Best Cars for Families [Winners in Each Segment]
John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John’s focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of an academic team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of the battery thermal control designer. After earning his engineering degree, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University. For 20 years, he applied his engineering and sales talents in the worlds of semiconductor manufacturing, biopharmaceutical production, and automotive electronics supply chain. Always a writer, John has published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career and dedicated himself to chasing his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to online publications such as Car Talk, John’s work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers, and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites.
Family vehicles take many shapes and forms, and they serve many different roles depending on the family. However, what is constant in any family vehicle pick is the ability to transport children safely, reliably, and comfortably.
Our list of the best family cars takes into account not just IIHS safety results and the number of seats. We also consider the affordability of a family vehicle within its segment.
We aren’t just vehicle testers at FindTheBestCarPrice, but also parents. Here are our picks based on our testing and experience as parents.
Table of Contents
- Best Cars for Families Comparison
- Best Minivans
- Best Vehicles for New Parents
- Best SUVs for Families
- Best 3-Row SUVs
- Best Sedans for Families
- Which Is the Best Car for Families?
- Best Family Vehicles
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Cars for Families Comparison
|Model||Price Range||Combine MGP (Best)||Tow Rating Pounds||Safety Score**|
|Ford Bronco Sport|
*MPGe = Miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent (Measures fuel efficiency of hybrid and electric models)
**TSP / TSP+ = Top Safety Pick / Top Safety Pick+ (Crash test ratings from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
Minivans offer space, the most seats of any vehicle type, and are surprisingly satisfying to drive. Being big and testing well on the IIHS safety test are the two best predictors of occupant protection we have. Our top two picks for the best family minivans are:
1. Toyota Sienna
Toyota offers families a hard-to-pass-up mix of fuel economy and all-weather capability in the Sienna. With all-wheel drive and the standard hybrid engine, the Sienna is the only green minivan that powers all four wheels for sale in America.
Couple this capability and frugality with the highest possible scores on the IIHS safety test, and the Sienna is hard not to call one of the best family vehicles overall. With Toyota’s two years of include maintenance, the Sienna is also a great bang for the buck.
2. Chrysler Pacifica
It’s time for America to electrify, and the Pacifica offers families on a budget a great way to move towards an electric vehicle. With an incredible 84 MPGe rating, the Pacifica offers savings on energy that only the Sienna can rival. We cannot ignore that the Pacifica is now the top-selling minivan in America.
The Pacifica can also be configured with all-wheel drive (but not with the plug-in powertrain). All-wheel drive is a must for many in the snowbelt. The fact that Chrysler offers this as an option pushes its popularity up in many regions.
See all our picks for the best minivans >>
Best Vehicles for New Parents
New parents tend to be younger, and many have a limited budget. We take these factors into account in our list of the best family vehicles for new parents. Both of our picks for this segment are crossovers for this reason.
1. Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is Honda’s most popular family vehicle. This roomy two-row crossover is among the largest in its size segment and packed with value. New parents who are already planning a second child would be wise to check out the CR-V.
The CR-V offers a rewarding driving experience, a Top Safety Pick rating, and a cargo area that can swallow up two baby joggers. The controls are all familiar to any Honda owner, and the CR-V has excellent outward visibility. This is a crossover that you won’t need to trade when the children become teens. It’s a keeper.
2. Mazda CX-30
Are you a new parent not yet ready to pass up a sporty ride with good looks? Then, the Mazda CX-30 is right up your alley. The CX-30 drives like a compact sports sedan and has the best styling in its segment, in our opinion.
One important reason the CX-30 earns a spot on our “small crossover” list is that it does not feel small from the driver’s seat. Mazda made smart interior choices so that the CX-30 offers a good mix of a small footprint but useable size inside. Mazda’s CX-30 is a Top Safety Pick + and is available in affordable trims as well as luxury-feature-equipped top trims with a powerful turbocharged engine.
See all our picks for the best vehicles for new parents >>
Best SUVs for Families
Crossovers and SUVs offer families more room, more safety, similar annual energy costs, and more cargo space than sedans or coupes. Here are our top picks with a nod to the “U-as-in-utility.” Both of our top picks have spare tires and can tow.
1. Ford Bronco Sport
Ford’s Bronco Sport can’t seem to avoid our “best-of” lists! This new SUV goes over any terrain capability in a two-row package just right for families with one or two children. This all-weather and all-terrain SUV comes packed with features to take your family on any adventure imaginable.
We also like that the Ford Bronco Sport is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+. Unlike many compact SUVs, the Bronco Sport has a spare tire in every trim, and top trims have a full-size spare tire. That could come in handy far from home on a vacation weekend. If your family tows a pop-up camper, the Bronco Sport is just the ticket. It has a max tow rating of 2,200 pounds.
2. Mazda CX-5
Those family vehicle shoppers who don’t want to sacrifice style and driving pleasure but need more room than the CX-30 offers may wish to consider the larger CX-5 from Mazda. This premium crossover SUV is all-weather capable in its AWD trims and offers an optional turbocharged engine.
The CX-5 earns a Top Safety Pick+ rating from IIHS and has great reliability scores from Consumer Reports. It earned a 5/5 reliability rating for the past five model years.
See all our picks for the best SUVs for families >>
Best 3-Row SUVs
Once your family passes the third child mark, a two-row crossover SUV isn’t going to cut it anymore. Many parents with even one or two children find three-row SUVs perfect for vacation road trips and weekend carpooling. Here are our top picks for three-row family SUVs:
1. Kia Telluride
The Kia Telluride is a newer SUV to the market and one of the fastest-selling. Families looking for a large, three-row SUV will appreciate its 178 cubic feet of passenger space and 87 cubic feet of cargo volume. The Telluride is an SUV that makes the most of its footprint.
There is a lot to like about the Kia Telluride when it comes to family duty. The Telluride is a Top Safety Pick, and Kia was ranked third-best in J.D. Power and Associate’s most recent Vehicle Dependability Study. We like the Telluride because it is a satisfying vehicle to drive.
2. Toyota Highlander
No list of best family vehicles can ignore the Toyota Highlander. This midsized, three-row SUV tops the charts in quite a few ways. One way is fuel economy. The all-wheel drive Highlander earns a 35 MPG fuel economy rating. Another is safety. The Highlander earns a Top Safety Pick+ rating from IIHS.
Toyota’s Highlander is a true SUV with the ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds. That is enough to move your family’s boat or snowmobiles seasonally. For more than a decade, the Highlander has been earning high scores from Consumer Reports, and the brand also scores well on the J.D. Power Vehicle Durability Study.
See all our picks for the best 3-row SUVs >>
Best Sedans for Families
Sedans may be taking a back seat to crossovers, but it’s hard to ignore the tremendous value of midsize sedans. With GM and Ford bailing out of the car market, many of the best models are Japanese in brand but made in America. We think our top two picks won’t be a big surprise to anyone who still drives a sedan.
1. Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry was an easy pick as the best sedan in our roundup. The Camry comes in many configurations, ranging from a V6 powered engine to a hybrid engine that gets you 52 MPG. Whichever Camry trim and powertrain you select, it will pack a lot of value for the dollar.
With the industry’s best reliability record, the best possible grade on the IIHS safety exam, and two years of included maintenance, it's hard to pass on the Toyota Camry as your next family sedan.
2. Honda Accord
Read reviews or comparisons of midsize family sedans, and you will find that the reviewers can’t seem to stop choosing the Accord as number one. There is just something backed into the Accord’s DNA that makes it feel right.
Of course, the Accord also scores at the top of the charts in safety, and Honda offers a huge range of styles and powertrains from which to choose. If you are a Honda car fan, the only reason not to pick an Accord as a family sedan may be the allure of the Civic line.
See all our picks for the best sedans for families >>
Which Is the Best Car for Families?
Every vehicle on this list is a great family vehicle. What matters most is what your individual needs are for your family. However, tasked with selecting one overall Best Family Vehicle, we would choose the Toyota Highlander in an AWD Hybrid trim.
The Toyota Highlander Hybrid will return over ten thousand dollars in fuel savings when compared to nearly every other family vehicle that seats seven. Toyota’s ability to combine all-wheel drive, a green powertrain, and seven seats in an affordable package is unmatched.
The Highlander is roomy but not a ginormous leviathan that you can’t park. It can tow your boat or utility trailer. Best of all, the Highlander tops the charts concerning safety and reliability, the two categories we feel matter most to many families.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best family SUV to buy?
Our research shows that the Ford Bronco Sport is the top small family SUV, the Toyota Sienna the top minivan, and the Kia Telluride the best large three-row SUV for families.
What is the best affordable family car?
The Nissan Sentra SV is our pick as the best affordable family sedan. It offers a lot of bang for the buck and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Is a Honda CR-V big enough for a family of four?
Yes, the Honda CR-V is among the largest crossover SUVs in its segment, which is the most popular segment for family shoppers. The CR-V is surprisingly roomy with 106 cubic feet of passenger volume and up to 87 cubic feet of cargo volume.
What is the best family vehicle overall?
Depending upon your family’s size and budget, there are many great options for family vehicles. However, our overall top pick is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. No other vehicle can match its combination of size, fuel economy, reliability, all-weather capability, tow rating, and safety scores.