What Mumsnet users say

"While pregnant, I was looking at getting a bigger family car. I ended up getting a Renault Captur and it is amazing! It's like a compact 4x4. There is so much room, comes with sat navigation, Bluetooth, reverse sensors, auto lights (love having not to keep remembering to put on/off lights) and windscreen wipers etc as standard [...] I am really glad I went for this car as it will be used for many years to come, and would easily be able to last with more children." CLeighannHxo

"We got our first car when we had our second child. It was a Nissan Almera. Did us fine! When we had the third is when we got a VW Touran." DistrictCommissioner

2. Seat capacity

As mentioned above, one of the most important factors for a family car is the size and space. The last thing you want to do is invest in a car that you are going to outgrow very quickly. Make sure that the car has enough space to seat your whole family and any new arrivals you may plan to have in the near future.

If you have young children, make sure it can fit all of your car seats. For example, a third car seat may not fit in the back of smaller cars. For bigger families, you may need an SUV or estate with the option of an extra sixth or seventh seat, such as a folding rear seat. Also look at how much leg space there is for growing children.

What Mumsnet users say

We have a Skoda Kodiaq and I’m actually in love with it (and I’m not a car person). Enough boot space for the shopping even with all 7 seats.” Yellow1793

Three children in back of car

3. Safety features

The best way to know how safe your car is to check its Euro ENCAP score. This star rating is given to the vehicle based on a series of safety tests, including a child protection score, which can help you determine how safe your young family will be in the car.

Other safety features include rear view cameras and front and rear park assist systems, which will improve visibility. These can be very useful when visiting places like parks where there may be lots of small children around.

For a family car, you may also want to look for a vehicle that has a seat belt reminder so you know if your little one has managed to undo theirs. It has been a legal requirement since 2014 that all cars have been fitted with iSofix (small metal hoops that are built into the car to secure compatible car seats). It’s the safest way to ensure the car seat is fitted correctly. Older, second hand cars may not have the system fitted so it’s something to look out for.

You may also want a car with features such as the blind spot monitoring system and tyre pressure monitor, which lets you know when your tyres need inflating. Lookers can help you search for new and used vehicles with different safety features so you can get the right one for your family.

4. Fuel efficiency

Running costs are something to consider when choosing a new car, especially how much fuel it will use. To know how fuel efficient a car is, look at how many miles it will travel per gallon of fuel (mpg). A car which is considered as having good fuel efficiency is between 50-60 mpg. 

For electric models, this is rated by miles per kWh and the most efficient will cover around 5 miles/per kWh. If this is important to you, you can use Lookers online search facility to find cars that are fuel efficient so you can quickly identify if it's the right one for your lifestyle and budget. Or you can visit one of the second hand car dealerships in hundreds of locations around the country to help you find the best car for you.

5. Storage space

It is almost impossible to travel light with a young family, even for daily tasks like popping to the shops. Large prams can easily take up most of a car boot. So, storage is very important. You may want to make sure there is enough room for bags, shopping, bikes and scooters, too. 

There may be times when you’re going away and need to fit luggage and other holiday essentials in. Ideally the boot would have a minimum of 300 litres of boot space to comfortably fit everything you need in. Lookers has a huge range of new and used cars to meet all different storage needs so you can make sure to find a boot that fits all your daily essentials. 

What Mumsnet users say

"I have a hybrid Qashqai and it's lovely. Could easily fit two [children] and a car seat in the back and the boot is nice and big. It's great to drive." noimaginationforausername

“We have a Ford SMax. It has a massive boot and when all 7 seats are up you still have a little room in the boot for things. It's a brilliant car which we have had for 10 years since new. 4 of us and a dog go camping in it with just a roof box for extra space. It has a nice driving position as well and definitely doesn't feel like a big car.” drumandthebass

Family packing car for a holiday

6. Tech specs 

If you’ve endured a long journey with kids, you’ll know how hard it can be to keep them entertained and how often they will complain about being bored every ten seconds. Thankfully, modern family cars come with lots of features for keeping them occupied. 

These include connecting your mobile via bluetooth or USB to play music and audiobooks. Some cars like the BMW X7 and the Polestar 2 also have touch screen infotainment systems for rear seat passengers.

7. Budget considerations

Before you start test driving new vehicles, it’s good to have a budget in mind. It can be easy to get carried away on the forecourt when you see all the shiny new cars and fancy specs. Family cars tend to be more expensive than smaller cars so work out what you can afford. This will help you narrow down your search and work out what is a priority from your car.

If you do want a newer or higher spec car, you could purchase your vehicle on finance to help spread the cost. Lookers has lots of cars to suit all kinds of budgets and help you work out the best way to purchase your car, from finance to paying outright.

About Lookers

Lookers is one of the top three motor vehicle retailers in the UK, representing 34 car manufacturers to offer over 7,000 new and used vehicles. They also have used car and service centres across hundreds of locations.

You can purchase your car online through Click and Drive and they offer a 14-day money back guarantee. You can choose to collect or have it delivered and after your purchase Lookers offers also services, MOTs and repairs.

About the author

Gemma Wilcock is a freelance writer and copywriter. At Mumsnet, she creates content providing useful parenting advice, information and top products to make life easier – as a mother of two children herself, Gemma knows how important it is to get the right advice.

She loves writing about subjects that will be helpful to the reader – and herself! - including recommending top products and helpful advice on Mumsnet that assist parents in their day-to-day life. With two children, Gemma has had to figure out the best car for her family and knows the importance of looking for features that will make life with a young family easier. So articles like this are just as useful to her as they are to you!