Are you looking for the perfect family car? Whether you need a vehicle that has space for all the kids, a boot full of suitcases, or your beloved pooch, it’s worth considering an estate. They might not be as fashionable as sporty SUVs, but estate cars still have a lot to offer, especially if you’re looking to maximise your budget.
The best family estate cars boast much more than a big boot. They’re practical, easily accessible, straightforward to drive, and have plenty of head and legroom for all your passengers. Almost every manufacturer has an estate model in their fleet so there are plenty to choose from, and most come equipped with foldable rear seats to increase the amount you’re able to carry. And unlike an SUV, estates are modelled after saloons and hatchbacks so feel much more familiar for drivers making the switch to a larger vehicle.
What is an estate car?
Estate cars closely resemble a classic saloon or hatchback but have extended rear bodywork – both upward and outward – to create a larger and more versatile boot. That means they can offer the best of both worlds: the ease and convenience of a smaller vehicle but the space and flexibility that you’d usually only find in a van. This makes estate cars ideal for families, especially as they can be adjusted to suit your needs thanks to their folding rear seats. It’s also worth keeping in mind that estates are sometimes described using different terms; when browsing for a used estate car online, look out for vehicles labelled as a station wagon, sports tourer, touring, or avant as well.
Are estate cars good for families?
Estate cars have always been associated with families. Not only do they offer more than enough cabin space for five passengers (without needing to argue over the middle seat) but they also have some of the biggest boots on the market. No matter whether you choose to have the rear row of seats up or down, you’ll have more than enough space for your suitcases, weekly shopping bags, or large family dog.
There are a wide range of used estate cars available, which means they can be more affordable to buy than more sought-after SUVs or 4x4s, while their light frame means they can usually get a decent number of miles to the gallon too.
Are estate cars hard to park?
One of the biggest reasons why people shy away from owning estate cars is the length. If you’re a new driver who doesn’t feel very confident on the road yet or you live in the city centre and need to compete for parking spaces, a large car can feel like more of a hindrance than a help.
The good news is that estate cars are easier to park than you might think. Of course, they will take up more space than a supermini so you might have to find larger parking spaces or a generously designed multi-storey, but their design is based on a hatchback or saloon, which can make them easier to manoeuvre. Parking in an estate will feel familiar to most drivers; they also offer good visibility on the road, and typically have easy-to-navigate dashboards and controls when compared to other vehicle types.
Which estate car has the largest boot?
While almost every estate car can boast an impressive boot, it’s the Skoda Superb Estate that offers the most space to families. With 660-litres available with all five seats in use and 1950-litres with the rear seats folded, the Superb could almost double as a minivan! There’s no doubt that it can cope with carrying everything a growing family might need: a folded buggy, bulging suitcases, the weekly shopping bags, kids’ football kits, and more.
Not sold on the Skoda? If you’re happy to trade a little space for a touch of luxury then the refined Mercedes E-Class offers a 640-litre boot, while the enduring popular BMW 5 Series Touring has 570-litres available.
Should I buy an estate or an SUV?
Estate cars have fallen out of favour in recent years as families start to choose sleek and sporty SUVs instead. There are several reasons why SUVs have stolen so many hearts including the way they look; they typically have desirable designs that are seen as more modern than boxy estates and can be more accessible to climb in and out of. SUVs also provide a higher driving position as well as a raised suspension that can help them handle large bumps and rough road surfaces with ease.
Even so, that doesn’t mean you should always choose an SUV over an estate. The best car type for you will depend on several factors including where and how you drive, how much space you need, and how much you can afford to spend on your monthly car finance repayments. Estate cars are typically cheaper to buy than SUVs, especially used models, and are lighter too, which can make them more fuel efficient.
The design of an estate car might split opinion but as lower, leaner cars, they can be more fun to drive. If you enjoy the process of driving and need to tackle a lot of bends or twisty country roads, then you might find you’ll have a better experience in an estate.
7 of the best family estate cars
Volkswagen Passat Estate
When looking for a great family estate car, two things are must-haves: a spacious interior and a fair price. The Volkswagen Passat Estate offers both and was designed with families in mind. It has an impressive 650-litre boot, which means you’ll have more than enough space even with all the kids on board. There are a range of engines to choose from too, including petrol, diesel, and an eco-friendly plug-in hybrid, which have all been crafted to be as economic with fuel as possible.
Mercedes E-Class Estate
One of the most luxurious estate cars on the market, the Mercedes E-Class Estate attracts appreciative stares wherever it goes. With its elegant and restrained exterior and plush interior, the E-Class invites its passengers to sit back and relax in style. Every seat offers plenty of head and legroom while the air suspension smooths out bumps to make the ride even more comfortable. A 640-litre boot is combined with a whole host of tech but there’s no need to worry; the dashboard is laid-out in a way that makes using the controls effortless. When it comes to engines, you can choose between petrol, diesel, or plug-in hybrid models.
The Volvo V90 offers everything you would expect from the popular Scandinavian manufacturer. The estate has a sleek, minimalist sense of style, a quietly luxurious interior, and a robust build that feels reassuringly secure on all road types. It’s a good-looking car with distinctive rear light clusters and a comfortable cabin that’s dominated by a large portrait touchscreen. Drivers will find it a pleasant vehicle to control, especially when cruising down the motorway, while passengers can relax against vegan-friendly vinyl leather seats. Petrol, diesel and mild-hybrid engines are all on offer, but you can choose to upgrade to the cross-country model if you need something a little more rugged.
Audi A6 Avant
A high-end choice for families looking for an estate car with a luxurious edge, the Audi A6 Avant is one of the most comfortable and refined models on the market. It drives as well as you would expect from Audi and is appointed with the finest materials, inside and out. Despite its exclusive look and feel, the A6 offers surprisingly good fuel economy as well as an easy-to-use dashboard with simple controls and clear displays. Thanks to its carefully crafted mechanics, the estate can perform well in a range of different driving conditions as well as offering 495-litres of boot space.
Skoda Superb Estate
The Skoda Superb Estate often takes the top spot in lists of the best family estate cars thanks to its practicality, comfort, low purchase price, and economical running costs. It’s the ideal all-rounder with an efficient engine that really comes into its own on long journeys down the motorway. You’ll have more than enough space for all your road trip essentials thanks to the substantial boot – one of the biggest on the market – and it increases to 1950-litres when the rear seats are folded flat. The Superb’s interior isn’t the most luxurious, but it still features quality materials and has been ergonomically designed. Clever details include a folding front passenger seat with its own ISOFIX child seat anchorages and a variable height boot floor.
Ford Focus Estate
The Ford Focus is one of the most reliable – and popular – family hatchbacks on the market, so it’s not surprising that the Estate model is just as sought-after. The Focus offers excellent value for money, is practical, and available with a range of petrol and diesel engine options. It’s 4.7m long in total with a 575-litre boot that can extend out to 1653-litres with the seats folded, while the lack of lip makes it easy to load bulky items. The drive is comfortable but if you tend to drive down rougher roads or encounter a lot of potholes on your journeys, you might want to upgrade to a model with adaptive dampers.
BMW 5 Series Touring
Comfortable and quiet but still fun to drive, the BMW 5 Series Touring is a great choice for families. This practical yet stylish estate car offers the kind of luxury that makes you look forward to taking a long journey, even if the kids won’t stop asking, “Are we there yet?” It’s a midsize estate but has 570-litres of boot space as standard, which can extend to 1700-litres. As an added bonus, you can simply wave your foot under the back bumper to pop the boot open when your hands are full. Available in diesel, petrol, or plug-in hybrid versions, the 5 Series is enduringly popular with drivers thanks to its precise handling and self-levelling rear suspension designed to cope with heavy loads.
Can I get estate car finance?
If you’re looking to buy a second-hand estate car, you may be able to secure used car finance. At CarFinance 247, we work with a panel of lenders, which means we can look to find loans for people with a wide variety of circumstances, including those with bad credit. It all starts with a quote. You can make a no-obligation application online and you’ll receive a decision in minutes – with no impact on your credit score. And if we’re able to find you an approval in principle, your dedicated account manager will be in touch to help guide you through the process, handle all the paperwork, and help you find the right estate car for you.