Parents editor-in-chief Liz Vaccariello shares a behind-the-scenes look at the magazine's selection of the best family cars of the year.
Liz Vaccariello Inside Crashed Car
Credit: Courtesy of Liz Vaccariello

The picture above was taken after our SUV slid down an icy hill and crumpled against a telephone pole. The whole thing was terrifying in its grace—the car rotated in slow motion as Steve gently pumped the brakes. I cut my finger on shattered glass, but otherwise we were physically unscathed. Sophia, who sat in her car seat behind me, fears any snowy descent to this day.

The family car. It’s arguably the single most important purchase a parent can make. Not only must it protect us during our most vulnerable moments, but it’s also the thing we spend more time in (and money on) than anything other than perhaps our house. Stunning, then, that most of us spend more time researching infant car seats than our car itself.

That’s where Parents magazine comes in. We believe your car purchase is worth rigorous testing, which is why we worked so hard to create “The Car Your Kids Will Grow Up In.” Starting with 300+ cars, we only considered ones that are a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or received a 5/5 rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A mere 109 vehicles made that first cut.

Senior editor Karen Cicero organized the cars into our six categories and received testing and review data from our partner, Edmunds, including driving and comfort, price, and gas mileage. We narrowed the list to 20 semifinalists based on these ratings.

We then hired a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and visited dealerships to see all 20 cars. In a whirlwind, two-day effort, we installed at least 60 car seats of various sizes and in various configurations.

Our team also counted cupholders, looked for USB charging stations, and measured trunk space. We talked to families who own the cars and even asked a mom and baby to meet us at a Honda dealership so we could test out the “CabinWatch rear seat monitor” on the Odyssey. Afterward, Edmunds and the Parents team selected the ten winning cars in the story.

As the issue was coming together, our teams went to the New York International Auto Show to film the winners—and we got to see some 2019 vehicles. That’s right—we’re already thinking about next year! Shop wisely.

Drive safely.

I invite you to e-mail me at You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

Parents Magazine