Whether your first little one is on the way or you already have a full house, there comes a time to purchase a vehicle that will meet the changing needs of your family. Most families prioritize the same things – safety, reliability, capacity, and fuel-economy. But with the plethora of SUVs, minivans, and wagons available it can be difficult to know where to begin.

We’ve put together a list of seven questions you can ask yourself in order to determine which of these may be a good option for you.

7. Is fuel economy a top priority?

There are a number of hybrid options that offset the higher weight and less aerodynamic shape of SUVs. Fueleconomy.gov allows you to compare the fuel efficiency of various vehicles and estimate the annual cost for each. Some of our favorite fuel efficient family vehicles include the Volvo XC90 Plug-in Hybrid, Lexus RX 450h, and Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

6. Are handling and performance important?

Larger SUVs and minivans can feel sizable when you’re driving them and can be somewhat slower to accelerate. The new performance SUV class offers the handling of a sports sedan with the cargo capacity required by your family. If performance is a priority, our recommendations include the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, BMW X5 M, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.

5. Will you be driving the vehicle in winter conditions?

Winter ski trips can be a primary motivation for choosing a larger vehicle. Features like AWD and traction control can make driving in snow much safer. Some strong choices for driving the family in wintery conditions include the Chevrolet Tahoe, Subaru Forester, and Audi Q7.

4. Do you need extra cargo space for dogs, bikes, etc?

If you’re looking for additional cargo space, but don’t feel you need a third row you may want to think about a mid-sized SUV or wagon. Many wagons actually have more cubic feet of storage area than a small SUV. Some of our favorites include the Audi A4 Allroad, BMW X3, and Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.

3. Will you be using the vehicle for family road trips regularly?

Road trips require a combination of comfortable seating and cargo capacity for luggage and other gear. Minivans and larger SUVs can be the best choice for both and often can be equipped with rear entertainment options to make the trip more enjoyable. We often recommend the Honda Pilot, Land Rover Discovery, and Lexus RX 350 for frequent family car trips.

2. Will you often be driving more than four passengers at a time?

If carpools, sports teams or large groups of friends are in your future, you may want to consider a vehicle with three rows of seating. While minivans are the obvious choice, many mid-size and larger SUVs have an optional third row and can comfortably seat up to eight. Our top picks for 7+ passenger vehicles include the Toyota Sienna, Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, and Mazda CX-9.

1. Is having a top-rated safety pick important to you?

Safety is a universal top priority among car manufacturers, but many families want the added security of choosing a top-rated vehicle for safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) evaluates vehicles based on crashworthiness and crash avoidance/ mitigation. Some of our most-recommended vehicles from the IIHS list include the Subaru Outback, Audi Q5, and Volvo XC60.

Need more personal guidance? The car-buying experts at Cartelligent can walk you through your financial options and help you make an educated decision. Your initial consultation is always free and there is never any obligation to use our services. For more information, give us a call at 888-427-4270 or get started today.