The Family Sedan
Does It Still Have a Place in a World of SUVs and Minivans? 

To look at a Chuck E. Cheese parking lot filled with SUVs and minivans, you’d think the family sedan had gone the way of the covered wagon. And in a way it has. Among the toddler-toting set, that is.

But family sedans still make up the largest segment of new vehicles on the road today. According to the market research firm J.D. Power and Associates, family sedans account for 22 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States. In fact, the two best-selling cars in America are family sedans – the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry.

To call these cars “family sedans” is a tad misleading, however. Young families aren’t buying them much anymore. In fact, families with kids at home make up only 23 percent of Honda Accord buyers; empty nesters make up 50 percent, and the remaining 27 percent are either single or married couples without kids.

Among young families, the sedan often serves as a second car – the one that Dad (or whomever isn’t picking up the kids that day) drives. The sedan is also what the parents drive on “dates” when they leave the young ones with the sitter.

“While SUV sales are staying strong, we’re seeing a small up-tick in the popularity of sedans and wagons,” says Jack Gillis, author of The Ultimate Car Book. “Some people are reconsidering their transportation needs and downsizing from SUVs into sedans or wagons. Part of the reason is that sedans cost less to buy and less to insure. Also, some people just want to drive a car, not an SUV or minivan.”

Case in point: Since becoming a mom, my friend Janice has gone from driving a Plymouth Voyager minivan to a Chevy Suburban to a BMW 5-series sedan. In that order.

“I’ve never looked back,” she says. With two boys in baseball and soccer, Janice officially qualifies as a soccer mom, “but that doesn’t mean I have to drive a ‘soccer mom’ car; a sedan suits us just fine. I like that it’s not cumbersome. It’s nimble, fun to drive, and I can park it anywhere.”

 What Exactly Is a Sedan?

They come in all sizes and price levels, but what sedans have in common are four doors, seating for five or six and better ride and handling than any SUV or truck. Sedans typically are built in what is called the “three-box” design, meaning one box contains the engine and transmission, the second box holds the passengers, and the third box (aka the trunk) carries the luggage.

Sedans are really just old-fashioned cars. Two parental units go in front and 2.5 kids go in back. If you want a practical package (pretty small, pretty nimble, pretty fuel-efficient and pretty cheap) then get a family sedan. And if you’re worried about buying a new dishwasher down the line, have the store deliver it.

Click here to find out how sedans and SUVs stack up against each other.