More people in your family? Kids getting older? A small car is often no longer enough. We look at cars for families of four or more to help you find your new vehicle.
There seems to be some unwritten rule that when we have a family, the amount of gear we cart around in the car increases exponentially with every added family member. If you have a large family, just going away for a long weekend can seem like the logistical equivalent of preparing for a trek to the South Pole. Getting everything together and packed is bad enough, leaving something behind could spell disaster!
For families of four or more, the idea that you can reduce the amount you take with you is nice, but not always possible. Once you accept that fact, you can look for a solution to your stowage dilemma. One starting point is to invest in roof boxes, gear racks, bike carriers and other vehicle storage equipment. However, if you’re considering buying a trailer – box, not semi! – or if your family has more members than there are seats in your current car, it’s time to look at buying a new family car.
You might want to take a seat
Five seats are standard in cars in Australia whether it’s a compact, mid-size or a larger car. For a family of four, there might be enough seat space to be comfortable in a hatchback, but it’s likely that even with a roof box there won’t be enough storage space. Likewise, a smaller five seat car, for a family of five where the family members are heading into adulthood, is going to be a squeeze. Even if everyone gets on well, the three seats in the back are going to be a tight fit: a long, extended road trip may lead to a bit of unhealthy friction.
Families of four with a reasonable expectation on the amount of luggage they take should be able to manage with a small- to mid-size wagon or small to mid-size 4WD/AWD/SUV. If that’s tight, consider if a roof box or rack will solve the space problem. A family of five with similar reasonable luggage expectations might be able to manage with a large family sedan, but a large wagon, or mid-size to large five seat 4WD/AWD/SUV will provide far greater comfort and flexibility. And we aren’t just saying that! 2017 was the first full year where SUV sales surpassed passenger carsi, reflecting the market’s increased demand for larger cars. The preference for SUVs is expected to continue in the futureii.
If your family needs more than five seats then a seven-seat vehicle may be preferable to using two cars, leaving someone home alone, or dropping someone off at the bus or train stop.
There was a time – not that long ago – when if you needed seven seats it was either a minivan or a station wagon with rear-facing jump seats, like the Volvo 240. The jump seats – like those used for temporary travel in aircraft – were basic. Facing to the rear, passengers would also be constantly staring at the cars behind hoping the approaching drivers would pull up in time. People movers were generally also, at that time, more like – vans than cars.
Since then, things have come a long way. People movers, are far better to drive, much safer and offer extensive creature comforts for all occupants. They even look good and are more aerodynamic! They’re joined by many large 4WD/AWDs that have 7 seats and offer high levels of driving and passenger refinement. Vehicles like the Toyota Prado, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Pathfinder and the Ford Everest offer seven seats and varying amounts of space. They also feature fold-able seats so that space can be made for items like prams, luggage, and sports gear.
The Toyota Tarago has the ability to seat 7 or 8 people: to keep passengers entertained the Ultima model has a rear seat entertainment system. The all-wheel drive Hyundai Santa Fe has two rows of folding seats and can fit 7 people. It is available with passenger features like touch button seat control for access to the back seats, air vents for all passenger areas, and a panoramic sun roof on select models. The diesel engine Ford Everest offers rear wheel drive and four-wheel drive variants, and even includes Active Noise Cancellation to cut engine noise for passengers. The Kia Sorento – available in petrol, diesel, front wheel drive and all-wheel drive models – offers one button access to the rearmost seats.
But these aren’t the only options available to family car buyers. A new breed of cars has risen with the arrival of the Electronic Vehicle (EV), and families aren’t left out. The Tesla Model X with 7-seater capacity is an all-wheel drive with a driving range of nearly 500km on a fully charged battery. The Lexus RX450hL is a 7-seat hybrid luxury SUV with combined fuel consumption of 6L/100km.
Safety and the environment
Safety is a key priority for any vehicle. Buying a family car with up-to-date safety features such as side-curtain airbags, ABS brakes and electronic stability controliii, and a good Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating is importantiv. If you’re concerned about the environment, investigate your potential vehicle’s green credentials at the Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide. You’ll find a Green Vehicle Guide star rating and emissions data for each vehicle, as well as information that can save you money like fuel consumption figuresv.
Purchase price and running costs
Not surprisingly, more seats, more features and more space are all likely to have an impact on both the purchase price and running costs. While a larger vehicle might be within your price range for purchase, you may find running costs to be prohibitive. Alternatively, some of the vehicles which offer greater fuel economy might be prohibitively expensive to buy and maintain. So, it’s important to consider all factors when you’re in the market for your new family machine.
When you finally do make that new family car purchase, it’s important to protect your investment in case the unexpected happens. OFI comprehensive motor insurance provides cover for accidental loss of or damage to your vehicle as well as cover for loss or damage to someone else’s property caused by a motor vehicle accident which is partly or fully your fault.
i Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, ‘Sales – Australia’s new vehicle market’, https://www.fcai.com.au/sales, viewed on August 17, 2018
ii Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries 2018, ‘Record Year for Motor Industry in 2017’, https://www.fcai.com.au/library/december_2017_vfacts_media_release_and_industry_summary.pdf, viewed on August 17, 2018
iii Dominguez, S 2015, ‘Top features in a family car’, Whichcar,
https://www.whichcar.com.au/car-advice/top-features-in-a-family-car, viewed on August 17, 2018
iv ANCAP 2010, Home, viewed 10 August 2018,
http://www.ancap.com.au/home, viewed on August 17, 2018
v Green Vehicle Guide, https://www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au/, viewed on August 17, 2018