Everyone has to start driving sometime, and when it’s your teen that’s begging for wheels you need to be prepared with a solid strategy for finding the right car for your new driver.
Okay, so some teens have been driving safely for a while and now you’ve determined that it makes sense to get them their own car. How do you go about finding the right car for your teen driver? We’ve compiled 10 tips to get you started:
Collaborate on the search. Before you get too far into the research and consideration phase, it’s a good idea to sit down with your teen and discuss the purpose and process of this car-finding endeavor. While parents have certain ideas about what constitutes the right (translate safe) car for teens, your offspring probably have very different ideas about what car they want to drive. Compromise is going to be in the mix, certainly, so working together on the project will likely result in a better meeting of the minds – and a resulting vehicle choice that’s right for your teen driver.
Keep in mind, bigger isn’t always better. Conventional wisdom says that the bigger the vehicle, the more safe they are in crashes. While this may be true for SUVs involved in two-vehicle crashes with the other vehicle a small car, it isn’t always true. According to statistics, many teen crashes are single-vehicle crashes involving a collision with a stationary object or a rollover. And, about those heavier SUVs? Due to their higher center of gravity, they may be more prone to a rollover, which could result when they abruptly swerve or have a tire blow-out. Should you throw out the idea of a bigger vehicle altogether? No, of course not. What you should keep in mind is that vehicle size is just one consideration among many in the search for the right car for your teen driver.
Watch out for certain types of cars. Some cars you should automatically scratch from your consideration list. Again, when you work together with your teen in the research and narrowing down of cars to be considered, this will be something you’ll need to discuss. Sporty or sports cars and convertibles should be out of the question. Why? Because of the image that sports and sporty cars have – as portrayed in automotive reviews and splashy advertising – teens may tend to drive to live up to the image. Sporty cars often mean drivers speed and take more risks. And there’s less protection in a convertible model, particularly in rollovers.
Identify your budget. How much is in the family budget has to figure into the equation of finding the right car for your teen driver. In fact, there’s no sense looking at a car that’s out of reach no matter how desirable it is on all other fronts. Weighing and balancing the purchase price of a brand-new vehicle versus a well-maintained and reliable used vehicle with sufficient safety features and strong safety crash scores may well come into play here.
Certain safety features are a prerequisite. Without a doubt, your overriding concern when choosing the right vehicle for your teen driver is safety. At least, it should be. Teens are just beginning a lifetime of driving and you naturally want them to be as safe as possible in whatever vehicle you wind up selecting for them to drive. What are the essential safety features in such a car? Go for a vehicle that has as many airbags as possible. New cars have the latest safety advances in airbag technology, and some models include standard side impact air curtain airbags. These include the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze (10 standard airbags) and Ford Fiesta (seven standard airbags). Also essential is anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESP). Another safety feature good to have is tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), which became federally mandated for the 2007 model year for all passenger cars, light trucks, multi-purpose passenger vehicles and buses under 10,000 pounds GVWR. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), three out of four roadside flats, 250,000 accidents and more than 650 fatalities are caused annually because of underinflated tires.