There comes a time for every growing family when that four-door subcompact isn’t going to cut it anymore. You need a vehicle that’s bigger, safer, and more suited to the needs of a family driver. However, with so many different models of SUVs, minivans and full-sized sedans to choose from, picking out the perfect new car for your family can get pretty overwhelming.

Luckily, any vehicle can make a great family vehicle as long as it meets a certain set of criteria. For example, here are the four most important things to consider before purchasing a new ride for your household.

1)      The safety rating. Safety should be every parent’s first and foremost concern when shopping for a new ride – and nobody knows safety better than the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Every year, the IIHS performs a series of rigorous crash tests on every vehicle on the market and awards the safest vehicles with the “Top Safety Pick” tag. Purchasing a vehicle with this tag will ensure that your kids will be as safe as possible in the event of a crash. You can find a list of the current TSPs right here.

2)      Fuel economy. The most expensive part of owning a new vehicle is keeping the tank full of gas. Since you’re going to be putting a lot of miles on your new car, you should really consider a vehicle’s fuel economy before you sign on the dotted line. As a general rule, sedans like the Dodge Charger and small SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 tend to get better gas mileage than full-sized SUVs and minivans. However, if you need the extra cargo room, you might be able to improve a larger vehicle’s fuel economy by purchasing a hybrid or a trim line with a smaller engine.

3)      Cargo room. If you’re taking a family vacation or transporting your son’s baseball team to practice, you’re going to need a lot of cargo room. When test driving a new car, bring a load of luggage along with you to ensure that your ride is spacious enough to meet your needs. You might be surprised to find that some station wagons will fit half a dozen gym bags just as well as a Chevy Suburban.

4)      Amenities. Nobody likes an uncomfortable ride, and nobody complains quite like children. Consequently, you should make sure that your new ride has enough amenities to make your family outings tolerable. Things to look for include a bevy of cup-holders, rear climate control and a built-in television. You don’t need all the bells and whistles, but a few creature comforts can go a long way.

Don’t let the search for a new family car drive you crazy. Use these tips to help you find an awesome new vehicle for your household. If a car can meet all of these criteria, then it’s sure to be a safe and reliable ride for years to come.