Choosing Your Home Away from Home

by Maribeth Lynch


Choosing Your “Home Away from Home” – Great Cars for Your Family

Maribeth Lynch, Thrive Real Estate Specialists

It’s your second home. Your mobile office. Your errand-running transport. It’s where you hole up during interminable soccer practices or while you’re waiting to pick up your kids in the carpool line.

Anyone with a busy family knows how much time is spent in the car and on the go. Our cars are often filled with everything from groceries to dry cleaning to sports equipment to our kids and all of their friends. So what makes a great family-friendly car that meets all of your needs?

Obviously, the answer to that question is going to depend on your priorities and lifestyle. A few considerations:

• Safety. No one wants to drive around in a car with a poor safety record or a history of worrisome mechanical issues. Fortunately, vehicle safety performance statistics are easily accessible online.

• Affordability. It’s important to find a car with payments that fit comfortably within your budget. When you’re making a calculation about how much car you can afford, don’t forget to keep in mind expenses for auto insurance, routine maintenance, registration, and annual inspections.

• Gas Mileage. Particularly if you have a long commute or plan to use your car for road trips and vacations, you’ll want a car that isn’t a gas-guzzler. Think about your needs. Do you do a lot of in-town driving? Short trips? A regular commute into the city? A vehicle’s gas mileage is also something you can research online. For information about gas mileage, emissions, and safety, visit the Department of Energy’s fuel economy website for an impartial comparison of different vehicles.

• Amenities. There’s a wide range of options to choose from when it comes to buying a car, from rear view cameras to heated seats to built-in child boosters. You might consider an entertainment system or Wi-Fi hotpot to make lengthy trips more bearable or productive. Every year, car manufacturers make more and more high-tech features available.

Another question to ask yourself is what type of car best suits your lifestyle. Minivan? Sedan? SUV? What type of car best meets your needs in terms of passenger comfort and cargo space?

This year, U.S. News and World Report ranked the best cars for families in 21 categories, with the Nissan Murano taking top honors in the two-row SUV class and best three-row SUV going to the Toyota Highlander. The Honda Odyssey ranked as the best minivan, while the best compact SUV was the Honda CR-V. For smaller families, the Volkswagen Golf was the leader in the compact category. Best midsize car was the Hyundai Sonata – it’s worth noting that the Sonata’s BlueLink system allows remote monitoring of the vehicle’s performance via smartphone, ideal for parents of teen drivers. You can find this year’s complete list of best family cars on the U.S. News and World Report website.

A lot of people find the car buying experience less than enjoyable, so it’s smart to do your research up front. I’ve found that information is available online about everything from the most popular car colors to the most commonly stolen cars to the most-researched vehicles. Consumer Reports is a great resource when buying a new car. Just as when you buy a new house, it’s a good idea to check your facts before you buy a new car.

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