PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Buying up clothes, backpacks, notebooks and other school supplies can be taxing enough. Throw a new car on top of it, and you're looking at one costly start to the new year.
According to Polk, the average U.S. car has been on the road for more than a decade. The recession didn't help matters, as families held on to their school and soccer shuttles for years longer than they envisioned.
Whether it's a relatively new family sending kids to school for the first time this year or a group of pickup/drop-off veterans just trying to get their youngest through high school, eventually a family is going to need something more spacious and reliable.
The back-to-school car is still a rare purchase, but one we're aware many families will be making this year. While their older high schoolers can scour the used-car lot for a low-rent ride, his or her parents are looking for something big, safe and affordable.That first qualification and the last rarely align, which is why we've tried to put together a list of family cars with enough room for that first morning in the drop-off zone, but with a price that won't preclude the kids from going to college. We've tried to keep the cost under $30,900 -- and the top cars on this list fall well below that -- but newcomers to practices and parent-teacher conferences may consider spending a little more for the long haul. The following 10 vehicles will get your family and its stuff to school, softball and sleepovers, but without sending car-poor parents into crushing debt:
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