By Kelly Herdrich, Contributing writer
In this tight economy, if you can pinch your pennies enough to afford a new car, you'll be pleased with not only the selection available, but also with the deals that car dealerships are willing to make to move some of their stock off the lot.
Families need more than affordability, with safety and space topping many a mom's list. If mom is trying to decide what kind of a car is the most family friendly, be sure to take the following things into consideration first.
Start with the Favorites
Consistently, some of the same family friendly cars come in ahead of the pack over and over again.
In Consumer Reports' Top 10 Vehicles for Family Travel, you'll regularly see the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna as the top minivans; the Toyota Avalon, Honda Accord and the Lexus RX top choices for moms looking for family cars.
These cars are popular for the three things moms are most concerned with when looking for family friendly cars: safety, size and budget. In addition, check JD Power and Associates, which lets you check car ratings based on factors such as car safety, dependability and overall car quality.
If a car isn't safe, moms shouldn't go anywhere near it. Start by reading up on car safety features from Consumer Reports, which tests both car manufacturers' claims and actual performance. You can watch crash test videos on its Web site -- moms would be wise to take a peek at how their car choices perform in an accident.
In addition, it offers side-by-side comparisons of family friendly cars for parents who want to see what one minivan has to offer versus another.
Newer car safety features such as built-in booster seats, child safety locks and side-impact airbags have the potential to make a car safer for both parents and children.
The more kids, the more room moms seem to need when driving. Whether or not a minivan is your style, you may be surprised that the size and space a minivan can provide is second to none. You don't have to own a full-size minivan, either.
Edmunds.com recommends the Mazda5, remarking on the smaller minivan's lower price tag and "ample storage capacity without the lumbering physique or bland styling of most full-size minivans."
The best way to determine if a car is going to be big enough for your family is to take the whole clan down to the dealership and let them sit in it. Then, have the grown-ups sit in the back of the car and think about logistics -- are there cupholders, adequate foot room for growing children, or enough space to stow a backpack?
Though the budget might be the first thing on your mind, it should come into play only after you've found a selection of cars that meet your needs in terms of safety and size. Once you have ideas of what you are looking for in a car, sedan or minivan, start thinking about pricing.
Keep in mind that a poor economy is taking its toll on the car industry, too, and you may be able to get a substantial price reduction on a car that's been sitting on the lot for a while.
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