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So you need a new family car?

By James McRoberts, Dec 2017

Choosing the best family car isn’t always as straight forward as it seems. There really is a huge amount of choices out there; we have over 60 brands in Australia. There’s just no way you could—or would even want—to spend your precious time researching every manufacturer’s options. In this article, we explore a simple six-step strategy to help you narrow down the field and determine the best family car option for you and your loved ones.

Note: safety features have not been included in any of these steps; I’m going to assume that the safety of your family is paramount in your decision.

Step 1- Who’s going to be in it?

You have to start somewhere and this is logical place to do so. We all know how many members there are in our family, right? Though we may also need to consider who may come along in the future? Will extra room be required for any expected, or potentially unexpected, future family members? Have the kids talked you into getting a dog yet? They’re going to want a dog at some point. Do you like big or small dogs? What about little Johnny and his mates, are they going to need a lift to footy on weekends? Finally, we shouldn’t forget Granny; we just love taking her out for a counter lunch on Sundays, don’t we?

What we find out here in step one will give us important clues as to what body shape and size we require. The four main model types available are: compact, sedan, SUV and people mover. Each affords differing levels of space, storage and, of course, seating.

Step 2 – Where will the car be?

It’s not just about what city you live in: its climate, topography and road conditions, although these are all key factors to consider. It could also be about where you hope it will be. Will you be heading to the slopes, going camping, heading to the outback or travelling with work?

Importantly, where are you going to be driving regularly? What are the conditions of the roads? Where are you parking and how is the access for parking at home and at work? This is a critical consideration, as you’ll want to make sure you can easily navigate your car parking areas without running the risk of damaging your new car. So if you were hoping for an SUV and have tight parking, maybe you’re better off in something little smaller.

All of these factors are critical when making your decision on what body type best suits your needs. They will also guide your decision-making in terms of some of the technical specifications for your car. Will an all-wheel drive be best to get around those corners, or will you need lots of power to get up those hills?

Step 3 – Determine exactly what you need the car for?

When we are talking about families, one thing we know for sure is that it’s no longer just about getting from A to B. So what things will you most likely be doing in your new car? Maybe it’s:

  • to get to work
  • to pick the kids up from school
  • to take the dog to the park
  • your mobile office
  • or even your mobile home
  • for going on the occasional adventure
  • for taking longer journeys up the coast or into the bush
  • to tow the boat or campervan.

How much stuff will you need to put in it? What about nipping down to the shops, gym, beach or for a coffee? How important is it that you look as stylish a possible when doing all these things?

More than likely it will be a combination of some of these and other factors that will drive your decision-making process. Start by writing a list of absolutely everything you need to use the car for, in order of importance. This will help you decide or compromise when you look at options such as model type. Though probably more pertinent here is trying to decide what accessories you want and can afford; decide which are the must-have accessories and which are the desirables.

Step 4 – Do the research

Now that you know what’s important to you, it’s time to get on those review websites. You probably spend a bit of time out on the roads already, so keep your eyes open for suitable cars you like the look of, then look them up on the net. Talk to people and find out what they think.

Of course, please don’t only look at manufacturer’s websites. Have a look for different reviews on the web. Here you’ll get critical information, in particular about safety, which will be one of the key factors in your decision. Though it’s not only expert reviews that are worth reading—look for consumer reviews on forums to see what actual customers think.

Step 5 – Go for a test drive

Now for the fun bit. By now you should have narrowed it down to one to three options. If you have more than that, I’d recommend you get ruthless and cut out those with least amount of desirables identified in step three.

Get down to your local dealership and put the pedal to the metal and take a test drive. You need to get the ‘feel’ for the cars you have chosen and maybe ask a salesperson a few questions. After test-driving your options you should know what is the best family car for you.

I always recommend you buy off your local dealer; they’ll have more incentive to make sure you are well looked after. Your opinion should matter more to them, as you can talk to other people in their local area, so don’t bother wasting time driving to multiple dealers of the same brand. They’re unable to deliver much variation in price anyway. If you must, go to only two dealers and choose the one who has the best staff and customer service, as this is general an indication of how you’ll be treated further down the line, once you own the car and need to return for servicing etc.

Step 6 – Purchasing

You’ve made your decision, so now it’s time for the fun bit: getting your hands on a brand-new car! Though before you can do that you have some other thing to consider. Firstly, how are you going to finance the car? There are quite a few different financing options available, so to find out what best suits your needs talk to the dealership’s Business Manager. They will have access to different lenders covering all the options and they have the most incentive to get you the best deal. There are also great new finance options available in the dealership, where they can guarantee the trade value of your new car when you eventually decide to upgrade to your next new car! They can also take care of insurance and extended warranties for you. Now simply pay the deposit and await delivery of your brand-new family car.