Choose the Right Family Car

Blog Article

Albert Pretorius
Dealer Principal for Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo in Cape Town
I find that the biggest mistake made when buying a family car is that the dad makes the decision and does not get the family involved at all. For children, the car must be cool. You need to get them involved when you buy. You will be sorry if you don’t. We see many people making this mistake and then coming back to get the cool car.
Statistics show that the wife and children are actually the most influential when a family car is chosen, and it’s for good reason, although one obviously has to be circumspect. A good way of involving them is for dad to supply a range of options, or perhaps allow them to at least choose the colour.
Volvo offers comfort and lots of features, but the main reason I’d choose it is one of safety: I know that if my family were involved in an accident, they would have a much better chance of survival than in any other car.
When looking for a larger car, it’s a good idea to think of a weekend car that dad can drive during the week. Then, the things to look for are space, lifestyle, bicycle racks and 4x4 ability. When it comes to smaller cars, the criteria should be safety, economy, space for the sports gear and aircon. Also note that there should be a safety net for the dog, and each child should have their own demarcated area, because most fights start in the back of a car.
Of course, fuel efficiency, eco-friendliness and boot size are all important too, and are all reasons why our family drives Volvos. We also need to look at driving cars with low CO2 levels or that use diesel.
Of course, we can’t always afford the car of our dreams, and my advice to a cash-strapped parent would be to identify what you would like to own and then to speak to your certified dealer about finding a demo model. This way, you will get the same vehicle, but for a better price. And note that if you buy a second-hand car, you should always go to an approved dealer or insist on a quality check. You should never compromise on service and maintenance plans. Parts are expensive, and a cheap buy now can become very expensive in the long run.
Sean Bacon
Regional Dealer Principal of Imperial Motors, Randburg
The biggest mistake people make when buying a family car is that they forget the golden rule: purchase the correct vehicle for the correct application. When choosing a car, I think that parents should always consider what their children’s likes and dislikes are, but there are other factors that need to be considered before a firm decision is made. Children don’t necessarily think of aspects such as safety features, pricing, resale value, fuel efficiency, practicality, driveability or user-friendliness, or insurance on the car, and these are all vital to consider.
I regard the most important consideration when buying a family car to be its safety features, followed by practicality – for example, will it fit into the garage? Do the children’s car seats fit in as per manufacturer’s recommendations? Is the family size likely to increase? But each family should also take their lifestyle into account. For example, do they enjoy camping, where they will need fold-down seats? Do they enjoy quad biking which means they will need to do a lot of towing? Do they go to game reserves where it’s better to have a 4x4 and higher vehicle to have a better view?
A vehicle like the Toyota Corolla Verso takes first prize for boot space, good fuel efficiency and great safety features. It’s a very practical vehicle and easy to drive, especially with its park-distance control.
Anthony Ellis
Dealer Principal of Auto Umhlanga BMW
I’d say that the most frequent mistake people make when buying a family car is that they don’t look thoroughly at what they actually need, and instead they concentrate predominantly on the price. A family needs to assess its needs first and foremost. For example, I would never sell a Mini to someone looking for a car for a large family. However, the Mini Cooper is a fun car and be a great mom’s taxi if you’re only lifting one child. A larger vehicle, like a 730 BMW diesel, is like a travelling couch and makes a long-distance drive an absolute pleasure.
I strongly believe that children should be involved in some way in the decision. I see it in my business all the time. Children often have fresher ideas and they keep up with new trends. They also are often more aware of technological innovations than their parents, who may have outdated preconceptions.
When choosing a larger car, I’d say the chief guidelines should be safety features, such as ABS systems, air bags and dynamic stability control. Only then consider price. After price, think about fuel efficiency, and this includes how much you drive. If you’re doing around 4 000km per month, then diesel becomes a worthwhile choice, but because diesel cars are more expensive, if you’re doing much less, it won’t be such a good choice. The fourth thing a family should look at is boot size, followed by how eco-friendly the car is. There is a bigger range of green cars now than ever, and BMW has several options, mainly because they all originate in Germany, with its long-standing tradition of minimising emissions. And motor plans are important, too. They give peace of mind and cover you for up to five years or 100 000km, which can mean a huge saving.
Check list
Sit down as a family and think about your lifestyle and how you need to use the car. Is it a getaway vehicle for holidays? A city runabout? A children’s taxi ferrying you between extramurals that all involve a lot of gear? Think about how much boot space you’ll need. Do you need to factor in a pram? Think about taking a pram with you when you view a car to see how much space is left for shopping bags, cricket clobber and the like. Have you finished having children, and how old are your children? Make sure you consider whether your new car will accommodate a car seat if you’re intending to add to your family in the near future, and don’t forget that you may have to use the car for lift clubs, so you will need the extra space.
Don’t be too impressed by a multitude of small storage spaces, cubbyholes and side pockets – they’re no good if you can’t actually get anything into them. And look for small storage spaces that are accessible to back passengers, too. They are very useful, especially on a long trip: your children can have toys and colouring books at their own fingertips.
  • Make sure your car has well-engineered air bags and seat belts.
  • Look for electronic stability control: this includes individual brakes to all four wheels thereby limiting skids. Look for ABS anti-lock brakes: these also prevent skidding.
  • Look at any potential family car’s Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) scores. This is a rating system that shows how safe a car is in three categories: adult occupant, child protection and pedestrian rating. Check at

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