Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re a parent, or want to be a parent. Or maybe you’re one of those millennials that say they’ll never get married, never have kids and refuse to give up their individuality. But hey, to each their own. If you’re one of the first two, then you’ll most likely have thought about what kind of car is best for a family. The decision to have kids is the biggest decision in most people’s lives, even bigger than marriage. Choosing a car can also be a very tough decision, but it doesn’t have to be. To help anyone who wants it, I will outline some of the cars I believe are great family hauler options. There are absolutely other good choices, so feel free to take the reasons I have for choosing these cars and apply them to your favorites.
One very important factor in choosing these cars was trying to keep them practical, reliable and efficient family cars while trying to choose cars that are a pleasure to drive. The list I have come up with has a lot of practical and fun choices. All of which have great standard or optional safety features. I chose five crossovers and five sedans that are around the entry-level price range, although, some of them can be in the higher ranges depending on trim and options. However, all of these cars have their niches and can fill all kinds of different needs to be the perfect family car for you.
2018 Volkswagen Tiguan
Starting Price: $24,595
Drivetrain: 2.0 inline 4, 8-Speed Automatic with FWD or RWD
Seating: 5 or 7
Cargo Volume(behind the 3rd row, 3rd row down/w/o third row, 2nd and 3rd row down): 12 cu ft, 33 cu ft, 66 cu ft
Trim Levels: S/S+4Motion, SE/SE+4Motion, SEL/SEL+4Motion, SEL Premium/SEL Premium+4Motion
Fuel Economy: 22/24/27 (I don’t recommend using anything but premium fuel!)
Let’s start with the crossovers. Although you don’t need a bigger car when you have kids, it can be convenient. First on the list is the all-new Volkswagen Tiguan. I didn’t choose this car because it’s quick, because it isn’t. The 2018 Tiguan is probably the slowest in the line-up. So although it is a good errand cruiser, don’t expect to get the kids anywhere in a hurry, especially if you have to pass anyone on the highway. However, it is part Audi and has a new dressed up interior. It has plenty of standard features for mom and dad. Apple Carplay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, voice command, and USB ports. FWD (Front-Wheel Drive) models also come standard with 3rd-row seating, and as an option on 4Motion models. A downside though, besides lack of power is that, although it has a very good selection of active safety features like adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, and lane keeping, to name a few, none of them are standard. So, the Tiguan is roomy and comfortable and can be loaded with tech and safety features and will feel more like a slow luxury car, however, all those niceties on a higher trim will get a bit pricey.
Overall: A good choice for feeling fancy and enjoying a relaxing drive.
Pros: Comfy, luxurious, good tech features, smooth 8-speed transmission, optional 3rd-row seating, Good IIHS safety ratings
Cons: Slow and heavy, active safety features aren’t standard
2018 Hyundai Tuscon
Starting Price: $21,050
Drivetrain: 2.0, 2.4, 1.6 inline 4’s, 6-Speed auto/7-Speed dual-clutch, FWD/AWD
Cargo Volume(rear seats up, rear seats down): 31 cu ft/61.9 cu ft
Trim Levels: SE, SEL, SEL Plus, Sport, Value, Limited
Fuel Economy: 2.0-23/26/30 2.4-21/24/28 1.6-25/27/30
The second family car on the list is the 2018 Hyundai Tuscon. Hyundai’s are getting much better with adding value to their cars for a good price. The 2018 Tuscon is an attractive option at a decent price. The power is a little less than the Tiguan, but even at it’s heaviest, weighs almost 400lbs less. All trim levels have standard FWD and optional AWD(All-Wheel Drive). Unfortunately, active safety features aren’t options on the first two out of six trim levels but are standard on the top four trim levels. They have a choice of three engines and two transmissions. The Value and Limited both have the more sporty and fun 7-Speed dual clutch transmissions and the second most powerful engine. They have good standard interior features and even more on the higher trim levels and one of the best warranties of any car manufacturer.
Overall: A good choice with budget trim levels or better trims with more features and a good car for your money with great warranties.
Pro: All trims have AWD option, decent standard features, better features standard on higher trims rather than needing add-on packages.
Cons: Higher trims for good active safety features, AWD not standard on any model, active safety not even an option on lower trims, almost no optional features on any trim levels
2018 Mazda CX-5
Starting Price: $24,150
Drivetrain: 2.5 inline 4, 6-Speed Auto, FWD/AWD
Cargo Volume(rear seats up, rear seats down): 30.9 cu ft, 59.6 cu ft
Trim Levels: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring
Fuel Economy: 25/31 (city/hwy)
Next on the list is nicer than you’d expect from a Mazda. The 2018 Mazda CX-5 is another great choice for a family hauler with good features, comfortable interior and it’ll make you feel like you paid more for it than you actually did. You’ll also have peace of mind with good active safety features and knowing that it’s an IIHS top safety pick. The CX-5 has a few standard active safety options and even more optional ones. Not as many tech features as the others and no Apple Carplay or Android Auto but there are options for navigation, and real-time traffic and weather. As with the others, it has a FWD and AWD option. The interior is up there with more expensive cars. Comfortable and refined, and with a BMW-like infotainment system, it leaves you feeling like you have something nicer than a Mazda. The exterior is also quite stylish and sharp looking.
Overall: Good looking and a good choice for the family. The CX-5 is pretty, safe, and fun to drive.
Pros: Responsive throttle, great handling, great looks, no continuously variable transmission, good features for a good price.
Cons: Could have more tech and safety options, no turbo options, less cargo than others in its class
2018 Ford Explorer
Starting Price: $32,140
Drivetrain: 3.5 V6, 3.5 twin turbo V6, 2.3 inline 4
Cargo Volume (all seats up, rear seats down, all seats down): 21/44/81 cu ft
Trim Levels: XLT, Limited, Sport, Platinum
The next one is for those that like more room and more importantly, more power. The 2018 Ford Explorer is the first so far on the list to offer a V-6. Both the I4 EcoBoost turbo and the standard V-6 are plenty strong. If your wallet and thirst for power are both bigger than you can get the sport or platinum that comes with standard AWD and a twin-turbo V-6 that puts down 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. That should make getting the kids to school on time a bit easier. Here we are again with no standard active safety features, although there are plenty if you get the safe and smart package that bundles most of them together. The 2018 Explorer is bigger than any other car on this list and is more of an SUV than a crossover so it has significantly more cargo space and third-row seating. Also. If you suck at parking, (which we all do sometimes) this one has an option that, while you control shifting between park and drive, acceleration and braking. the car will steer you into and out of a parallel parking spot. Tech features are mostly optional but they are better than the other cars on this list. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are optional along with real-time traffic and weather, navigation and even 4G LTE mobile Wi-Fi. Some models even have four 12V outlets and 3 USB ports.
Overall: Powerful and roomy, it’s more car than the others and has more tech and safety features that are optional.
Pros: More powerful engine options for more go-juice, great cargo space, and more headroom/legroom.
Cons: More on the pricier side, cheap interior quality, heavy.
2018 Honda CR-V
Starting Price: $25,125
Drivetrain: 1.5 Turbo inline-4, 2.4 inline-4, CVT, FWD/AWD
Cargo Volume(rear seats up, rear seats down): 39 cu ft/76 cu ft
Trim Levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy: 26/28/32
Now for the what I think is the most all-around best value car. The 2018 Honda CR-V. This is a classic family-oriented car that has quite a fan base. This has always been a popular choice for a safe car that’s an easy choice for a family-hauling, grocery getting, daily driver. The 2018 CR-V is one of the safest crossovers you can buy and has great ratings from both the NHSTA and is an IIHS top safety pick+. Apparently these days the popular thing to do is to not include any active safety features as standard. These are family cars people don’t you think parents and bad drivers alike would appreciate more standard safety features? At least a backup camera is standard. It also has great brakes that can stop from 70mph in 166ft. The CR-V is also quite a satisfying car to drive with responsive steering and a smooth ride.
Overall: Safe, great cargo space, good tech and safety features and a pleasurable drive. Perfect for the family.
Pros: Roomy, smooth handling, good options, physical volume knob, best fuel economy in its class.
Cons: no standard active safety features but that seems to be the norm, slow touchscreen
If you’re like me, then you might want something a little smaller and more sporty. As convenient as crossovers might be, they aren’t as much as sedans. I prefer lower center of gravity, the improved handling and sitting closer to the ground. With a family, however, you wouldn’t want a sports car or something that overdoes performance. For a family cruiser, something with a soft ride but can still hold the road well in corners would be more ideal. You want to feel the road but not all of its imperfections.These five sedans have something for everyone whether it be more comfort, something more luxurious or even more powerful but smooth for taking the kids to school and then your more intense drive to work on the twisty back roads. These next five cars are for the parents who don’t want to give up a fun drive or practicality (unless you have like, 3 or more kids, then you should probably go with one of the other cars above).
2018 Honda Accord
Starting Price: $24,460
Drivetrain: 1.5, 2.0 inline-4’s, CVT, 6-Speed Manual, Hybrid, FWD
Cargo Volume: 16.7 cu ft
Trim Levels: LX/Hybrid, Sport, EX, EX-L, Touring
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy: 30/33/38
First up is a family classic. The Honda Accord is an iconic family sedan going on four decades of production since 1976. This car has been very popular in the U.S. for a very long time. So much so that it’s the most common car to be broken into (don’t worry, it’s all on the much older models). Finally, there is a car with standard active safety features. This baby comes loaded stock with adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, forward collision warning, front automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane keeping assist. The new Accord also has the best cargo capacity in its class at 17cu.ft. As for performance, the Accord doesn’t offer a V6 anymore. However, hope is regained seeing as the 2.0L inline 4 with a 10-speed automatic-which pumps out 252 horsepower- is even quicker than the V6. Two good engines, great cargo space, comfortable with great handling, an updated infotainment system. What more could you want? Oh, I know. Standard active safety features, check. Yep, that’s a winner.
Overall: Perfect family sedan for comfort, driving experience, fuel economy, storage space safety features, and tech.
Pros: Great safety and tech features, good pricing, good fuel economy and good handling and power. All-around great car
Cons: No auxiliary port, need a higher trim for more options
2018 Toyota Camry
Starting Price: $23,495
Drivetrain: 2.5 inline-4, 3.5 v-6, 8-speed auto, FWD
Cargo Volume: 15.1 cu ft
Trim Levels: L, LE, XLE, XLE V-6, SE, XSE, XSE V-6, LE/SE/XLE Hybrid
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy: 22/26/32
Toyota has always had good reliability, The problem, however, is they are a bit bland to drive. This time the Camry has stepped up its game. The V6 model puts out 301hp. The 4-cylinders is the most powerful in its class but it doesn’t have a turbo so they may feel lacking in acceleration. The V6 models can be a bit pricey but start at a good price. The infotainment system still doesn’t support Apple Carplay or Android Auto. The new Camry also has a much more upscale interior to help change the definition of “Toyota Camry” from boring, bland and drab to something more like “nice, fun to drive” and “I might actually buy one”. The fuel economy of the 4-cylinder is a nice 34 combined with 29 city and 41 highway. Although the V6 is only decent at 26 combined and 22/33 city/highway.
Overall: Much better than the older models with better styling, power, and handling.
Pros: Fully updated, good engines, elegant styling, fun to drive
Cons: No Android Auto or Apple Carplay, no turbo-four options, still a Toyota
2018 Ford Fusion
Starting Price: $23.090
Drivetrain: 1.5, 2.0, 2.5 inline-4’s 2.7 V-6, 6-Speed auto, FWD/AWD
Cargo Volume: 16 cu ft
Trim Levels: S, SE, Titanium, Sport, Platinum, S/SE/Titanium/Platinum Hybrid, Energi SE/Titanium/Platinum
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy: 21/32
The 2018 Ford Fusion can be a nice car, a fast car, a hybrid and a normal car. It doesn’t really seem like it knows what it wants to focus on. It starts at a good price but its standard features are pretty normal. Of course, no active safety features are standard. However, if you decide to opt for a higher trim, you will have plenty of great features, options, and tech. No standard Apple carplay or Android Auto but they are at least options. The performance is good in most models and engines but the transmissions can be a little sluggish. For the family, some models do come with a DVD player option with two screens for the back seat. Last years Ford Fusion was an IIHS top safety pick. It wasn’t tested this year but the Fusion is unchanged from last year so you can expect that it still is just as safe. If you decide to go with a higher trim level, say an SE or an SEL, you start to see some really nice features. There are very good driver assistance features like active park assist that will steer you into parallel spots, or back you in. It also has active cruise control like most new cars.
Overall: A good choice if you like Ford. Other companies will have a car that focuses more on being one thing rather than multiple personalities.
Pros: Lots of trim choices, great safety feature add-ons, good safety ratings.
Cons: Too many trim choices, active safety features aren’t standard, other manufacturers have cars that are more refined and focused.
2018 Honda Civic
Starting Price: $18,840
Drivetrain: 1.5 turbo, 2.0 inline-4’s, CVT, 6-Speed Manual, FWD
Cargo Volume: 15.1 cu ft
Trim Levels: LX, EX, EX-T, EX-L, Touring
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy: 28/32/40
Just like the Accord, The Honda civic is very popular as a family sedan. It’s on the lower level of family cars but it is more affordable. The newest generation Civic that was introduced in 2016, is relatively unchanged for 2018. They now come standard with a backup camera although other safety features are lacking compared to other cars on this list. But that is to be expected because those cars are higher-end mid-sized sedans and the civic is a compact. With its compact space, however, it doesn’t sacrifice cargo volume with the hatchback model. The Civics infotainment system can be confusing to use, but it does have Android Auto and Apple carplay as options to make things a bit easier. The Civic performs very well no matter which model you get. If you have more of an appetite for power, the Civic Si and Type R which are more expensive, have great performance increases and come with for five doors.
Overall: Fantastic car for the value with good, spacious interior, good safety and performance.
Pros: Great car-for-your-money value, good fuel economy, spacious
Cons: Confusing interface, not many active safety features
2018 Kia Stinger
Starting Price: $32,800
Drivetrain: 2.0 Turbo inline-4, 3.3 Twin Turbo V-6, 8-speed auto, RWD/AWD
Cargo Volume: 23 cu ft
Trim Levels: 2.0T, Premium, GT, GT1, GT2
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy: 22/25/29
Kia isn’t the first company to come to mind when one thinks of “luxury” or “Sporty”. In fact, I would bet it’s nowhere near the list of car companies that someone would consider either of those terms or any of their synonyms. I assume the idea for a sporty, more luxurious car for Kia arose because Hyundai and Kia share most of their parts and chassis as Hyundai owns stake in Kia, and Hyundai makes a luxury line they call Genisis. It probably wasn’t very difficult to make the Stinger either since it shares the 3.3L V-6 Twin Turbo as the Genisis G80 and shares both that motor and chassis with the upcoming Genisis G70. The base Stinger is comparable to cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and the Lexus IS 200 F Sport. The Stinger starts at $32,800 which is $3,000 less than the next highest competitor, The BMW 3-Series at $35,895. The Stinger has standard parking sensors and most of the other active safety goodies as options. Unlike the others on this list, it has Android Auto and Apple Carplay standard. Real-time traffic and weather are optional. It’s performance even at the base trim, which is powered by a 2.0 turbocharged inline-4 with 255hp, is greatly satisfying and smooth with the 8-Speed automatic. The hatchback-sedan style also gives some of the best cargo space of its class and great leg room in the back. If you have money to spend, you can opt for the incredible GT models that have the 3.3 Twin Turbo V-6 with 365hp and more features. All models come with Rear-Wheel Drive as standard and All-Wheel Drive as a $2200 option.
Overall: A great performer in many areas and a luxury car for less.
Pros: Great performance, very spacious, luxury for less and great warranty
Cons: Not quite as refined and proven in luxury as competitors
Love the Ford Explorer. Would love it as my new family car.
Yes, I absolutely love the Ford Explorer! I wish I could get one too as a family car!
Yes, the Ford Explorer is a great family car! Especially for road trips and if you have more than one kid. Another fantastic family car that’s smaller and easier to handle is the Honda CR-V. My wife had one and we loved it. We would also love a Ford Explorer. Personally I’d like the one with the twin-turbo V-6. How many kids do you have? Are you looking for a new car?