Family is one of the most important aspects of any individual’s life, which is why you need to choose a vehicle that is safe and reliable. There are plenty of makes and models to choose from, but you need to find a car that’s affordable, comfortable, and can successfully accommodate both your family and your lifestyle.
In order to find out what an average family is usually looking for when shopping for a family car, we’ve reached out to some of the experts in both the automotive and family lifestyle fields.
“I’d say the most important thing to think about first is space,” said Kristin Shaw who owns and manages Firewheel Communications. “How much space do you have in your garage? How many people need to fit in the vehicle on a daily basis? Do you take road trips? These questions will determine if a family needs a sedan, an SUV, a minivan, or even a crew cab truck. Once you determine the size of the vehicle you want, then you can match that up with your budget,” concluded Shaw.
Space is arguably the number one factor most families will take into account when deciding on their perfect car, hence larger vehicles are at an advantage here. Minivans are the obvious choice but not necessarily the only one. Larger and even compact crossovers and SUVs are a perfect fit for a modern family for multitude of reasons. While family size and budget obviously must be taken into account when choosing your perfect family vehicle, there are other factors to pay attention to as well.
“The average American family has a diverse array of needs when shopping for a family car.” said Scarlet Paolicchi, founder of the Family Focus Blog. “Most families are looking to balance mileage and family friendly features with price and appearance.”
With larger cars comes lower gas mileage which represents a barrier to many American families. Luckily, most modern-day family vehicles get some sort of a hybrid powertrain as an option which can help them achieve better figures than comparably smaller gasoline-only counterparts. The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid will, for instance, return north of 30 miles to the gallon. It’s true they cost more than the base models to begin with, but they will also pay dividends down the line.
“Small families have different needs from large families with large pets but in general most families are looking for a spacious ride that will comfortably and safely transport their family and friends during carpools to school or on family road trips,” noted Paolicchi, concurring with Shaw’s opinion.
“Fancy features like vacuums in the vehicle, multiple, conveniently located USB charging ports, and DVD players are the icing on the cake but largely, families are looking for maximum passenger and cargo space with maximum MPG and safety,” Paolicchi concluded.
Choosing such car is often a daunting task given the sheer number op options available on the market. Splashing money for the range-topping trim levels is the easiest way to get a tech-savvy car riddled with advanced safety and convenience features, but often out of the question for an average American family. Instead, buyers will often decide what features they can or cannot live with, and make their decision accordingly. Finding the middle ground here is key and can save you thousands of dollars on something you’d end up using sparingly or never at all.
We’ve also reached out to a number of car dealerships and retailers that deal with families on a daily basis and have ample of experience on the subject.
“When buying a family car, you want to look at the most important aspects and features that will benefit the entire family, said Susanna Williams, consultant for Superior Honda – a New Orleans-based car dealership. “Not every car is made the same. Each car comes with features suited for different drivers and their preferences. To be able to find a car that will work best for your family, you have to know what to look for.”
Top two features you should always consider when buying a family car are safety,and convenience and comfort.
“Safety should be the number one feature when looking at a new car for the whole family. All cars come with safety features, but some come with a special built-in feature that guarantees you have top of the line safety features. Check for stability and traction control, airbags, anti-lock brakes, and adaptive cruise control. Making sure that your car has a good crash testing rate is also very important,” noted Williams.
The best way to distinguish the safest cars from a crowd is to consult the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ list which consists of 30 vehicles sold on the U.S. market. Furthermore, the “non-plus” IIHS Top Safety Pick award has been earned by additional 27 models. Vast majority of our selection appears on one of the mentioned lists and, hence boasts impressive safety scores which families mustn’t take with reservation.
“Convenience and comfort should also be one of your top priorities when you think about the style of family car you want. When reviewing cars, look for cargo space, legroom, and headroom. Rear seats and how easy they are to access should be a feature to look for. If you have young children, look for models that allow a stroller,” was Williams’ final advice.
If you’re in the market for a new car for your family, the following are your best family car options.
15. Chrysler Pacifica
The Chrysler Pacifica is one of the safest and most practical family cars on the market. It has won numerous awards like the 2018 Consumers Digest “Best Buy” – an award it has won three years in a row. Moreover, it has also won the 2018 IIHS Top Safety Pick award thanks to advanced crash prevention technology, intelligent headlights, and general smart technology. The new tech, when partnered with the car’s automatic emergency braking, cruise control, entertainment systems, and cargo space, make this an excellent choice.
Not to mention the fact the minivan comes in both the conventional and extremely fuel-efficient hybrid iterations, both of which are utilizing a version of the company’s stalwart 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine. The latter returns up to 32 mpg combined or 84 MPGe in addition to providing up to 33 miles of all-electric range.
Price range: $28,000 – $45,500
14. Kia Telluride
The all-new Kia Telluride offers three rows of seats and the price point is stellar. The largest Kia vehicle ever offered in the U.S. also provides a surprising amount of comfort and refinement for its badge. Although it still hasn’t been fully tested by the NHTSA and IIHS, the family SUV offers a host of standard advanced electronic safety gear like blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.
At the moment, the Telluride comes with only one engine. A 291-horsepower 3.8L V8 isn’t the most efficient mill on the market, but it won’t let you down if you’re in need of extra passing power. It’s also capable of operating in the Atkinson-cycle which should help boost its fuel efficiency by a slight amount. The Telluride definitely sets an example for all the future new cars aimed at families.
Price range: $33,000 – $45,000
13. Honda CR-V
“The Honda CR-V is one of the best family cars you can get right now,” said Susanna Williams. “With top of the line safety features including the Honda Sensing’s safety and driver-assistance features, and a Collision Mitigation Braking System for automatic brakes, you’ll know your family is in one of the safest cars on the market. The Honda CR-V is one of the smallest SUVs but it has a knack for hiding a lot of space inside. It can accommodate up to 5 passengers and has large roomy cargo space, perfect for carrying strollers and other family items.”
It certainly fits the perfect description of a family vehicle and do I need mention it’s also one of the cheapest and best cars to insure in 2019? Honda Pilot and Honda Accord are also fine choices.
Price range: $25,000 – $33,500
12. Hyundai Santa Fe
The mid-size crossover has been redesigned from the ground-up for MY 2019 and it replaces the outgoing Santa Fe Sport in the South Korean automaker’s lineup. The new Santa Fe is bigger, better, and more advanced than its predecessor. As such, it represents one of the best choices on the market regardless of whether your family emphasizes on comfort, space, or safety.
The all-new Santa Fe has it all. It’s earned the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ award, and for its starting price, you’ll be hard-pressed to find too many better options all around. Add to that a choice of two 4-cylinder engines (naturally aspirated and turbocharged) and it’s clear why more than 100,000 U.S. buyers end up opting for one of them each year.
Price range: $25,000 – $35,000
11. Subaru Forester
Subaru’s have gone a long way from Malcolm Bricklin’s gamble in the late sixties to one of the premier family-focused car manufacturers in the U.S. The Subaru Forester certainly fits the family cars description as it offers great value for money. Moreover, the compact SUV provides plenty of cargo space and impeccable capabilities should you decide to take it off the pavement thanks to company’s hallmark mandatory symmetrical all-wheel drive.
The compact crossover is also one of the safest offerings in its class and ninth least expensive car to insure on the market. Finally, it’s 2.5L flat-4 might not offer much grunt, but its CVT gearbox helps it achieve respectable fuel economy of up to 26/33 mpg.
Price range: $25,000 – $35,000
10. Toyota Highlander
The mid-size SUV is another one of fully redesigned models unveiled during 2019. The new Toyota Highlander, however, won’t arrive before the last quarter of 2019 which isn’t exactly ideal. This also means that the outgoing models will be available for less than their usual cost and they’re almost equally capable as their successor is shaping up to be.
Like almost any Toyota vehicle, the Highlander boasts supreme reliability ratings and resale value, plus it’s one of 27 IIHS’ Top Safety Picks. The next-gen models will retain the long-serving 3.5L V6 engine and 8-speed auto transmission combo, although hybrids (slated to arrive in early 2020) will downsize to 2.5L 4-cylinders mated to CVT gearboxes for much improved fuel economy.
Price range: $33,000 – $47,000
09. Volkswagen Atlas
The recently introduced Volkswagen Atlas is another excellent family car option. If you’re in need of a vehicle that has plenty of car seats, fantastic storage space, and an immaculate safety record, then consider one of these. Boasting up to 7 seats and an impressive 98.6 cubic feet of cargo space, the Volkswagen Atlas ticks all the right boxes in the volume department.
It also impresses in the safety features department too, thanks to the clever use of Adaptive Cruise Control that maintains safe distances between vehicles, a clever lane departure system that keeps the car from veering into other traffic, and the impressive blind spot monitor which keeps the driver vigilant against all hazards. It’s a safe and smart family car that should satisfy everyone who ends up getting one. It also offers a choice between a fuel-efficient turbocharged 4-cylinder and more robust 3.6L V6 engine.
Price range: $32,000 – $49,000
08. Subaru Outback
If your family goes everywhere, the Subaru Outback could just be the perfect choice for becoming its next member. This vehicle is smaller than your average SUV (more like a fancy station wagon with added elevation), but it’s capable of traveling on road or off road with great gas mileage and a very durable roof rack. Plus, though it looks small, five adults can fit inside this Subie comfortably, and there’s still room for luggage, groceries or whatever else you may be traveling with.
Two engine choices – a 2.5L 4-cylinder and a 3.6L V6 – should be enough to fit everyone’s needs. Being a Subaru, the Outback naturally boasts a mandatory all-wheel drive setup which northern states buyers will be particularly grateful for.
Price range: $27,000 – $40,000
07. Mazda CX-5
Yes, it might be a compact crossover with a lackluster engine, but everyone who ever drove the Mazda CX-5 can usually describe it in three words – fun on wheels. Its athletic handling and accurate steering will make parting of ways with it a harrowing experience – even if only for a few hours. Moreover, Mazda’s hallmark design will leave no one indifferent considering it’s arguably the most beautiful vehicle in its class at the moment.
Only a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine can be ordered with it, but at least it comes with a turbocharger in higher trims. This gives the compact more than ample of passing power without sacrificing much of its fuel economy. When it comes to the best family car, there aren’t too many choices that can beat the Mazda CX-5.
Price range: $25,000 – $38,000
06. Kia Cadenza
Being one of the best large sedans on the market, it’s no surprising the upscale South Korean car is considered one of the best family options money can buy. The Cadenza redefines the near luxury segment by offering a well-appointed and refined interior even some more illustrious badges can be envious of. This tech-savvy sedan will provide every safety and convenience feature you can imagine and keep your family from both harm and boredom.
Cadenza’s 3.3L V6 is more than competent to withstand both the long haul highway cruises and city commute trips with ease, while its 8-speed automatic transmission provides smooth shifts and solid acceleration.
Price range: $33,000 – $45,500
05. Volvo V60
Available in both conventional and Cross Country guises, the do-it-all wagon possesses everything a family might require. The Cross Country models provide added elevation and prove that you don’t need a crossover/SUV in order to be able to traverse dirty country roads.
At the same moment, both variations provide up to 51 cubes of cargo space with the rear seat folded, and although that’s less than what the larger V90 provides, the more compact wagons are undercutting its larger siblings by $12,500 in entry levels. As always, the stellar Volvo safety records provide some of the best scores even beyond the V60’s segment. You only need to opt for one and reap the benefits of Volvo ownership.
Price range: $40,000 – $51,500
04. Chevrolet Traverse
The Chevrolet Traverse is an excellent choice for a family vehicle. It’s a bold, mid-sized SUV that offers an abundance of safety features, car seats, and cargo space – which is exactly what you want from a family car. The Chevy Traverse was awarded a five star safety rating from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) thanks to the car’s intelligent safety features, including blind spot sensors, 360-cameras, and more!
If you’re looking for a beefy, but versatile, vehicle, this is one of the best family car models out there. Don’t forget the added family bonus of Apple Carplay and Android Auto, which is available in most new car models from Chevy.
Price range: $31,000 – $54,500
03. Toyota Corolla
If you have a smaller family, the all-new Toyota Corolla is the perfect choice for your vehicle needs. Not only is the car extremely affordable, but it also has room to comfortably seat five people, so your entire family will be comfortable no matter how long the drive. Plus, the Corolla Hybrid can now get up to 52 mpg, making it a great money saver when it comes to gas.
If you like the sound of the Corolla but need something bigger then check out the Toyota RAV4 or Toyota Highlander instead. Whichever the case, you can’t really go wrong with the best-sold car in history which the Corolla didn’t become by offering low price and no quality or reliability to complement it.
Price range: $20,500 – $26,500
02. Ford Expedition
The fourth-generation Ford Expedition might not be the most eco-friendly vehicle money can buy but large families shouldn’t overlook its numerous qualities just because it does a relatively poor job trying to conserve fuel. Unlike most of its competitors, the Expedition actually downsizes in powertrain department by offering a 3.5L EcoBoost V6 which still might save you a few buck in gas expenses at the end of a year.
The full-size body-on-frame SUV is extremely spacious, seats up to eight passengers, offers more than generous amount of cargo space, and abundance of features to keep all of its occupants busy – especially those in rear rows. It’s a perfect family car in almost every sense of the word.
Price range: $53,000 – $77,000
01. Honda Odyssey
You can’t have a list of best family cars without having a minivan on it, and the Honda Odyssey is one the best choice in the dying segment. With a unique look, the Odyssey doesn’t look like your typical minivan, making it more attractive for the soccer mom. It does, however, have all the great features of a minivan—sliding rear doors, comfortable seating for seven, and upgrades that include a rear seat DVD player.
Plus, the Odyssey handles extremely well, making it a smooth ride. Finally, it offers up to 33, 89, or 145 cubic feet of storage space with all seats up, third row folded, or all seats down respectively. That’s almost as good as the class-leading Toyota Sienna’s figures, but Honda’s minivan beats the Toyota offering in many other segments making it a better choice in our book.
Price range: $31,000 – $48,000
Frequently Asked Questions
What are good family cars?
The short answer would be: whichever ticks the most boxes for you. A good family car should be spacious, practical, affordable, and have solid safety ratings, but not everyone values all of the mentioned categories the same way. What’s more, some families are more interested in comfort and refinement, or even fun driving dynamics over practicality. Your perfect family car should provide the best possible combination of the factors you yourself value the most.
Best second hand family cars?
This is a whole new category that requires extensive analysis so I’ll stick with the obvious. Buying a used car can be a sound course of action if you’re on a tight budget but it comes with trade-offs of its own. It’s a great way of getting a luxury car at an affordable price due to their steep depreciation in value but don’t forget that their maintenance costs can become a liability over time. Large luxury sedans (e.g. Mercedes-Benz E and S Class, and BMW 5, 6, and 7 Series) depreciate at a rate between 65 and 70 percent in 5 years. Interestingly though, the depreciation champions are actually small zero emissions cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf which lose north of 71 percent of their value over 5 years on average. Both categories can be good choices for families although they aren’t traditional family car choices.
What are the safest family cars?
The list of IIHS Top Safety Pick+ honorees for 2019 includes 30 cars in 5 different categories, while the list of IIHS Top Safety Pick honorees includes another 27 models over 7 categories. The former list includes the likes of Subaru Outback, Toyota Camry, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Kia Sorento – all of which are sound family car options. The plus-less part of the IIHS Top Safety Pick list adds the likes of Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Kia Cadenza, Toyota Corolla Hatchback, and Subaru Forester among others. You’ll notice that most of the aforementioned Top Safety Picks have found their way to this list of best family cars which yet again confirms the importance of safety ratings when family vehicles are concerned.
What are the cheapest family cars to insure?
With the average rate of $1,298, the entry-level Honda Odyssey LX is officially the cheapest family car to insure in the U.S. in 2019. The minivan is closely followed by the Subaru Outback which costs $1,306 to insure annually. Most of the top 20 cheapest cars to insure in 2019 are small or mid-sized crossovers which are usually considered sound choices for most families. In that regard, neither of our above mentioned choices drifts too far from the ideal $1,300’s range.
What family car has the biggest trunk?
Practicality is obviously one of the most important aspects of a good family car and practicality is often measured by the size of car’s trunk. Needless to say, the larger the car, the bigger its boot. However, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case as some smaller cars can often prove to be more versatile than their larger counterparts. Of the models we’ve included, the Volkswagen Atlas, for instance, sports 96.8 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats folded, while the Chevrolet Traverse is capable of “engulfing” up to 98.2 cubes of cargo. The Ford Expedition MAX is another commendable cargo carrier thanks to 121.5 cubic inches of cargo room behind the front row, but it’s the minivans that take the cake in this category. With all three rows of seats folded, the Chrysler Pacifica boasts 140.5 cubic feet of space, while the Honda Odyssey fares even better by providing as much as 158 cubes of trunk space.
What family car is the most economical?
We’re not living in the sixties anymore and gas-guzzling V8-powered almost 20-foot long station wagon can hardly be considered as a recommendable family option nowadays. The industry has taken to engine turbocharging and downsizing, and with a good reason. Fuel prices in the U.S. are still three times lower than those in Europe, but they’re a far cry from the prices we’ve had half a century ago (even with inflation taken into account, of course). The most fuel efficient cars today are not necessary the subcompacts anymore. In fact, the hybrids and especially the EVs have made once simple equations much more complex. Of the above considered selection, the new Toyota Corolla now returns up to 52 mpg combined. The Chrysler Pacifica hybrid averages 32 mpg combined without using a charge and up to 84 MPGe in the plug-in hybrid mode.