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How to Option Your Next Family Ride

Five add-ons you should always get with a new vehicle.

So you are in the market for a new kid hauler, and you’ve pretty much settled on a particular model. Before you even think about chatting up that salesman at the dealership, really consider what options you need, and what you don’t. It could save you thousands. And with some cheap add-ons, you’ll be ready to road-trip, fully equipped. Here are all the add-ons that you should say ‘yes’ to without thinking twice.

Emergency Braking

Using radar, cameras, or both, forward-collision warning and braking systems can apply the brakes to avoid a crash (or lessen the severity of one that’s immanent.) Even drivers who are skeptical of vehicle automation should welcome the tech. Every carmaker has a different name for their emergency braking system, and though it’s often offered as part of higher-priced tech-and-safety suite, it can be adopted piecemeal on some new base models (like the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta). One more reason to check yes on this option: if you show your insurance company that your car is equipped with emergency braking, they may lower your rate.

Rear Cross-Traffic Sensing

Every car built after May 1, 2018 is required to have a rear-facing camera offered standard. That’s a good thing — not only do the devices make parallel parking a hell of a lot easier, they could save a life, too, if a child wanders onto the driveway while you’re pulling out. Rear cross-traffic sensing goes one step further, using radar to sense vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists coming from either direction, even if parked cars or trees block your view. Check yes on this one: It’s a no-brainer.

360-Degree Cameras

Rear and even front-view cameras are omnipresent, but 360-degree camera views, once offered on the highest-end models, are trickling down. Every manufacturer implements the tech differently, but the basics are the same: wide-angle cameras are mounted on all sides of the car, and a 360-degree view is stitched together on your monitor, as if a drone was shooting the footage overhead. Sound like a gimmick, sure, but it will prevent you from scratching up your wheels on a curb, and makes it easier to center a bigger vehicle in a smaller parking spots — lessening the chance of your kid swings the door out to ding up some dude’s Ferrari.

Rubber Floor Mats, Seat Protectors, and a Good Handheld Vac

Regardless of how much you baby your new car, rest assured that your baby will treat it like a trash bin. Don’t get mad: just plan to clean up that back-seat crime scene every few weeks. Rubber floor mats are crucial to avoid sullying the car’s upholstery, and can be sprayed off with a hose. Even if you don’t see them listed on the car’s Monroney (the window sticker), ask your dealer — they may be able to throw them in for free. If not, pick some up some model-specific ones from WeatherTech, or another manufacturer. Likewise, you want seat protectors, whether you’ve got leather or fabric — throw one over a rear-seat headrest (underneath the carseat) and it will prevent the dirt from your kids shoes from discoloring the seats during the rear-facing carseat years. It also can prevent the carseat from damaging or stretching the leather. (We’ve had good results from the Royal Oxford Luxury Car Seat Protector) And of course, unless you have hours to spend collecting Cheerios from crevices you didn’t know your car had, you’ll need a good handheld vac (The $235 Dyson V7 Car & Boat, if you’ve go the change; if not, one of Black & Decker’s Max Lithium models.)

Sun Shades

Rear-seat sunshades can prevent high temps and UV rays from endangering your most important cargo. Luxury cars often feature slick integrated sunshades — some you can control from the driver’s seat, even, But you don’t always have to opt for the manufacturer option. Products like the ShadeSox Universal Fit Car Side Window Baby Sun Shade ($20 from Amazon) will do the trick just fine.