It’s amazing how far-reaching the impact of having a family is on your life. It’s not just the obvious lack-of-sleep, the mind-bursting-love-clouds, the unspeakable fears that terrorise your waking hours, nor the hole in your bank account where spare cash once used to live.
It affects everything, right down to which washing machine you choose (will it handle three loads a day? Is there a super-fast option for the nights I’ve forgotten to wash the school uniform?), the carpet you pick for the stairs (never mind the colour, can it handle four children stampeding up and down it all day?), and then of course, there’s the car.
Car buying takes on a whole different plan when you’re shopping for a family. You’re less worried about the horse power, and more worried about the NCAP rating. Questions you never thought you’d ask seem to materialise in the showroom; does it have cup holders? How stain-resistant are the seats? Can I fit a double buggy in the boot? Is there additional storage space under the seats?
And the trouble is, it’s a HUGE purchase, isn’t it? You really need to commit – but what if you’re not sure, and get it wrong?
We bought our people carrier out of necessity – baby no.4 had just been born, and we were literally forced into buying a baby bus as we just didn’t have enough seats for her. Strapping the baby seat (or any surplus child) to the roof is apparently frowned upon…
As it was, we got lucky – we picked up a Toyota Previa at a good price, and eight years later it’s still sturdily whisking us around Europe (even though it’s tired, battered and definitely getting on a bit now). But the research and reading up on which model nearly drove me mad. And I was lucky – the ‘baby bus’ market is quite limited, so there wasn’t much choosing to be done when looking for a 7-seater.
Picking a family car for a smaller group of four would be far far FAR harder. WAY too much choice. And it’s nearly always the small things you didn’t even notice or thining about when you make the purchasing decisions that make-or-break the car in the months that follow.
I remember one of the things I really loved about a a brand new Nissan Almera Tino I had as a company car was it’s brilliant stretchy nets in the boot to hold the shopping. No more carrier bags sent sprawling with tions and baguettes rolling aorund – the nets swooped aorund all the shopping and held it in place. Brilliant.
but when I changed up for a new Tino a few years later, I didn’t even think to look. And the nets weren’t in the later model. A ridiculous amount of disappointment was felt, I can tell you. Such a silly small thing, and yet I really missed them.
So as we approach the end of our relationship with our beloved Previa, I’ve been looking at my options. And there are far more options in the 7-seater market than there were 8 years ago – goodness knows what I’d be doing if I was looking for a five seater family hatchback. In an ideal world I really really want a VW Caravelle – thanks to our Scottish road trip, we’re in love. But if I’m honest, a Caravelle is out of our budget range; they are not the low end of the car market, and thanks to their utter briliance, we couldn’t even afford a second-hand model at the moment, thanks to the fact we’re not the only ones who appreciate them, and they retain their value really well.
So what to do? Well, we think we’ll take the car down the route we took the computers. We couldn’t afford to be upgrading the iMacs every few years either, so we lease them on contract. It works brillainbtly, we get to upgrade at no extra cost; what’s not to love? The car will work on just the same principle, and I’ve already got my eye on a Tourneo over on Parkway Contracts… They specialise in VW, do the lease terms we’re looking for, have a reassuringly brillo site with excellent searches and a range of options, and at £240 a month? That’ll do, Doreen, that’ll do…