Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A person is shown getting into a red 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Factors for Families Buying a Used Car

If you have kids and you need a car, you’ll definitely want to research used cars. Shopping for pre-owned options is a great way to save money, and you won’t have to worry as much about the kids scratching the paint or staining the seats. Used car dealers will also have diverse inventory so you can find the right vehicle for your family within your budget without sacrificing any of the features you need.

Smart Reasons to Buy Used

Before highlighting what you should specifically look for in a family-friendly used car, let’s review the benefits of a used car over a new car.

  • First, you save substantial amounts of money – not just upfront, but over time as well. New cars can lose 50% of their value in the first 3 years. You don’t want to pay a premium only to see it depreciate in 36 months.
  • Second, used cars last a long time. It is quite common for a modern vehicle to drive well over 100,000 miles without requiring any major repairs. As a result, there is great value in used vehicles that will provide years of useful driving life.
  • Third, you de-risk a used car purchase with all of the data that now exists on cars. Tools like CARFAX will show a history of maintenance, repairs, and recalls. Study the data, and you’ll have less stress and uncertainty in a used car. Of course, you can always look for a certified pre-owned used car too. These models have a factory warranty and additional inspections to help assure you the car is safe and reliable.

A used car may provide your family with premium features unattainable when new. Again, the cost of used cars is more affordable, so premium features like leather seats, a WiFi hotspot, and advanced safety features are now within your budget. And speaking of your budget, used cars will typically have lower insurance rates, taxes, and fees. This can all add up to increase the total savings.

Key Considerations for Your Bunch

Now let’s talk specifically about what you need to look for in a used car that is family-friendly. While every family has its own requirements, there are a few major features that you will always want in your next car.

Safety First

Number one on most parents’ lists is safety. You’ll want to examine the National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA) ratings as well as those from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Ratings (IIHS). These are the two most respected sources to determine if the brand, model, and year you are looking at is, in fact, really safe.

Next, ensure basic standard safety features are on the car. Look for features like lane departure warnings, blind spot warnings, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, backup cameras, and parking sensors. Finally, don’t forget the airbags. Driver and passenger are standard, but what about side and side curtain airbags to protect everyone?

Depending on the age of your kids, you may have some specific needs. If you have younger kids, make sure the seats have an easy-to-use LATCH system to secure your car seats safely and consider looking for a model with alerts to inform you if you left someone in the back seat. If you have older kids, search for a car with teen driver controls and monitors to let you know your new drivers are safe behind the wheel.

One of the most popular Albany used cars, a silver 2019 Honda Odyssey, is shown from the rear at a store.

Size Matters

If you have a large or growing family, size counts. Sports cars and compact cars are ruled out. You’ll need third-row seating when your kids grow older, and you need to tow around more gear and the neighbors’ kids too. You’ll want to look for adjustability in the back seats so that as your kids mature from infant, to toddler, to teenager, you can change the seating easier.

Also, remember the pets. If you plan to take your family dog on a lot of road trips or errands, is there enough space for the pet to be comfortable? These things matter and should be considered in the used car buying process.

Creature Comforts

A trip together is much more enjoyable if everyone is happy and entertained. So make sure the used car you buy has all of the options you need to keep everyone at ease. Fortunately, it is easy to find full-loaded used cars with up-to-date technology and luxury features.

First, consider what luxury features are important to you. This might include items like heated seats, climate control, navigation, smartphone connectivity, cruise control, built-in sunshades, remote keyless entry, power doors, rear air vents, and rear climate control. You can enjoy all of these if you do some shopping around.

Entertainment system options can be endless, but some are no-brainers when you have a family. Items like a DVD player with rear-seat screens, a WiFi hotspot, USB and 12V charging outlets, and a great sound system all come to mind. However, newer cars have all sorts of optional features designed to make your life more convenient.

Then there are the little things that just make everyone more comfortable. Your checklist here might include automatic doors, power tailgates, easy folding rear seats, and childproof windows and locks. Some models even offer a conversation mirror to see entire back seat passengers easier and even a microphone so that you don’t have to yell to the third-row passengers.

Storage and Cleaning

Families have stuff, and stuff needs to be stored. Stuff also creates more messes, and messes need to be cleaned, so these are important features for families when selecting a used car.

Look for a spacious trunk and examine how much storage exists under seats. Check out the side panels, test seat configurations to see if they’ll work for your family. How will the stroller fit? What about cupholders, side pockets, cargo netting, and organizer trays? The time to check those is before buying the car, not on your first road trip. Finally, does it have a roof rack? If it does not, yet you could really use that for the family trip, you should probably add it to your must-have list.

In terms of cleaning, leather or vinyl seats are easier to clean than cloth. Some used minivans even have vacuums installed to make cleaning super simple. Perhaps ask about vinyl floor mats to replace the cloth ones as those will likely get the dirtiest the quickest.

Delight the Crew with these Used Cars

So if you’re ready to venture out to the dealer on a quest for your next family vehicle, here are some brands and models worth considering, although any reputable dealer will have a solid inventory of family-friendly used cars or can locate one in their network.

Minivans

These are ideal for large families, loaded with conveniences, and quite affordable in the used car market. Some great choices for reliable and comfortable used minivans include the following:

  • Honda Odyssey – holds eight passengers, has a vacuum and a powerful V6 engine
  • Toyota Sienna – reliable and comfortable, with multiple convenience and safety features
  • Kia Sedona – powerful V6, well-appointed interior, highly affordable when used

A close up shows the wheel on a white 2017 Chevy Malibu.

Sedans

These cars are comfortable, roomy, and easier to drive in tight spaces than a minivan. Here are some solid midsize options for a family to consider:

  • Honda Accord – a sportier sedan that is fun to drive but still fuel-efficient
  • Toyota Camry – highly dependable car with a long life and low maintenance
  • Chevy Malibu – roomy and comfortable, with nice tech gadgets and decent fuel economy

SUVs

These models offer comfort and durability, are great for city or country driving, and tend to feature multiple configurations and convenience options. Some top midsize models to check out include:

  • Chevy Traverse – fits up to 8 passengers with configurable seats and is comfortable and roomy
  • Honda Pilot – seats up to 8 passengers and is quite comfortable, with available all-wheel drive
  • Toyota Highlander – holds up to 8, loaded with safety features and plenty of storage options

Summing It Up

Buying the next car for your family doesn’t need to be a chore. It can actually be fun if you do your research and work with a reputable dealer with a wide selection of used cars. Bringing along the family can make everyone feel like they’re part of the process and is a good way to make sure everyone fits comfortably and has the features they need. With some smart shopping, you can have confidence that you’ll purchase a safe, reliable, and comfortable used car for your family.

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