Car Shopping for a Teen Driver: A Handy Checklist

Buying a new car for a teenager is a momentous decision. You are concerned about safety, while your teen wants a car that’s high on horsepower and style. How do you make the right choice?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released its top car picks for teenagers. The list provides a comprehensive range of makes and models that parents can choose from. A look through the list will identify a few common factors that each of these models shares such as limited horsepower, large size, and a focus on safety features.

Here are some useful tips on what to look for when buying a car for your teenager:

1.  Easy on the horsepower.  Many of the models on the IIHS list are low on horsepower. Some of the models do come with high-horsepower versions, but the Institute recommends that you stick to the base version. Teenagers are impulsive, and may be tempted to raise the horsepower while driving. Remember, this impulsiveness very often results in reckless driving practices like speeding, which can cause an accident.

2.  Bigger is better.  When it comes to buying a car for a teenager, bigger is better. Bigger, bulkier and heavier cars do a much better job of protecting occupants in the event of a crash, compared to smaller vehicles. Most of the cars on the list are bigger vehicles, like SUVs.

3.  Stability is key.  Vehicles like SUVs, however, are much more susceptible to rollovers. Therefore, your teenager’s car must include an electronic stability control system. Many SUV models now come with electronic stability control systems which help the driver maintain control of the car, even in a risky situation where there is a risk of rollover accident. Rollovers are extremely dangerous accidents that can result in injuries and fatalities. All of the vehicles listed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety include electronic stability control. These technologies cut the risk of a rollover accident by nearly 50%. The list also includes vehicles that have good roof strength standard to help reduce the risk of roof crushes in the event of a rollover.

4.  No recalls.  Make sure that the vehicle you’re buying is not on any outstanding recall list. Enter the vehicle identification number into the NHTSA database, and check if the vehicle has been involved in a recall, and has been repaired.

5.  Safety features are essential.  Lastly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recommends that parents of young children, who are expected to become drivers over the next few years keep essential safety features, like frontal crash prevention systems, smart headlights and others in mind while making a purchase. That way, the car can become a safe hand-me-down for the teenager in the future.

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