7 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Car

Whether There’s Enough Seating and Storage

Why it’s important: Automakers love to boast about how many cubic feet of passenger and cargo space a vehicle has. But numbers won’t tell you whether a car’s sloping roofline will cramp rear passengers’ headroom or if a small trunk opening will make it hard to load your gear.

Steps to Take
Check out the rear seats by sitting in them. See how easy they are to get into and out of, and whether there are any obvious problems with headroom and legroom. If there’s a third row, find out whether it’s big enough for the passengers you expect to sit back there.

Try out the trunk. If there’s a specific item you absolutely need to fit—say, a folding wheelchair, an empty pet carrier, or a stroller—take the item to the dealership with you and try it for yourself. Is it easy to lift and load?

Be smart about car seats. If you have young children, take your car seats with you to see how easy they are to install securely. Some second rows can fit three car seats across, but in others, a single car seat might impinge on the neighboring passenger’s space. “All car seats are different, so the best way to find out what fits is to bring your own,” says Emily Thomas, PhD, manager for auto safety at CR.