Getting a driver license is a big deal for any teen, but it’s also a milestone that can cause anxiety for parents. Driving is a symbol of independence and your child’s first step on the road to adulthood. You survived the first 16 years of parenting, now it’s time to teach your teenager how to drive safely.
It is important to make sure your teen learns the fundamentals behind the wheel, so you’ve put in countless hours riding around in the family vehicle with your teen driver – teaching them how to parallel park, reminding them to check their blind spots and telling them to keep their eyes on the road.
Meanwhile, they’ve been daydreaming about their first car, dropping hints about that new truck or cool convertible. Ultimately, the decision lies with you, but before you make the purchase there are some important things you should consider.
1. Newer is Better
Odds are, you won’t be shelling out the cash for a brand new car for your teen when they get their license, but driving an older car can mean fewer safety features. If you can, purchase a vehicle from 1997 or newer – this is the first year airbags became mandatory for all vehicles. Look for added safety options, such as anti-lock brakes, side airbags and roll stability control. Depending on your budget, add-ons like backup cameras, lane departure alerts, electronic braking systems and forward collision warning capabilities found in newer model vehicles could help your teen driver avoid collisions.
2. Down to Earth
Trucks and SUVs might seem like a great option for your teen driver, but they may not be. While heavier vehicles offer better protection in collisions, many larger models are less stable and have a higher rollover risk than traditional mid-sized sedans. They often don’t handle as well, which can be problematic for inexperienced drivers. If you’re intent on buying a van, truck or SUV, look into newer, less top heavy models with improved safety technology.
3. Speed Kills
Avoid high horsepower vehicles. Cars with four-cylinder engines are often cheaper to insure and don’t have as much power and pick up as vehicles with larger engines. Speeding is a dangerous activity, particularly for young, inexperienced drivers who have yet to familiarize themselves with how their vehicle handles in different road conditions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 29% of all young driver fatalities in 2013 were caused by speeding.
4. Crash Ratings
Every vehicle is given a crash rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and this is something to think about when shopping for a vehicle. These ratings give you an idea of how a vehicle will hold up in a collision, whether it’s hit from the front, side or rear. This also takes the vehicle’s rollover factor into account. Ratings reflect how well occupants of a vehicle are protected in the event of a crash.
5. Vehicle Condition
If you’re buying a used vehicle, get a mechanic to inspect the car for potential mechanical and structural issues. While a used car might initially seem cost effective, repairs can soon add up. Ensuring the vehicle is safe to drive can be worth the additional cost to be confident that mechanical issues don’t leave your teen stranded on the roadside. Ongoing vehicle maintenance is also important and can prolong automobile life. Make sure there’s a spare tire in good working condition, tire iron and jack included with the purchase. And it’s also a good idea to stash jumper cables and an emergency kit in the trunk or under the back seat.
There’s nothing more important than keeping your family safe, so take the time to make an informed decision about your teen’s first vehicle.
Mercury Insurance Drive Safe Challenge
If you’d like more tips and information on how to prepare teens to drive and help keep them safe, visit drivesafe.mercuryinsurance.com. Keeping your teens safe while they're on the road is a concern for any parent with a teen driver. Teens and parents can test their knowledge with this teen driver quiz.