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That two-seat convertible you and your spouse drove around during the pre-kid era was great, but with a child on the way it may be time to consider something more practical. Add a couple more kids to the mix and you may quickly realize that space is a must-have luxury.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing the right vehicle for your family, ranging from roominess to safety features.
Skylar Ficklin, a mother of two in Atlanta, was content with her choice of SUV when she and her husband had just one child. When the second came around, though, they realized it wasn’t a viable option due to its cramped seating space.
“It only had two rows,” Ficklin says. “So after we figured out we needed to install the car seat for the second child, we were like ‘Wait a minute. No one can ride with us!’” When someone came to visit, she adds, “one of us had to sit in between the two kids and there’s no space.” Ficklin and her husband plan to upsize to a Volkswagen Atlas, a three-row SUV that starts at $30,895 and can hold her double stroller (when the third row is flipped down).
Buying or leasing a family-friendly vehicle is a big decision. To help families choose what vehicle is right for them, we’ve reviewed Kelley Blue Book’s list of best family cars and prepared a short list for you based on a combination of safety, value, technology and overall comfort.
1. Chevy Equinox
Price: From $23,800
Fuel Economy: 28 city/ 39 highway
The Chevy Equinox is a two-row SUV with a ton of great stuff packed into a compact frame.
Ideal for families with older children (and, therefore, less stuff to schlep), the Equinox comes standard with keyless entry and push-button start. The infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Bonus: Parents of teen drivers can find peace of mind in the Teen Driver mode, which provides audible and visual speed alert warnings and gives parents the ability to track driving performance with an in-vehicle report card.
2. Honda Pilot
Price: From $31,450
Fuel Economy: 20 city/ 27 highway
For families who want three rows of seating and the versatility of a crossover, the three-row Honda Pilot is an excellent choice. Kelley Blue Book even refers to it as the “minivan of SUVs.”
The Pilot has ample space behind the third row for extra belongings. The base LX model comes standard with the Honda Sensing safety feature, which applies automatic brake pressure when an unavoidable collision is detected, and other safe-driving technologies.
The next model up, the EX, has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with one-touch second-row folding seats for easier access.
3. Toyota Highlander
Price: From $31,330
Fuel Economy: 21 city/ 27 highway
The Toyota Highlander may have less cargo room than the other three-row SUVs on our list, but its comfort level and attention to safety really add to its overall appeal.
The cabin is quiet and the ride is smooth, reviewers say. For parents who need to communicate with young kids seated in the back row, Toyota has made it easier with their Driver Easy Speak feature that uses the SUV’s built-in microphone to amplify the driver’s voice through the rear speakers.
Toyota Safety Sense also comes standard in the Highlander which means help with steering when changing lanes, dynamic cruise control that helps you maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you and automatic high beams that come on when they sense the road is dark (and turn off when another vehicle approaches).
Toyotas are also known for their excellent resale value.
4. Chevy Tahoe
Price: From $47,900
Fuel Economy: 15 city/ 22 highway
The Chevy Tahoe is one of the bigger offerings in the full-size SUV space. Not only can it tote around two parents and five to six kids, it can also tow boats and campers needed for trips to the lake.
It has a similar build to Chevy’s Silverado pickup truck, but with the added comfort of a high-end SUV. Even at the standard level there’s tri-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and plenty of USB ports.
Luxurious upgrades including leather seats and a Bose sound system are also available.
5. Chrysler Pacifica
Price: From $26,995
Fuel Economy: 19 city/ 28 highway
The ultimate family vehicle, Chrysler’s minivan is extremely practical for a large family.
The Pacifica is roomy and affordable with excellent basic features including Apple CarPlay and safety features such as a backup rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection.
Space abounds with storage behind the third row and if more space is needed, the third row folds down.