First-Time Buyers: Buying Your First Family Car

CARS.COM — Nowadays, achieving adulthood often means having college debt, a burgeoning career and perhaps even love, marriage and the beginnings of a family. If you or your partner has a bun in the oven, there are a few things to consider before you start cruising your local dealerships to check out a new or used car. After all, a car is the second largest purchase most of us will ever make!

Plan Ahead

  • Have the talk: Whether your future has one child or four (or more, oh my!), now is a good time to talk with your spouse or partner about just how many kids you'd both like to have before buying a new car. There's no sense in buying a Honda Odyssey minivan or Ford Expedition SUV if you're only planning on having two kids. Of course, plans are just that, plans, and they can change as quickly as it takes for a pregnancy test to turn positive.
  • Talk to your friends: Speak with friends, acquaintances and even strangers who are driving family cars, be it a Honda Civic sedan or Subaru Outback SUV. Find out what they like and don't like about the car, as well as its purchase price. Also, reach out to your social media networks for feedback on what they're driving their kids around in. 
  • Read reviews: Cars.com has millions of reviews and ratings from other expecting parents and first-time buyers just like you. Hearing from others who have had first-hand experience with a car, car dealership and even a salesperson is incredibly valuable.

Time to Dig Deeper

Investigate Family-Friendly Features

  • Car-seat fit and cargo: Becoming a parent means days filled with baby snuggles and cars filled with child-safety seats and tons of baby gear. Check out our Car Seat Checks, where we examine a car's Latch access and car-seat fit. Don't forget that you'll need some serious cargo space in your new family car to haul all the bulky baby gear, such as a stroller, portable crib and more.
  • Safety: This is a big category that covers crash tests, such as those performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (make sure to pay close attention to the agency's small overlap frontal crash test).  Features like backup cameras, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitoring systems are also evaluated. When it comes time to test-drive, check out cars with advanced safety systems to find out whether they're an affordable first family car. 

Rubber Meets the Road

  • Testing, testing: It's time to go to the dealership to see your list of cars in person. If you can, test-drive the cars you like back-to-back and preferably over the same roads. Use your test-drive findings to narrow your list.
  • Attention, please: During test drives, pay attention not only to how the car drives and brakes, but also to things such as step-in height, storage areas for smaller items, rear-seat space, and where the cupholders and bottleholders are located. 

Head Back Online

  • A little more research: Now that you've got a few vehicle options you're serious about, it's time to do some research on the car dealership. Use Cars.com's Dealer Reviews to find out what other car buyers have to say about a dealership you're considering working with.
  • Find your salesperson: Once you've selected where you're going to buy or lease, figure out who you're going to purchase from. Check out Cars.com's or DealerRater's Salesperson Reviews on each dealer profile page.
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