12 Best Family Cars of 2021
family comes first
There are many transportation options available to new car buyers these days. But for shoppers who put their families first, SUV crossovers offer passengers and the ability to carry goods that make them a preferred choice over traditional mid-size sedans. Full-size SUVs and minibuses are also attractive for their spaciousness. In the first case, this also means towing capacity. For the latter, the big advantage is flexibility.
For 2021, family car buyers can add a redesigned Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota Sienna to their lists. Chevrolet’s rugged SUV converts the chassis to an independent rear suspension system that enhances third-row space and steering. Another long-awaited restyling, the 2021 Toyota Sienna, is its first makeover in more than a decade. We think it was worth the wait, after we named Sienna a Kelley Blue Book Best Buy award in the minivan category. There are two big factors in this decision. First, the Sienna has a standard hybrid powertrain that helps it achieve half the fuel economy of its closest non-hybrid competitor. The second is the availability of all-wheel drive.
In addition to these two new players, there is plenty to choose from in a list of two- and three-row SUVs and pickup trucks that cater to families small and large alike. These vehicles also offer good fuel economy, low operating costs, high safety levels, and reasonable prices. For those on a somewhat tight budget, check out our best family cars under $25,000.
The best two-row SUV for families
in alphabetical order
|2021 Honda CR-V|
|2021 Hyundai Santa Fe|
|2021 Toyota RAV4|
The best three-row SUV for families
in alphabetical order
|2021 Honda Baylot|
|2021 Hyundai Palisade|
|2021 Kia Telluride|
|2021 Toyota Highlander|
The best full-size SUV for families
in alphabetical order
|2021 Chevrolet Tahoe|
|2021 Ford Expedition|
The best minivans
in alphabetical order
|2021 Chrysler Pacifica|
|2021 may be Odyssey|
|2021 Toyota Sienna|
What should I look for in a family car?
There is a long list of factors that go into making the right family car decision. Here’s a look at some of the most important things we keep in mind when creating our list of the best family cars. When evaluating the right family car for you, these criteria should deserve your attention.
When it comes to your family, safety should be your top priority. It’s one of the highest priorities of all new car shoppers. Manufacturers also believe advanced safety is a big selling point, and as a result, we’re seeing more driver assistance and safety in new vehicles than ever before. We take into account the standard safety content in our vehicle listing. We also rely on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data to ensure that each rated vehicle receives the highest overall safety rating possible.
Purchase price is one factor in finding the best family car, but affordability also extends to operating costs. We factor in their performance in the Kelly Blue Book 5-year cost-of-ownership rating. Taking this data into account along with the KBB’s fair purchase price, expected resale value, insurance, fuel and maintenance costs, we can determine the true cost of ownership.
Affordability is a major concern. While luxury SUVs have features and roominess that families can appreciate, we prefer to consider only the major brands. Prices range from an average of $20,000 to $30,000, while our full-size SUVs start at $40,000 plus.
Reliability and durability
Two main factors that contribute to lower operating costs are reliability and durability. The vehicles on this list have a proven track record when it comes to these qualities. The ability to offer a hassle-free ownership experience pays off multiple dividends. Not only is it reassuring to those buying these new cars, but used-car shoppers can also find many of these same models in our latest list of the 10 Best Used Family Cars Under $15,000.
While the primary goal is to make sure your family arrives at a destination in comfort and safety, a large part of the ownership experience is car driving behaviour. These vehicles cross the road for their ease of driving, steering precision, brake and throttle feel, and overall visibility. Some of these vehicles can be quite large, making parking and use within the city a challenge. Many come with driver aids like blind spot monitors, pedestrian detection, and automatic braking to boost your confidence behind the wheel.
Comfort and convenience
A good family car offers more than just a large cabin. Seats should be comfortable. The infotainment system should run smoothly and offer plenty of connectivity options, including Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Electric lift gates and sliding doors reduce the effort involved in getting people and their belongings in and out of the vehicle. Seat configurations are of paramount importance. What type of second row seats are available? Do they adjust fore and aft? How easy is it to get to third grade? These are all questions that can only be answered by crawling around the car and seeing firsthand how these things work.
The family comes with a lot of equipment, as parents understand very well. Our list of the best family cars puts a premium on available load space and flexibility. Things we look for include how easily the seats fall and whether they lie flat, the height of the rear lift, and whether or not there are additional compartments or under-floor storage that offers greater comfort and capacity.
Child safety seats are an important consideration in a family car. When evaluating seating options for infants and toddlers, there are many questions you need to ask. Is there enough space between the front and back seat to accommodate both the seat and the child? Is there enough space for all the seats you need? How easy is it to get to the latch mounting points? How easy is it to get into the third row when there are two child safety seats in the second row? All of our cars listed are among the best in their class, but you may want to take your existing seats with you when shopping. Also see our story on child safety seat tips.
Testing of new cars, trucks and SUVs by the editorial team at Kelley Blue Book is a year-round thing. The process begins with last year’s list of the best family cars. Other nominees also undergo rigorous testing as part of the Kelley Blue Book Best Buys Awards, where both previous winners and new models are subject to evaluation. As part of this system, we bring many of these vehicles into our offices for face-to-face testing. Our staff includes parents of children ranging from toddlers to young adults. All of this experience was invaluable in making our final list of the Best Family Cars of 2021.