Finding a car big enough to fit your family – that’s also a high-quality reliable car – can be tough, no bones about it. Folks are asking me all the time about which cars are best for families so I am pumped to write about this. Helping people navigate car purchases is something I do on a regular basis and is a passion of mine.
My name is Chaya Milchtein and I’m the automotive educator behind Mechanic Shop Femme. My platform is all about empowerment for women and LGBT folks when it comes to car education (among other things). The car world is rough and pretty unaccepting to folks like me and you, so I’m here to break things down into easy-to-understand segments that are accessible to a broader audience. I’m going to cover my top four choices, most of them being minivans and SUVs, as well as slightly smaller, yet family-friendly, options. Though car quality can be subjective, I’m going to share my favorite vehicles in the family-friendly class.
When families are looking for a car and I’m talking with them, one of the most important things on their list, besides safety, is space. Children play baseball or dance or hockey, and the equipment needs to be transported easily. Even for small families, SUVs and minivans are at the top of my list of recommendations.
2011 Toyota Sienna
With the optional four-wheel-drive available in some models, this is the epitome of a car built for a family. The Sienna comes standard with seating for seven to eight people and loads of cargo space! I love that this vehicle is a Toyota, known for durability and longevity; you often see Toyotas running well past 200,000 miles. The back seats do fold down, too, allowing even more cargo space for trucking things around. This car is going to get your family and everything they travel with safely to their destination.
2012 Subaru Forester
While some of the models on this list come with optional four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, meaning you have to look for the model with the option, Subarus all come standard with one of the best four-wheel-drive options in the industry. Always receiving high marks for safety, the Subaru Forester is roomy, built for family and travel. The all-wheel-drive option does cost you a little in fuel economy, but I think it’s a worthwhile tradeoff to easily drive in snowy conditions, especially if you live in an area with long winters. The Forester seats 5 comfortably and still has a lot of cargo space. This car is also a great fit for families with dogs – Subaru prides itself on pet-friendly cargo spaces.
2010 Toyota Venza
This is the ideal ride for a small family that is paying attention to cargo space, reliability, and fuel economy. It’s a simple crossover that looks almost like a station wagon, and seats 5 people comfortably. Sitting a bit lower than the traditional SUV, it’s a great option for folks with some mobility concerns that have a harder time climbing into taller SUVs on the market. I love that it’s available in four-wheel-drive which is such a necessity for safe driving in Midwestern winters. Although many cars in 2010 didn’t come standard with fancy tech, this car has built in Bluetooth, which is a huge plus for anyone that spends a lot of time in their car. With 18-21 mpg in the city and 25-29 mpg highway, it’s pretty economical on the pocket when it comes to fuel cost. As with the Sienna, Toyotas are known for their reliability and longevity, so you can’t go wrong with this car.
2012 Chevy Traverse
Chevy doesn’t often make a showing in my favorites, but the Traverse is one of the lowest cost vehicles in its class with unparalleled cargo space, so it earns a spot! With standard three-row seating, this is a family-friendly car that, depending on the model, you’ll find fits seven to eight people. This large SUV has a comfortable ride and is the perfect car for a parent that wants space without driving a minivan. Even if you don’t need all the seating, but do need loads of cargo space, the back seats fold down, creating even more room for lugging things around. It would be an awesome choice for parents that also have a side business that requires the cargo space.
Cars are complicated things to buy, especially used. The key to getting the best deal for the best car is a lot of patience. If possible, leave lots of time when making a car buying decision. When rushed and pressed to make a choice, things that we’d normally catch can fall through the cracks. This list is a baseline – a good place to start when looking for a family-friendly car. Test drive the options and see if you even like the car! Look at comparable models that may have not made your first list, as they may be a better choice for your family.
Thinking about buying a used car, but overwhelmed with the options out there? My automotive education classes have been featured in places like the Chicago Tribune and Ask Patty – Certified Female Friendly. I offer one on one coaching and consulting and small group, online automotive classes to help you make the best choices AND save you money.