Best New Family Cars for 2011 & 2012

As many of you know, I’ve been mulling over the purchase of a new family car for some time now. Buying a car is not something I take lightly, as I tend to keep them for a really long time. What do you drive and would you recommend it? If not, what would you buy today?

Chevy Suburban - Best Family Car?

Chevy Suburban

I have friends who drive huge Chevy Suburbans, but I’m not sure we need anything that big as we just have one 3 year old girl. Plus, its fuel economy of 15 city and 21 highway miles per gallon makes me concerned. Am I the only one worried gas prices will inevitably start to shoot up?

Honda Odyssey - Best Family Car?

Honda Odyssey

A few of my guy friends have told me (somewhat jokingly) I should suck it up, accept fate, and buy a mini-van. Is ‘minivan’ still a dirty word? The Honda Odyssey doesn’t look that embarrassing to drive, and my daughter would no doubt love the 16-inch rear video display. Not sure about mileage, though?

Chevy Traverse - Best New Famliy Car?

Chevy Traverse

One that my wife likes (and clearly that’s important) is the Chevy Traverse. And I must admit it’s five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) appeals to me if my family is going to be riding in it daily. Anyone have one?

Jeep Grand Cherokee - Best Family Car?

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Some of you know the vehicle I’m trading in is a Jeep Grand Cherokee. I bought it as a single guy and honestly I am not sure why one needs a Jeep in this rather flat part of North Texas? So I’m not really considering another, though I must confess I’ve really LOVED it.

Kia Sorento - Best New Family Car?

Kia Sorento

Am I the only one seeing some of the newer brands on the road like the Kia Sorento and thinking, “Hey, that looks pretty nice?” I’m still stuck in the old “if you’re not buying American, then go with Toyota or Honda” mentality. Are you driving one of the “newer” brands, e.g. Hyundai or Kia?

Subaru Forester - Best Family Car?

Subaru Forester

And speaking of some of those more “traditional” foreign brands, if you can call them that. What about the smaller SUVs like the highly rated Subaru Forester, Honda CRV, VW Golf or Toyota RAV4? With only one child, might that be a good choice with possibly better mileage than a big American brand?

See… this is why it’s taking me so long to make up my mind! What do you recommend? Do you like what you are driving now? If you were buying a car today what would be the main decision points: price, safety, fuel economy (partly a factor of price), sexy styling?

I need help. Please comment!


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  1. I just had this dilemma myself, except I was under time constraints because my a guy turned left into me at an intersection (I was going through and had right of way) and totalled my car.

    We settled on a Mazda 5. I drove a Mazda 3 before that, and I was very happy with the way it handled – and the Mazda 5 drives exactly like its smaller counterpart. It’s smooth, corners very well, and the pick up is decent. It’s very fuel-efficient for its class and the safety rating is good too. One of my favourite features is the sliding doors on both sides (like a minivan) so that kids can be gotten in and out easily in small parking spaces. (Particularly useful if you plan on having any more kids – those infant car seats can be so difficult to get out in a small space.) It also has an optional 3rd row of seats, so it can seat up to 6 people. But mostly we have the back portion down for lots of trunk space. I bought a used 2009 with only a little mileage on it, and so far I am very pleased.

    We looked at Kias, and Toyotas, too, and they seemed decent as well. For me, it just came down to comfort and ease of driving, and the Mazda 5 was what fit for me.

    Good luck with your decision!!! And I hope you get a good deal!

    1. That’s really helpful, Amanda. Thank you! We will definitely give the Mazda5 Microvan a look. That’s one where the used models (e.g. a 2010 rates better than the newer ones). Thanks again!

  2. As much as I wanted to be a cool SUV MOM, all the pros went to the Mini-Van – Comfy, Big enough to fit everything you need to survive for at least a week, on board entertainment – yes, it’s all good I get better mileage on it than I did on Honda Passport or Cadillac Seville. I do lose things there occasionally and kids make it messy, but otherwise I think it’s very multifunctional ride.

    1. Yeah, I may have to break down and go the minivan route. They certainly make sense. You say you get better mileage than your Honda Passport or Cadillac Seville. That’s encouraging. What did you get? Don’t tell me it was a Swagger Wagon?

  3. We are looking at Kia and Honda for a new sedan.

    1. Cool. Let us know what you decide, D. My wife wants something with more storage than a sedan’s trunk. This the focus on minivans and SUVs.

  4. We just went through this and ended up with a Subaru Forester. It gets good mileage, has oodles of storage space and all kinds of nice extras for a lower price than you get on the CRV, etc. Now that we’re one road trip in with kid, dog and a car full of stuff, I’m sure we made the right choice.

    1. Amber, thank you so much! The Forester has certainly been Consumer Reports darling for many years, and is the highest rated small SUV in it’s class by far. I’ll be sure we take one for a test drive. My wife has driven some Chevy’s so those are in contention as well. Don’t suppose I could sell her on a Corvette or Camaro being a family car? Nah.

  5. I most definitely have to go with the Suburban…my husband drives one for work and it is such a great vehicle! Safe and solid…when it is time for us to replace my Endeavor or his Hummer – we are getting a Suburban!


    1. I hear you. Gas mileage and room in the garage aside, I do like the idea of a big vehicle for my family. Seems like it’d be safer (rollover issues notwithstanding) than some little import if it met up with that Hummer of your hubby’s? This is why it’s taken me so long to decide.

  6. We have a 1997 Honda Odyssey still running strong, and a 2007 Honda CRV, also with no troubles so far (not counting the time I ran over a small boulder on New Year’s Eve and damaged the undercarriage, but that is another story), and lots of room for our two boys (13 and 10) and two full size Aussies.

    We may be replacing the Odyssey when it reaches 300,000 Miles, and will certainly consider the Honda Insight or another Electric/Hybrid. The 2007 CRV is still selling used for $18,000, so it has certainly held lots of its original value of $30,000.

    Good Luck! Hope this helps!

    1. Wow… the Odyssey has really held in there. That was on I pictured above. And of course the CRV is pretty well respected in the same class as the Forester and RAV4. I’m happy to hear several of you say the small SUVs are really not so small as one might think. Cool the CRV has held it value so well over almost 5 years. Test drives are in order for all, which means baby sitters and such.

  7. I sucked it up and bought the Honda Odyssey. It helped that I’d never really had a “nice” car before, so I got the Touring edition pimped out with every option they had. Now I think of my car as like flying first class.

    I was leaning toward the Honda Pilot until I saw how much more trunk space the Odyssey had and then I noticed this pop-down mirror built into the Odyssey for spying on your little ones in the back seat. That’s when I realized the Odyssey was built with kids – and family – in mind. I guilted myself into it.

    The joke is that now I don’t really like that mirror and prefer to turn around or use the plain old rear-view mirror to see the kids. I’ve never regretted buying the Odyssey, though. Good luck!

    1. LOL. I love it, Jerry. Too funny. Yeah, it sounds like they put a lot of thought into the Odyssey as it applies to family. Love the “flying first class” analogy. You just keep telling yourself that. I’ll probably be right there with you soon. Trunk space is something that’s important to us, as well, btw. Really appreciate your advice (sort of)!

  8. I have to admit, I love my car, though it is probably too small for your wee family, especially if that lovely wife of yours starts hauling the wee one and her friends around. We are a Dodge family over here. I have a Stratus (the last model they ever made) Hubby has a big red Dodge truck. Both of our vehicles are 4 door and suffice well when we have the kiddo’s around.

    I’m not sure you really need to go into a full fledged mini-van though…unless you guys are anticipating being soccer parents or something similar. I like your lovely wife’s choice for a family vehicle though. Being somewhat of a car, it might actually be easier on the pocket book where gas is concerned?

    Good luck with picking out a new ride. It’s never easy.

    1. Yeah, my wife’s not keen on a sedan, or even the new larger station-wagon-like PriusV. I think we’ll likely go with an SUV or a minivan. We just need to find a baby sitter and let her (my wife) test drive some cars. It’s really going to be her car, and I want her to love it.

  9. It’s funny how so many daddy blogs hit the same beats. I too recently had to come to terms with entering the minivan universe. What’s worse, the perfect 911 was sitting right there on just begging me to come get it and take it home.

    Alas, my garage now sports a swagger wagon, and not a Carerra.

    -Dork Dad

    1. “The perfect 911 was sitting there on autotrader”… yeah, not the best family car. LOL. I feel your pain. At least your car has a cool commercial? Not much of a consolation, I suppose.

    • Brian B. (IamIRONDADDY) on at
    • Reply

    Hey, I know my wife had me try to help you in the 3rd party perspective, but now that I’ve read your situation a little more thoroughly I may have an option you haven’t considered. Have you thought about the GMC Terrain? plenty of room for hauling, great gas mileage (up to 31 mpg) and the drivetrain is mostly toyota based. I have heard a lot of people who come through the shop brag about them to no end. Also, have you given any thought to (and this is higher end) a Nissan Murano?

    I will also tell you this, Kia and Hyundai have been in cahoots with each other for quite some time, and also in bed with (the now seperated) Daimler-Chrysler, (which is now Fiat owned.) both have good ratings of longevity as long as you just do the services when due. especially the timing belts, people tend to forget those till its too late. the Hyundai Tucson is one of those really sharp, rather roomy crossover SUV’s that is affordable, reliable, and for the price, safe. 10 airbags, decent overall crash ratings, and did i mention it looks really nice?

    I personally like the aforementioned Terrain, but not everyone digs the boxy look, but I’m an old truck guy and well, I like it. ultimately, its going to be up to your personal taste and what you like. I’ve always been told you should take up to around 6 months to decide what vehicle you will buy, especially when you buy new. also, if you have any questions at all, let me know. Steph or I one will let you know. Happy hunting.

    1. I really must look at the Terrain. Thank you so much, Brian for taking the time to give me this input. It’s super helpful. I’m still getting used to who some of these “newer” car manufacturers are, such as Kia & Hundai. I keep seeing them and find myself pleasantly surprised. So besides the GMC Terrain you’d go for the Hundai Tucson. We’re scheduling a sitter so we can test drive a few. Thanks again, Brian!

    • Mark Bradbourne on at
    • Reply

    When I had one child my wife and I both drove Saturn VUEs, and we loved them… then Saturn died. Much sadness came over our house as we were both driving collectors items. So we traded one of them in and upgraded to a Honda Pilot (since we no had 2 kids) and I love that vehicle. Can haul the kids and the stuff on long trips, and I get to keep my man card in the process… although I will say the Honda Odyssey is a very cool minivan, and if I was going to go the minivan route, it would be that one.

    1. You made me laugh… “I get to keep my man card”… I like that! This will mostly be the car my wife drives so if SHE wants a minivan that’s fine, and hopefully my testicles won’t shrink up inside my body? Hmmm. Wonder if my spam filter will prevent me from leaving a comment with the aforementioned body parts in it?

  10. All this talk about cars, I though you guys might be interested in a product I came across. It’s called Auto Shocker. It is an environmentally friendly odor eliminator that gets out any smell! It comes in handy when the kids spill food or get sick. I thought I would never get out that vomit smell, but Auto Shocker got rid of it and it never came back. Check it out at

    1. Who told you that I need an odor eliminator? Have you been talking to my wife? I’ve adjusted my diet and that’s not a problem any more. 😉

  11. My dad has a suburban … And has had for at least 10yrs they are invincible we needed it for towing and passenger load. Now all “us kids” grown up we still use his car for family outtings … gREAT car comfortable and just amazing … Tows very well and handles great in our new England winters … But gas is bad . Huge tank can go forever but when you need to fill up it hurts … Personal I love minions but we are considering a subaru for the better mpg

    1. Thanks, Cmeel! My dad had a Suburban, too. It was great on the ranch were he lived in the country, but the fuel economy must give one pause, as you say. We have a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Subaru now, and love both, but the Jeep is getting a bit long in the proverbial tooth, and must be replaced soon. I need to go test drive the new Prius V. Has anyone tried it?

    • Virg @sydAndclo on at
    • Reply

    I too am looking for a new car. My 2001 Honda Odyssey’s transmission has gone kaput for the third time. I must have gotten quite a lemon since another commenter said his is going past 200k. Mine is not even at 100k.

    Living in San Francisco means limited and cramped parking. So I would really appreciate a car that isn’t so darn big. I’m considering the pilot, highlander, cx5 or 9, or rav…pretty much anything that offers a 3rd row. My kids fence and the equipment takes up a ton of space. The ability to flip the third row down when I need to for extra space would be great. It would be about as good as the storage space in the odyssey I think.

    Nothing beats the minivan for convenience. It’s a room on wheels. The kIds can change into their uniforms or whatever in this room in wheels. The automatic doors are great. And if you’re planning to have more kids, nothing beats a minivan for convenience.

    1. Did you decide? Yes, parking in San Francisco must be a challenge. I’ve spent a lot of time there, but never in a mini-van. 😉 I’d love to hear what you settled upon, Virg?

  12. Good luck with your decision!!! I’ve never regretted buying the Odyssey, though.

    1. Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of positive recommendations for the Odyssey. Thanks so much, Kirsten!

    • Scrap Car Abingdon on at
    • Reply

    It’s a distinctly American trait to want what’s next—even before it’s here. Yes, Americans are spoiled, with too many choices in every genre of product, especially cars. But so what? This is the place where cars blossomed, where the first (and arguably best) car culture still exists. And where we haven’t stopped loving—and lusting after—the cool car around the next bend. With that in mind, here’s PM’s calendar of 12 cool cars under $50,000 that will go on sale in the next 18 months. Note that the exact dates may not be 100 percent accurate: The timetable is based on what the notoriously vague car flacks told us. So we’ve pried free what info we could, and we share it with you here.

    1. Thanks. I follow some of your car shows on BBC America over here across the proverbial pond. Yes, we have a wealth of choices in the US, but often don’t make the best ones.

  13. I traded my Corolla for a Chevy Tahoe. It`s big, but not as big as a suburban. Not great on gas but really safe and able to carry a stroller, pack n play, diaper bag and lots of groceries.

    1. My wife would like sitting up high and decent visibility out the back… and definitely like the added storage to carry all the kid stuff. How’s the gas mileage, though?

  14. Hi, I have the Chevy Travese, a recent move up from my Chevy Equinox.
    It is great. The accessibility for the kids is so easy, regardless of which row they sit in. The cargo capacity is so variable that I can carry groceries and they don’t roll around, or take that big family trip no problem.


    1. Yeah, we loved the Traverse (got to live with one for a couple weeks to try it out), but it proved larger than our family really needed. So we’re still trying to decide. Thanks so much for your advice, Joey!

  15. I agree about the Kia! I have been seeing a lot of them and I keep think that they have new lines and look a TON better!

    1. Right, Gage. I wasn’t taking them seriously until I kept seeing them on the road and thinking… hey they look pretty nice. Haven’t driven one yet, though.

  16. We’re looking at getting two cars, as we’ll have to “put down” our 1996 Volvo sedan soon (just got $4000 repair estimate). We have a 2009 Pilot and it’s great for 2 kids and assorted gear, but not so good on gas mileage (ave @ 19 mpg). (We have taken it on two 3-week cross-country roadtrips with a Thule roof box and bikes on the hitch carrier and it was quite comfortable for all.) We are thinking of getting a Passat diesel or 2013 Ford Fusion hybrid as our sedan and a minivan (Odyssey) to replace the Pilot, as my 3-yr old had a stroke and can’t get into the Pilot by herself (even with running boards). We love the Pilot, but need easier accessibility and better gas mileage. Tough choice! Maybe I’ll have flames painted on the sides of the minivan to sexy it up! lol

    1. My brother and his wife are very sadly coming to the recognition they’ll have to part with their even old Volvo sedan. They love it. The Passat diesel sounds like a pretty decent choice. I passed a Fusion hybrid last night on my way home and it looked nicer than I imagined. A number have spoken well of the Odyssey. Yes, you should definitely go with the flames on the side! 😉

  17. We have the traverse LT with captain chairs, it was a upgrade from BMW 525i. We can fit baby, 6 adults, a dog and 4 luggage bags plus purses and still have a little room. Reclinable back seats with an option to slide forward and back. Heated cloth seats. DVD player with wireless headphones and you can control the ac from the back too… Love our car!!!

    1. Thank you so much for your suggestion. My wife reviewed the Traverse on her blog, and while it’s a wonderful “car”, it’s larger than our small family needs. They loaned us one for a while so we both got to drive it quite a bit, and we certainly did enjoy it. Thanks so much, Victoria!

  18. We looked at Kias, and Toyotas, too, and they seemed decent as well. It’s never easy. I was leaning toward the Honda Pilot until I saw how much more trunk space the Odyssey had and then I noticed this pop-down mirror built into the Odyssey for spying on your little ones in the back seat. We settled on a Mazda 5.

    1. Sounds like you and we have been going through a similar back and forth as we try to decide. I’d like my wife to test drive the Prius V. Per your comment, I had my wife watch Consumer Reports video review of the Mazda 5. As a Compact minivan, it sounds like a good fit for a small family like ours. Thanks, Lois!

  19. Bookmaking this site was a great decision. This is a very helpful post! You need to write one on family cars for 2013.

    1. Thanks, Franklin. You’re right, I do need to do that. I’ve done a ton of research, as we just bought a new family car recently.

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