There may be no greater joy in life than knowing a newborn is on the way.
Soon, you’ll get to experience all the excitement and bliss that being a parent brings. But with this wonder comes great responsibility. The entire well-being of another human will rest in your hands. It’s time to evaluate some things in your life and make a few changes.
Remember that car you bought fresh out of school that was some combination of being affordable, cool, unique and youthful? Now it’s deteriorating into a pile of scap metal in your driveway. You gamble with whether you will or will not make it to your destination or not on every trip you take. Getting stranded on the side of the freeway is one thing, but having it happen with an infant aboard will be a nightmare. Looks like it’s time for an upgrade.
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So what should a new parent look for in an automobile? Well a lot of things, really. But to help any soon-to-be progenitors, we have broken down the new car checklist into three key areas. First, there are those things that need to be in a vehicle to make transporting a baby safe and easy. Second are things that aren’t quite a necessity, but would make your time behind the wheel as a parent a lot less stressful. Third, there are the items that are icing on the cake; the added perks that parents might not need, but will gladly take if offered.
The most important thing you can do as a parent is keep your child safe. This is especially true when it comes to cars and driving. Regardless of how skilled you are behind the wheel, there is always the unknown factor of weather, road conditions and other motorists that could result in a crash. Modern vehicles have jumped leaps and bounds in terms of crash worthiness compared to older cars, even within the past five years. A modern car will keep its occupants much safer than models from the past. But some are still safer than others. To check and compare how well prospective new vehicle purchases rate in crash testing, visit the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety database or the one offered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Act.
A newborn is going to spend the next several years in child safety seats, so a vehicle with a rear seat is essential. Although most four- and five-person coupes do come equipped with child seat anchors, accessing them and the child can be a nightmare because there isn’t a door opening directly beside the rear seat. When your child is an infant and in a rear facing child seat this can be quite the struggle.
It’s best to look for a four-door vehicle because the easier accessed rear seat area will be easier to deal with. If your rear facing child seat has already been purchased, take it along when new car shopping so it can be test fitted to the backseat area. Pay attention to a vehicle’s official rear legroom measurement as these safety seats are deceivingly long. Not all smaller cars can accommodate one without forcing the front passenger seat to be placed uncomfortably close to the windshield.
Rear doors are also important when it comes to size and operation. Vehicles like a Range Rover L with the extended wheelbase give parents all the space in the world to secure their bundles of joy to the back seats, but the rear doors also require all the space in the world to open, which is a challenge in parking lots. When looking at new cars, see how far out the doors open in relation to the access they give to the backseat area. As well, the angle in which they swing open is important as the closer to 90 degrees the better. Still, there is one champion when it comes to rear vehicle doors for parents: the sliding door. Not only does it give them full access to their kids, but it also takes up minimal space when opened.
With the essentials taken care of, many other automotive features can help ease the transition into parenthood. Chances are you’ll become more distracted behind the wheel now that an extra, highly demanding passenger is frequently aboard. Vehicles with the latest active safety systems like lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and collision detection could be a life saver if you stop paying attention, even for a split second.
Babies call for a lot of stuff like strollers, pack and play cribs, diaper bags and more. A car with a large trunk is good, but one with a lift gate hatchback is better. Not only is it easier to load odd-shaped items into a hatchback, by usually there is more cargo room in a hatchback and items placed back there stay as warm or cool as everything else in the vehicle. Taking things a step further, a power lift gate, power trunk or even power side doors will further help a new parent whose hands will inevitably be full each time they approach the vehicle.
And when it comes to loading a child and their gear into a car, a vehicle’s height is important. Crossovers continue to gain popularity with new parents due partially to their load height. SUVs usually sit too high, requiring some people to have to step up into the vehicle to secure their child in a safety seat. Regular cars, on the other hand, sit too low and force parents to hunch over in backbreaking slouches as they secure the safety belts.
While discussing access, safety anchors that are easy to reach for the child seats are a huge plus. Some vehicles require a lot of work to uncover and use these clips. While you’re at it, try folding the rear seats down to see how easy it is to do when children are not occupying them for added utility.
Finally, keeping the sun out of your child’s eyes is important, especially ones too small to relate any discomfort to you. A vehicle with factory or dealer installed rear window tint is good, but one with built in roll-up sunshades is better. This isn’t as unusual as it once was either as several minivans, crossovers and sedans are now offering this feature.
Icing on the Cake
Of course, there are some other items that will make life even easier on new parents, like extra cup holders for kid’s snacks and food as well as excess storage bins for other random items. Some vehicles now include a secondary wraparound rear view mirror so a driver can take a quick look back on their kids without having to turn all the way around or moving the regular rear view mirror down.
Removable rear headrests are a nice bonus as they make installing child safety seats much easier and built-in rear video screens can help entertain little ones on longer trips.
Ultimately though, it all comes down to what is most important to you and what you can afford. There are many choices out there that are great, child friendly vehicles. As long as all the Must Haves are checked off as well as a good portion of the Nice to Haves, you should be fine. Happy shopping and good luck with the new baby!
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