A little research beforehand will make shopping for a new family vehicle easier.

New vehicle sales are on the rebound in the U.S. as the country slowly emerges from the pandemic. Many of those are buyers are looking for a good vehicle for their families — some of which may be growing as a result of all the enforced togetherness.

A variety of factors come into play when selecting the right vehicle, including price, size, technology, accessibility and more. More often than not, family-vehicle buyers seek input from others when the search process begins.

Fortunately, there exists an expert in family matters of this type to help: Parents magazine. The publication just released its “Best Family Car Awards” that should help even the most discerning buyer find the right vehicle for them.

Pandemic changed vehicle wants and buying

Nissan@home

Nissan@Home now allows consumers to handle the entire purchase of a new vehicle online.

“The way we think about, shop for, and use cars has drastically changed in the past year,” said Parents Editor in Chief Julia Edelstein. “Our cars have become multifunctional safe spaces and sanctuaries that act as a home away from home, a retreat, a curbside pickup companion, and sometimes even an office. With safety at the top of mind, this year’s list adapts to your family needs for years to come.”

Consumers need to take advantage of the new focus on internet-based buying. It makes it easy to do research in advance, including easy-to-see comparisons between different types of vehicles. It also allows for an increased level of personal safety given that while the country is emerging from the pandemic, it’s not entirely over. The editors at Parents recommend the following when shopping for a vehicle these days:

  • Contact the dealer for a test-drive appointment. Buyers may not be able to walk into a showroom and ask for one.
  • Negotiate from home. It provides the buyer with a “neutral” or even friendly setting so bargaining hard will be easier to do. Also ask about contactless signing as many brands have a digital signature program.
  • Look at trade-in options. Some online services, such as Carvana, make it as simple as submitting some photos and answering questions to get an offer — and it gets picked up at your house. CarMax also gives
    2021 Chrysler Pacifica Limited AWD S front

    Unsurprisingly, options like the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Limited AWD S garnered honors in this year’s Parents magazine Best Family Car Awards.

    online offers.

Several brands, including Nissan, Ford, Honda and others, have recently introduced new websites aimed at helping with online purchases of new and used vehicles.

Top minivan choices

The station wagon of the ‘90s as it used to be called, the current generation of minivans are more powerful, yet functional — like mini-homes on wheels. Although there aren’t the number of options as there was a decade ago, the brands that remain offer a slew of advantages. Here are the categories winners:

  • Best Versatility: Honda Odyssey
  • Best Handling: Chrysler Pacifica
  • Best Value: Kia Sedona (getting a new name: Carnival)
  • Best Eco Pick: Toyota Sienna Hybrid

All of the winners have undergone recent remakes or refreshes meaning up-to-date safety and convenience technologies are available. They’re also all geared toward easy installation for car seats, ranging from being able to handle four to six, depending upon the model.

2021 Toyota Sienna

The 2021 Toyota Sienna also goes all-hybrid, but will be offered in either front- or all-wheel-drive.

Other top choices

When came to sport-utility vehicles, the magazine offered insights into both two- and three-row versions. Familiar names like Subaru, Nissan and Toyota dot the two separate entries.

Subaru took home three wins: Best for Road Trips for Ascent (three-row SUV), Best Hybrid for Crosstrek and Best for Road Trips for Forester (two-row SUV) while Nissan captured two titles: Best Redesign (two-row SUV) for the Rogue and Best for Adventures (three-row) Pathfinder.

For the contrarians in the crowd, there are some four-door sedan selections too, including the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Lexus ES 350, Nissan Maxima, Honda Accord Hybrid and the Subaru Legacy.

Also important to note, there are plenty of hybrids among the winners, including the aforementioned Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna also come available as hybrids. There was even an all-electric winner: the new Ford Mustang Mach-E. Not only do some of these offer potential tax breaks upon purchase, but they also represent fewer (or no) trips to the gas station.

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