2012 Ford FocusEnlarge Photo
Decide on old versus new. One of the big considerations that you’ll need to discuss is buying an older car versus one that is brand-new. While older cars may seem to be a better deal cost-wise, that’s not always the case. In fact, you may find that those low-mileage, cheap used cars are a thing of the past since the demand has outstripped the supply. Used car shoppers often wind up paying more for an older vehicle than one that is brand new. And older cars may start to require expensive repairs, be less reliable overall, and have fewer safety features. With new cars, you have the latest safety technology, at least three years of manufacturer’s basic warranty, tend to be more reliable – and they’re new.
Check into insurance costs as well. Purchase price is a primary consideration, but don’t forget about insurance costs while you and your teen are narrowing down your vehicle choices. Do rate quote comparisons or call your insurance agent and get an idea of the costs involved. Here is where some older vehicles may be more attractive, since costs to insure models a few years old are generally – but not always – cheaper than for a brand-new vehicle.
Review all crash scores and look for Top Safety Picks. How well a vehicle does in crash testing conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) should weigh heavily in your ultimate choice of the right car for your teen driver. Ideally, look for a vehicle that has an overall five-star rating (the highest) in NHTSA testing and one that is a Top Safety Pick of the IIHS. Models for the 2011 model year are subject to more stringent testing by the federal government and the IIHS – particularly in the area of roof crush strength. Top Safety Picks are available from the 2006 model year to the present (2011 model year).
Go for fuel-efficient vehicles. It costs money to drive a car, any car, for that matter. One of the daily driving considerations is how fuel efficient a vehicle is, translating into how much gas it consumes. Look for vehicles that are fuel-efficient – typically those with four-cylinder engines or highly efficient V-6 engines and steer clear of the more powerful, and fuel-thirsty V-8s. Check out fuel efficiency of new vehicles in the 2011 Fuel Economy Guide published by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Protection Agency. Fuel economy guides are available from the 2000 model year to the present. You can also search for a car from 1984 model year to the present and find out its fuel efficiency by class, make, and miles per gallon.
Check out car reviews. To get an overview of how well a vehicle is regarded in terms of reliability, safety, standard equipment, fuel economy, and operating costs, do a thorough review of your consideration set by checking out car reviews. Use TheCarConnection as well as Consumer Reports, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book.
Following these tips will not only result in you finding the right car for your teen driver -- or at least narrowing down the possibilities, it will also ensure that you spend some quality time with your teen. Everybody wins.
EPA, IIHS, NHTSA, Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, Consumer Reports]