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Kate Traverson

6 Family Car Features—and What They Say About You

Find a car that speaks to you.

If our cars could talk, what would they say? In a lot of ways, they have a unique view into our daily lives—who we are, where we go and, perhaps most importantly, what songs we belt out when no one’s listening. But when baby enters the picture, there’s a new story to tell, and likely, the need for a new car to tell it. So how do you choose? Each family-friendly feature has its own personality, building up to a set of wheels with definite character. With so many different models on the market, navigating the dozens of convenient options and add-ons can feel a little overwhelming. Luckily, Autotrader makes it easy to shop all the cars and find one with a combo that speaks to you. Below, find out what each of these choices says about your next family ride.

Third-Row Seating

What it says: Who else would drive the kids next door to soccer practice? Their own parents? Nonsense. Why you actually need it: You might be thinking baby is only one tiny passenger, how much room could he possibly need? But trust us, children have a tendency to pull people out of the woodwork—before you know it, family you haven’t seen in decades will be asking you to pick them up at the airport and eventually, you may be shuttling half the class home from day care. Yet you might not be willing to permanently give up the cargo space required to haul that massive jogging stroller or bulk-buy diapers. Enter flexible, fold-down third-row seating: This chameleon feature has your back (row) when you need it, but can disappear when you don’t. (If only you could say the same about your extended family.) Cars to consider: Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Armada

Integrated Vacuum

What it says: My floor is so clean, you could eat off it (and this kid might actually try). Why you actually need it: Look, no one is expecting you to keep a spotless car with a drooling, food-flinging passenger in the back seat. But if the thought of finding snack puffs under the driver’s seat five years from now seriously grosses you out, you might want to consider a car with a built-in vacuum. A growing trend in the minivan market, it’s typically an integrated hose positioned in the rear of the vehicle that can stow away in the wall of the trunk when not in use. Now, if only they would create a robot version that runs itself. Cars to consider: Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey

Automatic Braking

What it says: Stop in the name of love, before you break your car. Why you actually need it: Every parent knows a set of eyes in the back of your head would come in handy when you’re dealing with toddlers who can (and will) get into everything. But that’s extra true on the road, where you also need to keep an eye on other drivers and unexpected obstacles. Automatic braking can sense a head-on collision even before you do, bringing the car to a stop to avoid an accident. We probably don’t even need to tell you how priceless that peace of mind can be with a little one in tow. Cars to consider: Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander

Plug-In Power

What it says: You know you can’t fit the whole family on that bike. Go ahead, try. I’ll wait. Why you actually need it: When being eco-friendly is incredibly important to you, you’re always looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint. And while biking is a great way to get around, sometimes you need to travel in cozy convenience, especially now that baby’s on board. All-electric vehicles aren’t just the way of the future, they’re the answer to your prayers. Newer models can travel even further than before on a fully charged battery, making them a more feasible choice on par with a hybrid—since you no longer have to rearrange your schedule around plugging in your car. If that’s not enough incentive, think of all the money you’ll save by never having to stop at the pump again. Cars to consider: Chevrolet Bolt EV, Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric

Auto-Open Trunk

What it says: Feel like your hands are full as a new parent? Just wait until you go grocery shopping. Why you actually need it: Juggling children and all the gear that comes with them means you could frequently use a helping hand. In fact, any day out shopping with baby often involves trying to stuff the stroller, a diaper bag and all of your purchases into the trunk at once—before baby starts crying, wondering where you went. And while you’ve no doubt built up some serious bicep strength as a new parent, you still only have two arms. So why not use your foot? The convenient hands-free liftgate option allows you to pop the trunk by waving your foot below the bumper or, on some models, simply approaching the rear of the car with the key fob in your pocket. Either way, it’ll seem like magic when you’re in a pinch. Cars to consider: Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Nissan Rogue

Wi-Fi Infotainment System

What it says: Toddler throwing a tantrum in the back seat? Don’t worry, Elmo’s got this. Why you actually need it: Let’s face it: Long car rides with kids are hard. There’s a whole new level of parenting skills needed to handle a road-trip meltdown while simultaneously trying to operate a car safely. So keeping them entertained is the key. Sure, you can hand them your phone or tablet, but who wants to chance driving through a data dead zone? Luckily, plenty of cars now include 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spots and “infotainment” systems that link directly to your favorite apps. That way you can stay on Sesame Street, no matter where the road takes you.
Cars to consider: Audi Q7, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Tahoe

The Bump and Autotrader present ‘Life in Transit,’ a sponsored series featuring tips and advice to help you find your next family car. Ready to shop all the cars? Visit Autotrader to explore the possibilities.

Photo: IStock