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Choosing Your Mom Car

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A picture of a mom car

What kind of mom car do you need? Depends on how you plan on using it.

Photo © Peter Cade / Getty Images
What makes a great mom car? Depends on the mom.

Just as parenting styles are different, so are the cars we drive. One mom is perfectly happy with her compact car. Another wouldn't dream of giving up her minivan.

These days, moms have a lot of choices but the most popular are:

Station Wagons
Station wagons may bring back memories of the 1970s or 80s, but they don't have wood paneling on the sides any more, and for moms who want the most sporty, car-like experience while hauling the kiddies, this is the best choice.

Station wagons don't have the space of larger vehicles, but they get better gas mileage. Most only have the same backseat room as you would find in a sedan, but that seat folds down. The back hatch opening makes it easier to load cargo like strollers or groceries than a typical car's trunk.

Because station wagons still carry the stigma from decades past, only a few car makers still offer them. They're popular in Europe for their versatility, which is why you may have to buy a European brand to get one.

Station Wagon Examples: Audi Allroad, Ford C-Max, Hyundai Elantra Touring, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon, Subaru Outback, Toyota Prius V, Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen

Minivans
Minivans are defined by their sliding side doors, three rows of seats and sometimes boxy look. Some moms don't want to be seen riding in a minivan, much less consider owning one.

But if you want the maximum space, flexibility and gas mileage, minivans are worth the look. Some of today's vehicles have seats that fold into the floor when it's time to carry cargo instead of kids.

Your kids will love watching the automatic sliding doors that are a common feature. Don't worry, there are safety mechanisms in place to keep their fingers safe.

Minivan Examples: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna, Volkswagen Routan

SUVs
An SUV is what started the craze away from cars and toward larger, tough-looking vehicles. Over the years, many moms discovered SUVs also had a rough ride and poor gas mileage.

That's because SUVs are usually based on the mechanics of pickup trucks. These days, SUVs ride smoother and offer many of the same luxury features of cars. But check the gas mileage, because you may be shocked at how thirsty many of the models remain.

The benefits of SUVs are their off-road abilities and towing capacity. If you want to venture deep into the woods or drag a large boat behind, an SUV is the best choice. If you don't own a boat or can only imagine occasionally traveling down a gravel driveway, the tradeoffs of an SUV may not be worth the price.

SUVs can fit 5-9 people, plus plenty of cargo. They ride high, which means you'll have no trouble seeing the road or traffic in front of you. But children and grandma may have trouble climbing aboard without a boost from you.

SUV Examples: Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, Toyota Sienna, BMW X1, BMW X3, BMW X5, Jeep Grand Cherokee, GMC Acadia, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60

Crossovers
For many moms, this is the best compromise. A crossover isn't as roomy or flexible as a minivan, but it's more stylish. Car makers are making crossovers in a variety of sizes and price ranges, so you won't have any trouble finding one to fit your budget. For example, Ford makes three types of crossovers, and many other automakers have similar lineups. Expect to seat 5-8 people in a crossover.

Some crossovers may look like SUVs, but they are built on a car chassis. That means it won't feel like you're driving a truck. Because it's technically a car, you won't get the off-road prowess or towing ability of a truck-based SUV. For most moms, that's not an issue.

Crossover Examples: Chevrolet Equinox, Dodge Journey, Ford Edge, Ford Escape, Ford Explorer, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Patriot, Kia Soul, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan

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