Three questions to ask when buying a Family Car

A new set of wheels is a big deal, and when it comes to your family, you want to make sure you’re buying something safe, economical and long-lasting. Purchasing a car on your own is daunting, and women, in particular, are often targeted by unscrupulous dealers and salesmen looking to unload faulty or unsellable vehicles. When it’s time for a new vehicle, then these are just three simple questions you need to ask to make sure you get a car that’s right for you.

  1. How safe is it?

Safety is the number-one priority when it comes to purchasing a new car. The latest driver assistance technologies have the potential to save thousands of lives on our roads. Look for technologies such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which uses sensors to identify road hazards and can slow and even stop vehicles before a collision; electronic stability control (ESC) which activates when a driver loses control of a car in an accident, and lane-keep assist, which warns drivers when they stray outside their lane. As well as new technologies, vehicles should also include curtain airbags, which will protect you and your children from a side-impact crash and reduce driver death by nearly 40 percent.

  1. How big is it?

Chances are, if you’re a busy parent with several children, then your car needs lots of space! Between taking little ones to sports, supermarket shopping, prams and trips away, a hatchback or sedan just isn’t going to cut it. As how big the boot space is if it isn’t listed, both with the back seats up and down. A ‘big’ boot with the backseat up is considered anything over 500 litres and should be plenty of space for a busy family. It also pays to look at whether you need a five-seater or seven-seater car. Numerous large SUV models have an optional two seats in the back seat, which is ideal if you sometimes carpool or drive children’s friends or relations around but don’t necessarily require a van for day-to-day use.

  1. How much fuel does it use?

A car may seem cheap up front, but turn out to be a huge expense with a large, inefficient engine. Ask the owner or salesman about its fuel rating. If they’re a commercial dealer and don’t know, then that’s a red flag and suggests they don’t know a huge amount about their own cars. You can also check a car’s fuel consumption online. Remember that petrol will be an ongoing expense, so if you’re tossing up between several models with similar safety features and size requirements, then choose the one with the lowest fuel consumption – this will save you the most money in the long run.

You don’t have to learn everything there is to know about cars to when it’s time to purchase your next family vehicle. If you’re concerned about getting a cost-effective, safe vehicle for your family, then it’s worth looking at online websites featuring cars for sale, such as Auto Trader, which will clearly display all the relevant information you need, allowing you to make an informed choice.

Collaborative Post

7 Top Tips for Keeping Kids Amused on Long Car Journeys

Yesterday I made the (roughly) three and a half hour car journey from my home in Hertfordshire to my Dad’s in Lancashire, just outside Manchester. Depending on traffic the journey can be much longer, on a good day it can be as little as three but no less.

It’s a journey I’ve made thousands of times before with my children throughout all the different age groups they’ve been. I usually make the trip by myself as it’s one I do often and the OH stays behind to work. The hardest times were when my twins were babies. Those journeys I don’t look back on fondly as it’s near on impossible to entertain two new babies on a car journey with two other children as well. But I managed, just about.

Now that the children are older (my twins are 4 years old) I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to long car journeys, and being the only adult in the car with no one else to really rely upon in terms of helping, it’s imperative I have a plan before setting off.

Here are my 7 top tips for travelling in the car on a long journey with the children:

1. Choose the right time to leave

Set off when your kids are getting tired. I think just after lunch is a great time as they’ve usually been playing all morning so when they’ve had lunch (another good reason for leaving at this time so they’ve got a full belly) and they’re in the car they will fall asleep, especially if you have young children, but this works with any age. My Teen always falls asleep in the car if we leave at this time.

I know it’s not always possible though e.g if you have to be somewhere for a certain time, and if this is the case, wake up your children and get them out of bed extra EARLY, so there is a possibility of sleep,  just the motion of the car on the road will hopefully ensure this happens!!

2. Take plenty of snacks

This may be an obvious one but you have to carefully consider what you take and how you’re going to administer! I keep the absolute favourites for when my kids are getting really ratty! For example I take drinks in sippy cups that I know my twins LOVE and don’t really have any more at home, so in an emergency I whip these out and I know they will placate them for at least another half an hour if not more! Ration too. Knowing there are snacks to be had, the kids will want everything all at once. Bad idea. Give nothing initially, after the sleep is ideal, then give one item at a time. Having large share bags of sweets and crisps are also handy as it keeps the children interacting with each other as they need to share them out with each other, rather than a packet each that they will just sit and eat quickly. This point takes me on to the next tip quite nicely…..

3. Be organised in the car

If, like me, you are the only adult in the car, you need to have everything to hand so you can grab things whilst driving! I realise this isn’t ideal in terms of safety standards but needs must. Don’t make the mistake of taking lots of snacks etc then not being able to reach/grab them when the kids are going crazy for them! This will make you go crazy yourself and you’ll have to stop the car. I have a big 7 seater car and it’s pointless giving the twins their own bags of things to look after as they are strapped into their car seats and will often drop their bags out of reach, especially if they’ve slept (this doesn’t really apply to older kids who can look after their own stuff).  Keep bags near you. I keep them in the middle of the two front seats for easy access or just directly behind this area. Plastic carrier bags are the best too, so you can see items easily at a quick glance!

4. Take the usual entertainment like toys/books/tablets etc

This goes without saying. Books are an old favourite but have been overtaken somewhat in the popularity stakes by all things electrical, be it tablets, phones, laptops etc. A good tip for these would be to download some new videos, films and games especially for the journey or restrict usage before you go, that way they’ll be extremely excited to play with these for hours! And again, for younger children, have a few little toys to hand so you can pass to them on the move!

5. Music

Some children, my daughter falls into this category, don’t like to read or look at screens as they get a little car sick, so music is a good option. Take CD’s with music on that THEY like. We have some compilation CD’s with some favourite pop songs on that all the children know and we have a sing song! They love this and it’s a good, easy time waster. I also find this very entertaining and funny!

6. Old style games

I spy and other traditional games can go down well, make the words easily guessable for the younger ones and something that you can see in the car! Frustrations mount if they can’t get it right! Other simple games like counting particular cars is fun for the kids, as in ones made this year (we used to like this when we were kids, we looked out for the newest number plates) or just finding cars of the same colour. Counting will help the little ones with their numbers too!

7. Take a break

Lastly, if all else fails, stop the car and take a break. Pull into the services and let the kids have a run around. I know it’s easy to think that not stopping and getting to the destination faster is the more intelligent option but this is usually a false economy. Do you really want to travel that final leg of the journey in a state of stress and anxiety as the kids go stir crazy?

No.

It’s better to just stop. In most cases anyway one of the children will probably need a toilet break and it’s a good time to recuperate yourself too. And take your time on the break. Don’t rush in and out of the services as this doesn’t achieve anything. The kids aren’t ready to get back in the car and will become agitated again very quickly. Go into the cafe, grab a coffee and something to eat/drink for the children. Stroll around then only return to the car when everyone is ready (if you can, you can’t please everyone all the time!)

Then hopefully, the rest of the trip should go smoothly. Fingers crossed.

Super Busy Mum

Driving Home for Summer

Motorway driving I’m used to. My parents have always lived in the North, not far from Manchester… it was where I was brought up. Since moving Daan Saarf when I was a young teenager to attend stage school I have travelled up and down the M1 more times than many people have probably had the proverbial hot dinner!!! Obviously in the years when I couldn’t drive I was either chauffered by my Dad, or I got the train. Ah… many a happy memory of rushing to Euston station with plenty of luggage trying to catch the inter-city fast train to Manchester Piccadilly (not), although as I got a little older a few of my friends used to travel the same way so it was pretty fun and very grown up we thought!

But I haven’t travelled up north by train in many years. Firstly because I can drive and I have a car, but mainly because I have children and the amount of stuff we take when we go visiting is, well, it’s ridiculous. Anyone would think we were leaving home. My neighbours must think we’re going on a road trip round the world!!

packing car

I have a HUGE car too but it still seems to be bursting at the seams by the time I’ve finished loading it. My children call it a coach but I love it; yes it’s a bit of a station wagon but I love all the space inside, my younger children can walk around in it! Times when my car has been in the garage and I’ve been given a brand new courtesy car, I couldn’t wait to get my old car back. Whichever 7 seater I’m given I still feel cramped; the middle seats are practically squashed up against the front ones, the back ones are in the boot which you can’t get to unless you open the boot – then there’s no boot space. No, those 7 seaters are not designed for big families. They are for average sized families that may have another person in the car occasionally!!

So getting back to the trip. I have a double pushchair for starters which goes into the boot. Then there’s the massive suitcase which I try to fit most of my own and the three youngest clothes into. My teen organises himself, which means another huge holdall as well as his Xbox and laptop etc. Then there’s the pillows, blankets, toys, dressing gowns, books, paperwork – I always take loads of that as I think I’m going to have plenty of time to sift through it whilst relaxing at home – I still refer to my Dad’s house as home – but I never usually get round to it! We usually take a mini picnic too to eat on the way (which ends up being all over the car when we get there). We don’t travel light.

Driving up the M1 is like second nature to me. I like to get my foot down and get there as quick as I can. I don’t like to stop at the services on the way although if the kids are playing up its a must, but I usually like to do the journey all in one go. It’s a journey I love to make. It’s somewhere I love to go so it’s never a chore.

I like driving on the motorway. Nothing beats a nice clear road ahead (if I’m lucky) on a glorious summer’s day, good tunes playing in the background and my beautiful children sleeping around me…. but it’s rarely like that for the whole way.

This time wasn’t particularly fun. I had planned to set off just after lunch, timing it to perfection so the kids would’ve just eaten and would fall asleep for most of the way. But I just couldn’t for the life of me get out of the house. I seemed to go around in circles looking for things in the places where they ought to be, only they weren’t there! Grrr! My disorganisational (that’s not a real word by the way) skills really in full flow! I was getting quite angry with myself for not having everything ready the night before.

Meanwhile, my children were making more mess than I’ve ever seen, left to their own devices whilst I was rushing around like a mad woman. I was slowly losing the will to live.

When we finally left, about 4.30pm, just in time for the rush hour traffic, I obviously needed petrol (of course – only normal, organised people do this the day before) so I headed down to Tesco’s to fill up my car. There was a queue. I also noticed that my back tyre was a little flat. Fanbloodytastic! Drove round to the air machine and QUEUED there too!!

I was fuming. I rang the OH who was at work and wasn’t joining us for a our trip, to shout abuse at him for not making sure my car was all checked and ready to drive!! I mean, how dare he just leave me to do all this?!!! Surely as the man of the house he should’ve given my car a full p***ing service before I left!!!! I’ve got all his kids in the car….WHAT IF I CRASHED?!!!!!! (poor bloke)

What all of this meant was my twins had already fallen asleep as soon as I left the house so therefore would wake up only a short way into the (roughly) three hour drive, resulting in them being ratty, whinging and complaining causing me extreme stress whilst driving!

To be fair though I didn’t do too badly. They did sleep most of the way bless them and the motorway was pretty clear. It was lovely. I was lost in thought at times. The journey always make me think of my parents and times gone by.

I’ve had a few incidents on my various driving trips up north over the years. I’ve had guys doing moonies at me, I’ve had lorries trying to kill me, I’ve had breakdowns and flat tyres, I’ve had 9 hour journeys where there’s been a crash and I’ve been pulled over by the police!

Still, I guess it’s all part of the motoring experience. It doesn’t put me off. And now I’m home I’m a having a well deserved rest for a few days (to recover from the drive hehe) before planning some fun, northern days out!

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