You blink, and your baby is now a teenager. You have gone from imaginary tea parties and video games to learning how to drive on the open road. There is nothing more terrifying (except maybe dating) for the parents of teenagers.
As a parent, you do what you can to get your driver ready for the road; you pay for classes, take them out to practice, and even make them watch all the docu-specials about the consequences of bad decisions. But, unfortunately, once they have obtained their license, you have to believe that they will make the best choices – which is why choosing the best car for your teen driver comes in handy.
What to Look For in a Teen’s Car
Picking out a car for your teen will more than likely be different than if you were shopping for yourself. While you keep things like safety, size, and visibility in your mind for yourself, it becomes one of the top things to look for in your child’s car. Teens are more likely than adults to end up in an accident, so making every effort to keep your child safe on the road becomes important.
Safety features are always the first thing to be considered. As a parent, you want to know that your child is surrounded by the best and highest levels of safety while they are behind the wheel. The most important features to look for here include:
- Electronic Stability Control (ECS) – When a vehicle begins to skid on a curvy or slippery road, this technology will kick in, applying the brakes and help the driver regain control of the steering. ECS has been required in most vehicles manufactured from 2012 and on.
- Automatic Braking – The system uses lasers, radar, and even video to gauge if the driver is going at a rate of speed that will make it impossible to stop before reaching the things in front of it. The risk of an accident will signal the brakes to engage, slowing down the vehicle.
- Blind Spot Threat Detection – More of a newer technology, detecting blind spots can help make lane changing safer by alerting the driver of someone entering the area beside the car when they still can’t see them.
- Airbags – Ensuring ample airbags is important when you are putting your teenager in their first car. Even the existence of the side-curtain airbags is preferable for maximum safety.
- Bluetooth – Consider a car with Bluetooth capabilities. This feature will allow for your child to have hands-free ability, keeping their phone away. Many of these cars also use a built-in GPS feature with Bluetooth technology, reducing the need for taking their eyes off the road.
Price Range and Size
The next factor that parents should be looking at is the price of the car that they buy their teenager. We understand the desire to go out and buy your teen the newest model on the showroom floor – but don’t. You can still get a later model car without breaking the bank and ensuring that it has the safety features needed.
The size of the vehicle is important – the larger the vehicle, the larger it is to maneuver. The smaller the car, the more likely it will be to slide or drift. You have to find that sweet spot in the middle. For a first car (not their forever car), you may want to consider a sedan. Steer clear of trucks, SUVs, and sports cars for the time being.
Visibility and Distractions
You want your teen’s car to have an optimal line of sight while reducing as many distractions as possible. As much as we all like to surprise our kids on their birthday, it might be worth having them there when you pick out their new car. Of course, some vehicles have a better line of sight than others, and if you are taller than your teen, your view from the driver’s seat will be different than theirs.
Distractions in the car can vary, but one common denominator with teens seems to be the cell phone use in the car. While we want to believe that our teen wouldn’t talk and text and drive, we can’t be sure of it all the time. So a vehicle that offers hands-free or Bluetooth capabilities is the smartest choice.
Car insurance or some form of financial liability statement is required in all of the 50 states. One thing that is a guarantee when your teen becomes a driver – your car insurance is going to go up. This premium increase isn’t because your teen is a bad driver; it is because they are considered an inexperienced driver. As they gain experience as they drive and get older, which is why most car insurance premiums reduce the longer they drive. Providing proof that your teen was a part of a driver’s education class and that the car has specific safety mechanisms in place may also help reduce the insurance.
The Top Car Picks for Teens
These are the best car brand/models for new teen drivers:
- Honda Civic – this is one of the best-selling cars of all time. It has the winning combo of price, features, safety, and reliability. This model was the IIHS Top Safety Pick from 2009 to 2017, with every generation since 2012 gaining the five-star safety rating from the NHTSA.
- Toyota Camry – this car also ranks high on the list and is one of the best-selling cars across the nation. Many Camry owners will hold onto this gem, meaning that if you do find one for under $10K, it will have a lot of miles on it. In addition, the Camry ranks high in crash safety tests, longevity, reliability, and fuel economy – a winning combo for a teen driver.
- Hyundai Sonata – the Sonata received a five-star safety rating from the NHSTA every model year and was the Top IIHS choice every year but 2014. The best part is that even the base models come with great safety features, including the side curtain airbags and stability control.
- Ford Focus – the Focus, as a sedan or a hatchback, has received five-star ratings from the NHTSA up until it was discontinued (2019). In addition, the 2015 Focus was the first to offer standard back-up cameras, blind-spot detection, and lane departure warnings. Ford also offered parents the ability to set up the “My Key” feature that sets speed limits and radio volume in their teen’s car.
How Do You Know You Got The Right Car?
It is hard to say no to your teen. Still, with some great used vehicle models available, you may be able to talk them into the safer versus, the flashier selection. The best way to get your teen to like their new car (even if it isn’t a Ferrari or Porsche) is to let them participate in the selection process.
Start by listening to them and finding out what they think is important; more than likely, the color will come up. Then start browsing selections online and at local car lots to see what the inventory is. Set up test drives, driving it before you let your teen behind the wheel.
Before you sign on the dotted line, we recommend ensuring that the car has everything you and your teen want. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to get a used car checked out by your favorite mechanic. Keeping your teen safe on the road is what matters the most.