Car Buying

Car Shopping? Tips for Expectant Parents

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2014

If you have a new baby on the way, car shopping is probably the last thing on your mind, but for many drivers, a new baby means it's time to replace an old car with a new one -- one that includes more rear seat room, more safety features and more cargo space. So how do you shop for a new vehicle when you're expecting a baby? We have a few tips to help you with your car shopping.

Test Out a Car Seat

Our first piece of advice to expectant parents interested in a new car: Bring a car seat to the test drive. Yes, it's true that all new cars feature the federally mandated LATCH system to make it easier to load and unload child seats, but that doesn't always mean it's as easy as you think to get a child seat in and out of every car. So while you may not need a child seat just yet, you'll probably want to bring one along for the test drive just to check it out.

Bring a Baby

Yes, that's right: We also suggest bringing along a baby. OK, fine, you don't need a real baby -- a doll will do. But before you sign the papers, it's important to see just how hard it is to load a child inside the car you want. Does the door open wide enough? Can you easily reach inside the car to strap the child to a car seat? Some modern cars are too high off the ground for everyone to easily reach inside, and others are too wide to completely get your arms inside, which makes it difficult to load and unload children.

Temperature Controls?

As a parent, you'll want to make sure that you can easily keep your child warm or cool, depending on the situation. As a result, you'll want to sit in back and feel just how much air comes to the rear seats at various levels of heat and air conditioning. Alternately, if you choose a car with rear air vents, sit in the back and examine just how effective they are.

In the same vein, you'll probably want a sunshade for your baby, or at least tinted windows. Check to see whether your car of choice has a built-in sunshade option; it will make things a lot easier than sticking on a sunshade with suction cups. If it doesn't, you may want to consider window tinting, though we'd suggest sitting inside a car with similarly tinted windows to find out just how much light comes through before you choose tint over a sunshade. Some parents don't feel that tinted windows do enough to shield a baby from direct sunlight.

Bring Baby Accessories

Another thing that you'll want to bring to the test drive: baby accessories. We strongly suggest bringing a stroller to the test drive, even if it's borrowed from a friend. Bring other accessories, such as diaper bags and toys, so you can make sure that they'll fit in your car of choice. You'll also want to see how convenient it is to load these items inside the car, taking careful note of the shape of the cargo area and the height of the bumper.

Easy to Clean?

Another big question: Is the car's interior easy to clean? While we don't suggest trying this one out yourself by spilling something inside the car on a test drive, take careful note of the materials used in each car's interior. Some cars will have large, flat and easy-to-clean surfaces, while other vehicles have dozens of nooks and crannies -- not to mention materials that look dirty with the slightest addition of dust or crumbs. As a result, we suggest that you spend some time trying to figure out which cars are the easiest to clean, since you'll often find yourself picking up after your baby or toddler once he or she is born.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Car Shopping? Tips for Expectant Parents - Autotrader