Q: What is a Family Car?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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A family car is defined as a car that is able to carry multiple passengers and perform the functions typical of family life, whether its running errands and dropping the kids off at soccer practice or embarking on a a road trip. This classification can include vehicles with two or three rows of seats, SUVs, wagons, and minivans.

Virtually every American, European and Japanese auto manufacturer makes family car models. If you have a family of three or four, a smaller 4-door or a wagon might do the trick. A 4-door sedan allows easy access to a car seat or travel bag in the 2nd row, while a wagon allows you to slide bulkier items in without needing to take up space in the main cabin.

Larger families may need a minivan, a bigger sedan or an SUV. A sedan can cater to the needs of up to five people and their bags. In many cases, a minivan or SUV can hold seven or more passengers and their cargo, which is ideal for families with three or more children. If you have a small family but intend to travel frequently with luggage, you may also want to look for a minivan or larger SUV to have enough space for both cargo and family members to travel comfortably.

Cabin and safety options run the gamut in family cars, and most car manufacturers offer models ranging from the simple to the luxurious. DVD entertainment systems mounted on the back of the front seats or on the ceiling are a good way to keep young kids busy while you're stuck in traffic or on a trip, and sunroofs and separate climate controls for the back of the vehicle can make riding much more comfortable. Such options are common in some minivan and SUV models, as well as being available in many sedans and wagons too. For shuttling your family around, look into a model with side airbags, or if you live in an area that ices up during the winter, you may want to consider a model with all-wheel drive.

Normally, a minivan or SUV will get worse gas mileage than a passenger sedan or wagon. However, this is not always true in every case. Hybrid vehicles, including SUVs, offer an excellent fuel economy and are becoming increasingly affordable. When you consider car options, think about how much fuel you will use when traveling and choose the sedan, wagon, minivan, or SUV that will get you -- and your family -- around town in the smartest way.

Focusing in on the features that make the most sense for you and your family will help cut down today's ever-populous field of family cars. In the end, the decision is about your family's safety, happiness and well-being, and the right call can mean years of great service from -- and memories of -- your family car.

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