If you are looking at buying your first family car, there is so much to choose from. Should you buy new or used, do you buy a SUV, wagon or a sedan? In this guide, we look at 11 of the key elements when researching and buying a family car.
 Used or new family car – what to buy?
It’s the age old question, should you buy a new car that would depreciate in the first
couple of years or should you buy something used that has already depreciated?.
Used cars do offer good value. They are cheaper than new cars and can be easier on the family budget. Having said that, you don’t always get the best finance deals when buying used or the factory warranty like you would on a new car.
Safety in used cars can also be a question mark. Used cars might not have some of the new family car safety features which are just so important on our roads for a growing family. These features save lives.
With used cars, it is harder to know about the history of the car. You might not always be sure about its service or accident history, reliability and safety features. There are ways to give yourself the confidence when buying a used family car but you will need to do these checks yourself or with a car savvy family member.
New cars are slightly different. Since its a new car, you know everything about the history of the car and what you are getting. You know how it’s driven and when it’s serviced. This just gives you the extra peace of mind when driving the family around.
 Car prices & budgeting
It’s no secret that cars are the second biggest value item that many people buy. When researching for a new car, you should start by setting a budget.
If it’s your first family car, you might be looking at a car that is not only practical but also fits your lifestyle. A good starting point for a new family car is around $25,000 to $35,000.
You may think, what you should do with your existing car? If you decide to sell it to the dealer, most dealers will take your older car as what they call a “trade-in”.
Many dealers and car companies now offer driveaway prices (with no more to pay) on their cars. This means that you will pay a set price that includes all the on-road costs (such as registration and other government costs).
It’s also important to understand that any other options on the car that you would like to add on top of the driveaway price will be added to this price.
As an example, if a Mazda CX-3 is advertised for $29,995 driveaway and you would like to get premium wheels that cost $1000 with that car, you would now pay $30,995 driveaway. No hidden surprises.
Family car budgeting can be hard if you have nothing to go off with. You don’t want to end up with any unexpected or hidden costs – which we know can happen when buying a car. To make it easier, we have put together this guide on how to budget for your next family car.
 Value for money – cars
When you are looking for a new family car, money matters. You should buy a car that’s within your budget which also gives you great value. Value in a car is when it offers good practical features for the money, is affordable to run, has capped price servicing (services are a set price) and has a long warranty for your peace of mind.
 Car brands
A while ago, the brand of a car made a big difference. Many Australians were buying Aussie made cars. Now times are different and most of us generally buy Japanese, Korean or European cars.
Japanese and Korean cars offer good reliability and service at a good price. The best value for money cars that Australians know and trust are mainly from the Japanese and Korean brands.
European cars on the other hand bring new technologies and add levels of comfort not found in some of the cars from Asia.
 SUVs and other body types
Body types are the way a car looks. Some of the more common styles include SUVs, Sedans, Wagons and Hatchs.
SUV’s have become extremely popular with Aussie families, more than one third of all cars sold in Australia are SUVs. They have so many great things which you simply will not find in many other car types.
Wagons and larger sedans are also good family cars. For bigger families with more than 3 kids, it’s worth considering a people’s movers like a Kia Carnival or a Toyota Tarago. You also have the option of going for a 7 seater SUVs. We cover the 3 best value for money SUVs later in the value for money cars section of the guide.
 Fuel economy
Fuel prices continue to go up so families need something that’s got good economy.
We don’t want to be paying huge fuel bills just to get the family around. Many of the family cars including SUVs are quite good on fuel. This means lower fuel bills and saved money can be spent on better things.
It’s also important to know that a car’s fuel economy that car makers claim in the brochures is not always what we get on drives in real life. In most cases higher in the real world.
To give you a better idea on what the cars use in real world, carloop’s owner reviews are worth reading. Some of the owners touch on the car’s real world fuel economy.
 Petrol or diesel?
Most cars that are sold are either Petrol or Diesel powered. Petrol cars have been the most popular and many Australian families prefer them to Diesel family cars. Diesel cars are generally good in utes or in bigger 4 Wheel Drives (4WD). They can also tow trailers with a lot more ease.
As a family car that will mainly be driven around the city or the suburbs, petrol cars do a great job. They are fuel efficient, cleaner for the environment, cheaper to maintain and are quieter.
 Automatic or manual?
More than 90% of the new cars sold in Australia are automatic. That’s because automatics are easier and comfortable to drive in busy city traffic or on the highways.
Car buyers who are looking to upgrade to a bigger family car prefer automatic cars over manuals. When you have your 3 year old child screaming in the back of the car, the last thing you want to be doing is manually changing gears.
Another important thing to consider when deciding between an automatic or a manual family car is the additional cost that comes with an automatic. Some car manufacturers can charge up to $2,500 more than the manual models. It’s always best to look out for deals with “Free Automatic” included.
 Colour of the car and paint
When we buy a new car, we want to pick a colour that we like since we will be living with it for the next couple of years. Tip: metallic paints and some colours are harder to keep clean.
Most cars come with 2 types of paints – metallic and non-metallic. Metallic paints are generally any paints that are not white. These paints cost more than the non-metallic paints. It is worth asking the salesperson at the dealership of the cost of the metallic paint on the car you are after.
There are also certain colours of paint on a car which are harder keep clean. Black cars are a perfect example. They look quite nice when you buy them but even the slightest bit of dust stands out. If you have better things to do than spending your weekends washing and waxing your car, go for slightly lighter colours like silver or grey.
 Warranty – what to look for
A car is one of the biggest purchases most of us make so we want to make sure we are covered when something does go wrong. New cars come with warranty that ranges from 2 years up to 7 years to give you that peace of mind.
Kia offers Australia’s best new car warranty at 7 years while companies like Toyota and Nissan are still offering 3 years. It’s also worth checking out carloop’s guide on new car warranties.
 Getting family and other owners thoughts
As we all know, cars are expensive and you want to make sure, you get the the right car that fits your lifestyle. When you are doing your research and finding the right car to choose, it’s always best to ask for your friends or family’s opinion on the cars you have shortlisted.
Another good way is to read owner reviews from other Aussies that have really put these cars through their paces. You can find reviews on carloop from real owners for many of the popular cars that Australian families drive – like the Hyundai Tucson.