By Madeline Klein on April 19, 2022 in Life Hacks
No matter how big your family is, whether you have your own Brady Bunch or it’s just you and your significant other, finding the perfect car might seem like a daunting task. Luckily, we’re here with some helpful tips for picking the car equivalent of your glass slipper!
Let’s talk budget. Go ahead, cue the doom and gloom music, because we know this is the least fun aspect of car shopping. Unfortunately, this is arguably the most important aspect of the search for most drivers. It’s important to know how much you can spend going into the process. This will make sure of two things: you don’t let yourself become “wowed” by something outside of your price range and there aren’t any post-purchase surprises. Nerd Wallet says, “It’s smart to spend less than 10% of your monthly take-home pay on your car payment, so you can keep your total car costs below 15% to 20% of your income.”
If you are looking for specific features, make sure to factor those into the cost – both at purchase and in case of future repairs. Replacing features like parking assist or a windshield with weather sensors can cost drivers significantly more than just a normal bumper or windshield. We hope you’ll never have to replace any of these pricey features, but preparing for the worst will ensure you can afford your ride, even after an accident.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…It’s time for our head count. Making sure there is enough room for all your passenger is critical because everybody needs a seatbelt in order to ride safely. Okay, maybe not Fido, the golden retriever…but everyone else. So, count all your regular passengers and occasional passengers such as carpool kiddos (also, account for any upcoming additions to save yourself the trouble of upgrading again within the year).
Safety is of the upmost importance when it comes to driving your loved ones around. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have vehicle safety ratings to browse through. IIHS says they, “…evaluate two aspects of safety: crashworthiness – how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash – and crash avoidance and mitigation – technology that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity.” For example, the 2022 Toyota Highlander is ranked as a “2022 Top Safety Pick” and is rated “good” in all categories. So, for our families out there, if this ride is in your budget – it’s an all-star choice!
The NHSTA says, “[Our] 5-Star Safety Ratings program evaluates how vehicles perform in crash tests. NHTSA conducts frontal, side and rollover tests because these types account for the majority of crashes on America’s roadways.” They also inform drivers about vehicle recalls. So, if you’re considering the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe, you’re in luck because NHSTA gave it a 5-star overall safety rating. You can dive deeper into see specific ratings for rollover, side crash, and frontal crash on their website.
For your younger passengers, you’ll want to check the car seat or booster seat anchors and placement. Safe Kids walks through car seat installation, tips for placement, how to use the seat belt or latch, what the inch test is, and more. Another great resource for parents is the Car Mom on YouTube. Kelly records reviews and car tours from the perspective of a mom, so you can visualize your potential car options with car seats and hear from a qualified expert about how the car will fit your kiddos.
How much junk do you carry in your trunk? Once you start adding up your passengers, it seems as though the bags grow exponentially. So, consider all the kiddos and their many backpacks and toys when you’re looking at different sized trunks.
Real Simple breaks down the best way to organize your trunk to fit everything and avoid rummaging for important items. Here are the steps:
- Keep essentials elevated for easy access.
- Secure all items in bins or using straps to avoid spilling while driving.
- Designate a spot for re-usable shopping bags, so they’re always there when you get to the store.
- Pick collapsible and/or stackable bins to save space when they’re not in use.
- Continually update storage and organization methods to fit your seasonal needs (i.e. You might need a bin specifically for towels in the summer).
Another great way to maximize trunk space is with fold away or stow-n-go seats. Real quick explanation of what these are: fold away or stow-n-go seats fold down so the trunk essentially maximizes to where the seats were – out of sight, out of mind! Edu Autos shows us what minivans have these seats, if you’re interested. Also, minivans aren’t the only style vehicle that have these, so if you’re looking for something sportier just be sure to ask about the seats’ foldability.
Roominess is our new technical term for leg room. Between bulky car seats and growing teens, make sure there’s enough kicking space for all your passengers! Kelly Blue Book compiled a list of the best cars for tall people factoring in front seat legroom, windshield height, front seat headroom, and adjustable steering wheel and outside mirrors.
A good rule of thumb, test each seat. If you have enough space as a grown up, then there should more than enough room for kiddos sitting (and kicking) there.
Reliability and Cost of Ownership
Reliability is key. The last thing you want is a car that’s constantly in the shop because that would be a real headache (and added expense!). Edmunds is the real VIP here. They have a cost of car ownership calculator, so all you must do is just plug in your zip code, vehicle make, vehicle year, vehicle model, and style.
Let’s share an example of all the helpful information you’d receive. Say you’re looking at the 2020 Chevrolet Suburban, specifically the LS 4dr SUV 4WD (5.3: 8cyl 6A) model. Once you enter that information into Edmunds calculator, you learn the true cost to own is $61,804 for 5 years – factoring in tax credit, insurance, maintenance, repairs, taxes and fees, financing, depreciation, and fuel. Don’t forget to use this when searching for your next ride!
Do you require the latest tech as soon as it’s released? Or are you still operating an iPhone 4 from 2010? Your tech-savviness outside your car will likely be the same as inside the car. So, make a list of your must-have features.
Some features we see drivers pining for:
- Charging ports
- Wireless charging pad
- Backup camera
- Lumbar support
- Keyless entry
- Wi-Fi hotspot
- Heated seats and steering wheel
- Blindspot detection
- Navigation system
These features will come in handy when transporting your little army to and from soccer games and summer vacations!
Using these seven elements, narrow down all the vehicles to the single perfect one for you and your family. Just remember, the process might seem daunting, but the more up-front work you put in, the more likely you’ll end up with the ride of your dreams!