Guest post by Logan Adams
Below is a guide for expecting parents on selecting and outfitting the right pickup for a new family. This post is written by my good friend Logan. After becoming a father 18 months ago, he learned his beloved pick-up truck just wasn’t cutting it as a family vehicle.
So if you are wondering will my truck be good for my family – read on, he has some excellent trips, ideas and hacks, so you can keep your truck!
How to choose the right pickup for your family
1. You will want a four-door pickup
Here’s the deal. You’re going to have a car seat for your baby, and those take up quite a bit of space. I recommend using Consumer Reports and other available research to pick out a car seat with high ratings for crash protection, comfort and ease of use.
Some extended cabs have rear seats that actually have enough space for a child car seat, but many have rear sections that are simply too short to properly fit some child car seats.
So, like I said, you probably want a four-door pickup. If you already have a good one, skip to the next section.
2. Set your budget
Now you need to look at the different models available at the price you can afford. Deciding how much to spend is hard. Newer pickups are safer and more fuel-efficient, but at the same time they cost more and you have a child coming. You need to be careful about how much debt you want to take on, so craft your budget carefully and consider consulting a financial advisor.
3. Find the trucks in your price range
Consult websites like Edmunds.com to see what’s available to you. Be sure to try its finance calculators to figure out how much you’ll pay in interest and other costs before you hit the dealership.
4. Keep safety the highest priority
Take a hard look at how those trucks performed in crash tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shares its crash safety ratings at safercar.gov, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shares its data at iihs.org.
Don’t get lazy about this. It’s no exaggeration to say your truck is going to be carrying the most precious cargo you’ve ever transported.
Also, keep in mind that NHTSA introduced tougher standards for 2011-and-newer models, so you can’t accurately compare 2010-and-older pickups to brand-new ones.
5. The safest truck on the market
If money is no object and you want the safest truck you can get, buy a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or GMC Sierra. As of this writing, it’s the only pickup with a five-star rating from NHTSA.
That doesn’t mean the other options are dangerous, though. The 2014 Ford F-150 and 2014 Ram 1500 both scored four stars, and the 2013 Toyota Tundra also scored four stars. Crash test data isn’t available yet for the updated 2014 Tundra, and an updated Ford F-150 is due out next year.
Once you know what you want, time to hit the car lots.
6. Bring the child’s car seat to the car lot
If you’ve already purchased a good, strong, safe car seat, take it with you car shopping so you can test-fit it in the pickup. If the dealer balks at you test-fitting the child seat, find another dealer.
7. Top truck features for infants
Be sure to look at handy little things that will help with transporting children. Little cubby holes are great for holding diapers, wipes and toys. Tinted rear glass helps keep the sun out of a little kid’s eyes. An extra 12-volt power station is handy for plugging in all sorts of devices, like a portable bottle warmer.
Running boards or nerf bars with steps are also important if the truck sits high off the ground — this is especially likely with 4×4 pickups. You’re going to have your hands full when you’re loading your kid into that truck and a lower step to meet you part-way really makes a difference.
Also consider adding a tonneau cover, as it will keep your stroller, pack-and-play and other important items dry and protected in the bed of your truck.
8. Don’t forget four-wheel drive
Speaking of four-wheel drive, this is another issue to consider. If you live in a place with heavy snowfall, you’ll probably want a 4×4. If you live in a place with nice weather all year-round, a 4×2 pickup costs less and uses less fuel than a 4×4. It’s your call.
If you’re shopping for a used pickup and aren’t sure about a truck’s condition, have an independent mechanic inspect it. If the dealer balks at you wanting an independent inspection, find another dealer.
I can’t help you get a great price on a truck. Just make sure you find a good one and fully understand the payment plan before you sign.
How to prepare your pickup for transporting children
Once you have the right pickup, you’re going to want to start getting it ready for the baby.
1. Get your truck clean. A wet/dry vacuum is handy for this, and it will continue coming in handy each time you want to clean the pickup. Believe me, children are messy, and my daughter is always finding new ways to spread dirt, food and worse in the back of my truck.
2. Add a garbage container. If you always have an easy-to-reach bag for garbage in your pickup, you’ll remember to put junk in there instead of dropping it on the floor or stuffing it into the cupholders. Just don’t ever leave a dirty diaper in the cab. Those things only stink worse with time.
3. Install your baby’s car seat. This is tougher than it sounds. According to seatcheck.org, more than half of children riding around in car seats are not properly buckled in. Get some help and advice at a child car seat inspection station. NHTSA has an online map here to help you find the nearest one.
Be sure to consult your owner’s manuals for both the pickup and the car seat. Generally speaking, the safest place for any car seat is the middle of the back seat — this puts the most distance and metal between your child and an impact from any direction.
4. Keep the gas tank full. If this is the vehicle you’re going to take you to the hospital when the time comes, never let the gas tank get below three-fourths full. Make sure the tires have plenty of air and everything is in good working order. Fill a bag with extra sets of clothes for both parents and store it in the cab.
5. Keep the cab stocked. Items to keep on-hand are diaper-changing gear and a few toys. There will come a day when you’ll need it. Remember, though, that when winter comes, the wipes and any other baby-related liquids or creams will probably freeze. During colder months, you’ll need to bring a diaper bag along for emergency changes and carry it inside with you when you’re not driving.
6. Remember the emergency kit. If you live in a colder climate, make sure you have a good winter emergency kit in the cab. Include blankets, water and a sealed container of baby formula in case you get stranded with your child.
Good luck with all the decisions you have to make. You can do this!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Logan Adams is the Social Media/Community Specialist at Agri-Cover, Inc., which makes tonneau covers, mud flaps, snow plows and other products for pickups and SUVs. He grew up working in his father’s auto shop and is now raising his own family.