Your chariot awaits.
I know you’d rather be cruising to the beach in a sporty convertible right about now, but it’s time to get the kids back to school and that cute little Miata you’ve had your eye on won’t cut it for carpool duty. So this begs the question – what makes a good carpooling vehicle?
Of course, you’re going to need room for your kids, maybe a few extra kids if you carpool, as well as book bags, lacrosse sticks, football helmets, dance bags and of course, snacks and water bottles. Often this means vehicles that seat six or more, but what else should you consider? Here are some things to think about this fall.
Safety, First and Foremost
Your family is precious cargo so the first consideration when buying any vehicle is safety. Check for these features when shopping for your ideal carpool ride:
- Excellent crash test scores. You can find by visiting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
- Excellent side impact crash tests
- Good visibility–both sight lines in the car and a back up camera
- Back up camera with collision alert
- Blind spot warning system
- Lane departure warning
- Air bags, including curtain airbags
Convenient Seating and Easy Access
You need plenty of seating but the seating also needs to be convenient and easily accessible for your passengers. Here are some things to consider:
- Seating for 6, 7 or 8
- Center row captain’s chairs with access between them to reach the third row
- Center row seats that fold forward easily for third row access – can you do this with one hand? Push button options make this easy
- Running boards on larger SUVs that have higher ground clearance make getting in and out easy for all your passengers
Considering a Minivan? They are better than ever
Minivans were invented to be people haulers, and they do a great job. They have lots of passenger space, flexible seating and lots of room for gear. Here are some of the top ranking minivans and the cubic feet of space behind the 3rd row–a key measure when you’re thinking of acutally putting peope in the back.
- 2016 Honda Odyssey: 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Kia Sedona: 33.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Toyota Sienna: 39.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2017 Chrysler Pacifica: 32.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Dodge Caravan: 33 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Chrysler Town & Country: 33 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Nissan Quest: 25.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
Considering an SUV? These are some of our favorites
The combination of low gas prices and the need for space has made SUVs the most popular vehicle in the US. They are a great option if you just can’t bring yourself to drive a minivan. What you’ll give up is space: most have less than 20 cubic feet of space behind the 3rd row and often, third row seats are better for smaller people. Still, like so many buyers, we’re sold. These are some of our favorites.
- 2016 Toyota Highlander; 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Chevy Tahoe; 15.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Ford Expedition; 18.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Volvo XC90: 15.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser: 16.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Ford Explorer: 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Buick Enclave: 23.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 GMC Yukon Denali: 15.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 GMC Acadia: 12.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Infiniti QX80: 15.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Lexus LX 570: 15.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
- 2016 Nissan Pathfinder 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 3rd row
Goodies that make life less stressful & more comfy
Don’t forget the little extras that make you smile and time in the car comfortable and productive. After all, you’ll be spending a good chunk of time in the car and you deserve to be comfortable, too. Here are features to think about:
- Minivans with double sliding power doors
- Flip and fold center seats
- Power rear hatches or rear hatches with a kick-release
- Push button remote start (great for extreme hot or cold weather)
- Smart key with push button start
- Leather seats – makes cleaning spills easier and long rides more comfortable
- Second row captain’s chairs/sliding second row seats
- An entertainment system with wireless headphones (for peace)
- Plenty of charge ports for phones and tablets; be sure all USB ports charge–some don’t!
- Household plug for charging computers
- Refrigeration cool boxes
- Plenty of cup holders and bottle holders in door panels
Shopping and Buying: Things to remember
There is never a shortage of vehicles, no matter what the salesman says. Often, there are too many, and brands are very competitive when it comes to features. If you can’t locate the exact car you want, try shopping a different dealer or brand.
Figure out the right purchase strategy for your budget and lifestyle. This is the lease/buy conundrum, but do the math, including the number of miles you drive each year, how long you plan to keep the car and how often you buy a new car and the answer should be clear.
The car industry is addicted to specials and consumer offers, and every month those deals change. Be sure to look at the incentives that are available from the manufacturer when you’re shopping. Some months offer better incentives, financing and lease rates than others. It is very important to look at what programs are being offered because sometimes you can get more for the money then you expected.
Know your limits, what you can spend, what the car you want costs and what you expect to get for your money. Remember, a deal isn’t a deal unless it works for you.
Oh, and don’t give up on that little 2-seater sports car, there’s plenty of time for that once the kids are grown and on their own–which sadly, happens faster than you think.