Today on ToyQueen.com, we are talking about Mommy and Daddy toys! This past week my husband and I were guests of Toyota at the Boston Auto Show. We got to check-out all of the new 2014 vehicles from every car company imaginable without any sales pressure, then over dinner spent some time chatting with Toyota representatives learning more specifically about the 2014 Highlander, discussing our past car buying experiences and sharing our favorite features.
When Gavin was born in 2009, our newest car was from 2005, and our other car was from 2001. We did plan ahead when we bought our 2005 Honda CRV, thinking we’d most likely need a car that could accommodate a stroller, but we never took into consideration other features that would be helpful when you have a growing family. In no particular order, here are my top 10 tips you may want to consider when buying a new car when you have young children.
1. Full time All Wheel Drive (AWD)
We live in the North East and get our fair share of snow and water flooding. Since we both work, and often have to pick up or drop Gavin off to daycare on days with awful weather, we personally love having AWD. There have been a few times when we’ve probably made some poor parenting choices and driven with Gavin to events in scary weather. Though tires can be costly over time, this feature for us provides a lot of parental peace of mind.
2. Passenger Doors that Open to 90 degrees or Sliding Mini-Van Doors
My 2010 Honda CRV has a feature where the passenger doors open to 90 degrees. Not until I had it did I notice how amazing that feature was. Granted it won’t serve you well in tight spaces in a parking lot, but when lifting up one of those heavy baby buckets or getting my 4 year old in/out of the back seat of a vehicle, if you have the space to fully open the door it makes a tremendous difference. Now that Gavin’s older though, those mini van doors are also appealing because they reduce the fear of his door hitting another car.
3. Lift Gate
Our 2005 Honda CRV, much like the older versions of the Toyota RAV 4 had a rear swing out door. Both cars have since been redesigned with liftgates. I didn’t have any issues with the rear swing door until we had Gavin and trying to wrestle his stroller in/out of the trunk in the pouring rain without any overhead coverage was a nightmare. At the Auto Show I noticed companies like Toyota have a small button that will close the lift gate in the back. Toyota also shared that the new Highlander also allows the lift gate to be adjusted in height, so you are in luck, if you are short like me, you may not have to reach way up over our head to close it.
4. Entertainment Systems: DVD/BluRay & Satellite Radio
Many vehicles still have the option for drop-down rear seat entertainment DVD systems. The 2014 Highlander can also accommodate playing Blu-Ray discs. I could personally care less about an installed tv or DVD player in a vehicle. To me it’s easier to pass over my iPhone that streams Netflix, the iPad which houses apps and digital copies of DVD’s we presently own, or the LeapPad Ultra. No questions asked, our family would definitely lose the entertainment system because a moonroof is a must-have for us.
In addition we also cancelled our Sirius XM Satellite Radio subscription after a year and we listen to free radio services like iHeart Radio, Pandora or iTunes Radio. In our area, the phone signal doesn’t cut out nearly as much as the satellite signal.
Our last 3 cars have had a moonroof or sunroof. I personally love it, but Gavin many times complains that the sun is bright and in his eyes. We keep a few extra pairs of sunglasses in the car for him because my husband and I aren’t compromising on this feature. Many new vehicles now have panoramic sunroofs that extend for almost the entire length of the vehicle, and trust me, if you haven’t seen one, they are amazing. Down below there’s a picture of the sunroof in the 2014 Highlander.
When you have a child, your backseat will get trashed. The seats will be indented from permanently installed car seats and if you dare remove them you’ll find crumbs galore. In my opinion, the leather is much easier to clean and the car doesn’t seem to me to hold food odors as much as cloth can. We learned when talking to Toyota that their high end Prius models, though they appear to have leather, are actually made from a synthetic material that is not made from any animal products. Don’t forget with the leather option, you may also be able to have temperature controlled seats, another one of my favorite options.
7. Automatic Car Starter
Gavin is 4 and Santa Claus nicely installed an automatic car starter in my vehicle this year. We don’t have a garage and I can’t even believe how we made it this long without this. In the NorthEast scraping icy windows in the snow with a kid, 2 lunch boxes and 3 work bags in tow is annoying. When he was younger we could have warmed up or cooled off the car ahead of time, which would have saved us some additional time and energy.
8. Backseat LegRoom & Seat Split Options
I drove my own car for almost two decades, never knowing what the backseat was like. Then we had Gavin and took lots of car trips where I frequently rode with him in the backseat to feed him a bottle, entertain him with apps, read books, pick up dropped toys, you name it.
Thinking of the backseat, consider how the back seats fold down and how much space you’ll need to do a quick nose dive into the backseat. Not that I recommend it, but it will happen. Baby stuff is also all different sizes and configurations, you’ll want some seating options, not just to comfortable fit long legs in the backseat, but to accommodate large awkward items you might be taking with you on vacation or picking up from the home improvement store, with a car seat still installed.
We don’t have bluetooth in any of our current vehicles. Instead, we have a Jabra Cruiser speaker that allows for hands-free talking and though it needs to be charged, it’s been pretty successful for us for times when we travel and drive through hands-free states. So though it might be handy, there are ways to be hands-free without it being a necessity.
10. USB connection
By connecting my smartphone to the installed USB connection, I can simultaneously charge my phone while playing my iPod. The radio buttons will control the songs and features of the iPod without the need to glance down at the phone.
What are your must-have features in a car with your family?
Toyota provided us with free passes to the Boston Auto Show, and I most likely will be allowed to test drive a Highlander for a week, aside from dinner and parking reimbursement, I did not receive additional cash compensation for this posting.