Buying a car for your teenager is less risky than in past generations if you follow recommendations. Cars have more advanced safety protections, and you can typically follow your car’s history online to determine if a particular car was involved in accidents or maintained at recommended intervals. That’s why you should try the following best practices for choosing a car for your child.
Research Safety Ratings
The NHTSA publishes information about safety rating standards and uses a 5-star scale to simplify interpretation. Most parents want a car that earned a 5-star rating, and the minimal acceptable rating should be no lower than 4 stars. You might be unable to find an affordable but safe model unless you expand your options to include 4- and 5-star vehicles.
Don’t Be Afraid to Buy a Used Car
You can just as easily buy a new-car lemon as a used one. Maybe it’s even more likely because you can research used models to discover any history of frequent repairs. You can take the following steps to ensure a good-quality used car.
- Be sure to road-test any prospective used vehicle to determine its mechanical soundness.
- Check the car’s title to prevent surprises when registering the vehicle.
- Insist on a vehicle history report.
- Don’t rely solely on a vehicle history report because some damages and situations — like flooding, vehicle theft, and fender benders — might not be reported.
- Check whether any safety recalls apply to the make, model, and year of the vehicle.
- Try to contact the previous owner if buying from a dealer, and ask questions about how the car was used.
- Get an inspection by a certified mechanic to confirm good mechanical shape and any repairs made to the body.
Factor in the Insurance Cost
Getting information on insurance costs is important for those on a limited budget. The major factors used in underwriting auto insurance policies include the age of the new driver and the make and model of the vehicle. More expensive vehicles will naturally have higher premiums for collision or comprehensive coverage, but models considered sporty often have higher premiums than expected. Even choosing a red car for your teenage driver can raise your insurance rates.
Think About the Car’s Reliability
Choosing a car model considered reliable can save you thousands of dollars in repair costs, and unless someone in the family has mad mechanical skills, reliability is one of the top three factors you should consider. Reliable workhorse vehicles cost less to repair, need fewer repairs and keep their value longer than high-performance but temperamental models.
Consider the Car’s Routine Maintenance
Maintaining your car is generally easier if you stick to recommended maintenance schedules. Avoid cars that have too many bells and whistles that need regular maintenance, and consider basic vehicles for your child’s transportation needs. Get your teenager invested in some maintenance tasks like checking tire pressure, oil level, windshield wiper condition and tire treads. Oil changes, topping off fluids, and inspecting brakes are best left to professionals.
You can always end up with a car that doesn’t meet your teenage driver’s needs despite your best efforts to research the makes and models of vehicles. Be aware that all states have lemon laws for new vehicles, but only six states have the same protection for used vehicles. Be sure to put any car through its paces to discover any problems before your state’s expiration date for protection against buying a lemon.