Once upon a time, a station wagon or minivan was what people pictured as the go-to transportation choice for a family. Then, for a while, a midsized SUV was a pretty good proxy for a typical “family vehicle.” But these days, there’s no such thing as a typical family. After all, a young couple with one or two small kids doesn’t have the same needs—or the same budget—as a family with three lanky teenagers. And what if you have an infant, but you’re also caring for an aging parent?

To help families select vehicles that fit their needs, we started out by studying the specific requirements families have during different stages of growth and change. Our pool of choices included only vehicles that earn a Consumer Reports recommendation and boast a competitive Overall Score. Each delivered strong performance in our more than 50 tests; received good marks in safety areas including insurance industry and/or government crash tests; and rated average or better for reliability and owner satisfaction, based on our exclusive owner surveys.

To create family-focused recommendations linked below, we filtered our test-based ratings by emphasizing various factors: ease of child-seat installation for families with young children; short-person access and ability to see out the rear windows for school-age kids; rear-seat head and leg room for families with teenagers; and front and rear ease-of-access for families with aging parents. The result: a selection of standout vehicles for the needs of your family. 

Consumer Reports Build & Buy: In addition to car research, ratings, and ranking Consumer Reports offers subscribers access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no additional cost. Through this service, a nationwide network of about 9,000 participating dealers provide upfront pricing information, as well as a certificate to receive guaranteed savings off MSRP (in most states). The pricing information and guaranteed savings includes eligible incentives. Consumer Reports subscribers have saved an average of $2,954 off MSRP with the Build & Buy Car Buying Service.



Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the November 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.