Buying a new vehicle often takes on new meaning when you’re suddenly looking for a family transporter, rather than a sporty set of wheels for yourself and your spouse. The world of two-seaters with tuned exhausts and loud stereos can quickly become a foreign idea – but not to worry – there are many choices to keep everyone’s wish-list well accounted for.

Whether you’re shopping for a fuel-efficient people-carrier, a 4WD model capable of safely transporting your family through Canada’s oh-so-welcome winter months, or looking for a practical vehicle for the new driver in the house, there are many things to consider.


Safety Features

For most families, a plethora of modern and effective safety features are the first things on the list. This includes things like anti-lock brakes, stability control, a multitude of air-bags and a confidence-inspiring crash safety rating.

A good place to start would be to consult an online reference guide. Sites like, JD Power & Associates, or Kelley Blue Book offer expert reviews to help you navigate your concerns.


Drivetrain/Engine Options

When shopping for a new vehicle, it’s important to ask yourself which kinds of driving your family will be doing the most. If you have a boat, RV or trailer, a family vehicle with the capability to tow and haul will be on your list, often requiring the grunt of a larger V6 or V8 engine. If not, you may be more interested in a turbo-charged 4-cylinder or smaller V6 option to keep fuel efficiency in check.

Nowadays, the use of turbo-chargers on smaller displacement motors means that fuel-efficiency is typically ramped up by 2-6%, but additional moving parts can translate into the potential for additional maintenance costs, so choose wisely.

Likewise, selecting the right transmission is also a good question to ask yourself. A manual transmission is a good selection if you’re doing lots of highway driving so you can manually select a higher gear to drop your RPM’s. On the other hand, an automatic transmission is best for busy in-town traffic as it shifts gears for you, saving the life of your clutch. Many automatic transmissions today offer more gears as well, some upwards of 6,7 and even 9 speeds, meaning they are great for highway driving and commuting.



The big question is always ‘am I buying the most reliable vehicle?’ Reliability means you’ll feel confident in starting your car in sub-zero temperatures and won’t have to deal with problematic re-calls and unforeseen repairs on a regular basis. It also means you can expect your vehicle to run well into the 6-digit mileage range without so much as a hiccup – provided regular oil changes and maintenance are obliged.

Typically, your best bet is to chat with your friends, family members and co-workers about your options and gauge their responses. If the people around you have any applicable experience with the models you’re investigating, chances are they’ll be happy to share their findings with you. This is also a great opportunity to consult those online resources for reliability information.



If you have three kids and a dog, you will be better served avoiding that shiny mid-sized sedan; ask yourself what types of models just won’t work for you, and decide which body style benefits your family’s lifestyle. What are you able to use on a regular basis? What features – like heated seats and navigation – are you willing to pay the extra money for?

For many, the benefits and utility of a fuel-efficient hatchback, for example, can outweigh a sedan or pick-up truck, while for others a heavy duty hauler is an absolute necessity. The key here is to buy within your means – everyone would love to drive a powerful red sports car, but if it doesn’t suit your life, it will equate to a pointless purchase.

Practicality also means that your purchase is a financially stable one as well. Many features, engines, colours and body styles can increase or alter your insurance policy premium’s, and if you’re buying for a new 16-year-old driver, this is a major concern for most parents.

An insurance salesperson will inevitably charge more for a teenager, or ticket-ridden driver that operates a fast car. Certain colours, like red and yellow, can sometimes fetch an increased premium as well as they’re associated with a sports car mentality. Similarly, a models trim level like an ‘S’, ‘R,’ or ‘GT,’ can mean an increase on the monthly insurance bill as well.

Resale can be considered in your purchasing decisions as well. Some brands are affiliated with reliability and are more sought-after than others, so if you’re looking to sell or trade-in your purchase in a few years, it’s in your best interest to consider which models are generating a higher resale value so you can make a practical purchasing decision.