Mother’s Day Special: What Do Moms Want in Their Next Vehicle?

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Mom in Car/Image Credit: andresr

Guest Contributor: Craig Fitzgerald

Sources will argue about the exact number, but they’re all in the same ballpark: Somewhere around 60 percent of all vehicle purchases in the United States are conducted by women. Women also influence a staggering 85 percent of automotive purchases in this country. 

But the critical mistake is trying to pigeonhole moms into one category of car owners. They’re unique, and they all have different needs and desires in their next car. We talked to moms who want minivans for five kids, moms who love the spirit of driving a compact, sporty car, and moms who run construction companies who can’t live without a full-size pickup. One thing’s for sure: moms are as passionate and knowledgeable about their vehicles as anyone else is.  

Allison from Vermont

2022 Toyota Sienna/Image Credit: Toyota

Allison Strohl lives in Bennington, Vermont, and she’s currently driving a 2013 Subaru Forester. “This car has been great. Wonderful in the snow with AWD, reliable, good on gas. I should say reliable until recently,” she says. “Things keep breaking on this car and I still have under 80,000 miles on it – it is the rust causing problems.” She’s on the lookout for her next car, which she’s planning on buying in the next couple of years. “We have a 5-year-old and are expecting our second child this summer.  We are an active family – we camp, kayak, and go to lakes in the summer. I think a van is in our future. I want all the storage a van has. Vans also have lots of fancy comforts that I desire. However, this leads us back to needing AWD and that really leaves us with two options. The Sienna and the Pacifica.” 

 The Sienna has the theoretical edge on reliability –  CarComplaints.com shows 45 problems reported for the Pacifica since 2018 to the Sienna’s 10 – though Allison is worried that the four-cylinder hybrid Sienna, which is the only drivetrain available in the AWD Sienna, won’t have enough power to tow a popup trailer in Vermont hills. “We have many hills and steep roads. I don’t like to be restricted to where I can go in winter, and sometimes that snow squall can come out of nowhere or snowstorm be bigger than expected. And I would like to not worry about that. Therefore, I have decided to stick with AWD with snow tires,” she says. The new influx of EVs hasn’t changed Allison’s opinions just yet. “Maybe would consider one if we lived in a place like California, or if it wasn’t the main family-mobile. EVs do not seem practical where we live,” she says.  

Jess from California

2022 Chrysler Pacifica/Image Credit: Chrysler

Jess Fillipi IS in California, and opted to go the opposite of Allison’s route with a Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid, which has been helpful with the state’s $6.25/gallon fuel cost. “Ever since we got our level 2 charger installed at home, I hardly use any gas around town. I truly love driving this car,” she says. It’s not completely without complaint. She says that the Pacifica’s infotainment screen glitches pretty regularly. “My biggest pet peeve is when it just disconnects from my phone and forgets it exists,” says Jess. “That usually takes a few days for it to right itself.” 

She and her husband are in the market for a second car, though something that can fit three kids in the back seat occasionally since it won’t be their primary mode of transport. “Hopefully an EV, or hybrid at least, and something that will last if we take care of it so we can pass it on to our oldest when he’s old enough to drive,” she says. “I’d love a full EV for our second car, but I don’t know if we can afford the prices on the newer ones right now.” 

Julia from Illinois

2015 Subaru Impreza/Image Credit: IIHS 

“I have only bought Toyotas and Subarus,” says Julia Talbot from Chicago, Illinois. She’s not currently in the market for a new car but knows what she wants. “I buy new, keep a car at least 15 years and try not to pay more than $20,000,” Her current vehicles are a 2015 Subaru Impreza Sport and a Honda CR-V that she inherited when her own mom moved to a memory care facility. “The Impreza has been a great little car, great for my new drivers, cheap to insure and fix, decent enough mileage, surprisingly roomy,” and safe, she says. “This little car is made mostly of airbags. So. Many. Airbags.” Since its redesign in 2017, the Impreza has been a consistent IIHS Top Safety Pick winner, but in 2015 it got slightly lower rankings due to the ease of use of its LATCH child seat anchors, something that hasn’t been a concern for Julia with kids in their teens since she purchased it.  

The CR-V? “Is there a car that screams middle-aged mom louder?” she asks. “It has a ton of space. It is great for road trips and camping and literally, you never run out of room to jam more stuff in. The downsides? Well, it handles like an SUV which means I am constantly worrying about the higher center of gravity and tipping over (a rhetorical worry). It’s not super awesome in the snow/ice, unlike the Subaru. It gets super meh mileage. It’s boring.”  

Vanessa from Massachusetts

2017 Volvo V60/Image Credit: Autoblog 

Vanessa Epro is in Leominster, Massachusetts, and currently drives a Volvo V60, but says that the low roof height has her constantly bumping her head when she climbs in. “My next vehicle will probably be a truck,” she says, now that her two sons are both driving on their own. “It’s a few years off, but maybe a cute little Tacoma or a Ford or a Hyundai Santa Cruz. Good gas mileage will be a plus, but I need to run the numbers for carbon footprint benefit vs. the cost for an EV.” 

Lisa from Virginia

Toyota Highlander Hybrid/Image Credit: Toyota 

Lisa Broadaway is in Charlottesville, Virginia, and her needs are unique. She has three school-age kids now, and she and her wife are planning for two more. “My wife won’t allow us to look at cars until she thoroughly researches their highway safety rating,” she says. “I drive a Ford Explorer now, have driven Fords for most of my life and I love them. I was holding out hope that the electric car boom would carry over to three-row SUVs, but it looks like a hybrid is my next best bet. We’re looking towards the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.” 

Cortney from Massachusetts

2019 RAM 1500/Image Credit: IIHS 

Cortney Black is a mom who’s in the construction trades in Holliston, Massachusetts. Because she needs to haul kids and lumber on a regular basis, she drives a 2019 RAM 1500. “My kids have tons of room in the back—and chargers! Chargers coming out of my ears! There are four chargers and a 15 volt grounded plug—just in the back! They each have a “bin” for items they can take with them,” she says. “I really don’t have any gripes except the speaker system suuuuucks. I plan to upgrade soon. It’s a fairly straightforward upgrade if you’re a little handy.” 

Laurie from Maryland

2019 Subaru Crosstrek/Image Credit: IIHS

Laurie Timm is an art conservator in Maryland, with one 14-year-old son and the requirement to haul his cello and her supplies and ladders. But she’s also a driving enthusiast. “I’ve always had small cars until I became a mother and had to expand. I miss my small/fun cars. I like driving. I remember when I finally outgrew the Mini Cooper, it just felt too small when the groceries and the kid’s stuff felt like it was constantly overflowing into my space,” she says. She’s currently driving a 2019 Subaru Crosstrek. “I call it my ‘grown-up car,’” she says. “My only criticism is that I’m not certain the Crosstrek has enough pick up for me. Oh, also, the trunk/hatch only opens manually. Right now the needs for the family outweigh the individual choices. The Crosstrek feels like it’s been a good compromise.” 

Here’s one final note of interest: Out of over 20 moms who responded to our questions, no two drove the same vehicle. Responses ranged from compact hatchbacks to minivans to full-size pickups, with brands ranging from Kia and Hyundai to BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Moms are just as interested, and just as clear in their likes and dislikes as anyone. As they do an average of 15 hours of research for their next vehicle, automotive retailers need to be ready to answer an educated consumer.  

Craig Fitzgerald began his automotive writing career in 1996, at AutoSite.com, one of the first online resources for car buyers. Over the years, he’s written for the Boston Globe, Forbes, and Hagerty. For seven years, he was the editor at Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car, and today, he’s the automotive editor at Drive magazine. He’s dad to a son and daughter, and plays rude guitar in a garage band in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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