How to find the safest car for your family

When you're choosing a family car, there's a lot to think about. It needs to be easy to get kids in and out of, easy to park with a full backseat, and have enough boot space for all the bits and pieces that family life entails. But more importantly than any of these things, it has to keep your children safe. So, what is the safest family vehicle? What features should you choose and how can you put family car safety at the forefront of your search? Read on to discover what you should be looking out for.

How To Find The Safest Car For Your Family


Wearing seatbelts has been a legal requirement for nearly 40 years, and the introduction of the law saw a huge reduction in road deaths and serious injuries. Many modern vehicles are fitted with seatbelts that have enhanced safety features. Adjustable upper belts can be adjusted to fit the size of the person using them, while energy management can reduce the impact on a seatbelt wearer’s chest in the event of a crash. Some vehicles are also fitted with a lap/shoulder seatbelt in the middle seat. The Renault Scenic and the Ford Focus are two examples of popular family cars with three full seatbelts across the back.

Advanced braking systems

All cars produced after 2004 have an anti-lock braking system (ABS) as standard. It will prevent the wheels from locking up when the driver slams their foot on the brake pedal in response to an unexpected hazard. ABS systems with brake assist are also available, which will activate the brakes more quickly when the pedal is not being pressed hard enough, while electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) maximises stopping power while offering greater control. There are also autonomous emergency braking systems (AEB), which monitor the road ahead and apply the brakes if the driver is not responding to a collision threat. The latest Toyota Prius comes with EBD and brake assist as standard, while the Honda Civic is a tried-and-tested small family car that now comes with AEB.


While there is no legal requirement for cars to be fitted with airbags, most new cars have at least one to protect the driver in the event of a collision. Many vehicles also come with passenger, rear and side airbags to provide additional protection for occupants. The Toyota Yaris comes with seven airbags, as does the Seat Ateca. It’s important to note that you should never use a rear-facing child seat in the front passenger seat if an airbag is active. Front passenger airbags can also be dangerous to children under 12 if they sit in the front seat.

Euro NCAP scores

Checking out a model’s crash test ratings from Euro NCAP can give you a good idea of how well it will protect your family. Be aware though, that the testing procedure has grown much more stringent over the years. So, a modern car with four stars may well be safer than an older model with the full five stars. Look into the breakdown of the score too, and look for cars that have a high score for child occupant protection. The Nissan Qashqai and the Skoda Fabia both perform well on this front.

Head restraints

Head restraints help prevent whiplash and neck injuries in the event of a collision. They have been mandatory on front seats for many years, but many cars now have them in the back too. This won’t be relevant if your kids are small and still riding in high-backed child seats, but they won’t stay that size for long. Some cars, such as the Vauxhall Insignia, have active head restraints that come into action only in the event of a shunt from behind, reducing the distance between the headrest and the passenger’s head and neck. Drivers with young children should be aware that it can be dangerous to wedge a child seat underneath a headrest – in the event of a crash, the seat needs to move forward with the child.


While a lighter car might save you fuel and running costs, this can come at the expense of stability. Crash data shows that, all other things being equal, heavier cars tend to be safer than lighter ones.

Isofix mounted child seats

If your children are small enough to need child seats, you have a choice of using the Isofix mounting system or seats that are secured using the seatbelt. Isofix child seats are renowned for being very safe, as the seat is directly fixed to the base of the car and allows less movement in the event of a side impact. Check whether the vehicle has enough Isofix mounting points for the number of seats you want to use – a key factor in choosing the best safe family car for you.

Take it for a test drive

If you’re buying a used car, the most important factor determining how safe it is might well be how the safety features have weathered their previous use. Test the seatbelts, and also check the headlights if you get a chance to take it out in lower light. You can also take the opportunity to check what visibility is like for the driver.

What is the safest car for a child? That depends on how big they are, how many children will be riding and the condition of the model. But if you keep an eye out for the features we’ve mentioned above, you should be able to find a vehicle that gives you peace of mind. Ready to find the safest car for your family? Check out our model hub and browse our listings to find the one that’s right for you.

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