If you’re a parent, you have a lot on your mind. You’ve got your kids’ activities, doctor appointments and homework to keep track of, not to mention your work responsibilities and everything that goes into running a house. Your car is probably far down the list of things you think about on a regular basis.
There is one type of parent who probably thinks a lot about their car: parents who bought one that doesn’t work for their family. The wrong family car can make time on the road miserable. An unreliable family car strands the whole family, making them depend on others for rides or miss out on activities altogether. A too-small family car makes everyone cramped, uncomfortable and testy. A too-big family car is a pain to drive and guzzles gas. An unsafe family car puts the whole family at risk.
As important as finding the right family car is, wading through today’s automotive market to find the right car for your family is confusing. Lots of cars offer family-friendly features and plenty of passenger and cargo space. It’s hard to know which car is the best family car.
The U.S. News Best Cars for Families Awards make finding the right family car easy. The winning cars in each class have the best combination of reliability ratings and crash test scores, positive reviews from professional automotive writers, interior space and features like rear-seat entertainment systems, flexible seating and cargo and even Wi-Fi hotspots. There are 17 winners across 18 automotive categories, so it’s easy to find the right car for your family’s lifestyle.
There is an interesting twist to the awards, though. While all of the winning cars offer high-tech features that make family life easier, even if you forgo options like navigation or a drink chiller on the winners, you’ll still get an excellent family car. For example, the base Subaru Outback has the same cargo, passenger space, safety and reliability as the model that comes with Bluetooth music streaming and navigation, but costs more than $12,000 less. The base Honda Odyssey has the comfort, space, cargo flexibility and crash test ratings to make it a great family car, but if you want things like a 16.2-inch screen for rear-seat entertainment, you can get it.
Having the kids tucked into the back seat watching videos or playing online games can make time in the car more pleasant, but so can a round of “I Spy” or simply having everyone talk about their day. The 2012 Best Cars for Families award winners are cars, SUVs and vans that have high-tech, family-friendly features available, but they all come standard with plenty of space, reliability and crash protection. As any parent will tell you, those are the most important features of all.
Check out the full list of 2012 Best Cars for Families winners.