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Choosing the Right Vehicle for Your Young Driver

Published: December 2019

Seeing children grow and reach developmental milestones can be a rewarding experience for parents. But, some of those milestones, like helping your teen get a driver's license or buying a car for your young driver, may come with some concerns and uncertainty. It helps to do some research to find the right car for your teen's situation. These tips can help you get started with buying a car for your teen driver.

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Consider Vehicle Type and Size

When choosing a car for your teen, vehicle size matters for a few reasons. For example, large, heavier cars may seem more difficult for a new driver to handle at first. But, bigger vehicles typically perform better in crash tests than their smaller counterparts, according to Consumer Reports. On the flip side, it's important to consider that a larger vehicle usually allows for more passengers (which can be a potential driving distraction). While doing your research, it may be a good idea to check your state's graduated driver licensing laws to understand how many passengers your teen may be allowed to have in their vehicle.

Sports cars are one type of car that should be avoided for teens, says Consumer Reports, because they have a higher rate of accidents when compared to other types of vehicles. These types of vehicles can also have high horsepower, which may tempt your teen to test its limits, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Consider your teen's abilities and maturity level, and your budget, when choosing which size vehicle may be right for them.

Look at a Car's Safety Ratings and Features

Safety is likely a top priority when it comes to a car for your teen. Newer cars generally offer more safety features and have better crash protection, says Consumer Reports, so you may want to take the age of a car into consideration when choosing a vehicle.

It's also a good idea to check a vehicle's safety ratings. In addition to the ratings supplied by car manufacturers, consider looking at results from a safety-research group. One example is the 5-star rating program that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administers each year to determine how new vehicles perform in front, side and rollover crash testing. A 5-star rating indicates the safest cars. In 2010, NHTSA also began assigning an overall vehicle score to tested cars along with a list of their included safety technologies, which may be helpful when comparing newer vehicles.

Some newer cars also include advanced safety features. Forward-collision warning, for example, provides drivers with visual or audio warnings when another car or object is in its path, says Consumer Reports. New vehicles may also include automatic emergency braking or a blind spot warning system, which can help drivers avoid an accident by alerting them of vehicles in their blind spot.

Assess Maintenance Costs

Costs related to routine maintenance can vary from vehicle to vehicle. Consider expenses such as the price of oil changes, parts and tires. If you buy a luxury car for your teen, for example, it may cost more to fix when something goes wrong, says AutoTrader. This is because many luxury cars have higher-end gadgets and use specialized parts, making maintenance more expensive than an average car. Or, you may want to consider that larger cars can cost more to fuel up since they typically have a lower fuel economy when compared to smaller cars, says Consumer Reports.

After finding a potential car for your teen, you may also want to speak with an insurance agent to estimate the insurance costs so you know what to expect.

No matter which vehicle you choose for your teen, combining a reliable car with a responsible driver can help maximize the safety of your teen and their passengers. Remember these tips when researching vehicles so you can choose a car that meets your priorities and is appropriate for your teen.

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Our pages are filled with helpful tips and information about the topics that most of us face in our everyday lives. We focus on safety and maintenance issues with regard to your home, auto, apartment, motorcycle, boat, small business, finances and more. Please recognize that a particular tip may not be effective in every circumstance and that taking preventive measures cannot guarantee any outcome. We encourage you to use your own good judgment about what's appropriate for you and your property and always consider safety.
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