Before you go, here are some features you should consider looking for:
- Safety features. If you’re driving precious cargo around, then this is going to be your number one concern. All 2015 models and beyond should be equipped with electronic stability control to prevent skids, slips and accidents. Find out whether older cars that you’re considering have this as an added option. Also, newer cars often have backup cameras, helping to reduce the chance that you’ll hit the mailbox or, worse, a person as you back out of parking spaces and the like. If your kids are under nine years old, bring along the carseats or booster seats that you use to see if they’re compatible (though of course, it’s easier to buy a new carseat than it is to choose a new car if the model you have decided upon doesn’t quite fit your child safety restraint).
- Kid-friendly conveniences. Choose a leather or faux-leather interior for maximum wipeability; cloth upholstery can be difficult to clean, and with sticky-fingered kids, easy-to-clean surfaces are a must! Particularly if you have more than one child, you already know how important it is for them each to have enough space; I can think of few things worse than having three children squished into a standard backseat for a long drive! Consider a minivan or SUV with a third row; even if you normally have them seated together, it’s nice to be able to put one child in each row on days with high bickering levels. Backseat climate control is another boon; I know that my kids are always cold in the backseat, and it’s so nice to kick the temperature in the back up a few degrees without having to suffer from being too warm in the front seat.
- Fun extras. Consider an overhead DVD player for long car trips or just to make stressful days a little bit less of a hassle. You can get these added after the fact, of course, but it may run you a pretty penny, so it might be easier to choose a vehicle with an entertainment already included. A built-in GPS is another great feature; you’ll never have to worry about having a dashboard-mounted model rolling around after a sudden stop.
Before you head to the dealership, spiff up your trade-in to get its maximum value (fix any dents or scratches, wash the outside, clean the inside, take your belongings out, etc), and consider bringing along your spouse or a friend to help you determine whether the deal you’re offered is the best one possible. And remember that you don’t have to make a decision the day you start looking; take your time and be sure you get the car that’s right for you!