8 Car Features You Need If You Have Kids

Most drivers born before 1975 agree that features common in today's automobiles were once unimaginable. Back in the day, if you did a cross-country family road trip that included kids, the "rear seat entertainment system" was a coloring book and two or three stuffed animals. Car doors could be easily opened from inside by restless little passengers, and if someone took off their seat belt, there was no way for you to know until it was too late. Each year, manufacturers introduce new family and child friendly features to their cars. Some are simple and ingenious, while others are complicated and in some cases, not entirely safe. Here are eight features you might want in a car if you have kids.

  1. Built-in booster seats

    All 50 states require "infants and children fitting specific criteria" be seated in child safety seats. Some cars come with built-in car safety seats, which are fine and safe, so long as the seat is appropriate for your child's age and weight. Before buying a car with this feature, consult the manufacturer for details on the height, weight, and age limits for the car seat. You will probably end up buying a separate car seat for an infant or for kids when they travel in another vehicle, so take that into consideration if the cost of a car with built-in child seats is prohibitive.

  2. Remote keyless entry

    This is a fairly common and very family-friendly feature that simply allows the driver to lock or unlock a car's driver and passenger doors by pushing a button on a remote. It's a handy feature if you're carrying groceries, holding the hand of little ones, or find yourself parked in a poorly-lit area. Many remotes also come with a "panic button" that honks your car's horn and flashes its lights, a trick your kids might find extremely entertaining.

  3. Flip-up trash bin

    Gum, candy wrappers, fruit rinds, fast food bags, and whatever a carsick child might spit up: it's all stuff that ends up on your backseat or floor unless your car has some kind of special trash can. The 2011 Honda Odyssey comes with a second row trash bin ring that holds a plastic grocery store or small wastebasket bag. Your kids can help keep the car clean by disposing trash in the bag, or create their own variation on free-throw shooting as a car game for longer road trips.

  4. Rear-seat DVD player

    Older kids are usually content to stare out the window and daydream for the duration of long trips, but younger ones demand attention, which can be distracting and tiring for the parent driving. Sing-alongs and road games are fun, but they can't compare to watching hundreds of computer-animated penguins sing and tap dance. Back-seat DVD players come with headphones you can clamp over your kids' ears, immersing them in their favorite, ideally, G-rated movie and providing you with a couple hours of relative calm and silence.

  1. Integrated sunshades

    This is a feature we'd like to see more car manufacturers embrace, especially those marketing to the Southern states. Rear retractable window shades effectively cover your car's rear window, keeping the sun out of a napping child's eyes and keeping other backseat passengers comfortable on particularly bright summer days. The 2011 Acura RL comes with sunshade made to block ultra violet rays, which is good news for the sensitive skin of infants and younger children.

  2. Power sliding doors

    Power sliding doors, a feature common in minivans, make it easy for your children to safely get in and get out of the vehicle with just the push of a button. If you've ever had your child open up a side door too quickly and thoroughly dent the car parked next to you, or ignore your plea to "Please don't slam the door," sliding doors may provide you with some peace of mind.

  3. Seat belt icon

    Some automakers provide an icon on car instrument panels that indicates who and who isn't buckled up in the backseat. This is particularly helpful if you have a child who likes to live on the edge and surreptitiously unbuckle their seat belt. There are seat belt laws in all 50 states except New Hampshire. So if you live in New Hampshire, and don't care if your kid goes through the front windshield in an accident, then this car feature probably won't interest you.

  4. Back-up camera

    Back-up cameras are becoming more and more common in new vehicles. This safety feature allows the driver to see if anything is behind them as they pull out of a driveway or similarly tight spot. A back-up camera is especially helpful for spotting small children behind the car who you might not otherwise see. This and the fact that the camera will show you if you're about to back up into a tree or the mailman means your kids are safer whether inside or outside of the car.

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