Before having kids, I adored my car. It was a blue Honda Civic and I loved everything about it. I kept my car spotless inside and out and loved taking road trip adventures. Once we started our family, my precious Honda needed to be replaced with another car that was more practical for a life with kids. Based on my experience, I have learned some of the best features to look for buying a family car.
Top Safety Systems
Naturally, nothing is more important than the safety of your children. In the unfortunate event of a collision, it is important to have the best safety systems to reduce the chance of injury.
In North America, automotive industry regulators are fairly quick to make new safety technologies mandatory in new cars. However, there are other ‘bonus’ safety features worth considering. For instance, safety bag curtains for rear seats, steel cross bars for side doors, etc…
There are also different safety rating systems available. The most reputable rating system is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This government organization provides impartial safety ratings for all vehicles sold in the United States.
Rear Door Lock Controls
An essential safety feature of any four door vehicle are the rear door locks that prevent our little passengers from being able to open the doors. Most cars have the door lock switch located in the side door jam.
Some car manufacturers have moved this door switch to a more prominent location. For instance, the Chevrolet Equinox includes electronic rear door locks in the front control panel as a standard feature.
By no means is this feature essential, but it provides reassurance with a visual indication of the rear doors being locked out as well as convenience with being able to turn off the door locks for older passengers.
Front Passenger Seat Rear Kick Plates
No road trip with the kids is complete without the kids kicking the back of the front passenger seats. During the winter months in a snowy climate, this lovely habit of children can make a mess of your car with salt and mud covering the back of your seats.
Smartly designed vehicles with families in mind cover a portion of the back of front seats in plastic. This saves the car fabric from being destroyed and makes clean up a breeze with only soap and water, or in some cases, baby wipes.
Sliding Rear Bench
Admittedly, I had never heard of this feature before having kids and my Chevrolet Equinox. With two kids in tow, having a rear bench that can slide back and forth is a really nice feature.
Kids driving you around the bend with their incessant kicking of the back of your seat? Simply slide their bench back away from your front seat and problem solved!
Need more space in the truck for your weekend trip to the cottage? Move the bench forward to maximize your rear truck space to carry all your luggage.
Automatic Window Lock-out Controls
Shortly after our kids discovered their windows rolled down, we’ve been inundated with requests to have their windows down. Sadly, these requests have no regard for the weather.
It’s at times like these I’m thankful for the ability to lock out the power window switches in the back of the car. Without this feature, I could not imagine making long trips with the kids.
If your car has power windows, it most likely has this feature as it’s been around for a long time. Note that some cars will lock out all windows and some cars only lock out the rear windows, which is a bit nicer.
Rear Tinted Windows
Aside from making your car look really cool, tinted windows for your rear windows offer a real practical benefit. Darker rear windows can help protect your children from the harmful effects of the sun and reduce the amount of glare. It can also reduce the amount of heat that enters the car.
Most importantly, by having a car with rear tinted windows, you no longer need to buy after market window shades, which never seem to work properly.
Removable Rear Seat Headrests
If your car has headrests on the rear seats, it is really helpful if the headrests can be moved or removed altogether to accommodate front-facing car seat installations. These car seats have a rear tether anchor, which can be quite difficult to install if there are headrests in the way of the anchor point.
Higher Vehicle Height
While not essential, a higher vehicle can make it easier on your back when loading kids in and out of your car. A car that is closer to the ground requires you to reach further down to clip in all of the belts and buckles.
Best After Market Feature
After buying our Chevrolet Equinox, our best decision was to buy a seat cover for the rear bench. Admittedly, the cover is intended for dogs and other pets, but I would argue children are messier than animals. This seat cover is made of sturdy nylon and it is waterproof. It contains all the food and garbage left by our kids, leaving our seat fabric fresh and new looking.
What are some features in a car that you find useful with kids?
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