12 Best Family Cars of 2023 - Kelley Blue Book (2024)

2023 Toyota Sienna


Starting Price: $36,135

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What Should I Look For in a Family Car?

Embarking on that hunt for the ideal family car involves research and serious evaluation. There is more to it than just answering the question, “Will everyone and their stuff fit?”

Here’s a look at the top subjects we considered in assembling this list. Any family car you select should pass muster in most, if not all, of these categories.


When it comes to a family hauler,safetyshould be the top concern, and for most car shoppers, it is. According toStatista, a market and consumer data provider, safety is the top consideration for 65% of car shoppers. That’s a larger percentage than any other criteria for car shoppers in general. It’s probably much higher for shoppers looking specifically for a family car.

Cars are safer today than ever before. Through government mandates, effective features like antilock brakes,stability control,traction control, rearview cameras, and tire-pressure monitors now come standard on all new cars. And an incredible number of advanced safety and driver-aid features are standard or available on most newer models.

Any family car you consider should pass the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s rigorous standards. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has performed crash tests on new cars for decades. Although these tests have evolved and grown in number over the years, you can find the test scores for most cars reaching back nearly 10 years. Whenever we recommend a car, Kelley Blue Book relies heavily on the IIHS test scores and ratings. You can do your own IIHS research here.

IIHS Testing

The IIHS is a not-for-profit trade organization funded by automotive insurance companies. The core of its safety findings comes from a battery of six crash tests. They are:

  • Driver-side small overlap front
  • Passenger-side overlap front
  • Moderate overlap front
  • Side
  • Roof strength
  • Head restraints and seats

The IIHS’s top crash-test score is “Good,” followed by “Acceptable,” “Marginal,” and “Poor.” When applicable testing is available, a vehicle must achieve six of six “Good” scores to qualify for this list. When not available, we require a 5-Star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Each year the IIHS also awards the top-performing vehicles its Top Safety Pick (TSP) or Top Safety Pick+ (TSP+) designation. They base these accolades on more than a perfect six-for-six Good performance. To make the TSP or TSP+ list, a vehicle must also excel in other evaluation areas like vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention, headlight efficiency, and so on. In these areas, the scoring is Superior, Advanced, and Basic. Most of our picks on this list earned TSP or TSP+ honors.


“Bang for your buck” is finding the car providing the most characteristics and features you are searching for at the lowest cost possible. “Cost,” however, is the operative word, because it includes much more than the transaction price.

Certainly, the transaction price and the car loan’s interest rate have a lot to do withownership cost, but there are other factors over the car’s life. For example, insurance, fuel,maintenance, andrepair expenses all contribute to the cost of ownership, as does depreciation (how muchvalueyour car loses from purchase until you sell it.). To ballpark a comparative cost of ownership for the picks on this list, our baseline isKelley Blue Book’s Fair Purchase Price. We then factored in KBB’s5-Year Cost to Ownratings.

Reliability and Durability

Reliability and durability are part of the value discussion. They come into play in a car’s maintenance costs and resale value expressed in our 5-Year Cost to Own insights. However, in the spirit of wanting to transport your family around in a safe, dependable environment, reliability and durability warrant closer examination.

Determining a new car’s reliability involves collecting data from past model years plus careful analysis by Kelley Blue Book’s data scientists. Each year, Kelley Blue Book collects a vast amount of data on how models hold up. This is key information when establishingused carvalues. We tap into this wealth of information when assembling our “10 Best” lists.

Trouble-free ownership is a win-win for financial considerations and peace of mind. This is true not only for new car shoppers. Used car shoppers can find several of these same models based on our “best” criteria on our most recent list of the 10 Best Used Family Cars Under $15,000.

Driving Experience

While the primary purpose is to make sure your family gets to a destination in comfort and safety, a big part of the ownership experience is a vehicle’s driving manners. Our picks make the cut for their driving ease, steering precision, brake and accelerator pedal feel, and overall visibility. Some of these vehicles can be quite large, making parking and in-town use challenging. Many come with driver aids likeblind-spot monitoring, pedestrian detection, and automatic braking, boosting your confidence behind the wheel.

Comfort and Convenience

A good family car offers more than just a large cabin. The seats must be comfortable. Seating configurations are of prime importance. What kind of second-row seats are available? Do they adjust fore and aft? How easy is it to access thethird row, and how roomy is the way-back?

Infotainment and entertainment should work seamlessly, offering plenty of connectivity options, including Bluetooth,Apple CarPlay, andAndroid Auto. Power liftgates and sliding doors reduce the effort of getting people and their stuff into and out of the vehicle. These are all issues that can only be satisfied by crawling around the vehicle seeing firsthand how these things work.

Cargo Capability

When going nearly anywhere, a family often resembles a traveling circus with all the gear and flotsam a roadshow accumulates. Every parent has experienced this at one time or another. Our Best Family Cars picks put a premium on available load space and flexibility. Things we look for include the ease with which rear seats drop and if they lay flat, as well as the height of the rear lift-over. Are there extra cubbies or below-floor storage offering greater convenience and capacity?

Child Seats

Child safety seats are a top priority for family-car consideration. When evaluating seating options for infants and toddlers, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there enough distance between the front and back seats to accommodate both the seat and the child?
  • How easy is it to get into the third row when two child safety seats are in the second row?
  • Is there enough room and sufficient LATCH tethers for all the seats you need?
  • How accessible are the LATCH mounting points?

All our listed vehicles rank among the best in their class, but you may want to take your current seats along when shopping.

One of the criteria the IIHS uses when issuing its annual TSP and TSP+ awards is the ease of use of a vehicle’s LATCH system. When you consult the IIHS site during your own research, scroll down the vehicle’s page for its IIHS LATCH score.

Also, see ourstory on child safety seat tips.

KBB Testing Procedures

Testing of new cars, trucks, and SUVs by the Kelley Blue Book editorial staff is a year-round, nonstop effort. In any given week, the team is driving and assessing a collection of familiar models and all-new vehicles. Our staff includes parents of children ranging from toddlers to young adults. This wealth of experience is invaluable in arriving at our final picks for the Best Family Cars. These are the 2023 vehicles we’d choose for our own families.

The Field

We selected several minivans and 2- and 3-row SUVs that do an excellent job of meeting the needs of small and large families alike. Moreover, our picks also deliver solid fuel economy, low operating costs, and high safety levels at relatively affordable prices. All models on this list have either a 5-Star NHTSA rating, are IIHS TSP/TSP+ vehicles, or have earned both organizations’ top accolades based on the most recent ratings.

For those on a fairly tight budget, check out our story on theBest Used Family Cars Under $20,000.

12 Best Family Cars of 2023 - Kelley Blue Book (2024)


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