Being a parent is one of the most magical experiences in life. Raising a child from a tiny baby to a flourishing adult, watching them grow and supporting them through so many new experiences…
Still, it’s not all fun and games. Being a parent is seriously hard work. And a lot of time spent in the car.
With all the time that you spend shepherding your kid from one activity to another, you need a car that’s really up for the task. Of course, that may look different depending on your child’s age and the size of your family.
Here we’ve put together a short guide of the best cars for moms and dads, divided by age group. We’ll see what to look for, recommended models and how to find the perfect vehicle at your budget.
How to choose the right car?
As a parent, the most important considerations should be:
- Safety (both crash-test ratings and available advanced safety features)
- Passenger space and cargo capacity
- Economy (budget-friendly and good gas mileage)
Best cars for parents with a baby
Welcoming a baby into the family can feel a bit like inviting a tornado into your house, and into your car!
Car seats, strollers, bottles, boxes of diapers and nearly unlimited other items are suddenly your constant companion. Whenever you want to go anywhere, you have to consider not only yourself and your baby, but the cloud of gear that hovers around that little bundle of joy.
For a “baby on board”-worthy vehicle, space is paramount. Storage space, room for a car seat and ease of entry are the first considerations. The layout should be roomy enough that someone in the front passenger seat can easily reach into the back if the baby needs anything.
A few top choices:
- Honda CR-V: An SUV practically built for young families, hitting the trifecta of space, safety, and affordability. Also, throw in tons of tech and great driving experience.
- Kia Soul: Practical and compact, but not as compact as it looks from the outside. The wide flat backseat is great for car seats.
- Volkswagen Atlas: A roomy 3-row SUV that drives small, with easy steering and maneuvering. New parents will appreciate the LATCH system with lower anchors, making it easier to attach car seats.,
Best for parents with young children
Once your kids get a bit older, space is still important – maybe even more so, now that you’ll have to carry around all their hockey sticks and cellos and whatever else – but a few other factors come into play.
The car should be comfortable and pleasant to ride in. Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with a lot of whining and carsickness on long road trips.
Look out for a car that’s more versatile, so you can choose between extra seats for carpooling and extra space for activity gear.
Entertainment options are also helpful for long drives. Choose a car with a good infotainment system, allowing you to easily play your kids’ favorite music off of your phone, and maybe even video screens for the back seats.
- Ford Edge: A spacious and stylish SUV with room for not one, not two but three car seats in the back row.
- Subaru Outback: High-tech but not afraid to get its hands dirty. With its versatility, all-wheel drive and hill ascent/descent control, it’s the perfect car for outdoor adventures with the whole family.
- Toyota Prius: Eco-friendly (and wallet-friendly), it offers exceptional ride quality and a spacious, airy interior. Lots of cargo space and easy to load into.
A minivan: More on these in the next section…
Best cars for parents with lots of children
The average American family with children has 2.4 kids. We’re not sure exactly what 0.4 of a kid looks like, but it’s clear that already this adds up to a big demand for space.
And what if you’re above that average? Then first, congratulations, and second… you’re gonna need a bigger car.
For families with many children, a minivan is the way to go. Get a comfy, reliable minivan with seats for the whole crowd. (And, ideally, a rear-view camera. Backing up is not the fun part of driving a minivan.)
A three-row SUV is also an option, but minivans are more practical and family oriented. With a minivan, you get sliding doors, kid-friendly layout, more cargo and passenger space, and better fuel economy, not to mention a lower step-in for kids and loading heavy objects.
- Chrysler Pacifica: Quality interior with lots of cubbies and a clever stowable-seating system. Perfect crash-test ratings and every driver-assistance feature you could ask for. The hybrid option is available.
- Honda Odyssey: Packed with all the latest tech, safety features, and useful features, its comfortable seats will keep everyone happy on a long ride.
- Kia Sedona: Handsome and spacious, offering great value for its price.
- Toyota Sienna: Calm, serene ride, even with a strong engine, and tons of storage space.
Best cars for parents with teens
When your teenager starts to learn to drive, safety should be first and foremost. The family car should be reliable and easy to drive, with as many active safety features as possible.
Some cars even offer teenage driver monitoring systems, so you can
Another consideration is to avoid anything too flashy. Of course, this is probably what any teen will push for, but you don’t want to encourage show-off driving. Go for something sturdy and humble. Maybe they’ll roll their eyes at it but they’ll thank you later in life.
Speaking of getting eyes rolled at you, some cars even have teenage driver monitoring systems, so you can keep tabs on your enthusiastic new driver. These will let you know when your car is being driven if it’s being driven where you don’t want it to go and if it’s going too fast. Depending on the system, it may also allow you to set restrictions on the car’s speed, keep the audio volume from going above a certain level or prevent safety features from being turned off.
- Hyundai Sonata: A comfortable, driver-friendly sedan with tons of safety features, including a comprehensive monitoring system.
- Chevrolet Bolt: Cute, competent and electric. Also has a great monitoring system with a “report card” function.
- Honda Fit: Pragmatic and dependable with a host of advanced safety features and excellent fuel economy.
Best cars for parents whose kids have left the house
Being a mom or dad is for life, but (fortunately) having children around the house isn’t. Now that your youngest kid is all grown up and flown away, you can get your groove on. Treat yourself to something that’s light, stylish and fun to drive: you deserve it.
- Ford Fiesta: This subcompact is a nice change from the warships you’ve had to drive all this time with kids. Well-tuned and engaging to drive, yet practical enough for daily errands.
- Fiat 500 Turbo: What’s not to love about the 500’s retro Italian look and cute round headlights? It’s a fashion statement and, with the turbocharged engine option, a peppy little car to drive around.
- Smart Fortwo: So small and sweet, and you can park anywhere.
- Kia Forte LXS: Sleek and no-nonsense stylish, with plenty of features and great gas mileage.
No matter what stage of life your family is in, you have to have the right car. It makes the difference between smoothly flowing through your daily activities, or struggling and getting frustrated with basic tasks.
Every family is different, but in general space and safety are the most important. Fuel economy is also important, so you can spend your hard-earned dollars on your kids instead of gas. And of course, it should be a comfortable car that’s enjoyable for everyone to spend time in.
If you need help choosing and locating the perfect car, Capital Motor Car’s advanced car-finding service is a great place to start. Our business is helping moms, dads and everyone else find the best deals on the right car to support their lifestyle.