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When I was a kid, my parents always used to drive my brother and I around in the most awful station wagon you can imagine. It was blue with one of those hideous faux wood panels along the side. About the coolest thing that could be said for it were the rear-facing back seats. I don’t know how many car trips I spent sitting in the back watching the traffic behind the car weave and shift and merge; it was almost hypnotic.

When I look back on it, the rear-facing seats, while a great novelty for us kids, were probably not the safest feature for a car to have. Fortunately, automobiles have had many innovations both in features and design since the time I was young.

Safety should always be a top priority for any driver, especially when you have a two-year-old in tow. To ensure that your family stays safe on the road, here are five of the most reliable cars to safely take your loved ones from one destination to the next.

Nissan Juke ($19,000 – $25,000)

The Nissan Juke is not your typical car or sedan. In fact, it is aptly described as a crossover, with the benefits of a cars mpg and the interior space of a larger vehicle. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this car, though, is that it only leaves a carbon footprint that is comparable to a mini Volkswagen Golf. For parents, the Nissan Juke is large enough to offer sufficient rear room space to fit young tykes or a handful of groceries. Its sophisticated suspension and swift steering also makes it a highly dependable car for families to be comfortable in.

Ford Focus ($18,000-$23,000)

Young professionals may not look to the Ford Focus as their ultimate car, but parents find this hatchback a suitable option for a growing family. Ford engineered this vehicle to have spacious cargo room, a 160 horsepower engine, and a fuel efficiency ratio of 28 mpg city driving and 38 mpg when driven along the highway.

Mazda 3 ($17,000 – $ 25,000)

Ranked third in the list of most affordable cars today, the Mazda 3 is preferred by many for its powerful engines and easy and accurate handling, which counts for a lot when you have a crying toddler in tow. Its base model is manufactured with a 148 horsepower capability while the Mazdaspeed 3 packs an impressive 263 horsepower.

BMW X3 ($36,000-$41,000)

The BMW X3, is pricier than the Mazda 3 or Ford Focus, but it offers both safety and luxury for families everywhere. Its 28 feet of available cargo space is enough to fit all your child’s  travel necessities, from his carrier down to his favorite stuffed animal. Unlike traditional family cars, the BMW X3 is made for aggressive driving with its 8-speed auto box.

Toyota Avalon ($ 30,000 – $ 39,000)

The Toyota Avalon is another ideal choice for large families and is currently ranked as the largest Toyota passenger car in the US. This mid-size 4-door sedan is a front runner in its category due to its array of technological features including wipers with rain sensors, HD headlamps, cruise control, power rear sunshades, JBL sound system and remote engine start.

It makes me envious, reading over this list again, of today’s kids. Not only are the cars today far safer, they include the latest engineering innovations which make them a pleasure to ride in or drive.

A final note between you and me: If you’re looking to add some flair for personal style, think hard before you settle on faux wood panel siding. Otherwise, you might find your kids writing about your terrible taste in thirty years.

Tim test drives more cars in a year then most people drive in a lifetime. Make sure to use a car payment estimator before ever talking to a sales person. You can find additional tips for buying used vehicles here at