How to find the right car for the teen driver in your family

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Your teen is beyond excited because he finally passed his driving test. You share his enthusiasm – until you suddenly realize your baby will soon take to the open road alone for the first time in his life. For a split second, concern fills your head, but you tell yourself everything will be all right.

The harsh reality is, per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why? Several factors are in play, but one of the main reasons for the increased risk is that teens are more likely than mature drivers to underestimate dangerous situations and not know how to react appropriately.

As a parent, you want to protect your child, even when you can’t be there. When it comes time to find him the perfect first car, you probably want to look at options that are sensible, reliable and safe. Not surprising, your teen may prefer something that is sporty, fast and fun for driving around with friends. Finding a good compromise is important. Start by sitting down with your teen to discuss what types of vehicles you both like and what exactly attracts you to each model in particular. Once you understand each other’s priorities, finding a car you both love should be simple.

When it comes to tips on buying a car for your teen, safety features are among the most important things to look for. Here are some important ones for both of you to research:

1. New car review

Whether you are buying a new model, or looking at used options, it’s smart to look at reviews and see how the car rates, particularly in crashes. Consumer Reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are good places to start. Encourage your teenager to participate in the research process, especially if he has his heart set on a certain kind of vehicle. Have him gather information on the model he wants and present what he found to you. This also will help your teen to become more educated about vehicle safety in general.

2. Air bags

Car manufacturers began to make cars with airbags in the 1980s and early 1990s, but older cars may only feature airbags in front for the driver and passenger, or sometimes just the driver. Some older cars may not have an airbag at all. Having an airbag can decrease the risk of injury in a car accident. Research what types of airbags are in the car you are considering, including side impact airbags. For teens that are still learning to navigate tough road conditions, side airbags may really help to reduce injury for the driver and passengers in a major accident.

3. Stability control

Buying new cars with stability control may be a good idea. According to, stability control systems use electronic sensors to monitor the driver’s intended path and the actual direction the car is headed. If the system senses something is wrong, it can slow the engine power or activate braking. The system isn’t perfect, but it may help a teen who finds himself in a driving situation he didn’t expect. Have the seller or dealer explain how the system works so your teen understands how it will help in an accident scenario, but also what the system’s limitations are.

4. New tires

Buying a car for your teen can be a difficult decision, but if you decide to purchase a used vehicle, you should inspect the tires. Good tires help grip the car to the road and will help your teen driver stay in control. Get the wheels aligned for increased safety and remind your teen to check for proper tire pressure regularly. It’s also smart to discuss with your teen how different weather conditions can affect how your teen should drive. Good tires help prevent slipping and sliding in inclement weather, but they can only go so far. Make sure your teen understands to drive slower and monitor road conditions, particularly in rain, ice and snow conditions.