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A guide to choosing the ideal family car

If you’re thinking of buying a new family car there are many things to consider, but safety, space and affordability are key.

There is no definitive perfect family car, but, in this guide, we hope to help steer you in the right direction.

What is the car’s Euro NCAP rating?

If safety matters to you, as we’re sure it does, take a look at the Euro NCAP’s list of safest cars and compare the ratings of the cars on your shortlist.

The European New Car Assessment Program, or Euro NCAP, as it’s also known, gives all car models sold in Europe a rating, after undertaking an extensive range of laboratory crash tests.

If you’re comparing cars from different years, it’s worth noting that a car that would have achieved a five-star rating a few years ago, if tested now, might only achieve a three or four-star rating. This is because testing today is more thorough, and car safety technology has advanced[1].

What type of car do I want?

There are four main body styles of family car, and they each have their pros and cons.

With a hatchback, you’ll get a car that’s very economical to run, but you’ll have to compromise on space. If having lots of space is important to you, a people carrier might be a better option for you. It’s worth noting that you can expect to pay around an extra £3,000-5,000[2] to upgrade from a normal family hatchback to a larger model.

Other types of car you may want to consider are estates and saloons. Estates can be low cost to run, great to drive and practical, but some models[3] are more focused on lifestyle than on having the large boots that estates are famous for.

If you’d like a traditional looking car with a separate boot, a saloon might be just the ticket, as you’d get more space inside the car than with a hatchback.

How easy will it be to get the children in and out?

You might dream of owning a coupe, but, if you have young children, you’re going to want a car with rear doors. Some cars have rear doors that open very wide, ideal for when it’s raining and you want to get your baby or toddler buckled in as quickly as possible[4].

Are there enough seats?

You’ll obviously want a seat for every member of the family, but, ideally, you’ll need at least one spare seat, which can be used when giving friends lifts, or if you extend your family in the future.

Does the car have sliding rear seats?

If you like having the option to adjust the rear seat space and the size of your boot, you’re going to want a car with sliding rear seats.

Children often like to look out the window, especially during long journeys, so try not to choose a car where they’re sat low down, as their view might be obscured.

Depending on the ages of your children, having ISOFIX[5]points installed may or may not be a deal breaker.

Is the boot adequate?

You might find a car that ticks most of your boxes, but, when you open the boot, you discover that you can’t fit your pram or weekly shop inside. If you tend to take to the road when you go on holiday, bear in mind that you’ll need plenty of space for your luggage.

Depending on the size of your boot and the needs of your family, a roof rack and roof box might also be a necessity. Boot space isn’t something that most drivers are willing to compromise on, and the boot opening must be a practical shape, too. If lots of boot space is one of your must-haves, an estate car might be the right option for you.

Is it economical to run?

Petrol, diesel or hybrid? Whichever you choose, ideally, you’ll want a car that has low CO2 emissions, so that you don’t have to pay a lot for road tax[6].

You should also aim for a car that belongs to a low car insurance group[7], as this can result in you paying less for your car insurance than you would otherwise.

Most people want a car that looks good, but, if it’s to be a family car, practicality and affordability deserve equal – if not more - consideration.

If you already have a few cars in mind, why not shop around for car insurance quotes, so you can compare how much it could potentially cost to insure them? Click here for a quote for Rias car insurance >