Top 10 features to look for in a family car

Sharon Lee
Sharon Lee
Top 10 features to look for in a family car

When you think about what a family car is, it’s typically an SUV or people-mover. Sounds simple, but really it’s the features inside and out that really make a car a family car and ultimately, your family’s car. The perfect family car isn’t just about having enough seats anymore, every family has different needs and wants, along with clever little features that make family life on the road much easier. Considering the car’s cabin space, boot capacity, or safety features are a few things to consider when shopping for a family car.

Whether you’re buying a family car that’s a frequent flyer on school runs, a weekend adventurer, or an all-rounder that can do a bit of everything, there’s plenty of features to consider. Here’s our top 10 family car features to look for the whole family to enjoy.

1. Child / pet presence detection system

A Child Presence Detection System (CPD) is a life-saving safety feature that ensures no child or pet is mistakenly left behind in the car once it’s parked. This may sound like it doesn’t happen as often, but the reality is fatal accidents happen because children are left behind unattended in cars, sometimes even unknowingly by their parents. ANCAP, Australia’s car safety assessment authority, has included CPD as part of their updated testing protocols in 2023. It is now the part of the criteria that counts toward a 5-star ANCAP rating.

Using advanced sensors, the CPD system can detect movement or heat signatures inside the car, triggering an alert for the driver to check the rear seats before leaving the car. With hectic family schedules, having this peace of mind is definitely invaluable for so many parents.

2. 5-Star ANCAP rating

Safety is a top priority for any family car, and a 5-star ANCAP rating is the gold standard in safety. ANCAP crash tests cars and conducts performance assessments on safety features, providing drivers with star ratings that shows how well a car will protect its passengers in the event of a crash. Choosing a family car with a 5-star ANCAP rating means you’re already starting out with a car with the highest level of safety.

3. Reverse camera / 360° view

Navigating crowded parking lots or tight spaces can get stressful, especially with kids on board. A reverse camera provides a real-time view while reversing, helping you avoid obstacles and potential hazards. This feature not only enhances safety but also makes parking a breeze. If you’re looking for a large or off-roading SUV like a Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Kluger, you could also opt for one with a surround or 360-degree view camera to get a full view of any undetected small children.

4. Easy to clean seats

Easy to clean seats will make life with the little ones a bit easier, especially leather or leather-appointed seats that are easier to wipe down. Life with kids can mean accidental spills and crumbs all over the place, so getting a car with stain-resistant fabrics will save you time and effort cleaning up in the car.

For next-level cleaning, pick a family car like the 2014-2020 Honda Odyssey people-movers that has a built-in vacuum. That way you don’t have to keep dragging an extension cable out to the garage just to get that last crumb out of the seat.

5. Child seat anchors

If you’re travelling with young kids, you’ve probably got two or three child seats to fasten on. Child safety seats are essential for protecting the little ones, and you can find ISOFIX anchors on just about every car out there these days. It makes installing and removing child seats a breeze, and they’re fastened on to ensure safety on the journey. When you’re shopping for a family car, make sure you’re picking one that has enough child seat anchors or tether points to suit your needs.

6. Bluetooth connectivity

Family car trips can be long, and keeping everyone entertained and connected can help everyone stay peaceful and comfortable on the ride. Bluetooth connectivity or Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allows drivers and passengers to pair their smartphones with the car's infotainment system, enabling hands-free calling, music streaming, and even accessing navigation apps. This keeps the driver focussed on the road while the family enjoys their favourite tunes and podcasts. Now all you need to do is try to get everyone to agree on the music!

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7. Rear air vents / dual-zone climate control

Comfort is crucial during family travels, especially on hot or cold days. What’s even better than a climate control system that can cool or heat the whole car? A dual-zone climate control system (or even tri-zone and rear vents) that lets rear passengers customise their own temperature settings separately from front passengers. This way everyone gets to enjoy a comfortable ride with no one complaining about being too hot or too cold.

8. Rear sunshades

Another feature that is on the ‘nice-to-have’ list for families, rear sunshades are great for Aussie summers with glaring sunlight. Window glare is one of those things that can really ruin your road trip. The addition of rear sunshades can protect passengers from the blinding sun or hot summer temperatures, providing a shaded and more comfortable environment for the little ones.

9. Conversation mirror

Parents have to be great at multitasking wherever you are, even when you’re on the road. Keeping your eyes on the road is one thing, but keeping an eye on what’s happening in the back seat is also something parents have to juggle while driving. That’s where conversation mirrors can help you out. Available on family cars like the Toyota Landcruiser Prado or Kia Carnival, it’s a clever convex mirror that pops out from the sunglass holder, allowing front passengers to have a clear view of the rear seats at a glance. Now you can have conversations with your kids without even turning around to look at them.

10. Powered doors and tailgates

Family outings often involve loading and unloading the car multiple times, which can be exhausting especially with juggling kids and their belongings. Powered doors and tailgates give you easy access to the car's interior and cargo space with the push of a button or a simple gesture. For even more convenience, choose a car with hands-free tailgate like a used Nissan X-Trail or used Ford Everest that lets you open and close the tailgate automatically with a kick under the rear bumper. It’s perfect for when your hands are full with shopping bags or carrying child seats.

Choosing the right family car for you

When it comes to selecting the perfect family car, prioritising safety, comfort, and convenience is a great start to building your car buying checklist. How much space you’ll need to carry everything you need for family trips, school runs, or soccer practice also makes up a part of your decision too.

On Carma, searching for a quality used car for your family is as easy as it can be. Filter by compact, mid-size, or large SUVs, and pick some of your essential features like rear parking sensors or keyless entry to find the right family car for the entire crew.

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