How to Choose the Perfect Family Road Trip Vehicle

There’s nothing more American than a family road trip. Keep a good road trip from turning bad with these tips for choosing the perfect family road trip vehicle.

This is a sponsored post, but I always share my honest opinions.

If your family is planning a vacation this year, there’s a good chance that it’s a road trip. Road trips are an affordable, all-American way of transporting 3.1 children to grandma’s house, the beach, or the mountains for a week of adventure. So it’s no surprise that nearly 70% of all American family vacations are road trips.

But nothing can make a good road trip turn bad faster than the wrong vehicle for your family. Before hitting the road, you need to consider your family, your plans, your safety, your sanity, and your pocketbook.

Follow this comprehensive guide to help your family choose the perfect road trip vehicle.


Your Family

Evaluating your family’s size, makeup, and life stage is the critical first step in choosing the perfect family road trip vehicle. Newlyweds, new parents, parents with teens, and empty nesters are likely to have widely different family road trip vehicle needs.

Here’s what you need to consider:

  • How many people are in your family?  A family of three or four has a wider range of vehicles to choose from than a family of six or eight.  

Tips for Selecting the Perfect Family Road Trip Vehicle

  • Do you anticipate your family growing or shrinking?  If you see another car seat in your future, be sure to consider where the newest family member will sit in your road trip vehicle. If you have teenagers heading off into the real world soon, maybe your perfect family road trip vehicle doesn’t need as much space as it once did. Will a parent, cousin, or best friend regularly travel with you?

Pro Tip:  Use the US Department of Transportation’s site to evaluate car seats.

  • What about your four-legged kids?  Does your dog, cat, or pet iguana typically join your family road trip?  Be sure to allow enough space for your pets, their bedding, and supplies.

Don't overlook pets when considering your perfect family road trip vehicle


Your Plans

Once you have a clear picture of the people in the car with you, the next thing to consider are your plans. The length of your family road trip and the destination can greatly impact how much cargo, and what type of cargo, needs to ride along.

Here’s what you need to consider:

How far will you travel? How long will you be gone?  What kinds of things will you do?  Of course, you need adequate space for everyone’s clothes and personal items. You’ll definitely want room for snacks and a cooler.  But you’ll also need space for anything extra like bulkier, cold weather clothing and skis if you’re headed to the mountains or waders and fishing poles if you’re headed to the sea.  Based on your plans, look for a family road trip vehicle that includes a roof rack, detachable seats, and plenty of legroom.

How to choose the perfect family road trip vehicle


Your Safety

While you can’t control all of the variables on your family road trip, you’ll want to minimize the chance of a break down on Los Angeles’ I-405 or being stranded on a two-lane highway in a sparsely populated area. On a positive note, if you ever do find yourself stranded miles away from civilization in a place like Northern Arizona, get out of the car and look up. If it’s a clear night, the stars will take your breath away.

Here’s what you need to consider:

  • What sort of safety rating is important to you?  The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — or NHTSA for short, because that’s a mouthful — rates cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans using a five-star safety rating system. More stars mean safer cars.  As a starting point check out this list of late-model, five-star 2017 vehicles. 

Pro Tip:  Research the safety rating of your potential family road trip vehicle at Using the Research tab on their site, it’s fast and easy to obtain the NHTSA safety rating and other safety information for both new and used cars.

Research Vehicle Safety Ratings at

  • What sort of safety features do you want?  Safety features include everything from cruise control, air bags, and backup cameras to blind spot monitoring, lane departure warnings, and automatic braking.


Your Sanity

“Are we there yet?” Limit how many times you are asked this question on your family road trip with navigation, entertainment, and other sanity-saving features.

Here’s what you need to consider:

  • Are you ever at odds with a passenger over the temperature inside the car?  If you’re comfortable at 65F while the person riding shotgun is freezing at any temperature below 80F, you may want to consider seat warmers, seat coolers, multi-zone climate control, and other options that keep you both happy.
  • What are your navigation needs? Have you ever made a wrong turn in Albuquerque?  Too proud to stop and ask for directions?  You may want to choose a family road trip vehicle that’s equipped with a built-in GPS.

A complete guide to help you select the perfect family road trip vehicle

  • How are your passengers going to pass the time between point A and point B? Consider entertainment features like a WiFi hotspot, satellite radio, and built-in screens for movies.


Your Pocketbook

Unless you are independently wealthy, your perfect family road trip vehicle will have to fit your budget. Of course there’s the purchase price of the vehicle, but other cost factors include gas mileage, service, and repair.

Here’s what you need to consider:

  • What sort of gas mileage does the car get?  While gas mileage can vary widely when you climb mountains, cruise-control your way across the plains, or are stuck in rush hour traffic, the average vehicle gets about 25 miles per gallon. Use this as a baseline when evaluating your perfect family road trip vehicle.
  • What are the annual estimated service and repair costs for the vehicle?  Unfortunately, I’m not independently wealthy, so the difference between an estimated $1,500 per year and an estimated $3,000 per year in service and repair is a big deal.  P.S. If you are independently wealthy and have an extra seatbelt in your family road trip vehicle, contact me. I’d love to join your adventure!

Whether you plan to be on the road for five hours, five days, or five months, the right family road trip vehicle can make or break your adventure. Whether you’re shopping for a new vehicle, have an existing car to sell, or are just starting to research your perfect family road trip vehicle, can help. Visit their one-stop website for tools, expert advice, and more!

Tips to help you choose the perfect family road trip vehicle #roadtrip #familytravel #CarsCom #ad     Tips to help you choose the perfect family road trip vehicle #roadtrip #familytravel #CarsCom #ad

Please note:  Photos are courtesy of the community of talented photographers over at Pixabay


10 thoughts on “How to Choose the Perfect Family Road Trip Vehicle

    1. I hear ya’ sister! With three kids born 18 months apart — a set of boy/girl twins and another daughter — a big car has long been a necessity. First for three car seats, then to provide adequate space, and now for plenty of legroom! 🙂

  1. We took a road trip recently and having a comfortable car for everyone plus luggage plus pet is key! These tips are wonderful. Take heart because it can save you a headache next time or for your first road trip!

  2. I wish I had had this great list of items to consider before taking our 4,000 mile round trip drive to grandma’s a few years back! Super article!

  3. Brilliant tips here. Many that I hadn’t thought of before. Wish I had read this before last summer when we took our road trip around Brittany!

  4. Helpful article for planning a road trip so much to consider if you want it to be successful!

  5. Road trips are great fun. But of course if you are stuck in the wrong car, it can turn into a nightmare. You have provided some valuable pointers on getting this right.

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