Family Car Buying Guide: Questions to Ask Before Buying a Family SUV

Turns out, we are a buying a car! It’s like having a baby; but with more upfront costs, depreciates quickly, yet fun to ride.

We are in the market for a seven seater car and it’s something we have never looked at in our life. The good news is that every car manufacturer has one seven seater offering – and it’s usually just one model. The porblem is that the pricing for a seven seating car in the same models can vary $10,000-40,000 (thanks Volvo!).

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When it comes to buying a larger car, I mean SUV/crossover/minivan/small creature bus, what matters to you may not matter to someone else. And those details will determine which car you should buy.

I designed this handy guide to ask yourself and your partner on what matters to you when purchasing a seven seating SUV. You can also download this handy PDF. I’m hoping to put together a test in the upcoming weeks that you can take and receive suggestions on best matches.

Questions to ask yourself when buying a 7 seater car:
Do you want three full rows (two passengers in the front, 3 passengers in the middle, 2 passengers in the rear) or a second captain’s row?
A captain’s row is where the middle is just two seats and use identical seat framing as the front seat. They are often more comfortable, but can cost more money while losing the 7th seat.

Do you want second row seats to fold down and be flush with the flooring or just fold down? Or does it not matter?

Do you prefer the second row seats to move together as one unit (3 seats), two units (1 seat, 2 seats) or it doesn’t matter?

Do you plan to keep the third row seats in regular use for people or folded down for more truck space?

Do you want the third row seats to comfortably accommodate adults, older children, or babies/toddlers?

Do you want the third row seats to fold down?

Do you want the rear doors to open as regular, lift up falcon style (e.g. the Tesla Model X), or automatically slide open and close?

Car perks
Do you want a full spare tire and kit?

Do you want Apple Airplay, Android Play and other similar latest connectivity?

Do you want USB cables? This way you can connect your phone and charge.
Because some car manufacturers charge to add a USB outlet. Facepalm.

Do you want standard outlets?
If you are a pumping mom or someone who will travel on the road a lot, consider this.

Do you want automated parking for parallel parking (and regular parking)?

Do you want high definition screens?
Makes a big difference when you’re looking at a map or anything else for that matter.

Do you want driver seat memory?
If you are short and your spouse is tall, seat memory will keep you two from quarreling.

Do you want a tow hitch?
If you are an outdoor person and plan to take bikes and things on trips, a tow hitch will be helpful. You can also add it post purchase.

Do you prefer yearly maintenance or every six months?

How much does a speaker system matter to you? Rank from (1) a little to (5) a lot.

Do you want a traditional sunroof (1/3rd the room) or panoramic sunroof?

Engine and systems
Do you want AWD or two wheel drive?

Do you want a turbocharged v4 engine, v6 engine, eco/eco boost v4 engine or frankly have no idea what is written here.

Do you want gas, electric only, or hybrid?

Do you want a tighter drive or a soft drive?
The difference here is suspension control. A tighter suspension gives the car more oompf, is noisier, yet tends to be more fun to drive.
Soft drive is for people who want confort and ease and don’t care about their car being an oompf maker.

Preeti’s Car Seat Guide for Family SUVs & Minivans

Shopping for a family car is complicated. Throw in the need for children’s car seats, and your mind may explode.

After searching, and still being in the process of buying our second car, I decided to write a guide on car seats on SUV and minivan models (we don’t want a sedan so they are not included). This includes both 2 row and 3 row vehicles.

With nearly ZERO car manufacturer websites being transparent regarding car seat placement, the burden is left entirely on the consumer to figure this out.
Some questions families with children (from infant babies to toddlers to kids) have to ask:

  • Does the second row come with BOTH lower anchors and back seat tethers?
  • Does the second row middle seat have lower anchors?
  • Do the third row seats have lower anchors? If so, which seats?
  • Do the third row seats have back seat tethers? If so, which seats?
  • Does the third row lack any child seat safety tethering?

That’s a lot of information to figure out. And even on the internet, it is disjointed. However, there are a couple websites to absolutely check out.

First is The Car Seat Lady – she covers just about every car make, model, and year and tells you which car seats can fit. Rear facing, forward facing, booster, etc. Bless TCSL and her team because it is THE MOST THOROUGH resource on the web for car seats.

Second, is A Girls Guide to Cars. The car reviews are detailed and helpful, though the breath of car seat reviewing is limited.

Last, and where I obtained all the below diagrams, is IIHS – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization that is funded by auto insurance companies. Their safety information is up-to-date for most cars though some, most notably the Chevrolet and GMC car models stop in 2017.

After you have perused the above and feel seriously overwhelmed, it’s time to get a cup of tea and review your intentions with buying a SUV. I wrote a pdf on questions to ask yourself (and your partner) on what is most important in your car purchase.

I also have a spreadsheet comparing pricing, engine power, anchor options, vehicle dimensions for 20+ car models. I manually pulled this data from car manufacturer sites, Edmunds, Car & Driver, and Google excerpts. It is by far the most comprehensive spreadsheet you will find comparing family size SUVs. As I work to complete the list and add new car, you’ll be able to see the changes. I very much hopes this helps you in your car buying process!

Then, figure out how many children you have/plan to have and how many children you want to fit in the car.  For anyone with 1-2 children, every SUV/minivan is available for you.

If you have 3 or more children, then you need to do some planning. How many kids will be in rear facing seats, and how many in front facing seats? Do you want to squeeze another kid in if you’re doing car pooling?

Once you’ve written down your needs, the below diagram of 20+ car models will get you going in the right direction.

Each of these diagrams is from the IIHS, so please visit their website for more information. Also, I’m not a car seat expert and I cannot vouch for the information provided. Car manufacturers can change their info at any time.

I reviewed 25 cars that are both two row and three row options. Some of the interestings findings are:

  • Many car manufacturers do NOT have lower anchor latches in the third rows. This is puzzling to me as bucket seats (used for babies and infants), car seats (rear or forward facing) and booster seats (for older children) all have lower anchor clips.
  • Yet, many of these third rows have back seat tethers, which clearly mean front facing car seats *can* work IF you use the seat belt. Yea, I’m confused by this logic.
  • Fiver seater cars do not usually have the rear middle seat with lower anchors. This means that slot needs to be a booster or a front facing car seat using a seat belt.
  • Subaru as a car manufacturer is a winner hands down for all the larger car models.  Personally, I dislike the interior finishing quality, but by golly, they know how to put down car seats.
  • The Audi Q7 is the only car model that has lower anchors and backseat tethers for EVERY car seat slot. (If there is another model out there, please let me know!)

The list of popular car models and their car seat options

2019 Acura MDX

2019 Audi Q3

2019 Audi Q5

2019 Audi Q7

2019 BMW X-5

2017 Chevrolet Tahoe

2017 Chevrolet Traverse

2017 Chevrolet Suburban

2019 Ford Edge

2019 Ford Escape

2017 Ford Expedition

2019 Ford Explorer

2019 Ford Flex

2019 Honda CR-V

2019 Honda Odyssey

2019 Kia Sedona

2019 Mazda CX-5

2019 Mazda CX-9

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Toyota Sienna – Not as versatile as the Honda Odyssey for car seat position, the Sienna does a better job than most other SUVs. Oh, and it comes in all wheel drive option too.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

2019 Subaru Outback

2019 Subaru Forrester

2019 Volvo XC-90

7 Tips to Survive Solo Parenting

First off, to all the single moms and single dads out there, I bow to you. You don’t have a choice to parent alone, but you deserve a peace prize for doing it.

Every time I parent alone for the week, I am tired, and a little nutty by the end. And it is not the parenting part that drives me crazy, it is the lack of conversation and interaction with another person, an adult person.

This is my first round of solo parenting while having two kids AND being pregnant. Last time I solo parented, I technically was pregnant, but had no idea. Hahaha. That doesn’t count.

Since I have 45 minutes right now of continued silence before the evening chaos begins, I put together a survival guide for solo parenting.

Make simple dinners
– The odd part when my spouse is out of town, there is less pressure to make more meaty, adult meals. Listen, I am content to eat cereal or oatmeal or bagels for dinner. For at least one meal in the week is one of those things (the kids think it is amazing). Another night we do quesadillas (cheese+beans+tortillas and avocados – done!). We will also eat rice, yogurt, and dal (lentil curry) as the classic Indian dahi bath dal. To be honest, there will be an anti-pasta night full of fruit, nuts, cheeses, meats, and bread and a repeat night.

Whatever it is, it has to be fast. As soon as we get home, the kids are hungry. So I make sure to have dinner within 15 minutes. And all these meals can be prepped in 15 min or less. With the exception of dal, that takes 25 minutes in the Instant Pot.

Rotate toys – Bring out the “new” old toys! The kids will have a blast they get something new to play with and you’ll kill 25 seconds. Just kidding, 25 minutes. Or am I?

Pray for good weather – Since I cannot control the weather, I’ll pray that the weather gods shine down sun and reasonably warm temperatures. This way, as soon as we get home, I can kick the kids out of the house to play in the backyard while dinner is made.

Plan an activity – If you have time, and ONLY if you have time, plan an activity. By plan an activity, I mean going to the park, or visiting the farmers market. Nothing fancy, just something to get out of the house.

Allow for a movie night – We do a movie night on Friday, especially when the weather is terrible. The kiddos are still little so a movie for them is some sort of BBC nature documentary. Toddlers love animals. BAM. Here is a whole movie on turtles. If they want to watch something, they see The Great British Baking Show (quality programming) or Grand Designs with me.

Keep a glass of wine handy – How I would love a glass of wine right now! And by glass, I mean teaspoon because my tolerance has gone down ever since having kids. If wine is not your thing, then pull out your teacup and favorite tea, and drink in peace. You only get to do this after bedtime.

Take a long bath – Not you. Sorry! Them. The small things. If your kids love baths, let them take the longest bath possible without them turning into raisins. You kill 30 minutes.

Lots of books and hugs – Snuggle all together and read books before bedtime. Read lots of books. Fall asleep together even. If you are like me, you’ll be asleep by 9PM too.

And come the day your spouse returns, plan a massage and retreat for yourself. You did it!

Hinduism, Swastikas, and Children

It’s a symbol that we find daily in our lives as Hindus, Jains, and even secular Indians. Thousands of years old, spanning cultures and continents, the swastika has been a symbol of goodness, wishing evil away, and inviting the good spirits.

The irony then, one of our most auspicious and defining symbols as a Hindu was STOLEN, PILLAGED, and RAPED by a group of people bent on waging total war to eradicate an entire religion, groups of people, and anyone in their way.

I don’t remember when I first learned about the swastika, but I remember when I mentioned in grade school that it was a holy symbol, I was a called “Nazi”, an anti-Semite, and was nearly outcasted by classmates. It was the 1990s when the first generation of Indians in America were growing and attending public schools and learning to balance their lives as American Desis.

For a community of people that stays relativity out of the limelight in the US, and being known as doctors and engineers, we were on the front lines. We were targeted, we were screamed at and we were confused. How could an entire country not even know that while the swastika was used by the Nazis, it is also the defining symbol of Hinduism? As it turned out, Americans possessed zero education on world religions, let alone poor education on the geographic location of India itself.

My son is only three years old and his religious awareness is limited because both my husband and I are secular. However, we have a toran on our door where swastikas can be found, occasionally attend temple, and read books on the Hindu gods (cute stories) that all have the swastika. He hasn’t asked me yet, but when he does, what do I say? When he does he become old enough to learn of the evils in the world that stole our precious symbol and attempted to destroy another civilization at the same time?

It’s all rhetorical right now, but I would love to hear your thoughts on how you educated your children on the swastika and how they can effectively deal with ignorance and anger around them.