Top tips for buying a family car

When it comes to buying a family car, women are well and truly in the driver's seat.

But buying your first family car or upgrading to fit in the growing tribe can be quite daunting.

Making decisions from what's out there, to what would suit your needs, to how to go about negotiating a great deal may be worrying you but follow Melissa Pye's tips and you'll select the right family car for you and have a great experience doing it!

1. Deciding What You Want

Short List

Have a look at the cars on the road and ask your friends about their cars. Work out what style you would like-a hatchback, a station wagon, an SUV, a people mover, a sports car or a sedan.

Set A Budget

New car prices vary enormously ranging from $13,000 to over $200,000. Once you've set your budget, your short list will be more useful.


Go online to have a look at the features that are important to you. This may include fuel economy, eco friendly, storage compartments, safety features and comfort features. When you're online, have a look at the RRP of the cars you like. And remember, the advertised price is always negotiable.

2. Car Features to Consider

Boot Space

How easy is it to get a pram in and out of the boot? How much space is left with the pram in there? As prams can vary enormously in size (Emmuljungas are quite big, for example) take your pram in with you. Some people choose to buy their pram first and then the car!

Child Seat Anchorage Points

Most cars will have 3, with some people movers having up to 5. Also, see where they are located. Some are towards the back of the boot, which means that the seat straps can interfere with boot space.

Storage Compartments

You can never have too many spots to put your things. There's an even greater need when you've got kids.

It's great to have somewhere to put some spare nappies/wipes for emergencies or backseat pockets and door pockets for your kid's books and games. Drink holders also come in handy. Some cars will have them in the front and rear!

Car Size

This is a dilemma for many. Going from a small hatch to an SUV or station wagon can be a big step. But do you really need a car that big?

One of the most important aspects is that you are comfortable in the driver's seat and have good visibility out of the front, side and rear windows. If you are looking at a bigger car, try reverse parking and parking it in a shopping centre car park.

I went from a small hatchback to a large station wagon thinking this is what I needed. After about a year, I went back to the small hatch!

Also consider how many children you are planning to have and over what time frame. On average, people in Australia keep their car for about 5 years. If you are planning 3 children in a short space of time, a larger car may be more practical.

Safety Features

Tip: According to a recent study undertaken by Monash University Accident Research Centre, you are less likely to be in an accident in a white car than other car colours. The least safe is black and dark colours that blend with the road colour.

When you're carrying around your precious cargo, safety becomes a priority. Here are some features worth considering.

i. Airbags. Front, side, knee and curtain airbags.

ii. Anti Lock Braking System (ABS). Helps the car to stop sooner and gives you some driving control under heavy braking conditions.

iii. Electronic Stability Program (ESP). Senses when the car is "out of control" in heavy cornering and helps to correct the car's direction.

iv. Reverse Parking Sensors. An audible sound when reversing indicating that something is behind the car.

v. Reverse Parking Camera. A camera mounted on the back of the car with a screen in the front dash/console showing what is behind the car.

vi. Seat Belts. Check how many seat belts there are in the car and that they are all 3 point seatbelts. (Some vehicles still have a lap seatbelt in the centre rear seat).

vii. Child Locks on Doors and Windows.

viii. Cargo Barrier/Net. Helps to prevent items in the boot of a station wagon or SUV from flying forward whilst driving.

3. In the Dealership

Test Drive

Dealerships may not always have the exact model you want for a test drive, so it is good to book an appointment. There's nothing worse than getting in there with the kids and there's no car to drive!

Take Kids Or Not?

If you've got kids and are going to take them with you, bring your car seats so that they can join you on the test drive. Some dealerships have play areas and activities for kids, to allow you time to discuss your needs with a sales consultant.

What Day Is Best?

Dealerships are the busiest on the weekend and you may have to wait for service. If you can, test drive during the week.

On Your Own?

A lot of women will take someone with them to a dealership. Sometimes it's for a second opinion and other times it's to get the low down on the technical stuff or to negotiate on your behalf. You're spending a lot of money so do what is comfortable for you.

4. How To Get A Good Deal

  • Buy a car in stock.
  • Buy during a factory supported sale. This is when you will see special deals being offered on television.
  • Some colours may be overstocked so you may get a better deal on a white car instead of the popular silver, for example.
  • Buy towards the end of the month or end of the year.
  • Negotiate. This may include money off the RRP of the car or items for free such as floor mats.

5. Car Servicing

Some dealerships will offer you benefits when you buy and service your car with them. Whilst you may not be thinking of these when buying your car, it is a good time to ask as they can save you time and money. Some benefits include:

  • Free car cleaning when servicing.
  • Free (or really competitive) loan cars when servicing your car.
  • A courtesy shuttle service to your nearest station or bus stop.
  • Some models come with free servicing, so take this into account when choosing your model.
  • Some premium car dealerships offer a service where they pick the car up from you and drop it off as well when you book it in for a service.

    Tip: Keep a record of your car services in the log book provided. This may net you a higher price when selling you car.

Melissa Pye is a contributor to and is the Founder and Managing Director of