Mother’s Day is on the way, and if you’re a mom, you know what that means: flowers, gift cards and hand-drawn images of animals that look like blobs with eyeballs and legs. Or maybe you’re lucky this Mother’s Day, and you’re getting a new car to tote around your family and their accessories — such as strollers, diapers and ground-up Cheerios.
In years past, it used to be simple: Find a car with a lot of seats, and it was a new family vehicle. But these days, there’s a lot more to think about. A slew of new family-friendly features has made it easier and more convenient than ever to safely haul around your kids and their gear.
So what features should you look for in particular? We’ve rounded up our seven top picks that moms won’t want to miss when choosing their next family vehicle.
Although a 360-degree camera won’t help you transport your kids or their accessories, it can help make sure they’re all safely in the car. While a traditional backup camera only looks back, a 360-degree camera — now offered by a wide range of automakers — offers a view over the front, rear and sides of the vehicle to ensure your path is clear when maneuvering in tight spaces. Nissan’s Around View Monitor, arguably the best system, even detects movement in front of or behind the car, which can help you spot a hard-to-see pet or a small child coming seemingly out of nowhere.
Although easy-folding seats aren’t unique to any specific automaker, moms everywhere will agree it’s one of the most important family-friendly features on the market. The reason is simple: If you’re trying to get your kids in the car and off to school or their next event, you don’t want to waste time and energy struggling as you try to fit a stroller or other accessories in back. Easy-folding seats let you simply pull a latch and give the seat a push. Our advice: No matter what car you’re considering, see if these seats are an available option before you sign the papers.
If you’re a parent with teenagers who will soon be getting their driver’s licenses, we suspect you’ll find Ford’s MyKey system very appealing. Standard on most Ford products, it’s a programmable key that lets you choose maximum speed settings for the vehicle and maximum volume settings for the stereo, among other benefits. The result: You can ensure your kid always stays safe behind the wheel, even when you’re not around. Best of all, you can program entirely different settings on your own key, so you can go as fast and crank the tunes as loudly as you want even while limiting those same functions for your teen driver. After all, you’re the parent, right?
Although you may have never considered building a vacuum cleaner into your car, Honda did, and we think it’s brilliant. Standard on several trim levels of the brand’s Odyssey minivan, the HondaVAC lets you clean your vehicle without a pesky upright vacuum or a handheld unit that can be difficult to fit into hard-to-reach places. Best of all, it doesn’t require an electrical outlet: Just turn your van to "accessories" or turn on the engine for greater vacuuming power, and you’re in business. And in case you’re just as messy as your kids, the HondaVAC can stretch all the way to the front seats.
If you’re the head of a busy family that always seems to be doing something, you might find yourself sometimes getting distracted behind the wheel. Talking to your kids, making doctors’ appointments or taking a business call on the go can all demand your precious attention. That’s why we recommend finding a family vehicle with lane-keep assist or lane-departure warning. Lane-departure warning tells you when you’re starting to drift out of your lane, while lane-keep assist actively steers you back into it, just in case you don’t react in time. Although we strongly caution against distracted driving, mistakes do happen, and these technologies can help prevent serious consequences.
One of the main benefits of a minivan is sliding doors, which make it easy to load in children, car seats and all kinds of accessories. Power-sliding doors further increase this convenience. No longer do you have to worry about pulling a heavy door closed or pinching someone’s arm or finger in the doorjamb. Many modern minivans even offer power-sliding doors that can be opened with the push of a button on the key fob, making it easier to get inside your minivan — an appealing proposition when your hands are full with kid stuff or work stuff.
If you aren’t a parent, you might not even know what a sunshade is. If you are, you probably wonder why they aren’t offered in every car. For those who aren’t in the know, a sunshade is exactly what it sounds like: a device to shade passengers from the sun. They’re especially effective if you’re transporting babies or toddlers who are sensitive to sunlight. Many new vans and SUVs are adding them to rear doors to help block light coming in through the window. And while it’s true that you can purchase your own sunshade, a built-in version is much easier to use.
If there’s a new car on your horizon this Mother’s Day or soon thereafter, keeping these features on your checklist is sure to help you find your way to the right vehicle for your family.