Car Shopping 101: Finding The Perfect Fit For Our Family

Thank-you Capital One Auto Navigator for sponsoring this post.

We pulled into the parking lot the other night right next to a shiny new minivan. I glanced at the back and saw the license plate -- "DRMCAR". After giggling for a few minutes, our conversation quickly ventured back to thoughts about swapping in our car. Whether we will stick with with an SUV or make the switch to a minivan is still to be determined. Below are 5 things we are considering as we figure out our family's perfect fit:

Car Shopping 101 | Tips for car shopping for a family friendly vehicle

How much space do we really need?

As a momma of one, the balance between just enough space and far too much space is a constant battle. Some days, we have plenty of room as we run errands around town. Other days, it is a tight squeeze. We like to keep our cars for a while, so anticipating for our needs in the future is at the top of our list. Will we have another little one? Will we be taking lots of road trips (I sure hope so!)? Will my husband get back into mountain biking and need the extra trunk space? There are quite a few unknowns, but I am hoping that thinking ahead will help us find the perfect long-term fit.

What are the safety ratings?

As a mom, there is nothing that trumps the safety of vehicles. It seems like each year there are major advances to the safety features in automobiles. My husband's vehicle is 12 years old---the safety technology has certainly advanced in that timeframe. As we keep this in mind, we have been researching newer models of family friendly vehicles. One of the biggest advancements has been in vehicle to vehicle communications, which can be important for preventing accidents.

Car Shopping 101 | Tips for car shopping for a family friendly vehicle

What is in our budget?

If you ask my husband, the budget is at the top of his considerations list for car shopping. We've been busy figuring out what we can sell our current vehicle for, comparing what the monthly payments would be for a new vehicle, and what would it cost to insure a newer vehicle. Capital One Auto Navigator is a great resource for researching all things budget. We've been able to play around with different financing options, term lengths, and vehicle prices to see what would be reasonable for our budget. You can also find out if you pre-qualify for auto financing without a risk to your credit score. For the insurance, we've been checking the premium changes with our insurance agent to see what the difference would be between different vehicles. Doing this research before we even select the vehicle has cut out a lot of the stress of the car shopping process.

What are the MPG like?

Somedays, I feel like we live in the car. Bouncing from one side of town to the next, hoping from freeway to freeway, we pack on the miles. While searching for the next car, we are paying attention to the miles per gallon. Although the gas prices are incredibly low at the moment, who knows what they will look like a few years from now. I would hate to be stuck with a gas guzzler should the gas prices start to spike again. And let's be real, filling up the car in the dead heat of Arizona Summers with a toddler in the backseat is not my favorite thing ever.

Car Shopping 101 | Tips for car shopping for a family friendly vehicle

New or used?

Another debate that comes with car shopping is whether or not to go the new car route or the used car route. Both have many pluses and minuses and we've found it important to look into both options for the different makes and models we are interested in. We've had a lot of success and saved money by buying cars from private parties rather than dealerships in the past. However, as we continue to search for the perfect fit, we will be keeping our options open to both new or used.

Have you bought a car recently? Any tips to share on making the process less stressful?