Buying a car for a teen can be a difficult endeavor — you and your teen will have different ideas of what’s important. While your kid, looking forward to a new car, is likely to consider little more than the coolness of the model, you need to worry about both cost and safety ratings.
Thinking about safety is the right way to go about buying a car for a teen. According to statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic accidents are the number one cause of teen fatalities. If you’re planning on getting your teen a car, here’s what you need to keep in mind.
Start with safety
When you need to look for a safe car for your teen, the latest vehicle crash test scores are an excellent starting point. You have two different ratings to look at — one by the NHTSA that rates cars on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, and another by the IIHS that simply lists its findings in a Top Safety Picks list each year. Any car that you pick from one of these lists is tested for good protection in the event of a rollover or a collision from the front, the rear or the sides. You do need to keep a few other key safety considerations in mind, though.
The size to pick
Many people believe that aside from government crash tests, a larger vehicle is more capable of protecting its occupants better. To an extent, this assumption makes sense — compacts and subcompacts have a smaller mass than midsize and full-size cars. Nevertheless, it’s important to not take the connection too far. SUVs and even full-sized sedans are likely to be so hard to handle that they become hazardous to drive when handled by an inexperienced driver or one who is prone to speeding. The fact that tall vehicles have higher centers of gravity also means that they are subject to rollover accidents. Definitely avoid the mistake of getting TOO big a vehicle for your new driver.
Since teen drivers are prone to accidents with their cars, parents are often tempted to buy used cars. While concerns about damages are valid, safety requires buying a car with the latest crash avoidance features. The Safety System that is standard on many Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicle lines, for instance, uses onboard computers to protect drivers with collision prevention, electronic brake force distribution, Smart Stop technology, lane departure alerts, blind spot monitoring service and a host of other features. According to Rockland Chrysler Jeep Dodge, a top new and used car dealer in Westchester County, New York, these features have ensured that Chrysler has several vehicles on the IIHS Top Safety Picks list.
If you do choose a used car, look for this feature
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a safety feature that is able to compensate for careless or inexperienced driving of the kind often seen in teens. While this technology first made its entry in high-end cars by companies such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz in 1992, it is now standard on most entry-level cars today.
This technology uses onboard computers and sensors to judge when a car might lose control, and applies braking selectively. For instance, inexperienced drivers are often unable to judge the right speeds at which to take turns and lose control as a result. With ESC, a car is able to analyze the spin of each wheel, sense when a loss of grip seems imminent, and reduce speed. The IIHS considers this technology a must-have safety feature for all cars intended to be driven by teens.