Ask the Mamas: What Car Works for Your Family?

Each week we will ask our mamas a question from our readers that pertains to babies, toddlers, or parenting. Make sure to check back each Tuesday to see their responses!

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Mama Say What reader Mindy T. asks:

Although I have no littles yet, I would like to have at least two in the next few years. We will soon be shopping for a new vehicle and I would like some advice on what you mamas would recommend? I am thinking along the lines of an SUV with good gas mileage, that doesn’t scream “Soccer Mom” (although I do like soccer. I’m not sure why soccer gets a bad rap). What type of vehicle do you drive and how did you choose it?

I drive a Nissan Rogue and I love it! I chose it before I had kids, so I wasn’t really thinking about if car seats would fit nicely in the back. I just liked how it looked and how it drove. Now that I just had my second child, it still works great! However, there is only room for the two car seats back there; no one else can ride in back. I might look into the Nissan Murano - they are a little bit bigger! ~Heidi C.

Best Family Cars

I drive a 2011 Honda CR-V. I absolutely LOVE driving it and get about a weeks worth of driving out of one tank (which included driving 50 km per day to and from work). Before, I drove a Civic and I loved that car so much. Our lease was about to expire, I was already six months pregnant and we knew something bigger was a must! Now that our daughter is here, I realize just how small the CR-V actually is! Little ones take up a lot of space, no matter where you are! The car seat, toys/distractions that we keep in the car, stroller, etc. it definitely adds up. Luckily, my husband drives a big Ford F150, so if we need more room when traveling, we can easily take his vehicle. ~Kathy S.

When my husband and I were shopping for a new car for me, it was before we got pregnant, but we had kids on our mind when we were looking. We opted for a four-door sedan, because I had a long commute at the time and an SUV wasn’t going to give me the gas mileage I needed. I got a 2008 Nissan Altima and it has been great for me. Good mileage, comfortable to drive, and my son’s big Recaro car seat fits great in the back. My husband drives a 2004 Acura TSX and it has also been a breeze to fit his car seat in the back. We also have a 1999 Ford Expedition that has PLENTY of room for pretty much anything. In the back seat we can fit two convertible car seats AND an adult can sit in the middle! But we also don’t drive it much unless we need the space or the four-wheel-drive since it’s quite a gas guzzler.

If and when we get pregnant with a second baby, we likely won’t jump on buying a bigger car right away, but it’s something we will start thinking about. Two car seats will fit in the back seats of both of our cars, but there won’t be any room for someone to sit between them. I would prefer not to get a minivan, but I have had my eye on some of the SUVs out there.

We recently rented a brand new Ford Escape and I was really impressed with it and how much room was in the back seat, even with a big car seat in the middle. I also like the Ford Flex… just not sure what we will be able to afford once we are in the market again. ~Alex T.

I drive a 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe. We had to jump to an SUV right before our second child was born because we knew we wouldn’t be able to fit two car seats in the back of our Chevy Cruze very easily. The Santa Fe fits our family of four pretty well. I do admit, at times I wish we had a little more room in the back cargo and seating area, but it’s very rare we’d need it! One thing that does bother me, is that using our rear-facing seat with our son makes it hard to move the driver/passenger seat (whichever it’s behind) back very far. My husband and I are not the tallest of people, so it may be a tight/uncomfortable fit for someone a bit taller. It does get decent gas mileage, though. I’m generally pretty happy with it! ~Sam A.

We have a Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota Camry. Both easily fit two large car seats with a small area in the middle for a basket of toys, or me when the littlest one decides he is starving 30 minutes away from our destination (although it requires a bit of gymnastic ability to get back there). The Hyundai is our vehicle of choice when we need to tote strollers and all of the other “baggage” little ones seem to require. It gets acceptable gas mileage and we have been really happy with it. ~Corey P.

“I have a Ford Escape. I’m happy with it because, while it gives me the extra room inside of an SUV, it’s still compact enough to give me the handling of a car and make parking anywhere super easy. Great gas mileage and low maintenance as well. I only have one child with no plans to change that, but I could see a second seat fitting in it just as comfortably as one has.” ~Laura K.

Official soccer mom here! I drive a Town and Country (and yes my seven-year-old is in a soccer league). I used to say that I would never drive one, however it’s been the BEST! The keyless doors are priceless with more than one child, and being able to throw Backyardigans in the DVD player is awesome. We get great gas mileage and everyone is incredibly comfortable. Don’t completely rule a mini van out, they may just be your ticket to paradise someday. ~Miriam R.

Best Family Cars

Image by kellyv under Creative Commons License

We have a 4Runner, and while I love it, our Britax Chaperone is so long that when my 5’11″ hubby drives, his seat is braced against the car seat. But when we trade it in, in a few years, I really think we’ll buy another 4Runner. The trunk space is great and you can easily put two car seats in the back. The downer is you can’t use the LATCH system in the middle seat (the anchors are more than 21″ apart). Oddly enough there are three tether hooks though.

Hubby drives a Toyota Tundra (four full doors, not the crew cab) and it is a DREAM. The back seat is massive, and I’m pretty certain you could get three car seats in there (three male adults can sit back there very comfortably). Downside is, it is TALL. I’m 5’3″ and have to stand on my toes to get the car seat in and out. Oh, and the 4Runner gets around 18 mpg, while the Tundra bleeds us dry.

The mpg issue makes me miss my Prius -which I did use while nannying, and I’ll be honest, I feel like the 4Runner and the Prius have the same amount of cabin space. Anyway, my Prius easily fit a Graco infant seat and then a Britax when it was both rear and forward facing. If Prius ever gains some height like a cross-over, I’d choose that over a new 4Runner. ~Michelle W.

We have a Toyota Camry and a Mazda Tribute, both of which we bought long before we had kids. We weren’t smart like you - we didn’t think one bit about kids when we bought them! The Camry is actually pretty functional - it’s small, but it never needs extensive maintenance, and it’s reliable, which is actually great considering how much tighter your budget and time gets after babies come. It is SMALL though, like I said. Both the infant car seat and the convertible fit pretty well, though I think if we had to fit two back there we’d be in trouble. The gas mileage is also awesome.

The Mazda (our “soccer mom” SUV) is the absolute worst. It has almost 100,000 less miles on it than the Toyota (yep, we run our cars into the ground haha) and it’s had at least four major breakdowns in the last four years, each one costing us at least $1000. It completely guzzles gas too. I hate that car!

Can I just say - my mom Sue F. bought a BARNEY PURPLE GM Safari when I was in about 7th grade. Like this but more Barney-ish. It was very comfortable. That’s about all that can be said about that car. Just imagine waiting outside your middle school for mom to pick you up in the Barney mobile. Sigh. ~Kate D.

As purple as that van was, Kate D., it was the most comfortable vehicle in our fleet history, AND, it was great for field trips, AND, everyone had a cup holder, AND, that is all. ~Sue F.

Best Family Cars

Image by kellyv under Creative Commons License

I’m rocking the minivan… I love it! Plenty of room for groceries, and my little one(s) to grow into. We also have room for others, and considering our large extended family, we almost always have extra kids with us! ~Jennifer G.

We have a 2006 Ford Escape. We bought it about four years before having kids, but knew that we needed a car that would be kid-friendly. My husband and I are both tall (he’s 6’3″ and I am 5’8″) so we wanted something that we could both sit in the back seat comfortably and be a smaller SUV.

It has been great as a one-kid car. However, I have reservations about it being a two-kid car because of our heights (and with a car seat rear-facing behind a seat won’t allow us to move the front seat back as far). I do adore my car and have no complaints. There has always been enough room for a stroller and any other paraphernalia that we would cart places. In fact, some of the MSW mamas got together last year and I brought down a lot of baby gear from local mamas to be used at the house that was rented. I had multiple car seats, strollers, pack n plays, and a high chair packed in my car with N still in his car seat (the rest of the seats were down).

I do kinda want a minivan for our next car… but I don’t know if my husband will ever go for that. hehehe” ~Cari H.

Best Family Cars

The advice given here is solely based on our individual experiences and in no way is it going to be perfect for every mama, every baby, and every situation. None of us are medical doctors. If you have a question regarding a medical topic we can give our opinions, but please consult with your doctor. We are not liable or responsible for the results of following any specific advice in any given situation.

2 Responses to Ask the Mamas: What Car Works for Your Family?

  1. This is so helpful. as a FTM, I need to give up the convertible and get a mommy car.

  2. Great info, i have three kids now and i am wanting to get a new car next year, have been looking around at which ones would work best!

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