10 things to consider when buying a family car

family and dog in the car

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted July 12, 2023

Out with the two-seater and in with the SUV: here are the top 10 things to think about when buying a family vehicle.

So, you’ve gotten rid of your coupe, ute, or sportscar, and you're settling into family life and looking for a new car to match. As well as the usual safety, pricing, and reliability options, deciding on a family vehicle comes with a few more boxes to check.

From whether it fits a child's car seat to boot space and functionality, here are some key factors to consider when buying a car to keep the whole family happy. 

Checklist for buying a family car in Australia

1. Safety Features

Safety should always be a top priority when it comes to choosing any car, and especially one for the family. Look into the car’s ANCAP rating, which crash tests over 1,000 cars to get the most up-to-date information on the vehicle’s safety rating each year.

You should also investigate the car’s safety features, including airbags, anti-lock brakes, light operation, head restraints, seatbelts, and its electronic stability control to determine whether it meets the requirements for you and your family. 

In a more modern vehicle, you may also wish to consider enhanced safety features, such as blind spot monitoring, a reversing camera, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning with your precious cargo on board. 

If purchasing second hand, ensure the car has passed a roadworthy inspection to provide peace of mind for you and your family in your new vehicle.  

2. Functionality, Space and Comfort

A family car should be spacious enough to accommodate everyone comfortably. Look for cars with ample legroom, headroom, and enough space in the boot for items like prams, school bags, luggage, beach or snow equipment, and other miscellaneous items.

While a two-seater or mini-SUV may have been fun when you were on your P-Plates, have a go in the backseat to test for room and comfortability. If you have a young child, does the backseat allow for a baby seat to be installed safely? If a rear-facing seat is installed is there still adequate room for the front seat passenger? Does the middle seat have a safe seatbelt if you were to have three people in the back? Is it roomy enough for older kids or driving with a dog?

You may also want to consider features like adjustable seats, climate control, and entertainment systems to keep everyone happy on long family road trips.


child in car seat

Does the car have ample room for a child seat in the back if required? Image: Getty. 


3. Fuel and / or battery efficiency

With rising petrol prices, fuel efficiency is becoming increasingly important. Look for cars with good mileage, or battery range on hybrid or electric options, and efficiency features such as start-stop technology.

While there are ways to save on fuel when driving, you can also look to use arevo to find the cheapest fuel near you.

4. Reliability

 A reliable car is essential for any family. The last thing you want is a car that appears shiny and new at the dealer, only to turn into a lemon two weeks later.

When doing research, look for a car with a good track record for reliability, safety and fuel efficiency, and low maintenance costs.

If it is a used or second-hand family car, has it been regularly serviced? Does the owner or dealership have the vehicle history on hand? Are any warranties included?  

Look at RACV’s trusted online car reviews that provide information on the reliability, efficiency, safety features and affordability of a range of family vehicles, from the best medium SUVs of 2023 to the most affordable and underrated used cars out there. 

5. Affordability

A family car can be a big investment, especially in the current market for cars both new and used, so it's important to consider your budget before signing the dotted line.

If you are more interested in purchasing a family-sized electric vehicle (EV), take a look at any rebates or incentives that may apply to assist with the cost in your area.

Whether it is an EV, hybrid, or petrol family car, look for a vehicle that fits within your price range and offers good value for the money, while still aligning with your family's needs.

You may also want to consider financing options and incentives. RACV offers a range of car finance options^, from finance for new cars and used vehicles, to green car loans for electric vehicles.


ANCAP car safety check

Does the family car you want pass ANCAP's safety test? Image: Supplied. 


6. Car running costs

As well as the down payment for the car itself, it is important to factor in ongoing costs toward maintaining your vehicle, and factoring this into your overall purchase.

This can include any loan repayments, ongoing registration costs, insurance, the cost to service an EV or a petrol car, ongoing repair charges, tyre costs, weighing up the costs between fuel or EV charging, and the overall purchase price. 

7. Technology

Technology can make a big difference in the driving experience for both you and your family.

For the driver, you may wish to investigate a family vehicle with features that enhance your on-road experience, such as Bluetooth connectivity for playing tunes on an Aussie road trip, navigation systems to get you to your destination, embedded entertainment systems for the kids, or a dash cam in case of any collision or on road issue.

You may also want to consider advanced technological safety features, such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, and automatic emergency braking when making your family car purchase. 

8. Style and design

While not as important as safety and functionality, style and design can still play a role in your decision for the car that gets you from A to B, especially if you have teenagers who already would prefer you drop them around the block.

Are you looking for a brand new car that is cheap and reliable? Or would you prefer a used car that is underrated and more affordable?

Maybe this is the big family purchase, and you’d prefer a new spacious SUV fresh on the market to drive for years to come, or you want a new EV with the latest features and technology.

If in budget, look for cars that fit your personal style and preferences, and consider factors like colour, size, interiors, materials, space, functionality, accessories, and overall design. 


Corolla cross interior

Are you looking for a car with the latest tech and entertainment features for the family? Image: Supplied. 


9. Personal considerations

Every family is different, and it is important to take the needs of your personal circumstances into consideration when looking for a family vehicle.

For example, are you the type of family that go caravanning or boating, and so need a car good for towing? Do you have more than three children, and so are looking for a vehicle with more seats and space? Do you have a garage that could fit a large SUV or station wagon?

Keep a checklist of your own personal requirements alongside this list, to ensure you are getting the right car for you and your family.

10. Car insurance*

When shopping around for a new family vehicle, you may wish to consider car insurance to have peace of mind when driving the people who matter most.

You can look into a range of policies for your own situation. 


In the market for a new family car? 
Get a quote for an RACV Car Loan today →

^R.A.C.V. Finance Limited ABN 82 004 292 291 Australian Credit Licence No. 391488. RACV Finance is subject to RACV lending criteria. Conditions, fees and charges apply.

*The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions, please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.