Having kids has a massive impact on your life. And yet upgrading your vehicle can be a daunting task.
Here's a few simple questions new (and old parents) can ask to help you match your family's needs to a fantastic car, that does everything you want and more.
Even having one child impacts your vehicle choice in a number of ways. You'll need to start seriously considering things like luggage space. Can you fit a pram and a week's worth of groceries in the boot? Can you easily access the back seat to get your baby or toddler in and out of the vehicle without giving yourself a back sprain?
Then, when a second kid comes along the dynamic changes again. Suddenly you have two child-seats in the back, which means you can only really take one extra passenger. This is fine if it's just you and your partner taking the kids away for the weekend, but what if grandma wants to come along too? You could try and squeeze her in, in the tiny gap between the child-seats, but that's only really bearable for short trips. At this point it could be time to consider upgrading to a 7-seater.
Seven seaters are brilliant because they essentially turn the boot into two extra seats that are perfectly comfortable for most children and teenagers (although not always recommended for older people as clambering in and out can be a bit difficult). Then, when not in use, they fold or slide away to give you the cavernous boot space that most modern families require.
And if your numbers go from 4 or 5 to 6 or even 7, then mid-size SUVs, compact hatchbacks and station-wagons start falling by the wayside practicality-wise, and mini-vans become your only affordable option. Which means you'd better get used to being the default driver for all those netball or footy games!
Modern vehicles come with a huge array of safety features, but some are of particular use to new parents. At the very least your vehicle needs to have isofix points so you can safely secure child-seats. It should also have driver and passenger-side airbags, side-impact bars, anti-locking brakes and some form of electronic stability control.
Seats should have dark fabric that is easy to clean (leather is actually fantastic if you can afford the premium), and scuff-resistant backs to bear the brunt of little kicking feet. Crumbs and spilled drinks will get everywhere, so things like good quality carpet mats can be a surprisingly good investment.
Being a responsible parent doesn't mean you have to buy a sensible-looking vehicle. Many family wagons disguise their eminent practicability beneath more sporty facades these days. And if you can afford rear tints, a spoiler or two and some mags, they go a long way to making even the most practical vehicle look attractive.