You probably have a list of things you need to buy before the baby arrives – changing mat, moses basket, stroller, and so on. But what about some new wheels for the family? If you purchased your current car for its compact size or sporty style, it might be time for an upgrade.
Babies might be tiny, but they take up a lot of space in the car. Car seats are huge, and your baby will need one for years to come. Not to mention the stroller you’ll somehow have to fit into the boot. Add to that the travel cot, potty, and highchair you’ll need to take for overnight stays, and it’s easy to see why boot size is essential!
You’ll be spending hours in the car over the next few years, as your family grows. Your baby will grow from a toddler to a school-aged child to a teen. There might even be a few extra kids on the back seat. You’ll certainly need to find a car that will suit your family during this busy, wonderful, chaotic stage of your life.
Cars cost a lot, so it’s understandable if you find the decision daunting. Don’t be intimidated, though; your perfect family vehicle is out there waiting for you.
Here are some car buying tips to help you select the ideal vehicle for your growing family:
New or used?
Should you buy a brand-new vehicle or opt for one that’s already been ‘broken in’? This decision is likely to be influenced by your budget. If a brand new car isn’t an option, that’s fine. You’ll save money if you buy second-hand.
It’s important to bear in mind that new cars lose as much as 30% of their value in the first year of ownership, so you need to consider whether or not this makes financial sense to you as a family. The good news is you can get a nearly new car a lot cheaper if you buy second-hand.
If you opt for a second-hand car, make sure you choose one with a dealer warranty of at least two years. If you have a trusted car mechanic, ask them to give the car a once-over before you sign on the dotted line.
Stick to budget
It’s essential to work out in advance what your budget is – and then stick to it. Babies are expensive, and you don’t want to overspend on a car and have to scrimp elsewhere. If you’re opting for monthly payments, make sure you’ll still be able to afford them when you’re on maternity leave. Don’t ever sign up for a monthly payment that will leave you broke.
Be realistic about what you can afford, and be sure to work it out in advance. Don’t waste time ogling cars out of your price range. Be firm with car dealers about what you are able to spend, and don’t let them talk you into a car outside your predetermined limit. There’s no point in having a car you can’t afford because you’ll never be able to go anywhere nice in it.
It’s often the case that dealer finance won’t give you the most competitive rates. Seek pre-approval with a trusted lender so you can avoid dealer finance altogether. Look carefully at the breakdown of exactly what you’ll be paying throughout the life of the loan, beware of unnecessary extras, and if possible, opt for secured car finance to avail lower interest rates on your car loan.
By getting pre-approved, you can negotiate better terms and get the best possible interest rate. You can use your pre-approval as an easy way to say no to add-ons and extended warranties when you’re negotiating and closing the deal in the finance and insurance offices.
When it comes to the family car, size definitely matters. If you have your heart set on a particular stroller, check it will fit in the boot of your new vehicle. You might be surprised at how many car boots are too small for family life. Speak to friends who have children and ask them what they think of their car boot space. And if you’re planning on taking family camping trips in the future, you’ll want a car with plenty of room.
If you’re welcoming a third child, you will need to make sure your new car can fit all three car seats in the back. When you visit the car dealers, it’s worth taking all your car seats and trying them out in different models until you find one that works. You need to be able to get all three children in and out of the car quickly, so make sure there’s enough space between the seats to let you unfasten their seatbelts easily.
If you’re on the road a lot, you might want to invest more in your car than you would if you only use it infrequently. Will you be making lots of shorter journeys, or using it to travel across the country? The longer you spend in your car, the more comfortable you will want it to be.
Will you need plenty of cup-holders and clever storage solutions? Are you hoping for a DVD player to entertain the kids on long journeys? Is an easy-to-use navigation screen high on your list of priorities? Each family has different needs, so spend time figuring out what yours are before you start looking for a car.
Check the safety ratings
Safety is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing a car for your family. After all, your precious children deserve a safe chariot to get them from A to B. Once you’ve made a shortlist of potential cars, go online to check their safety ratings to make sure you’re choosing a good model.
It’s worth speaking to friends and family here, too. Ask your friends whether they would recommend their cars and whether they’ve had any problems with them. Some cars are notorious for their faults and tend to spend a lot of time in the garage; you can avoid them by asking for reviews from car owners.
Futureproof your purchase
If you know you want three children, get a big family car today to avoid the need to upgrade in a few years. Think about how long you’ll want to keep the car, and how your life might change during that time. Buy the right car for the future, not just the car for right now. Think about strollers, muddy football boots, and grumpy teens; the vehicle you buy will be a part of your family for years to come.
Once you’ve figured out how much you have to spend and what you want, then go car shopping. Don’t rush the process; if you’re buying second-hand, you might have to wait for the right car to come on the market.
You don’t need to make an immediate decision, although you do have a deadline. Aim to have the new car by the time the baby arrives; car shopping with a newborn won’t be any fun. You’ll feel great when you can tick this big job off your to-do list.
Good luck with finding your perfect family vehicle.