How to car shop as a new parent

Look for safety, interior design, space, and value

File Photo
Richard Perry.

Greetings from The Hemet Car Guy!

I’m a grandpa now that we have just welcomed Hayden Joseph Collings to the world. My daughter Megan will be a great first-time mom. I remember myself as a first-time dad when she was born 30 years ago: preparing her room, childproofing the house, locking things up or putting them under sink cabinets, etc.
In past articles, we wrote about good family cars and I’m sure Megan and Keith will be thinking about that as they take home our family’s newest bundle of joy.
So now let’s talk cars with a baby on board!
There are four factors to keep in mind when you are a parent behind the wheel – safety, interior design, space, and value.

Safety
Whether you are bringing home your newborn from the hospital or chauffeuring your pre-licensed teen to soccer practice, you want to make sure the vehicle you are using is as safe as possible for your child.
Parents either can use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as reference for which vehicles are a “Top Safety Pick.” Vehicles that earn a Top Safety Pick rating have done so by achieving the highest possible score in frontal, side, and rear-impact injury prevention tests, as well as a strength test.
However, these ratings are to be compared among the same class of vehicle. For example, an SUV with a four-star crash test rating could be safer than a sedan with a five-star crash-test rating simply because of its size.
Another feature to look out for when choosing a safe vehicle is technology. Most vehicles nowadays offer subscription telematics systems such as OnStar, Sync, or other smartphone applications that can automatically connect via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to your personal phone. These types of systems can also dial 911 and alert first responders in case of an accident or if your airbag deploys.

Interior
The interior is also a major factor to consider when shopping for your child-friendly vehicle. Especially when toting around a young child, it is important to consider a vehicle that will easily adapt to various car seats.
If you are a parent with a newborn, the baby must ride in a reverse-facing car seat that is properly installed using the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) safety restraints. It is important to shop for either the right vehicle with roomy interior or a car seat that will fit well in the interior of your current vehicle. Reverse-facing car seats require more adjustment with a vehicle than a forward-facing one.
When installing the rear or front facing car seat, make sure there is enough room and mobility to access the seatbelt with ease in case of an accident.
Other factors to consider when vetting out the interior of your vehicle are comfort and convenience. Does the vehicle have tinted windows so that the sun doesn’t beat down on your child while driving around on a hot, summer day? Most vehicles have slightly tinted windows in the backseat compared to the front seat, so it may be beneficial to set up a car seat in the back. If you do this, it would be helpful to also get a vehicle with a parabolic mirror as well.
Some vehicles come equipped with these mirrors, which give you a better view of your child seated in the back.
A roomy interior is a major plus when finding your new vehicle because eventually your baby will grow into a kicking toddler and you’ll want to make sure there is enough space between the front and back seats.

Space
When starting a family, you will most likely be using your vehicle’s trunk more often than before. Whether it be boxes of diapers, extra groceries, or strollers, there will be plenty of ways to make use of a spacious trunk.
For crossovers and SUVs, dealerships often quote cargo volume measurements that include what can be stacked on the roof of the vehicle. Watch out for those misleading measurements, especially because carrying cargo on the roof is pretty dangerous. Make sure to check out every inch of the vehicle and vet out the trunk size for yourself.

Overall value
When shopping for a new vehicle as a new parent, a vehicle is just one of many new expenses you are faced with. Raising a child is expensive, so choosing a car that offers you and your family the best value is key. Here are some things to consider when purchasing your new kid-friendly vehicle: price (obviously), quality, fuel economy and depreciation.
Finding the safest and most spacious vehicle is vital in meeting your expectations, but it is also important to consider the lowest price possible.
Test driving vehicles within your price range will meet your expectations if you decide you like the car, especially the way it drives.
You’ll also be able to become more accustomed to the vehicle this way, even if it doesn’t have all of the fancy features you desire.
When it comes to fuel economy, most standard vehicles are pretty good on the gallon. Avoid shopping for sporty vehicles that have more cylinders. A lot of vehicles manufactured nowadays are eco-friendly or fuel efficient. Remember: the fancier the engine, the more money you’ll spend in gas.
This is also true when it comes to repairs. Shopping for a top of the line vehicle manufactured in a foreign country will be more costly in the long run, because not every mom and pop car shop is going to have the parts for the vehicle. Most dealerships can repair their own vehicles, but the cost can be pricey.
Finally, you also want to make sure the vehicle is going to be one you plan on sticking with for at least the next three to five years (or however long the length of your loan is).
Depreciation is so rapid that the car almost immediately loses some kind of value the moment you drive off the lot with it.
All in all, it is essential to consider all of these factors and more when shopping for your next family-friendly car.

Hope this helps!


Richard Perry is the Hemet Car Guy and owner of VIP Autos in Hemet. For more information, visit www.hemetcarguy.info.

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