Your teen can’t wait to get to get behind the wheel of his very own car. You, on the other hand, could probably wait another 16 years for the occasion. Not to add to your worry, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists car accidents as the leading cause of death among teens. You may be reluctant to hand over the keys, but you can’t keep him tethered to the couch for the rest of his life. What you can do is teach him how to be a responsible driver and get him a safe first vehicle.
Safety First Is Your New Motto
Begin with an overview of the vehicle safety features. Does the car have airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes? How did the vehicle perform on rear, front and side-impact crash tests? You can still find a car that’s a fun color or has attractive styling your teen will like.
Routine maintenance is also vital to your teen’s safety. Make sure he knows how to check the oil and when to have it serviced. Ditto for tire pressure and tread wear, too; old, worn tires can cause a blowout, leading to a crash. Show him how to use a tread gauge and how to shop for new tires online.
Take Any Potential Car to a Mechanic
Money paid for a mechanic’s professional opinion is money well-spent, especially if you are buying a used car. Used cars can have a variety of underlying conditions you won’t be able to assess from looking at or driving it (think faulty brakes, loose belts, worn tires or worn brake pads). Most mechanics will charge you for inspecting a used car, and some may not have availability to inspect a car during a drop-in appointment, so plan ahead and check with your mechanic if you expect to buy used.
Keep an Eye on Fuel Efficiency
School, practice, work, to and from friends’ houses—those miles will add up. Vow to only look at cars with good fuel efficiency, so your teen can save his money for college instead of blowing it on fuel. When your teen does go off to college, he’ll appreciate that trips home won’t cost as much.
Consider Car Insurance
As you begin the selection process, contact your auto insurer to ask how much it will cost to insure the cars on your short list. Whether you are paying for the insurance or your teen will assume the responsibility, a few hundred dollars matters. Also ask about discounts the insurer may offer for students or for vehicles with certain safety features, like an anti-theft device.
Take Your Teen for a Test Drive
Unless the car is a surprise, both of you should test drive the vehicle. While you may think the car is fine to drive, a teen driver who does not match your height may find that the vehicles has blinds spots where you see clearly. Likewise, a teen may find that one set of console instruments is easier to read than another, and easy readability translates to safer driving.