When is a Family Car Too Big?


family car

When is a Family Car Too Big?


The auto industry is growing. 2015 marked a record year for new car purchases and while traditional sedans and economy cars, known as the “super segment”, dominated these purchases there has been a strong resurgence in larger passenger vehicles and SUVs. Lower gas prices and more efficient engines have helped bring back these tanks into the homes of new families in desperate need for a kid-and groceries-hauler. Many people tend to overestimate and purchase an eight passenger vehicle when they only have one child along the way, while many more underestimate and try to taxi three kids and their big dog in the family’s only compact hatchback. How do you find the right balance? While it’s difficult to pin the exact number of seats you need, there are some considerations which can help in the long run.


After the happy news of a pregnancy and the first child on the way, after the celebrations and calls to families and friends, a lot of couples immediately go into a panic mode as they realize some big changes need to be made to the house and vehicle situation. A very common dread comes from giving up the fun sports coupe, coming to terms with the end of fun and the start of the much maligned minivan or station wagon, which is why many families compromise with the at least rugged look of an SUV. Before you go putting ads on Craigslist or assuming your role as shuttle driver you’ll need to consider how many kids you’re actually going to have. If this is your first child you’ll need to plan for one car seat to have a permanent spot in the vehicle, and to consider if the floor beneath it will be enough for the bag of supplies or if the other rear seat would work.


Consider how often you need to fill the cargo area or trunk, as you might be bringing a stroller with you, if you often like to pack a vehicle full with groceries and other shopping in one trip you’ll want to consider a large cargo area. This means that a smaller compact won’t work in most cases unless going for a larger hatchback. You then need to consider how many children you plan on having and how far apart you’ll be having them. If you are having twins or siblings that are born close together then the vehicle should accommodate them as if they were born at the same time. If you’re planning on having your next child much later, such as in five or more years, you’ll have some flexibility in that the older child will be able to switch to the front seat at times and/or you can use one vehicle for the time and then exchange for something larger when the new child arrives.


Then there is the tricky topic of other kids. You’ll find yourself in the position of picking up friends or having to haul a whole group of them because you’re the only parent who has such capacity. If transporting a carpool to school isn’t your preference then limiting the number of seats from eight to five is a great excuse to push that responsibility on another, more willing parent. When looking at a massive, truck like SUV that could carry the whole marching band consider how often you’ll actually need to use every seat. If you only plan on helping with the annual field trip then there’s little reason have so much space each kid as their own row, better to downsize to something smaller and take advantage of the fuel savings and better ease of parking.


The best advice to any new family is that instead of considering a do-it-all car have two cars instead. Two sedans can have a lot more options than a single large SUV, especially as your kids go down different paths and need to coordinate to different locations. This could be as simple as purchasing a new large car while keeping your old smaller vehicle or leasing a small car to go alongside your larger purchase so that it too can grow and adapt as you need to. Remember, as a couple, you’ll need to decide who gets to drive which and maybe you’d prefer to have something for yourself once in awhile so make a really strong case to keep that sports coupe.


About the Author

Max Glasner

Max Glasner is an automotive expert and journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area with professional experience in the automotive industry including sales, acquisitions, and insurance, and his personal pursuit as a vintage car enthusiast in his spare time.

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