If you're expecting a baby or if you already have one, buying a car can be an entirely different process than it was before you entered parenthood. You're not thinking so much about the driving experience and cool gadgets. Instead, you're pondering child seats, cargo room and safety. So what should you look for when you're buying a new car as a new parent? We explain a few of the baby-friendly features that you'll want to be sure your new car has before you sign the papers.

Easy Car Seats

Every new vehicle that you'll consider as a new parent or a parent-to-be will have the government-mandated LATCH system, which stands for "Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children." Basically, this system ensures that you can mount a car seat in your vehicle.

Not all LATCH-equipped cars are created equal, however. Some offer easy loading and unloading, while the process is a lot more difficult in others. Because a major car-related activity for new parents is taking your child in and out of vehicles and car seats, you'll want to make sure that LATCH anchors are easy to use. To ensure this, we highly recommend bringing a car seat to a test drive in order to figure out whether the car you're considering is baby-friendly.

Third-Row Seating

As a new or expectant parent, you're probably confused as to why so many automakers and drivers place such a major emphasis on third-row seating for new families interested in buying a car. After all, you don't plan on having five kids, so why do you need a car with so many seats?

The answer is that you're not buying the extra seats for your own kids but rather for the possibility that you'll have to cart around other kids -- or maybe even your own kids and occasional family members, all at once. As a result, you'll want the seats there just in case. Even if you never use them, they're great for resale value when it comes time to get your next car.

Rear Electronics

Believe it or not, you no longer need to get a rear-seat DVD player in order to keep your kids entertained. Devices such as the iPad and other tablets have rendered in-car DVD players obsolete, but you'll still want to make sure that your back seat features ample technology, including a USB connection for charging or an auxiliary jack for music. Another suggestion: Consider an iPad mount to stick on the front headrests so your kids can watch a movie without holding the device in their hands.

Backup Camera

If you have a new baby or a toddler, that likely means you know a lot of other toddlers, not to mention the occasional family pet. As a result, it's likely that there are a lot of small people and animals walking around your car, and it's just as likely that you may not be able to keep track of all of them at once.

Enter the backup camera, which makes it easy to see exactly what's behind you at all times. Better yet, many automakers now offer a 360-degree camera view, made possible by cameras placed around the vehicle to provide a top-down view of your position. Regardless of which one you get, a camera can be an excellent deterrent against potentially serious accidents.

Safety, Safety, Safety

Of course, we also recommend making sure that your car has as many safety features as possible. Some are obvious: anti-lock brakes, which can help you stop faster, and side-curtain airbags, which can save your life in a serious accident or a rollover.

We also recommend considering some of the latest safety technology, including features such as forward-collision alert and adaptive cruise control, which can help keep you safe even if you become distracted by your children.

author photo

Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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