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The Urban Mom's Guide to Buying a Car

Everything you need to know before buying a family car in the city.

The Urban Mom's Guide to Buying a Car

Becoming a mother means that you’ll start changing a lot of things to accommodate your growing family. You’ll swap couture clothes for comfortable, practical ones, and you rethink everything in your home as it all looks like a potential hazard to your new tiny roommate. And your car -- that stylish coupe in your parking space… Well, you’re probably going to upgrade it for something a little more family friendly.

Buying and owning your first family vehicle can be a daunting decision to make for new moms, especially if you have to deal with the unique challenges that come with living in a large city. From having to squeeze into tight spots to showing a pothole who’s the boss, cities are an automotive minefield, and you need a vehicle that is not only spacious, but also maneuverable and economical to navigate your urban environment while still being able to haul not only lots of stuff, but also your newborn or your herd of preschoolers. So, to help you find the perfect car for your family of city dwellers, here is the Urban Mom’s guide to owning a car.

SAFETY

Safety is a major priority to consider when purchasing a family car for the city. One of the challenges often encountered with city driving are collisions. So, to ensure your family’s safety, carefully research the safety features of each of your car options before making your decision. Cover the basics: side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control. A backup camera and parking sensor can also come in handy; and if you find yourself leaning back or turn around to talk to your kids, you may want to opt for a couple of modern safety gadgets, like the forward-collision alert and the lane-departure warning. Rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitors are valuable tools to have if you feel like you’re lacking visibility.

SPACE

Space is another factor to consider, both the interior of the car and dimensions of the exterior. First of all, you should ask yourself whether you will be able to fit your family, as well as all your baby essentials, in the car comfortably. Remember that, down the road, your family will change. Your kids will get bigger, and you may add more children and pets to your gang. So you may want to think more long-term and think big(ger) to avoid accruing additional expenses later on. But of course, you want to think about your living situation. If you live in a city, figure out what kind of car your parking can accommodate. Will your new car fit comfortably in a ¾ garage? Is it easy to parallel park?

FUEL ECONOMY

You need to consider the fuel economy of the car. In the city, cars spend a lot of time idling in traffic. Idling expends a lot of fuel, so you need to research or select a car that is going to preserve fuel wherever possible. If you are serious about green energy and have the budget to cover their heftier price tag, hybrid and electric cars are really the way to go when driving in the city.

CAR ACCESSORIES

Once you’ve chosen your car, you can outfit it with all necessary accessories needed for traveling with kids.

Car Seat. Car seats are notorious troublemakers for new parents, particularly when it comes to installing them. However, with a bit of clever engineering, newer cars have been designed with improved interior dimensions, including raised roofs for more head space and flexible seating to allow getting in and out of the car with greater ease. These improvements also make it easier to install and remove the car seat without causing injury.

Another point of concern for new moms, when it comes to car seat installation, is which side of the car to install the seat. It is intuitive for parents to install the seat behind the front passenger seat in a rear-facing position, to be better able to see the baby. However, new studies suggest the safest place to install the car seat is in the center rear passenger position, as to avoid injury due to side-impact collisions, as well as to keep the car seat away from side airbags.

Stroller. Owning an urban family car can often present problems when it comes to trunk space and transporting all those baby essentials you need, especially the stroller. Fortunately, if you have a car with limited trunk space, there are many models of stroller suitable for urban living, which are light and compact and fold easily. Some of the better models will include an infant car seat that can be docked to the base installed in the back of your car, along with a lightweight frame that can be folded to save space in your trunk.

Car Organization. New babies come with a huge number of accessories, and most of the time your diaper bag can handle the load, but inevitably things will find their way into the nooks and crevices of your car. Keep your new car clean and organized by investing in a good organization system for your car. Diapers, wipes, pacifiers, toys and anything else that your baby might need can be conveniently stored in a back-of-seat organizer.

MAINTAINING YOUR CAR

Dings, scratches and overheated engines are likely occurrences for moms driving in the city. The key to ensuring your car survives the challenges of city driving unscathed is by keeping a regular maintenance schedule.

Regularly inspecting your car gives you the opportunity to identify and fix small problems before they become huge disasters. Leaving or overlooking problem areas will end up costing you a lot more money and inconvenience in the long-term.

Most checks can be done at home, and small repairs only require a small selection of tools and auto products, which can be kept in the trunk of your car, alongside the stroller and diaper bag. What’s more, the money you save by regularly maintaining your car can be spent on more baby stuff.

When it comes time to take your urban family car for a tune-up or more extensive mechanical repairs however, source the best auto shop and mechanic for your car needs. Find a mechanic you can trust and form a good working relationship with. You need to feel comfortable talking with your mechanic about everything, from radiator fluid to car seat safety. Never be afraid to ask questions, no matter how irrelevant you think they may be. When it comes to owning a car, you should always think of your family’s safety first.

Jenna Joubert is an Auto Mechanic, Mom, and Blogger. At a young age, she worked at her family’s auto body shop and it was there that her passion for the automotive industry grew. Jenna is ASE certified and trained at the BMW Performance School! When she isn’t working she is vacationing at Disney with her young family.

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