Where did the summer go? It seems like only yesterday that we were wrapping up the last school year and getting ready for a summer vacation—and now the stress of gearing up for endless kinder-schlepping is already upon us. Nerves are further frayed if you have a teenage kid who is a new driver. Buying a car ideally suited to family life seems like a great idea, but negotiating a good deal–when you are short on time and distracted with other things— adds more stress to an already challenging shopping experience.
Roadster.com can help. Getting Roadster to find your desired family car, and negotiate on your behalf, makes sense any time of the year. But when you’re swamped with family and work, it’s practically a necessity.
During this busy time, your focus should not be on deal-making or wrangling favorable finance/lease terms. And nobody wants to kill three-quarters of a day sitting around, waiting for the finance department to get all the paperwork together. Your focus should be on deciding which model is best for your lifestyle, budget, and transportation needs.
Choosing the Family’s Ride: Get Practical with a Small SUV
You might not want to be reminded about this fact, but somebody has to say it: family life is about practicality and sacrifice. Put aside your desire for that little roadster, a high-horsepower beast, or the ultimate in luxury. You don’t have to immediately resort to a minivan, but your top priorities should be space and safety.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that bigger, heavier cars are safer cars, and serve as better protection in a crash. Fortunately, the emergence of the so-called crossover SUV means you have great choices for something that’s easy to handle and park (especially for new drivers) — and doesn’t swallow you up when driving solo.
When thinking about safety, there’s one essential feature: electronic stability control (ESC). There’s no other active safety device that has more potential to reduce the risk of a single-car crash than ESC. The technology, which utilizes both anti-lock braking and traction control, greatly reduces the risk of skidding. Essentially, the car’s sensors and computers detect when the car is out of control, and apply individual brakes (while reducing engine output) so the driver can safely regain control.
So, what should you get? Here are a few ideas, based on highly rated brands that offer an SUV suitable to a young driver—or allow you to bump to three rows if you have extra human beings hanging around the house.
Honda CR-V (Starts around $24,000)
Need Three Rows? Jump to a Honda Pilot
It’s hard to find a vehicle that better combines safety, comfort, and convenience than a Honda CR-V. It’s loaded with standard features. The amount of cabin room is among the best in its compact SUV class. And it gets great fuel economy at 27 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The CR-V’s standard four-cylinder engine is responsive and smooth. Its handling feels secure. The base CR-V comes with a rearview camera, which allows easier and safer backing out of a driveway.
If you need three rows, consider spending about $5,000 more on a Honda Pilot, which provides a roomy cabin, premium interior materials and car-like ride. Like the CR-V, there’s a luxury feel to the Pilot’s cabin, without bringing along a bigger price tag that comes with a premium brand.
Toyota Highlander (Starts around $30,000)
Want Something Greener? Get a Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The Toyota Highlander is the quintessential affordable three-row family hauler. It offers a compliant ride and roomy seating. Obviously, the Highlander is not a sports car, although the V6 variant is powerful enough, while keeping average fuel economy in the low 20s. The Highlander’s purpose is to provide family service, allowing you to carry all the kiddies’ gear, to serve reliably, and to be safe. The Highlander gets high marks on those attributes.
Toyota was obviously thinking about families, when it installed features such as “Drive Easy Speak,” which allows you to speak to rear passengers via a microphone delivered to stereo speakers, and a pass-through cable organizer for wrangling multiple connected devices.
If you want to invest $10,000 or so in fuel economy—while sending a message to the kids about environmental stewardship—then consider the gas-electric Highlander Hybrid. With this option, you add class-leading fuel economy to the conventional model’s winning combination of three rows, generous interior space, and great safety ratings. It’s an impressive bump from 20 mpg to 28 mpg in combined city-highway fuel efficiency for a three-row vehicle. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 and three electric motors that produce 280 horsepower. All-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) are standard.
Honda Odyssey (Starts around $29,000)
Want an alternative brand? Consider a Toyota Sienna.
You might not immediately gravitate toward a minivan, but there’s a reason that families love them so much. Simply put: they provide unparalleled space and comfort. And in recent years, minivans have shed some of their reputation as slow and boring, when in fact, these 250-plus horsepower vehicles have plenty of pep.
The Honda Odyssey consistently earns top awards for best minivan—based on its remarkable combination of interior space, reliability, and safety. The ride is not only comfortable, you might even call it athletic—considering its capable V6 engine, responsive steering, and strong brakes. And in the way that counts most for family-haulers—comfort for three rows of passenger—the Odyssey is considered one of the roomiest in its class. When you add up the long list of standard features, and cool family-friendly touches like a built-in vacuum, the Odyssey becomes a no-brainer choice for your clan. The final touch is the admirable fuel economy for a minivan—an EPA-estimated 19/28 mpg city/highway.
Everything we just said about the Odyssey pretty much holds true for the Toyota Sienna. Well, the Sienna doesn’t have quite as much seating flexibility and is not quite as fuel efficient — but it’s very close. In the end, it comes down to which brand and styling you like best.
GMC Terrain (Starts at about $26,000)
Need Three Rows? Jump to a GMC Yukon
The GMC Terrain is another great option. Compared to the Pilot, the Terrain has more truck-like styling, while earning praise for its high-quality cabin materials and spacious seating. We recommend opting for the V6 301-horsepower engine choice, which is more responsive than the base four-cylinder option. The Terrain’s truck-ish qualities provide an exceptionally quiet ride—well suited for road trips—although handling is not its strong suit.
GMC’s bump up to a three-row family vehicle—capable of carrying eight people— brings you to a Yukon. That adds another $10,000 to $15,000 in price. The Yukon is a sizable SUV, with a powerful standard V8 engine. Nonetheless, critics say that the Yukon is one of the best handling large SUVs, and praise its plush interior. As you might expect, the fuel economy takes a hit, dropping to an estimated 16/23 city/highway mpg.
As these choices reveal, the number of capable and affordable family vehicles is bigger than ever before. You don’t necessarily have to immediately jump to a minivan, but it’s always an option. You have to start somewhere, and we hope these choices from Honda, Toyota and GMC get you going in the right direction.
After you make your choice, don’t forget to reach out to Roadster.com, to get a great price, and get the deal done fast.