Watching your teen drive away solo for the first time is stressful for any parent. But you'll worry less knowing that they're doing it in the right car.
A solid, reliable, newer car surrounds your teen in safety. It's the one thing that's with them all the time – even if lessons from you or their driving instructor are temporarily forgotten.
Good teen cars share five characteristics:
- Larger size. Choose a mid- or full-sized car. Even highly rated small cars offer much less protection in crashes with larger vehicles.
- Newer model years. Side air bags, backup cameras, electronic stability control and daytime running lights are among safety features important for teens, and many aren't available on older cars. Manufacturers now pack significant safety features into even their lower priced models.
- Low center of gravity. Sedans are best. Pickups and some small SUVs can be prone to rollovers owing to their high centers of gravity. An overcorrection error that might cause a sedan to skid could cause one of those vehicles to flip.
- Non-performance image. Avoid cars with sport and performance features (like turbocharging) that encourage speed.
- Excellent crash-test ratings. Get objective information on how different makes and models compare from organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Before you buy, even if you have a used car's maintenance record, take it to a reliable mechanic for a thorough safety inspection. A professional could uncover things you missed, like signs the car was submerged in floodwater. To see whether or not a car has been in an accident, request a CARFAX or AutoCheck report if you're buying from a dealer (you can purchase the reports yourself, too). Also, check for recalls with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.