the car junkie daily magazine.


Question Of The Day: What Do You Look For In A Potential Family Car?

Question Of The Day: What Do You Look For In A Potential Family Car?

I know that discussing the family beater isn’t the usual par for the course for BangShift, but bear with me for a moment. The sedan. The station wagon. The minivan. The sport-utility vehicle. The cute-utility. Whatever you are using as the end-all, be-all “everybody in!” vehicle, a lot of thought gets put into what it actually is, isn’t there? As much as most of us would like to, using a Mustang as a family car is pretty much a “no”. There’s things you have to look at in order to pick a proper family car.


First off, it has to be roomy. If you have more than one kid, you know damn well what I mean by this: “Dad, he keeps touching me!!” And that goes for more than passenger room. Usually the family ride has been beaten with the ugly stick (not always, but usually) and having the room to throw stuff in the back, be it luggage, Timmy’s friends, or even having the ability to jam one month’s worth of firewood in the back can help win back some points. If it’s gonna be ugly, it better prove useful. That was your mantra that got you through your college years, and it still works today.

srt8 magnum

It has to be powerful, sure…but you have to be careful here, because now there is such a thing as “too powerful”. Those of you who have a significant other who isn’t into the whole gear head thing have probably faced the uphill battle of convincing their partner that a Dodge Magnum SRT8 with a Magnuson blower on top of the 6.1L Hemi under the hood would make a perfect family ride. Especially when there’s outside influences that keep shoving your family towards something with four doors, a five-star safety rating, and enough airbags that if you crash, your car will go into full “marshmallow mode”.


And then there’s durability, and this comes in two forms: the obvious functional type that we focus on with our cars, and the special focus of the interior. Nobody wants the family ride to constantly be broken down…ask Lohnes about the joys of his Chrysler Pacifica sometime. He will tell you what that’s like. And while it’s nice to put Junior in the hot rod every now and again, every time something breaks on the family car is asking for problems. And when you go to clean out the interior of the family car, it becomes clear why you don’t want to use the hot rod: fossilized French fries, toys that haven’t been seen since they appeared at Christmas, and stains in the carpet that an exorcism couldn’t remove. And remember, you’ll be cleaning it…because you’re the one to clean the car, remember?

With all of that in mind, what would you pick for a new family car if you had to replace your current one right now? Would you go new or used? What kind of vehicle would you pick, and why? Do you look for basic functionality and practicality, or do you try to sneak in something fun, like a sleeper that you’re schlepping the kids around in? Is fuel economy a concern? Is power what you’re looking for? Maybe you’re wishing that minivan manufacturers offered a carpet-delete option so you could hose out the Town and Country every weekend. We’re curious to see what you come up with, so lay it out for us!

family judge

  • Share This
  • Pinterest
  • 0

29 thoughts on “Question Of The Day: What Do You Look For In A Potential Family Car?

  1. anthony

    I look for something that not everyone else has. A Ford Flex would be a good family car. Dont see too many and seems like they are useful.

      1. cyclone03

        I had a Flex for a year, on the surface it should be a good choice. The fold down seats should make a good load platform but they are weak and break like a Chinese finger trap , trapping and breaking your dogs leg (not mine thank god, but he did fall through) . Mine was not an ecoBoost so it was underpowered. Mileage was good though , low to mid 20’s.
        As for a daily kid hauler in some ways it’s too nice , crap ends up in places that are hard to clean.

        Don’t get rear bucket seats, the console sticks up too far and it gets hard to buckle the kid seats.

  2. Nick D.

    Well, my family consists of just me, so that explains why my “family car” is a Miata.

    If I did have to get something, I don’t know, maybe an ’04-’05 Subaru Legacy GT Wagon or Subaru Forester XT. AWD sure-footedness in the weather, a nice turbo punch under the hood, plenty of room to carry stuff. Make them an auto so I wouldn’t be tempted to modify it.

  3. mooseface

    Anything that isn’t a minivan.

    I’m in Nick D’s boat, my “family” is myself and my cat, so a single-cab compact truck is room aplenty. If I were looking, though, I think I’d follow suit with the Subi route: they’re fairly spacious and economical enough but still interesting. Or a Volvo V60, they have some cool tech and ideas backing them up. That’s all strictly “modern” speaking.
    Old-school, I’d love to cram a 1HD-T inline turbodiesel into an FJ60 or FJ55 LandCruiser and a Fairey overdrive unit for better cruising, or a Scout II with a Cummins 4BT. I’d also gladly go for an Eagle wagon or hatch with a wire harness and drivetrain swap from a late TJ Jeep with the high-output I6 and AX-15 5-speed.

    1. 75Duster

      I’m with you mooseface and Nick D., currently single, I have a regular cab ’05 Ram 1500, my caged up ’75 340 Duster, and a ’74 Dodge D100 Club Cab with a 5.7 Hemi with the rear fold down seats taken out for storage space and a modern stereo system.

  4. HotRod

    With six youngins I needed room. I also wanted reliability, enough power to get out of it’s own way, and a conformable ride. The family boats where always Ford Country Squires with the biggest engine available.
    Today with just my wife and me I still find myself needing room for all the grand kids so we keep an older Ford van around. But for ourselves we have a 2010 Town Car. Problem is neither can get out of their own way with out some steroids.

  5. Ron Ward

    We had 5 in our family. We got along just fine with a 1998 Neon 2DR coupe with a 5 speed and dual overhead cams. Many long trips and not one problem. Hell, I still have the car and the kids are grown and gone!

  6. Turbo Regal

    Our current one is a 2012 Toyota Siena, which is probably the best mini van currently available. Gets great gas mileage, very dependable, hauls a family of 5 around easily and is easy to drive. It is light years better than the Pontiac Montana it replaced. Better engine, better brakes, more room and more dependable.

  7. chevybuytroy

    We are a foster family so we needed something for whatever size family comes our way. We bought a ext trailblazer and thats been perfect so far. Plenty of power and the 4×4 for the winters.

  8. Matt Cramer

    If my wife’s driving it, we agree on a budget and she gets the final choice. She’s got a Camry, and it’s currently the only running car we have that can really carry the whole family.

    So that last point does have me a bit worried because of a lack of back-up plans. My current daily driver theoretically seats four, but not when there’s child seats and tall front seat passengers involved. I’ve been hoping to get the following:

    Under $8000. So it’s going to need to be used.
    It doesn’t need to carry the family the whole time, so two doors is fine. I just need enough back seat room for the kids with the front seats fully back.
    I’d like it to be somewhat fun to drive, or at least not totally an appliance
    Mileage isn’t a big issue now that I’ve moved closer to work, but I’d like to see better than 20 mpg.
    Stick shift if at all possible.
    A combination you could actually get bolted together at the factory. Therefor, a Crown Vic with a Coyote motor and Richmond 6 speed is out, unfortunately.

  9. Russell

    Wife DDs a suburban seats 8, remove third row fold down second you can haul 4’x8′. The 5.3 is good enough for occasionally towing (I do miss the Cummins, but not the dodge). I have a longer drive the TDI jetta is great on mileage but low on space should have held out for the Passat.

    What I want is V8 RWD Manual!

  10. Aexander

    Nothing like as versatile as a stow&go Dodge minivans, if you didn’t own you understand how much stuff you can move in it.

    1. tedb077

      I can’t argue this at all. Although not a stow&go, our not-so-grand caravan has proven itself beyond useful more times than I would really care to admit. It’s been driven from NW Ohio to Hilton Head, Tampa, and several trips to the Smoky Mountains and has yet to give us a ‘major’ issue. It’s fairly comfortable to drive on those long trips as well. If I could make it handle a bit better and give it some more power, I’d seriously consider making it my daily driver.

  11. Tatued Joe

    2001 Chevrolet 2500 Crew Cab Long Bed 8.1 with an Allison. Tows the race car. Plenty of room for the family. Seems to get the job done for me!

  12. Falcon67

    F250 Super Duty crew cab will be the next new vehicle purchase. I’ll still have the F150 Super Crew because it’s worth more to us as a truck than it is as a trade.

  13. ColoradoKid

    If wagons were to return to the days of being practical , comfortable , utilitarian and versatile ?

    I\’d go that route . The family may just be the wife and I but my profession demands I have the storage capacity etc in order to tote my gear around

    But .. as long as wagons continue on their current trajectory [ since the early 60\’s in fact ] of being over stylized Fashion over Function expressions of some pretentious designers ego ?

    I\’ll stick with the SUV/CUV\’s ..

    MiniVans ? Not unless I completely loose all my sense and desire to have a bit of fun and driving enjoyment while traveling

  14. Patrick U

    Just me, my girl, and the dog in my family, so my regular cab F-250, or my Mustang works fine for me. I’ll leave that repopulating thing up to the rest of you!

  15. BigDogSS

    We’ve had many family cars:
    First was a 1989 F350 351/C6/4.10 –> slow and got crummy gas mileage, but it towed anything.
    Second 1996 Caprice LT1/4L60/2.93 –> Great car except for the Optispark.
    Third 2001 F250 4×4 5.4/4R100/3.73 –> Transmissions are weak, threat of spark plug blow out, other than that a good truck. Good long distance traveler. I still have it.
    Most recent and wifes DD, 2014 Flex 3.5 non-turbo/6-speed/3.39 –> a little slow, but gets OK mileage.

  16. Huskinhano

    Something that can haul a lot of stuff and handle decent and not break down. Right now my DD is a 06 Freestar with 194,000 miles. It’s been really reliable and with it’s 235/55/17’s handles surprisingly well. I get a little over 19 MPG doing 70-75.

  17. Mcnally351

    10 Ford Flex. Plenty of room for three kids and is fun to drive. Just can’t do the minivan, and a suburban is too much for the wife to drive

  18. El Martillo

    Never understood the hate for minivans. Is this the only vehicle that can’t be made better with simple handling mods? A couple of dollars thrown at the engine? I see something that satisfies mama, can haul small trailer, doesn’t eat tires or other consumables. About as exciting as a torque wrench but think of it in terms of a tool and what it affords you to do.

  19. Erik

    When we had just 2 kids, I went through a few Taurus SHOs (had a couple 92’s that were my favorite. It had the most kid-friendly seat belts of anything to date. Unfortunately, most have rusted into the ground.
    Now we have 4 kids. I daily drive an 02 SuperCrew, which is working out really well, plus we have a 3-seat Suburban for people moving and towing. Momma drives a Caddy DHS, so either DD has capacity for all of us.
    We’ve been trough a few minivans. I understand (and share) the hate. Truck drivers assume you are an idiot driver and will block and cut you off whenever it might save them a minute. That never happens in a lowered Mustang or my fat tired BMW with dark windows.

  20. maxs1000rr

    We had a Datsun B210 Hatchback as a family car.
    Dad and Mom and four kids made things “cozy”.

Comments are closed.