This review was made possible by iConnect and Autotrader. I was provided compensation to facilitate this post, but all opinions stated are 100% mine.
Finding the right car of your growing family can be a bit overwhelming – there are about 300 new cars on the market each year, and trying to narrow it down to just one can make even the most patient shopper a bit anxious.
But following these simple steps will help you narrow down your choices and hopefully find you a car that’s a perfect fit.
Budget. First thing first – money. You don’t want to start looking and fall in love with a vehicle you can’t afford (trust me, I know from experience). Figuring out how much you can afford, and what you are willing to pay is the first step to vehicle elimination.
Size. If you have a growing family a 2-door sedan just isn’t going to cut it – and sometimes either is a 5 seater small SUV (again, I know from experience). Sometimes an SUV is the right size, sometimes it’s a mini van or even a full size van. Let me tell you from experience – don’t just go by the size of your family. Think grocery shopping, running from sports practice to another game, oh and vacations! Make sure you have plenty of room for the size of your family.
What else do you need? Besides size and budget, what else are you looking for in a vehicle? A few questions to ask yourself:
- Do I want automatic or manual transmission?
- What safety features do I want?
- Do I want 4-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive (or does it matter)?
- Do I need a lot of cargo room?
- Can I drive it without issue (being able to see rear-view mirror, see over the dash, park it without a problem, etc)
Take it on a Test Drive. By far one of the most important steps in the car buying process is test driving the vehicles you are interested in – this will be the tell-all. Is this really what you want? Does it handle well? Do you feel comfortable driving it?
I’d recommend following Autotraders.com Must-Take Test Driving Tips, such as:
- Come prepared with people and stuff.
Your test drive should mimic closely the way you use your car in day-to-day driving, so you need to bring the people and items that typically ride with you. If you have a family, take them along. Try a child safety seat to see how it fits. Throw your golf bag in the trunk. See if your lanky teenager can sit comfortably in the backseat. If you’re single and typically drive alone, bring a friend. You’ll benefit from the help of a sidekick anyway.
- Don’t follow the usual route
When you take a test drive with a dealership salesperson, it’s likely that the route won’t be very long. Nearly any salesperson will allow a longer test drive, if a shopper requests it, especially if they’re serious about making a sale. Make sure you test the road in your typical driving conditions—through neighborhoods, on the highway, and in rush hour traffic if your daily commute has you in tenuous stop-and-go traffic. And don’t forget to try driving it home, if possible, and parking it in your garage to see if it fits.
- Drive on rough roads
One of the most important places to go on a test drive is on rough roads to find out how a car drives on harsh surfaces. It would be no fun to drive home in a new car and discover later that the ride is too jarring for you to handle.
- Drive on curvy roads
After you’ve driven on a rough road and on the highway, your next stop should be a road with some curves. You’ll want to do this in order to feel the physics of the car. Is it too top-heavy? Do its motions make you carsick? And, of course, do you feel like the steering and handling is adequate for your needs? A curvy road is the best place to answer each of those questions.
- Try parking the car in various scenarios.
Many shoppers on a test drive forget a crucial aspect of driving that can be very stressful: parking. That’s why we strongly suggest that you take any vehicle and try to park it in different parking places like a crowded parking lot and even a parallel parking space. If you do, you might discover potential flaws with the car, such as a large turning radius or poor visibility. Of course, you also might find out that the car is easy to park, which can only be a good thing.
- Test the infotainment system and connect your phone.
The interface for making phone calls, answering texts and accessing the maps on your phone is probably the portion of the car you’ll interact with many times per day – second only to the steering wheel and seats. Make sure the pairing is easy, that the graphics are large enough to read at a glance. If at all possible, look for a system that is very easy to use like Chrysler’s Uconnect or either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Autotrader.com wants to help you narrow down your choices by giving you the low-down on the top 10 vehicles on the market with the annual Autotrader Must Test Drive awards program . The lineup – which is chosen by a panel of Autotrader’s experts that log thousands of test driving miles – for 2016 includes a wide range of vehicles, and might help you narrow down or point you in the direction of your next new car.