Deals on wheels—best rides for frugal families

Published in the Summer PRG 2017
By Keith Turner
The Family Car Guy

Choosing the perfect vehicle for your family can be a daunting task. Busy families today need a vehicle that wears many hats — from carpools to corporate lunches, and vacations to pet vaccinations – all while being cost-effective in addition to being family friendly.

The experts at U.S. News and World Report researched more than 200 new cars, SUVs, and minivans based on safety and reliability, seating and cargo capacity, and the availability of family-friendly features. Here’s a look at their best family vehicles for the money, based on value, fuel efficiency, and cost to own.


Kia Soul – Small and sporty with great cargo room, the sassy Soul’s distinctive look makes it stand out from the others in the compact class. With a low starting price and many extras, the Soul serves the needs of young families as well as teens ready to roll. Great for grandparents too! Seats: 5; MPG 26 city/31 highway; Base MSRP: $16,100.

Best Hybrid Car

Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid – Ranked as one of the best hybrids on the market, the Malibu is a mid-size sedan that has plenty of passenger space, fantastic fuel efficiency, and an engine that really wants to get up and go. Seats 5; MPG 49 city/43 hwy.; MSRP: $27,875.

Best Large Sedan

Kia Cadenza – Kia strikes again with the classy and capable Cadenza, which packs a large list of family-friendly features into a sedan with a luxury feel at a mid-market price. Seats: 5; MPG 20 city/28 hwy.; MSRP: $31,990.

Best Wagon

Subaru Outback – With great cargo capacity and plenty of passenger space, the Outback is an outstanding fit for active families, especially when it comes to traversing snowy roads. Seats 5; MPG 25 city/32 hwy.; MSRP: $25,645.

Best Midsize Car

Chevrolet Malibu – You are not seeing double; the Malibu is top rated in two categories on this best for families list. In addition to the hybrid model, the conventional Malibu gets a big boost. Features include intuitive infotainment, excellent cargo space, and a comfortable ride. Seats 5; MPG 27 city/36 hwy.; MSRP: $21,680.

Best 2-row SUV

Ford Edge – The oversized cargo capacity and high safety scores make the Ford Edge a top pick for families who like to get out and go. A variety of engines and powertrains enable you to choose the model that best meets your needs. Seats 5; MPG 21 city/29 hwy.; MSRP: $28,950.

Best 3-row SUV

Honda Pilot – There’s rarely a school parking lot that doesn’t contain at least one of these popular three-row SUVs. That’s because of its spacious cabin – fitting three car seats in the second-row side-by-side – and many safety features. Seats 7-8; MPG 18-20 city / 26-27 hwy.; MSRP: $30,745.

Best Compact SUV

Honda CR-V – Loaded with high-tech safety features, great legroom, and impressive fuel economy, the CR-V is also fun to drive with available turbocharged engine. Seats 5; MPG 25-28 city/31-34 hwy.; MSRP: $24,045.

Best Hybrid SUV

Toyota Highlander Hybrid – With fuel economy of 30+ mpg, the Highlander hybrid expands in versatility this year to include new trims and an eighth seat. As the report states: “In a nutshell, this is a safe, reliable SUV that just happens to be a hybrid.” Seats 7-8; MPG 30 city/28 hwy.; MSRP: $36,270.

Best Large SUV

Chevrolet Tahoe – The quiet and comfortable interior of the Tahoe can seat up to nine people and sports an engine powerful enough to tow a horse trailer or boat. Seats 7-8; MPG 16 city/23 hwy.; MSRP: $47,215.

Best Minivan

Honda Odyssey – Already a family favorite for more than a decade, the new Odyssey has been redesigned to include innovations like sliding second row seats, back seat monitors (Cabin Watch), and headset audio overrides (Cabin Talk) to keep in touch with the kids. Seats 7-8; MPG 19 city/ 27 hwy.; MSRP: $29,850.

Best Sub-Compact

Honda HR-V – A relatively new member of the Honda family, the HR-V is an instant hit among families who value a good-sized cabin, smooth ride, high-quality interior, and good fuel mileage. Extra cargo space is provided by Honda’s rear Magic Seat, which allows for multiple configurations. Seating 5; MPG 28 city/34 hwy. MSRP: $19,465.

Keith Turner is a professional auto reviewer for families. He can be reached at, his websites: and, or on YouTube at The Family Car channel.


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