Good car for new parents

Hi everyone - I am not a car person, and indeed have been car-less for the last two years. I live in a big city, so the need has been minimal, but my wife is pregnant and I think we’ll need a car in a few months to simplify our lives. Thus, the major requirements are:

  1. Safety
  2. Size - since we still live in the city, and do not currently have a parking spot, we would like a car that is not too large. On the other hand, we will probably be carting around a lot more stuff (strollers, etc), so it can’t be too small.
  3. Price - although we can afford most things within reason, we are also saving up for a down payment on a home sometimes in the next year, and therefore all the money spent on a car is less money to be saved for another large cost that’s looming. Plus, I hear kids aren’t cheap.

My family has mostly bought used cars in the past, so I’m certainly not opposed to getting something used. Any and all thoughts would be very welcome.

Safety is better with larger cars, and they’ll also have room for all the kid stuff. I’d go for an intermediate (Camry, Malibu, Accord, etc.).

More on car safety comparisons here:

You might also get the Consumer Reports car buyers guide, lots of info on new and used cars.

Four doors is a must, a small hatchback or wagon is handy. One tends to over pack with the first kid. Take the baby’s car seat with you when look at cars. Ease of installation and removal is important.

Ed B.

How many children are you planning to have?

If you think you will be having three or more children, I see a minivan in your future, and you might as well get it now instead of trading up in a year or two.

If you’re going to stop at two children, a large sedan will probably be enough, like the Camry or the Accord. You can always add a roof rack for long trips.

If you’re stopping with one child, I encourage you to go small and get a roof rack for long trips. Four door hatchbacks like the Honda Fit should be enough for one child.

Here’s my advice; think ahead, the first two years fly by. Most people buy an infant car seat first. It’s easy to get the cradle/carry part inserted into the fixed base and the kid is light so a smaller cabin and doorway is OK.

Now think about loading a 30+lb toddler into a modern car seat (i.e. huge with side protection too) without banging their head or yours. You’re going to be doing this loading and unloading more times than you can realize now.

Now look at the foot room left over for them in either backward or forward orientations. Just as a point of comparison, my Trailblazer is marginal, the Odyssey is a luxury. Can you get by with a cramped set up? Of course, but you’ll be cursing the choice everytime.

Modern car seats and cars have LATCH retention systems. This makes moving the seat between cars pretty easy. But I’ll bet dollars to donuts if you have more than one car, you’ll eventually buy more than one seat…

The Honda CRV is about the same size as a Toyota Rav4. The Rav4 takes up about as much space as the Yaris sedan. We park them side by side and they seem to be close in size. I think the CRV may be a great choice if you want small with some bigness added on. The conversation mirror is a good way to look into the back seat area now and then without turning around. I don’t know if the baby will be in plain sight though. I know one person with the CRV and they like it.

The cheapest way to get around is usually public transportation. Kid plus house plus car is really going to put a dent in the budget. I know several people with children who live in a large city and get along fine without a car. If you are moving to the suburbs, then the car is necessary. While you are house shopping, it is convenient to have the car to take you to see prospective home purchases. The small SUV, such as a Toyota RAV 4 or a Honda CRV may be with way to go. No matter what size vehicle you purchase for traveling with children, you will probably fill it to capacity. You will pack more carefully with a small SUV than a minivan.

Mazda 5(NOT the cx-5) would fit the bill. It’s a smaller minivan that looks more like a larger hatchback. The Ford C-Maxx is too new to really have many used ones out there, but would be another suggestion. The Cmaxx starts out at about 25k, the 5 is about 20k brand new. The Mazda 5 gets 22/28 city/highway mpg and the Cmax gets 47mpg for both, so that might make up the cost difference if you drive a lot.

You might look into zip car or a similar alternative. My sister lives in chicago, a parking space costs 30k in in her condo development, and the taxes are $2400 a year, auto insurance is pricey, and being as how you are carless at the moment a compact stroller a a bag of essentials are not to hard to deal with on public transportation.

The VW Golf has an excellent personal injury rate according to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). This organization tabulates insurance payouts for the auto insurance industry. As a small 4-door hatchback, it will meet your needs for size, safety, and frugality. Expect to pay about $19,500 for a new one with the gasoline engine, 4 doors, and an auto transmission.

Consider a Prius V wagon, it has more room than most small suvs, big rear doors and gets 45+mpg to boot. The only downside is they are 26k new, and used ones would be hard to come by as they have only been out 2 years. I would buy one of these over a small suv any day.

My son just had to upgrade his wifes car to a VW wagon to accomdate another car seat. With a house on the way and kids, my vote would be for either a wagon or a small SUV like the CR-V. With a house you need to be able to haul things like a lawn mower, ladder, peat moss, beds, etc.

Living in a large city and seeing how tough street parking can be, you have my sympathy. A biggish sedan or SUV is just not going to be practical. Nor is it essential. There will be three of you, not the big family that used to fill a big station wagon. Still, you do need some rear seat space for a car seat… The cheapest I’d consider might be a Scion xB or Kia Soul. Both are quite boxy and roomier than you’d expect from the outside. Both also have high, square-cut doors that will be easy to load. There are several compact hatchbacks that are possible, but none are quite as boxy as those two. If you really want something easy to park, nothing is roomier for its size than a Honda Fit. Yes, it’s small and something bigger would be easier to load a car seat in, but it’s surprisingly roomy in back. I’m a six-foot tall adult and can sit back there comfortably. The roof is quite high and the rear seat is higher than average.

The Mazda5 is nice because the rear doors slide like a minivan’s. It also has a third row of seats, but strictly kid-sized. The sliding doors make it unusually easy to load in a parking lot. I really like the shape of the Ford CMax, but it’s a fairly pricey hybrid for now and reliability is a question mark. The Prius has plenty of rear seat legroom, but the top of the door slopes down, so loading isn’t great. The larger Prius V would be a super family vehicle, but just a bit too large for easy street parking.

The discontinued Toyota Matrix would also be a good size and shape.

There is a good chance that 5-7 years from now, you’ll be driving your child to t-ball, micro soccer practice, birthday parties, etc, where you’ll likely find your vehicle filled with their friends.

When that happened to us, we were really glad we had a minivan to accommodate those fun-filled car rides.

Young family living in a congested city? I’d look at the Honda Fit.

You can’t go wrong with a Toyota Corolla. Chances are that you won’t need all the space that you think you will need for at least 5 years and you will probably change cars before then. The nice thing about the Corolla is its resale value so when it reaches the point that it no longer fits your needs, you will get a higher resale on it. The downside is that if you buy used, you will pay more than you would for other similar sized cars.

A Nissan Sentra or Honda Civic or Honda Fit would also be good. A used Versa hatchback would be good but avoid the Versa sedan and the new Versa hatchback.

The Mazda 5 is what a friend bought to hold her two kids plus friends on occasion and to drive around with just the four of them most of the time (two teenagers). It’s been around for several years so a good used one should be available for a decent price. Mechanically it’s the same as the 3. A Fit could fit the bill if you pack carefully (my brother has two kids age 4 and 1 year old and the VW GTI 5door he drives works for driving them around town but most of the hauling happens with the Legacy Wagon.

You can’t go wrong with a Toyota Corolla. Chances are that you won’t need all the space that you think you will need for at least 5 years and you will probably change cars before then

I have a Camry. We brought my son home in it 2.5 years ago. When he was around 1, we bought his first sitting car seat. It barely fits in the backseat of the Camry by itself, let alone with him in it.

Have you seen the new car seats?? I’m no lightweight and I can sit comfortably in the back seat. Rear facing, the car seat headrest touches the back of the front passenger seat. Forward facing, his legs are bent and touching the front seat. Plus you have to thread him in there to get through what’s left of the door not being blocked by the seat. Did I mention he’s only 2.5 yrs old? I can’t imagine trying to get him in there when he’s five. We don’t even use the Camry anymore for that reason. And no, he’s not a big kid…

TT, you can’t judge the rear seat room by the size of the car. My daughter has an 03 Corolla, I am 6’ tall and I can sit in the back seat comfortably for short drives.

When we had the 86 Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon, which was a very small wagon, I took my son down to the Nissan Dealer so he could get some parts for his Sentra. While waiting, I watched as a salesman tried to take a couple on a test drive in a new Pathfinder. The Pathfinder was at least twice the size of the Tercel, but the salesman could not get the couple in the vehicle on the passenger side.

The couple was of average size, but if either the husband or the wife was in the front seat, the back of the front seat would touch the front of the rear seat cushion. To move the front seat forward enough for either to get into the rear seat, neither could get into the front seat. The front seat back looked to be about a foot thick. The couple could have easily gotten into the Tercel on the passenger side, one in front and one in back. The Tercel seat backs were only about 2" thick though, not nearly as plush as the Pathfinder’s seats.

Not sure what point you’re making. I said I could sit in the back seat fine. It’s the car seat for the kid that’s so big it barely fits in the Camry. The Camry and Corolla you suggested are basically the same car wrt to the rear seat size.

I agree that some of the SUVs have less room than the smaller sedans. It’s harder to get into the rear seat of my TB than the Camry but some of that is due to the wierd shape of the entry way.