Finding the right family vehicle
It is said everything changes when you have kids, and that’s certainly true for the type of vehicles you buy.
For some reason, two-seat sports cars are no longer practical for your average family.
So when the time comes to purchase a family vehicle, what are some of the nice-to-have features people should be considering and what factors should go into the decision-making process?
John MacNeil, the dealer principal at Atlantic Dodge in New Glasgow, says fuel efficiency is the top concern for most family-vehicle buyers.
“Do your due diligence,” he cautions. “People sometimes jump to conclusions about fuel economy. Manufacturers are coming out with technologies to maximize fuel economy, yet the vehicles are being designed to allow for the power and space to haul families around.”
MacNeil says that by square foot, larger, more powerful vehicles can have similar fuel economy to smaller vehicles.
Another crucial consideration is the size of your family and whether it will be growing anytime soon as this might necessitate getting a larger vehicle. For a smaller family with one to two children, a small or mid-size sedan can do the trick, while SUVs and minivans are popular with larger families.
Perhaps one of the best ways to visualize what your requirements are is by imagining that you are going on a family vacation.
“If you’re thinking about buying a minivan, you may want to consider the climate control,” says MacNeil. “How many zones are in the vehicle?”
If a vehicle only has front-dash vents, it’s going to be difficult to keep everybody happy temperature wise, which will likely make for an unpleasant drive.
“Tri-zone is a great option,” says MacNeil, noting that this allows for temperature controls where the front, middle and back row seats are. This feature is often called “rear heat and air.”
Storage is another important consideration. Are there things like armrest consoles or overhead netting so that the kids can access their stuff without it rolling around the vehicle?
“Factory DVD systems are great for long trips,” notes MacNeil.
The flexibility a vehicle offers is another important consideration.
“In most larger vehicles, the third row of seats goes down, but what about the second row?” says MacNeil.
It’s important to find out whether it is easy to change the configurations and see if they are versatile. Also, would it be easy to do with only one arm free while holding on to a baby or a stroller?
Another great feature some vehicles have is back-up cameras. With this system, a small screen is installed into your dash and shows the view from the rear of the car when you are backing up and allows you to see if you are getting too close to something.
“It will start beeping if you get too close,” says MacNeil.
Making sure a vehicle is the right fit requires careful planning and thought. For this reason, it might even be a wise idea to bring along the car seats on the test drive to make sure the system works well for you.
“Try to create the situation you are normally going to be in,” says MacNeil. “Simulate what real life is like. Make a list of what you need and what you want.”
In Nova Scotia, it is law (under the Motor Vehicle Act) that children travelling in vehicles be safely secured in an appropriate child safety seat, given their age, weight and height. According to Child Safety Link, an injury prevention program at the IWK Health Centre, the correct use of car seats, booster seats and seatbelts reduces the risk of injury by 70 per cent in car crashes involving children.
Rear-facing seats: Infants must use these seats until they are at least one years of age and weigh 22 pounds. This is the safest position for your child. Staying rear-facing longer is recommended. Many seats can be used in the rear-facing position until your child weights 35 pounds.
Forward-facing seats: Once children are one years of age and weigh 22 pounds, they can use a forward-facing seat and must continue to use it until they are at least 40 pounds. Some seats have weight capacities of up to 65 pounds, so it’s best to check the labels on your seat and find out what it says.
Booster seats: Children must be at least 40 pounds to use a booster seat and it is recommended that they be at least four years of age.
Seat belt: Under the law, children can use adult seat belts when they are either nine years of age or 4’9” tall. That being said, Child Safety Link recommends that children continue to use booster seats until they are 4’9” in height, regardless of how old they are.