Getting ready for your first baby is a lot like preparing to ride out a hurricane: Hoard the supplies and hunker down for a wild ride, one that is often messy, unpredictable and dripping — sometimes literally — with excitement, terror and mysterious liquids.
One way to get ahead of the chaos is to plan what you can, and one thing you can figure out in advance is your ride. You'll need something safe and roomy to carry your precious cargo — and all the cargo that comes along with her, from a space-hogging car seat to a cruise-ship-sized bag of bottles, diapers and other gear.
Many of Cars.com's editors know this all too well — our staff is loaded with parents, grandparents, godparents and even dog parents. Check out their picks for a family car that checks all the boxes.
"Save the planet one trip at a time by choosing a Chevrolet Bolt EV for your family car. This compact hatchback is an electric vehicle with an EPA-estimated 238-mile range. It also has a surprisingly roomy interior, with plenty of room for a rear-facing infant seat. The Bolt EV earned high marks in its Car Seat Check, too." — Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief
"You got one now, but who are you kidding? A 2015 Pew Research study notes that families with children have, on average, 2.4 kids apiece. Most parents clearly don't stop at one. Odds are you won't, either, and someday that two-row SUV just won't cut it. Make peace with the minivan now and you won't have to upsize for years to come. As the sliding-door crowd goes, the Chrysler Pacifica boasts drivability and family comforts to class-topping levels, even against its redesigned archrival, the Honda Odyssey. Oh, and Chrysler's Stow 'N Go seats will come in handy when your brood gets big enough that you finally have to ditch that trendy city condo for the fenced-in yard in the 'burbs. Applebee's is calling; resistance is futile." — Kelsey Mays, senior consumer affairs editor
"Even though first-time parents would have way more room than they'd need (unless they had triplets or quadruplets), a minivan like our Best of 2017-winner Chrysler Pacifica still makes a lot of sense. Power-sliding side doors are helpful when your hands are full of baby gear, and the sliding doors and taller ride height make it easier to use child-safety seats than in a lower-riding car. Plus, minivans have a lot of room for bulky strollers and all the other things that go along with kids." — Mike Hanley, senior research editor
"As a parent (four kids), grandparent (currently eight) and dog parent (four), my vehicle pick for first-time parents is that flexible box on wheels, the Ford Flex. This wagon wannabe offers a decent amount of cargo room, seating for six or seven, a low step-in height and doors that open wide — making it easy to buckle kids into car seats or attach seat belts to dog travel harnesses, or both. These attributes make it a great around-town and road-trip vehicle. While its safety ratings are not top-notch, the Ford Flex does get a good rating in four of five tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Bonus: With the Flex, you can skip the soccer parent minivan look." — Jen Burklow, assistant managing editor, production
"No shopping list for first-time parents would be complete without a look at the Honda CR-V, a vehicle arguably purpose-built for new parents and small families. There is no pretense of sportiness, but it doesn't look cheap — and in exchange you get a work truck for your new job. Starting with the second-level EX value model ($28,045, including a $995 destination charge), it hits the big three for a new family: space, economy and safety.
"There is not only adequate cargo space with a low lift height (the smaller the child the bigger the stuff you have to haul for a family trip) but also storage throughout the cabin for all the stuff you need at hand, including a large console bin space configurable to meet your needs. It won't break the bank with its 28/34/30 mpg EPA ratings. And the EX also has standard the Honda Sensing full suite of safety and driver assistance, a multiview rear camera, Top Safety Pick crashworthiness scores and excellent scores in Cars.com's Car Seat Check." — Fred Meier, Washington, D.C. bureau chief
Just because you're a parent, does not mean an immediate relo to the 'burbs (Kelsey!). City families will need something compact, comfortable and practical, and the Kia Soul delivers — plus it's not as small as it looks. Its wide, flat backseat is two-car-seat friendly, and although its cargo area may not be up for a Costco run, it can manage regular grocery duty just fine. Bonus: It's got both style and spunk — especially the turbo model — which are two other qualities new parents may think they have to give up (but they don't). — Jennifer Geiger, news editor
"Becoming a parent doesn't mean you have to give up the cool car. The Jeep Grand Cherokee allows you to hold onto your inner child thanks to its plentiful trim levels. Want to go fast? Get the Grand Cherokee SRT with its 475-horsepower, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 and make grocery trip runs something you want to do. Want to go even faster? There's the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk with its 707-hp, supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 — though this might be a tough sell to the more responsible spouse. For those who'd rather experience the great outdoors with a little one in tow, there's the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk with full-time all-wheel drive, an adjustable air suspension and more. Oh, and the Grand Cherokee fits three car seats across its backseat — just in case you need room for more kiddos in the future." — JN
Size and comfort are important when choosing a family car, but so are features. Subaru's new three-row Ascent SUV offers an appealing blend of all of these must-haves. Some family-friendly standouts include loads of standard safety equipment, 19 cupholders (or baby bottleholders, sippy cupholders, snack cupholders ...) and — back to the mysterious liquids — spill-resistant cloth seats. — JG
"My wife and I love our 2010 Subaru Outback. Bought it when our 2001 Honda Accord died the week our first kid was born. We're both tall and having rear-facing cars seats in the second row doesn't impact front row legroom for us." — Evan Sears, assistant managing editor, photo
"We're in the middle of first-time parenthood owning a 2012 Subaru Impreza hatchback, a semi-utility vehicle that's more versatile than a sedan, and my recommendation is to go big for the first car — like three-row-SUV big. Specifically, the Volkswagen Atlas. It's massive on the inside but drives like a smaller car, and has real room in the third row for adults, which is necessary if you live near family or have friends nearby with older kids. You can fit an infant seat in the middle and have plenty of room for a pair of grandparents flanking the LO (little one, as I'm finding is an acronym on parenthood forums, which I regret finding — they never make you feel better) and bonus room in the third row for older cousins. Every time I get to take the Atlas for a weekend from Cars.com long-term fleet, it's a sigh of relief knowing that there will be room for everything we plan to carry, plus all the unplanned stuff we inevitably end up carrying (there's always more than you bargained for)." — Joe Bruzek, managing editor
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